Earlier this week, Ethan rightly called out Battlefield 2042 as being the “wrong game at the wrong time”. A similar piece on Eurogamer says Battlefield 2042’s opening weekend was “a disaster”. User reviews of the game are in the toilet. Imagine my confusion, then, when I realised last night that I’d been logging onto the game all week and having a blast.
I am not for a second suggesting there’s anything wrong with either of those pieces, or the people’s user reviews. The game has launched in a very half-assed and for many longtime fans unforgivable state, as though the whole thing has been cobbled together for the judges like a last-minute Bake-Off disaster. The changes made to player classes are confusing, the way infantry bullet spray is being handled is maddening and the technical issues people playing on Xbox consoles are having seem very shitty.
I’m going to sound like an asshole here, but those aren’t my concerns. First up, I’m playing on PC, where I’m having very few issues. Maybe Australian servers are just blessed, who knows. The second time I played I got some weird texture pop-ins, and there’s sometimes a weird screen-tearing effect even when I’ve got V-sync turned on, but those are annoyances, not deal-breakers, and that’s basically the extent of my technical concerns. Most of the time the game looks gorgeous and is running nice and smooth to boot.
Next up, I get that the game is lacking in some game modes, and that others aren’t up to scratch. But I only ever play Battlefield’s big Conquest mode, where up to 128 players do battle on enormous maps, and that’s here and working, so that’s all I’ve been playing anyway.
Now is the part it gets weird. I recognise that a lot of people’s complaints about infantry, which range from not being able to identify classes visually to concerns over their bullets not landing where they’re aiming, are very important to the way they play the game. But I don’t play the game like that.
I like tanks. I like driving them around and shooting. If I can’t be driving the tank, I’ll happily sit in one anyway and use the machine gun, like a murderous twist on Ralph Wiggum’s “I’m helping” meme. I like Battlefield’s tanks so much, in fact, that I’d wager I spend around 90% of my time in the game using them, and the other 10% driving cars that also have guns on them, or smaller tanks that are designed to blow up aircraft instead of buildings.
I’m just not interested in any of that infantry stuff. There are so many other shooters out there involving dudes running around with guns; for me the whole appeal of Battlefield is that it’s bigger than that, with its helicopters and hovercraft and fighter jets and enormous maps. I appreciate that infantry is there to blow up with my tank, but in the way a whale might appreciate the swarms of krill it scoops into its mouth every day, without otherwise stopping to ever consider their existence.
And the tanks here are fun. Or, as many series veterans are calling them, “overpowered”. Russian or American it doesn’t really matter, both are fast, look badass, can fit three other people in them for squad-based shenanigans, and those three can wield an interesting variety of complimentary weapons, from robot shotguns to little rocket launchers. I think tanks are just the best way to really soak up the Battlefield experience. This series is as its best when the whole screen is exploding, choppers blasting missiles at the ground while infantry scramble for cover and trucks blow to bits around you; a tank’s third-person view, visibility, speed and degree of safety from those explosions often has you at the very eye of Battlefield’s storm, and I never shriek “holy shit!” at a chain of chaotic events as often as I do when driving a tank.
Is this weird? That I look across the entire smorgasbord of stuff you can do in these games and only settle on one tiny part of it, then play that part to death? Maybe! I’m not the world’s most ardent Battlefield player; in fact this is the first time since Battlefield 4 that I’ve really spent much time at all with one of the games at launch. And now that I think about it, that’s probably down to the military hardware on offer. There’s just something more white-knuckled about blasting around the map in speedier modern vehicles than the (relatively) creakier armour of the last two games, Battlefield 1 especially.
Also, while we’re here and talking first impressions, I really like these maps. I’m yet to learn their deepest secrets since it’s only been a week, and I understand veterans are already complaining about stuff like lack of cover, but please see above, I drive tanks and don’t care. Each one has its own set of gimmicks, like Singapore’s docks having huge moving parts, an Egyptian map with a perfect split down the middle between arid desert and lush green grass or another that develops a huge storm in the middle of it. Even though the game doesn’t have a singleplayer campaign attached, each one is telling a small part of a story about a dystopian future, the only thing they have in common being that they’re all affected in some way by an impending climate disaster, making them strangely depressing to play on.
If you’re wondering why I’m writing this all up, it’s not because I want to rub it in, or dismiss your criticisms; I’m just fascinated by the disparity between so many other people having a justifiably bad time with this game and my own enjoyment. That unlike everything else on the internet this difference of opinion isn’t a subjective disagreement. My views and theirs (and yours) can coexist here and all be true, because that’s the kind of game Battlefield is. Despite its ups and downs, it’s a series that’s essentially giving us games within games. You, playing as infantry on huge maps without cover and overpowered vehicles, are having a bad time. Me, driving overpowered tanks around beautiful big playground because that’s what I love to do, I’m having a great time. All in the same game.
If the way you like to play Battlefield is broken or underwhelming here, that’s definitely a problem, and I don’t want to give the impression here that I’m somehow letting DICE and EA off the hook. This game needs some serious work, regardless of how much fun I’m having with it. But if you’re a weirdo like me who looks at this huge game and only plays one part of it, whether its tanks or jets or choppers or whatever, then despite all the bad press the game is getting at the moment, there’s still a good time to be had here. Depending on just how big a weirdo you are.