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Battlefield 2042 review: Gaming’s best shooter reaches new heights

A helicopter attacking players in Battlefield 2042.
Battlefield 2042
MSRP $59.99
“Full of worthwhile multiplayer content, Battlefield 2042 brings the long-running shooter franchise to new heights.”
  • Engrossing scale and spectacle
  • Evolves and enhances classic modes
  • Impressive content variety
  • Specialists reinvent every battle
  • Portal has potential
  • Hazard Zone feels imbalanced
  • Stability issues

The easiest way to think about Battlefield 2042 is that it’s Battlefield 3 or 4 but bigger. The game boasts massive, 128-player matches on equally massive maps and gives players a choice selection of weapons and vehicles. The only place where 2042 sheds some weight is in the single-player mode that players can usually expect to come along with Battlefield games.

Battlefield 2042 is an entirely multiplayer game, and as such, its developers poured everything into creating a varied experience. Along with playing some classic Battlefield modes, which have been grouped under the blanket of the All-Out Warfare game mode, Battlefield 2042 gives players two other options: Hazard Zone and Battlefield Portal. While extra modes have always felt like dead weight in previous Battlefield games though, 2042‘s two new additions shine in their own regard, making this year’s entry a first-person shooter that shouldn’t be missed.

Battlefield’s next step

Battlefield 2042 is a multiplayer, first-person military shooter that specializes in objective-based matches. The essential Battlefield experience is made up of the game’s classic modes, including Conquest, Breakthrough, and Rush. While I wasn’t able to play Rush, I did get in some rounds of Conquest and Breakthrough and can confirm that the heart and soul of Battlefield aren’t just present in 2042, but strengthened.

While I was fighting across Battlefield 2042‘s gorgeous, massive maps, I felt as though I was in the heyday of Battlefield 3 or 4. With a bevy of weapons and vehicles at my disposal, I could tackle my enemies and their objectives in any way I wanted. Specialists and the game’s new open approach to loadouts only doubled down on the game’s certain brand of freedom.

Soldiers jump off a building in Battlefield 2042.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Specialists are one of 2042‘s most contentious new features, but one that I enjoy quite a lot. The special characters have their own passive and active abilities, from hacking vehicles so they can’t fire to placing down sentry turrets. They’re another way for players to use each map to their advantage or turn an encounter for their favor. And while not every specialist is made equally, they all have their moments to shine.

Keeping with the theme of giving players options, Battlefield 2042‘s scale itself does just that. Regardless of what map I was playing on, I had a variety of options for what I wanted to do at that moment. I could drive a tank to an objective, take a helicopter in, stay back and snipe, or get down into the nitty-gritty of any one of the dozens of fights happening at any moment. With 64 players duking it out on each team, there’s always a new conflict to throw yourself into. If one fight isn’t going well, there’s no need to readjust your class to fit the situation. Just go and fight somewhere else.

During each of these moments, I was howling, having fun, and experiencing something you can only get in a Battlefield game.

All-Out Warfare’s openness naturally leads to some of those practically trademarked Battlefield moments. During just two hours of play, I did things I couldn’t do in any other game. I shot a helicopter down using a tank’s main cannon, destroyed a car full of players with a repair tool, and forced another player to bail out of their tank by ramming it with mine so hard that it flipped onto its head. During each of these moments, I was howling, having fun, and experiencing something you can only get in a Battlefield game.

Battlefield 2042‘s emulation of Battlefield 3 and 4‘s heyday even comes without the flaws of those games. During my time with 2042, I didn’t find that any vehicles or weapons were unbalanced. Tanks are strong, but can be taken down by other tanks or players easily. Attack helicopters, which were nigh indestructible in Battlefield 4, are slow and vulnerable. Fights, regardless of how they’re fought, are almost always even.

The bevy of options applies to weapons as well. Battlefield 2042‘s arsenal is wide, varied, and can be changed on the fly. While players can’t simply switch to another loadout, the game’s “plus menu” system is a game-changing addition, letting players swap out their weapon’s attachments on the fly. As a DMR user, it meant that I could quickly kit my weapon for close-range fights after battling from a distance.

