Battlefield 2042 review – an uncertain, unpredictable future

Battlefield 2042 is DICE's most ambitious Battlefield game to date, but does it live up to the hype?

Battlefield 2042 review: Boris looks down the barrel of his gun

The clouds gather above as I fight with my squad to take an objective from the Russians. Suddenly a lighting bolt crashes around us and the air turns thin. Something’s wrong, but I’m not even sure what. My team finally pulls down the Russian flag and as ours is halfway up the flagpole, I see it: a tornado is tearing its way through downtown Kaleidoscope, and it’s making its way right towards our objective.

My teammates start running for the hills, desperate to get away from the terrifying cyclone. I, however, stay put. We’ve fought too long and too damn hard to claim this point, and in typical Battlefield style, I’m here to play the fucking objective.

However, just as we claim the sector, the tornado hits my location. As I’m sucked into the vortex, I realise I’m totally out of my depth – I can’t control my limbs and there’s all sorts of debris flying around me. If I make one wrong move, I’m dead. But then – just as I’m contemplating my unfortunate end – I’m fired out of the tornado with such force that I’m catapulted halfway across the map. It’s here I remember my specialist, Sundance, has a wingsuit and I’m able to tear through the air, back towards my team as they advance on an enemy-controlled sector.

When I land, I chuckle to myself – this is the Battlefield I love and remember and I’m all here for it.

But, when I link back up with my teammates and I get stuck back into the grind of trying to rip sectors from under the feet of the opposing team, I realise there’s something not quite right. My squad, who have all picked the same Battlefield 2042 specialists, haven’t considered what gadgets we need. Since DICE has eroded the class system in favour of dynamic specialists, all of whom can have a slice of the support, assault, engineer, or recon pie, I realise we’re without ammo crates – and that is a terrifying prospect in Battlefield 2042.

Battlefield 2042 review: A jeep full of soldiers drifts through the sand

You see, in modern warfare, vehicles are the dominant force, and in Battlefield 2042 that’s no different. As you trudge along on foot to multiple objectives, you will find yourself surrounded by all manner of airborne and grounded vehicles – and the worst one of them all is the hovercraft. At the moment, these crafty little vehicles are unbalanced beasts, and if you spawn without a launcher – or an ammo crate to keep your team firing – you can kiss your positive K/DR goodbye.

And that’s exactly what happened to me.

As I’m firing rocket after rocket into this pesky hovercraft, which, by the way is just running circles around us, I realise two things: no one has any ammunition to give me and I can’t even ask for it.

Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Microsoft $69.99 Buy now Network N earns commission from qualifying purchases via Secretlab and other programs

The lack of voice communication (VoIP) is, by far, my biggest frustration with Battlefield 2042. It’s unclear why DICE thought it would be a good idea to ship a squad-based first-person shooter without it, and its omission is leaving a gaping hole in multiplayer right now. If you want to play tactically, especially in Hazard Zone – Battlefield 2042’s high-stakes mode – you’ll need to jump onto Discord or party chat with your three chosen teammates. Without this function, it’s impossible to lead a squad into battle, let alone request any spare rockets.

The lack of VoIP is, by far, my biggest frustration with Battlefield 2042

It’s also impossible to judge how prepared you are in any given situation. You might have MacKay, Sundance, Boris, and Irish in your squad – and aside from individual selected traits and gadgets, you have no idea what team gadget they have. In reality, there are no ammo mules or dedicated medics anymore – you have to just wing it and hope someone has your back. Or, as is often the case, cave and play the role you’re missing.

This oversight is eliminated somewhat in Hazard Zone, mostly because you’re forced to play as different specialists from one another – but even then, when you have all the tools to actually play as a team, you’re robbed of the opportunity to actually communicate. And it’s a shame really, because the mode is quite fun. Sure, it’s not quite like Escape From Tarkov and it does have a bit of a mid to late game lull, but launching a mode like this without giving it all the tools it needs to succeed is giving me flashbacks to the lack of support EA gave Firestorm.

