The latest Battlefield game looms on the horizon and I jumped at the chance to place EA Dice's upcoming first-person shooter Battlefield 2042 a bit early -- especially since I haven't put a lot of time in the franchise in recent years. My short time with the game has left me undeniably excited for the future of the Battlefield franchise.
EA Dice hosted a three-day event that promised to run journalists and content creators through the paces for Battlefield 2042, allowing attendees to experience a little bit of everything on offer. Battlefield 2042 is split into three sections of gameplay; each day of the event focused on one of these specific parts, mixing in presentations, hands-on gameplay, and Q & A sessions with the developers.
Back to Basics
The first day of the event focused on Conquest and Breakthrough. Conquest is a Battlefield staple; two teams must try to capture objectives in order to drain the enemy team's respawn tickets to zero. Breakthrough is a more recent addition to the franchise and charges one team with conquering enemy territory using a limited number of respawn tickets; the defending team, on the other hand, has an infinite supply of respawns.
The biggest change to the Conquest game mode is sub-dividing some of the larger objectives into several "sectors." I missed out on playing Conquest on the first day, but my teammates from the event told me that Battlefield 2042 continues to do Conquest as well as it always has. You should expect to get the same great Conquest gameplay (more or less) on all-new maps.
I played the Breakthrough game mode over roughly two hours and it quickly convinced me that Battlefield 2042's gamble on changing up the class system works.
Breakthrough is a game mode that I was quite excited to play. I don't have much playtime in Battlefield 1 or Battlefield V -- I've had my fill of World War 1 and World War 2 shooters -- and this was the first time I got to experience this game mode at length.
The Specialist system works well without making it feel like a different franchise. I'd figure out what I would want to do within my squad and then pick a Specialist for that role. If I wanted to play as a sniper, for example, I'd pick Mackay and make good use of his Grapple Gun (and its wonderfully short cooldown) to take the high ground and frequently move my position.
I played the Breakthrough game mode over roughly two hours and it quickly convinced me that Battlefield 2042's gamble on changing up the class system works. What was less certain, however, was how the new Hazard Zone game mode would play out.
Hazard Zone is a Hectic Take on Tarkov
Day two of the Battlefield 2042 event focused on Hazard Zone. This is a brand-new game mode to Battlefield and is effectively EA Dice's spin on Escape From Tarkov with a dash of Apex Legends' Arenas game mode thrown in.
Here's how it works: several squads of four players get roughly a minute to prepare by picking their Specialists and equipment. The difference here is that your guns and gadgets need to be purchased with a new currency called "Dark Market Credits" that persists between games. If you're just starting out or had a few bad runs, you'll be able to jump into a game with basic equipment at no cost.
Squads are randomly inserted into several points around the map and must search for Data Drives from crashed satellites. There's more to the game than just finding them, though -- you'll have to successfully make it to an Extraction Point with the Data Drives in hand. Succeed, and you'll get points for securing the Data Drives plus a refund for all the gear you purchased. Fail, and you lose absolutely everything. If you enjoy stuff like Escape from Tarkov, you'll love this new game mode.
It bears mentioning that this is more than just another game mode like Conquest or Breakthrough; Hazard Zone has its own set of special equipment that you won't find in other game modes. The standout feature in this respect is "Tactical Upgrades," a selection of boosts you can purchase with Dark Market Credits that will allow you to boost your starting armor, carry more Data Drives, earn more Dark Market Credits for completing specific objectives, and other things along those lines. There is also a hard limit of one Specialist per squad.
This new game mode can be a bit frustrating for new players and can lack challenge for skilled players in terms of earning Dark Market Credits. Hazard Zone is fundamentally fun despite these flaws.
This new game mode will definitely have some growing pains. Let's start with the Dark Market Credits: the first time you play Hazard Zone, you're going to have 0 Credits and get stuck with default gear. If you have a couple of bad runs in a row (as we did), you're going to have 0 Credits and get stuck with default gear. Compare Apex Legends' Arena Mode which uses a similar system of spending points to buy gear for a game -- it guarantees you enough currency to allow you the purchase of some guns and equipment other than the default, zero-cost items.
There's also the challenge of successfully extracting. Hazard Zone has a total of two opportunities for players to board a transport ship and score a ton of Dark Market Credits alongside a refund for their equipment. This game mode has 32 players, so that means that 8 players will succeed and 24 will fail on average. It should be noted, however, that securing Data Drives is not the only way to earn Dark Market Credits -- you'll also score points for taking out NPC enemies guarding the Data Drives or killing other players. Odds are, you'll probably have to do an "economy run" every now and again, focusing on killing players and NPCs rather than playing the objective so you can earn enough Dark Market Credits for successive games.
Other, more successful players in the event reported another problem -- repeated successes left them flush with thousands of Dark Market Credits and at little risk of being under-equipped for future runs (unless they had many failures in a row). This new game mode can be a bit frustrating for new players and can lack challenge for skilled players in terms of earning Dark Market Credits.
Hazard Zone is fundamentally fun despite these flaws. I believe that EA Dice has a good chance of fine-tuning this game mode to add more challenge for the high-skill sweats and make things a bit easier on the lower end of the skill spectrum, but it will probably take some time to make that happen.
