Battlefield 2042 remains an incredible sandbox experience
If Battlefield 2042’s only aim were to drop you into the middle of intense firefights and explosive vehicle battles without concern for the franchise’s history, it would have scored a direct hit.
But for someone who has been playing on and off since Battlefield 1942, BF2042 feels like the game that has meddled the most with the winning formula.
Much of what makes a great Battlefield game is still here, with mayhem and intense encounters found around every corner.
Even the custom of being left behind as a horde of vehicles fly off into the distance, leaving you to trudge toward the first objective, is still part of the experience.
In some ways, 2042 feels like the most unBattle Royale game in the first-person shooter theatre right now, with gamers respawning over and over again, with the ebb and flow of a battle being decided by how good your air-support is.
There are no shrinking circles of gameplay, and there is very little chance of making it to the end without losing many lives.
Even the ace pilots navigating the map and reigning down missiles and countermeasures will likely be shot down and have to wait their turn to spawn in a helicopter or fighter jet again.
But other elements in the Battlefield experience have changed, with developers DICE dumping core aspects of how you build a loadout around a class.
Specialists are the new thing and mean you can create the loadout that suits you without having to make sacrifices.
It’s a great addition for those dropping in and playing in a solo role, as it means you can achieve your objectives without relying on a squad of willing players.
Becoming a shotgun-wielding medic with plenty of ammo to throw around is something fresh in the Battlefield franchise.
It’s weird to say that I don’t prefer this option, but I’ve enjoyed the limitations being placed on me in past games. It’s made me learn weapons and gameplay roles which I would never try if I wasn’t forced to, and has made me a better teammate.
And while steps have been made to make Battlefield a more accessible experience for those playing by themselves, the key to full enjoyment is having friends to team up with.
Things are a little complicated right now due to the in-game chat situation, but most crossplay teams can find ways to communicate.
And with that problem out the way, Battlefield 2042 becomes a great team shooter to enjoy with your friends.
Seeing a squadmate drive their TukTuk into a tornado isn’t going to win you the battle, but it will make for a Battlefield moment that everyone can enjoy.
Removing the need to have a medic, engineer and assault class in your team takes away some of the magic of working together, but nothing beats driving around the map capturing control points and reviving your besties.
By yourself, Battlefield can feel a bit of a slog but functions so much better when you have someone who can come pick you up in a tank or provide pointers on what objective you should all try and capture next.
It’s also fun to use gadgets together with your friends when taking on the giant maps of Conquest and Rush.
Launching a drone into the sky means you can spot what is coming to eliminate you next, while your friends can protect your stationary mass left on the ground while you fly your drone with sentry guns and bulletproof shields.
Battlefield 2042 feels like a team shooter that has been diluted somewhat to make it easier to drop in and enjoy the game, although we’re still far from a smooth transition like envisioned.
Game modes like Conquest and Rush are the main focus, and there are plenty of bugs that can ruin your game.
Being unable to select your loadout or finding yourself stuck on the vehicles screen is still a problem and something that will be fixed in the future. That’s without mentioning some of the console crashes and PC problems that cause players to be dumped out of the game halfway through.
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Technical issues aside, there are other problems to factor in while playing Battlefield 2042 on next-gen consoles and PC.
The size of the conquest maps are impressive, and each map includes a varying degree of layers due to tall structures or hills.
Keeping hold of Control Points is the key to reducing your team’s attrition levels and making sure you come out victorious.
But all the maps at this point appear geared towards vehicles rather than infantry, and there will be a need for something more orientated towards foot soldiers in the future. While it’s nice to have a shotgun, you might not find many chances to use it.
The list of weapons is also a bit sparse, although DICE has made up for this by providing a ton of different customisation options when it comes to scopes, barrel extensions and ammo.
While things look a little threadbare content-wise, there’s enough here not to get sick of playing the same map.
The key will be to add new content regularly to keep things fresh and the rotation more random, something that is easily achievable.
But the same should also be delivered in the new Portal mode that is available in Battlefield 2042.
Pulling from past games and bringing it into the modern age, Battlefield Portal makes it possible to play classic maps using the same rules as the past.
Everything else lives in the skin of the new Frost Engine, meaning you can create your own custom experiences, mashing up the past and present.
But while I really enjoy reliving Battlefield 3, we also need its best maps, and the lack of depth has to be solved by DICE moving forward.
And this is where we come to Hazard Mode, my least favourite of the bunch and an experience I doubt I will dip back into much.
Hazard Zone steers Battlefield 2042 closer to the world of Battle Royale and games like Escape from Tarkov, which I didn’t feel a huge urge to play.
While I like all kinds of genres, there are plenty of other Battle Royale games out there that offer varying styles of gameplay, and isn’t a reason I would purchase a BF title.
Removing vehicles and the open sandbox from the BF formula isn’t a terrible idea, it’s just one that doesn’t rouse much interest when it comes to the glut of recent years.
But that doesn’t mean it’s worth ignoring when jumping into Battlefield 2042 for the first time.
Playing in a squad of four, your mission is to locate and retrieve data drives across the map.
Unlike in Conquest, you will face AI opponents, as well as other teams who are competing for the same prize.
Ending the game with nothing is a big risk as you only have limited chances at exfiling with something worthwhile before location becomes Hazard Zones.
Getting out with some of that tasty data rewards you with Dark Market Credits, making it possible to buy better gear for the next time you drop in.
The problem here is that you can find yourself facing off against some very successful teams, making it hard to get your own venture off the ground.
But like with Conquest, Hazard Zone is best played with a team you can talk with and enjoy the experience with.
Not being able to chat makes for a pretty bleak run and is a weird issue for a game taking on other super accessible, crossplay giants.
At its core, Battlefield 2042 remains an enticing package for anyone who wants to get lost in the midst of a chaotic series of events, without worrying too much about final victory.
While playing the objective is key, finding yourself squaring off against other teams, be it in the tank or in the air, is what makes Battlefield standout.
Hazard Zone is a fun addition but its gameplay is something you can find around the block, while Conquest and Rush remain much more unique and worthy of your time.
The limited content, map bugs and issues with the ping system can make the game feel a little underbaked, and it’s easy to see why some hardcore fans are disappointed by the changes made.
For me, Battlefield is best experienced when in a squad of friends flying through a tornado in a TukTuk or battling it out for a Control Point against a sea of enemies and steep odds.
SOLO REVIEW SCORE: 3.5
TEAM REVIEW SCORE: 3.8