Fighting in a tank in Battlefield 2042.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Without a doubt, conquest and breakthrough are how Battlefield 2042 is meant to be played. Both modes perfectly use the game’s massive scale. Fights rage across giant maps, vehicles transport players from objective to objective, and there’s always some new way to approach a situation. Chokepoints are no longer as pronounced thanks to larger maps, so the action never comes to a stop. From start to finish, I was engaged playing either of these modes.

Hazard pay

The same can’t exactly be said for one of Battlefield 2042‘s new modes, Hazard Zone. Instead of pitting two teams of 64 players against each other, eight squads of four players (on PC and next-gen consoles) are flown into a map and must fight each other and A.I.-controlled enemies to secure data drives. With the drives in hand, players then have to extract from the map via a helicopter. The idea, though, is that only one squad can get away safely.

Hazard Zone is, for lack of a better comparison, akin to Escape From Tarkov. By killing enemies or capturing drives, players earn currency that can be used to purchase new weapons, gear, and other equipment. This new gear can then be brought into the next game of Hazard Zone, giving winning players a leg up on the competition.

This feeds into what may be a vicious cycle later on in Battlefield 2042‘s life. The game mode’s early adopters (and winners) will constantly have a leg up on other players thanks to a large war chest that keeps them supplied with good weapons and other equipment. Winners will keep winning while everyone else keeps losing thanks to a serious imbalance in funds.

The setup screen for Hazard Zone in Battlefield 2042.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

But that issue is far away, and not something I had to contend with during my review. In my experience, Hazard Zone is a fantastic addition to the Battlefield repertoire, although one that has some flaws. After being thrown into a massive map and told to kill enemies and collect drives, players have to communicate. By far, Hazard Zone is the most communication-dependent game mode in Battlefield 2042, and at launch, the game won’t have in-game voice chat. That means players have to get into a squad with three other friends if they want a solid chance at winning a match of Hazard Zone, a luxury not everyone has.

But when you do have a squad and can communicate, Hazard Zone is a brilliant game mode that puts the destruction and scale of Battlefield as a franchise aside in favor of tactics. During my time with the game mode, my squadmates and I would figure out where we were going before we moved, ensuring that nobody was ever left alone to get picked off. In fights we worked together, marking targets for our one rocket-wielding teammate to take out.

Hazard Zone is a successful experiment, one that only needs a few tweaks to shine as bright as All-Out Warfare.

That cooperation was furthered by 2042‘s specialists, which truly made the game mode shine. The right specialist can turn the tide of a fight or end one before it even begins. I spent most of my time playing as Irish, who can put down small barriers wherever he wants. It meant that regardless of where my team fought, we always had cover. Other specialists such as Falck, Boris, and Paik were impossibly strong in Hazard Zone thanks to the support they provide for your squad.

A soldier stands next to a downed satellite in Battlefield 2042 Hazard Zone.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I’ll admit to being apprehensive of Hazard Zone the first time I heard of it. I tried Battlefield’s previous foray into the battle royale genre and, honestly, hated it. But Hazard Zone is a successful experiment, one that only needs a few tweaks to shine as bright as All-Out Warfare. Without a proper way for teammates to communicate without being friends and a gameplay loop that constantly favors winners, I only hope that the developers can refine what should become a staple in the Battlefield franchise.

A blast to the past

Whereas All-Out Warfare is a more refined version of the Battlefield experience and Hazard Zone is a successful experiment, Battlefield Portal presented itself as the odd one out during my time with the game. Portal is essentially 2042‘s creation suite, allowing players to make their own game modes with tons of options. There’s even a rudimentary coding system.

In my limited experience with 2042, these options were used to make simple game modes, including a fast-paced free-for-all and another where each player has a single rocket to fire and can only get another by jumping five times. They weren’t particularly fun to play but served as a successful proof of concept. Players who decide to spend enough time getting to know Battlefield Portal’s systems will be able to make some fantastic game modes that could potentially rival what’s been made by the game’s own developers. While I didn’t see anything like that during my time with the game, I’m more than excited for what comes after launch.