Battlefield 2042 review: Two soldiers approach a helicopter in Hazard Zone

At the moment, the lack of comms is changing how I play Hazard Zone. If I solo queue, I don’t bother with spending many of my Dark Market Credits – the currency you need to build bigger and better loadouts – because I ultimately know that it’ll be a waste of time. At the moment, I can drop in with my squad, head to the nearest satellite, and take out as many AI soldiers with my barebones assault rifle as possible. Hell, I’ve even wiped a few enemy squads too.

But getting out of there? That’s laughable. Without proper communication, trying to extract in Hazard Zone is utter hell.

In one match, my team was doing quite well – we’d scooped up a couple of drives, wiped a couple of teams, and we were communicating via a series of pings. But when it came to getting on the second helicopter, it was nigh impossible. Every time we got close, one of us was downed. And for some odd reason, your teammates aren’t highlighted when you’re in a down-but-not-out state. So instead of crawling to my teammates, I crawled my way to the feet of an enemy team. My game – and by extension, my team’s – was effectively over.

Battlefield 2042 review: Players take cover behind a tank

Unless I have a full team on Discord or party chat, I won’t play Hazard Zone in the way it’s meant to be played. It’s a shame really, because I really do think that hardcore, objective-based modes, similar to that of Tarkov, are going to form a big part of live service shooting games in the future. When DICE finally adds VoIP though, that might change.

Unfortunately, my gripes with Hazard Zone aren’t where my criticisms end. Battlefield 2042 is currently without a proper scoreboard. At the moment, player stats have been replaced by a list of players in your server, which is utterly bizarre, and the menus generally feel archaic. If you want to add an attachment to your gun – which takes forever to unlock, by the way – you’ll need to head into the loadout menu, navigate through several options, and then manually equip it to your Plus Menu for the next match. Compared with Call of Duty: Vanguard and Call of Duty: Warzone’s menus, this system doesn’t even come close.

However, with all that said and done, Battlefield 2042 is still a solid game that Battlefield veterans will enjoy. While my heart aches for the good old days of Rush, All-Out Warfare is a delight to play when you have a fully operational squad, all of whom are on Discord with you. Hazard Zone is a blast too – it just requires a bit more hard work.

Battlefield Portal is DICE's masterstroke

Where Battlefield 2042 really shines though is in Battlefield Portal. This Fortnite Creative-esque mode, which hands the keys to the community, is the closest the Battlefield community will ever get to mods, and despite only a smattering of days with the tool thus far, the modes on offer are fantastic. So far, I’ve had the absolute delight of playing Rush on Bad Company 2 maps, Gun Game, and a 128-player free-for-all.

The possibilities are almost endless with Battlefield Portal and I have no doubt that the new ‘only in Battlefield’ moments will be forged here. This mode is DICE’s masterstroke and it’s been engineered by the server admins of games gone by who worked their arses off in-game to deliver new experiences within the confines of old games.

If the grind of Conquest is getting you down, or you’re having a bad run of form on Hazard Zone, I can guarantee a couple of Battlefield Portal games will cheer you up. I’d even go as far as to say that Portal is Battlefield 2042’s main mode right now – and with more people about to join in soon with the full launch that experience is only going to get better.

For now though, DICE has some work to do.

Battlefield 2042 is a solid game, but it is undermined by a poor design philosophy that has left its weaponry feeling a little underpowered. With time – something us weary old Battlefield fans are used to – I’m confident Battlefield 2042 will be whipped into shape by the development team.

Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Battlefield 2042 (Xbox) Microsoft $69.99 Buy now Network N earns commission from qualifying purchases via Secretlab and other programs

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Battlefield 2042 (Xbox Series X)

Battlefield 2042 has everything you want as a Battlefield fan: destruction, levolution, and carnage. But while it’s fun to play, it is clear that Battlefield 2042 is DICE’s most ambitious Battlefield yet - and it hasn’t quite come off in the way many were expecting.

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