The Battlefield Portal Has a Lot of Potential
The third and final day of the Battlefield 2042 event focused on the Battlefield Portal, an ambitious first for the franchise. The Portal (along with the web-based Battlefield Builder) allows anyone to cook up their own custom game modes, albeit with some caveats.
The Battlefield Portal will be split into "Official Experiences" and "Community Experiences." Official Experiences are custom games created by EA Dice that give you something a little different from the standard Battlefield 2042 gameplay. "Community Experiences," on the other hand, are game modes made by community members that EA Dice has decided to highlight on the Portal's front page.
The Battlefield Portal will undeniably facilitate the creation of interesting custom content and Battlefield 2042 is all the better for it.
Our time with this feature began with one such Community Experience called "VIP Fiesta." Two teams of 12 players each have a randomly-assigned "VIP" that they must protect; the first team to kill the enemy VIP 15 times wins. Additionally, this game mode had Battlefield 1942 soldiers versus Battlefield: Bad Company 2 soldiers. I played through this game mode a few times; unsurprisingly, the 70 or so years of advancement in military technology gave the Bad Company 2 team a serious edge (especially in terms of optics). It felt a little unbalanced -- the team lucky enough to get the Bad Company 2 team ended up winning more often than not -- but most of the games were pretty close despite this asymmetry. Aside from showing off some custom content, VIP Fiesta also demonstrated the ability to have different eras of Battlefield go head-to-head. This is an explicit preset option in the Battlefield Portal that will save creators a ton of time in trying out asymmetric game modes like this.
The next stage was split into two parts to demonstrate the power of the Portal's editor. We first started with a simple free-for-all deathmatch mode where you randomly spawned as one of four specialists. It was a hectic mess and the spawn points weren't always ideal; I occasionally would spawn immediately behind someone else and score an easy kill.
After that, Senior Game Designer Rob Donovan demonstrated how the Battlefield Builder could be used to alter existing code and change up the gameplay. This time around, everyone was equipped with rocket launchers that only had one shot and could only be reloaded by jumping five times. The early moments of this fight were a ton of fun -- at least until some players realized that knives were still enabled and got to stabbing everyone in sight. Some testers even leaned into this meta, eschewing their rocket launcher in favor of exclusively running around stabbing people.
We then moved onto the third and final stage of Day 3, playing through recreations of content from older Battlefield games starting with some good ol' Conquest from Battlefield 1942. We segued to Rush from Bad Company 2 and wrapped things up with some more Conquest in Battlefield 3. In all three instances, EA Dice did a surprisingly good job of capturing the feel and gameplay of its older titles.
In a post-event Q&A, it was explained that EA Dice had already created several popular game modes through the Battlefield Builder during internal testing. Developers have created a version of Gun Game as well as experiences such as "Infection" (where anyone who dies joins the ever-growing team of "infected") and game modes reminiscent of a certain other shooter's zombie gameplay. There is no guarantee that EA Dice will launch these as Official Experiences, but that doesn't matter; the Battlefield Portal will undeniably facilitate the creation of interesting custom content and Battlefield 2042 is all the better for it.
However, it's not all sunshine and lollipops. Rob Donovan noted that the Battlefield Builder -- while powerful in many respects -- will also have a few key limitations. You can't set map borders or objective points. You can't modify the rules of Conquest or Rush. And no, you can't do something crazy like give a player two primary guns and three Gadgets.
Although that may be disappointing, Donovan also stressed that this is just the first step. New ways to change up the Battlefield formula (along with plenty of official content and sanctioned community content) will be arriving in the coming months and years. One hopes that they'll figure out a way to give creators even more freedom with the Battlefield Builder in a future post-launch update.
Battlefield 2042 Sets a Solid Foundation for the Future
By the end of the event, I probably had around 10 hours of actual gameplay in Battlefield 2042. It's a fine return to form for EA Dice. Surprisingly, it may even be better than previous games; I experienced very few technical issues on the version of the game we played, and this is the same version that everyone will get to play when Early Access goes live on November 12 for select players.
The fundamentals of Battlefield are still there with Conquest and Breakthrough, and Hazard Zone is an interesting new game mode that builds on the tried and tested formula demonstrated by other games. If you simply want "Battlefield, but newer," you'll be satisfied with this game.
Battlefield 2042 is a fine return to form after five years of bolt-action rifles and planes with propellers.
The biggest game-changer of all, however, is the Battlefield Portal. The addition of content and maps from older games has, in effect, created the same kind of unified ecosystem that Activision did with the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in 2019. I would happily wager that the next big Battlefield release won't be a standalone title -- rather, it will simply be a new button on the Battlefield menu that you can purchase. Battlefield 2042 is the first step towards a bright future.
My only disappointment stems from the limitations of the Battlefield Builder. Whether it's technical challenges or balance concerns, EA Dice should figure out how to expand its feature set. Custom game editors and modding tools gave birth to multi-million dollar franchises and even new genres altogether, and failing to improve its capabilities will be a missed opportunity.
All in all, Battlefield 2042 is a fine return to form after five years of bolt-action rifles and planes with propellers. I can see myself spending hundreds of hours playing this game, and I think you will, too.
TechRaptor previewed Battlefield 2042 on Origin with a copy provided by the publisher.