Battlefield Portal’s peak for me came when it was used to emulate old experiences rather than generate new ones. The game mode gives players access to a select amount of content from Battlefield 1942, Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3, along with everything from 2042. As such, I was able to play Rush on Bad Company 2‘s Arica Harbor. With a few tweaked settings, I couldn’t strafe while sprinting, aim down sights with a shotgun, or go prone, just like in that cult-classic entry of the Battlefield franchise. To put it simply, it was magical.

The same applies to Battlefield Portal’s version of Battlefield 3‘s Caspian Border, which has, like every other non-2042 map in the game mode, been redone with enhanced visuals. The map and its massive, collapsible tower now look even better for returning players and are a treat for newcomers. Playing a game of conquest on the map only hit me with another dose of nostalgia that makes me hope that more maps from previous Battlefield titles will be given the same treatment.

The mode has a wealth of tools and options for creators to use, now all it needs is, well, creators.

I don’t really feel like I saw the peak of Battlefield Portal during my time with it. I got to play some half-baked custom game modes but the star was a trip down memory lane with recreations of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3. It doesn’t seem like that should be the case. Battlefield Portal is geared more towards player-created content than it is reliving old entries in the Battlefield franchise. If I really wanted to, I could always just play Battlefield 3. But I’m optimistic that people will take the tools offered in Battlefield Portal and create some stunning modes for others to enjoy. The mode has a wealth of tools and options for creators to use, now all it needs is, well, creators.

Buyer beware

The review process for Battlefield 2042 raised some red flags, which are important to know. EA only distributed PC codes for the game. Critics had to meet a minimum spec requirement to review it. Despite being a cross-platform game (with both current and last-gen consoles), any Battlefield 2042 review you read will likely come from someone who played the game on a capable PC. We do not know how the game plays on consoles, including the PS4 and Xbox One.

Without the option of playing Battlefield 2042 on consoles, it begs the question of how well the game will run on platforms other than PC. Simply put, we do not know. On PC, the game runs somewhat well, however, I did encounter issues. While reviewing the game, my PC crashed once and spiked the system’s memory usage from 50% to, at the most, 98% on multiple occasions. The PC used to review Battlefield 2042 has a total of 16GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, the amount the game lists as recommended on its spec sheet.

Our take

Being online-only, Battlefield 2042 had to make up for its lack of any single-player content whatsoever with a variety of worthwhile online content. The game’s developers have not only succeeded in that regard, but they have gone above and beyond. All-Out Warfare is a fantastic evolution on the classic Battlefield experience, modernizing the franchise with more scale, spectacle, and ways to play than ever before. Battlefield Portal and Hazard Zone likewise shine in their own regards, with the former proving that it can serve as the base for players to create their own unique experiences within 2042. If any future Battlefield title omits these two modes, I might consider them incomplete.

Still, Battlefield 2042 is not perfect. The version of the game that I played, which is also what players will have access to when it launches in early access on November 12, is riddled with performance issues. 2042 is also without in-game voice chat, a feature that will be added after the game’s official launch on November 19. Those issues aside, Battlefield 2042 is still one of the best first-person shooters I’ve played all year and will become an often revisited part of my PC’s library.

Is there a better alternative?

If you’re looking for a different kind of shooter experience, Call of Duty: Vanguard is out now. However, nothing matches 2042‘s scale and quality.

How long does it last?

Being a multiplayer-only game, there’s no “completing” Battlefield 2042 in any traditional sense. That being said, it should be easy for players to squeeze out hours upon hours of entertainment from its various modes.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Battlefield 2042 is the franchise’s new peak and one that shouldn’t be missed by any Battlefield fan.

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Otto Kratky
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Otto Kratky is a freelance writer with many homes. You can find his work at Digital Trends, GameSpot, and Gamepur. If he's…
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