Battlefield 2042 Preview: Non-Strategic Abundance
Battlefield 2042 is meant for veterans and their shenanigans. The game arrived in early access beta on October 6 and we have already seen fighter jets flying through tunnels, an unsuspecting soldier shooting down a helicopter pilot from a wild distance, and the particular feat of one player travelling nearly to space, tethered to a rocket. It is a Disneyland of destruction — and we are yet to talk about tornados. But, do the antics amount to a particularly enjoyable first-person shooter (FPS) experience, especially in the absence of a solo campaign?
The answer to that depends on where you are coming from. Battlefield loyalists, for instance, are in it for the chaos that 128 players can conjure up in a 30-minute all-out war. The gameplay is exciting, open, and welcoming. Irrespective of their expertise, players can take turns to respawn into fighter jets, Apache attack helicopters, and tanks, or just call-in for an available vehicle to be paradropped to their location.
Loadouts in Battlefield 2042 beta are standard for all and customising your weapon of choice is simpler than can be said for other FPS franchises like Call of Duty. The game is like a battle version of an open-world role-playing game (RPG). Because within the set limits of time and function, you can choose whoever you want to be.
But it’s a whole different ballgame if you are hoping for individual glory on the battlefield with a moderate skillset.
Battlefield 2042 beta game mode and map
The beta is set in Orbital, an expansive map adorned with rolling hills, a launchpad for a space shuttle, and friendly tornadoes that encourage contact. EA DICE says this is just one slice of the whole pie. At the same time, it’s also meant to represent what Battlefield 2042 is all about.
The only game mode in the beta is the franchise’s classic Conquest mode — a tussle to capture and dominate flags or sectors — and the number of players has been bumped up from 64 to 128. Graduating from 2018’s Battlefield V set in WWII, the 17th instalment (counting expansions) of the long-running franchise delivers on the promise of attractive visuals, new mechanics, and futuristic everything.
What it leaves behind is a solo campaign and subsequently a storyline, which also takes the opportunity away from new players to learn the gameplay at their own pace. The developers are clearly banking on loyalists and the curiosity of new players to just dive in and learn on the fly.
Newbies can expect to be shot down, run over, and blown up to waste the team’s combined respawns till they develop similar destructive abilities. But while in the grind, they can also try new weapons, squad up for support, discover spots to ambush the enemies, and master new skills and vehicles.
Battlefield 2042 gunplay remains hard on newbies with no aim-assist and, as mentioned, a lack of solo campaign for the experience. Scaling up the number of players to 128 also means individual contribution is of little relevance — unless of course you’re smartly piling up kills to compete for the top squad, which again will require some experience and a lot of skill.
So if you are coming from a competing FPS franchise like Call of Duty, be ready to respawn into a more exciting world that gives you the time and space to enjoy the experience, but one that spares little acknowledgment.
Battlefield 2042 beta gameplay: what works and what doesn’t
Let’s start with the bugs: Battlefield 2042 beta is having some trouble letting people in. Our experience on an Xbox Series S returned a one-off EA server connection error, but others complaining on EA forums have had it worse. There were some other bugs — sudden drops in framerates, and uneven shadows — but nothing that could keep you away from the next spectacular death.
Most fun is being had with Mackay, representing one of the four operator classes on offer, each with their special abilities — Assault (Mackay), Engineer (Boris), Recon (Casper), and Support (Falck). All four can now heal a fellow teammate but only Falck can heal from a distance and bring them back to full health.
You can now change the scope or under-barrel on the fly — like from a precision scope to a red dot — and it’s a nifty addition that brings some required attention back to the gunplay. Just expect Light Machine Gunners to suddenly prone and start sniping.
Loadouts are completely customisable. You can play with Casper in a Ghillie suit and have him run around in the open with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher. But special abilities are not swappable. Speaking of which, people have been gleefully abusing — and having fun with — Mackay’s grappling hook that allows a player to sling from point A to B, on and on. It can be faster than walking and running if abused thoroughly and has been. It’s a fun tool, though, since EA DICE promises even bigger maps at launch.
A less enjoyable hack comes in the form of sprinting + sliding — hello, Call of Duty — that takes away from the spirit of a muddied battlefield. We have just come off from playing Call of Duty: Vanguard, and the loss of distinction is regretted.
Vehicles are limited, same as Battlefield V, but if you don’t land one when deploying, you can use the game’s call-in system to ask HQ to paradrop you one — tanks, armoured cars, the whole shebang. You can ask to be sent a robot dog that comes with a gun. It follows you around, but spots enemies on its own and shoots them down. All in all, the mechanics are largely the same, the upgraded weapon systems are brilliant, and the modernised vehicles are a treat as long as you can learn to use them well. This is largely where the fun lies.
Not everything works as well though. Sound for one is terribly balanced in the beta. You can mostly just hear airplanes and tanks, while enemy footsteps are non-existent. Imagine your frustration when you have successfully outdone a chopper and more than a handful of snipers, only to be melee-killed by a loner with a knife who crept up completely undetected. Separating enemy troops from your own is another challenge with no distinction between operator skins. Expect to be jumped by fellow mates.
Killing one of the 64 people opposing you is satisfying, to say the least, but it’s difficult to feel it when in Battlefield 2042. The hit markers over the crosshair for when you have landed a shot (white), hit an armour (blue), and killed someone (white-red) are difficult to read in the moment and get used to. The kill confirmation comes in the form of a small while skull in the centre of your screen that is also easy to miss. No ping whatsoever.
Battlefield 2042 Conquest in Orbital with 128 players is a ginormous arena and can be overwhelming for new players. The gunplay, as it is true for the franchise, is not central to the experience, while the spectacular arsenal of weapons, vehicles, and an interactive environment — you can bomb the space shuttle or get sucked in by a tornado — more than makes up for it.
The beta has cleared the big picture of how the game will play and it’s beautifully chaotic. Just hoping the yet-to-be-previewed game modes in Battlefield Portal — custom rules, maps, arsenal — and Battlefield Hazard Zone — still largely a secret — bring some sense and control back to strategic solo and squad play.
Battlefield 2042 from EA DICE is out November 19. It’s priced in India starting at Rs. 2,999 for PC via Origin, Steam, and Epic Games, Rs. 3,999 on PS4 and Xbox One, and Rs. 4,499 on PS5 and Xbox Series S/X. The open beta of the game is live till Sunday, October 10, 7am UTC (12:30pm IST).