Disorganized teamplay mechanics and a puzzling interface are contributing to a tepid critical response to Battlefield 2042’s premiere, hampering its attempt to advocate for inclusion through the introduction of the series’ first non-binary character.
Battlefield 2042, which was released by Electronic Arts (EA) across multiple video game platforms on Nov. 19, is a team-based first-person shooter set in a future plagued by climate change and global tensions.
This latest release has received “average” reviews.
I logged in to get a sense of the game’s release state by using a 10-hour trial period provided through EA’s subscription service, EA Play. After around six hours I can conclude that while Battlefield 2042 takes a few steps toward its potential, the gameplay also stumbles several meters behind the competition.
Critics are highlighting issues like the lack of optional vehicles and weapons in comparison to previous Battlefield games, poor level design that leaves players traversing wide swaths of open ground to reach their destination, and the removal of an accessible scoreboard.
This is exacerbated by the absence of voice chat at launch, which has been a series staple since Battlefield 2 was released in 2005. I was able to communicate with teammates through a rudimentary dialogue wheel that left me feeling isolated while logged into a multiplayer game.
Some criticisms have centered on the game’s specialist feature, a new dynamic that characterizes team roles such as recon or support but fails to adequately distinguish the benefits for each specialist.
This includes Emma “Sundance” Rosier, a gender-neutral player character who is equipped with a wingsuit which they can use to fly over sporadic gunfights and reach elevated capture points.
“It’s a baby step for blockbuster shooters,” Colp said. “But it’s an improvement over having an extensive cast of playable characters that lack any sort of imagination that reflects the many kinds of people that play these games.”
Sundance is one of the 10 available specialists who initially appear to perform best within a specific skill set, but their customizable weapon and gadget loadouts tend to negate any benefit.
Customization in previous games allowed me to tailor my character to suit whichever role I wanted to play. In Battlefield 2042, I was locked into one of 10 characters, resulting in a match of several clones all vying for the same objectives.
I noticed fewer vehicles to select from my initial spawn, with only one option per vehicle category. It took me several tries to personalize my weapon, and changing my character’s gadget load was cumbersome.
One attraction for older Battlefield games is Battlefield 2042’s Portal mode, allowing players to battle it out across recreated levels from earlier releases in the series, including Bad Company 2 and the original Battlefield 1942.
I did enjoy playing redesigned maps like Caspian Border from 2011’s Battlefield 3, or El Alamein from Battlefield 1942, but that nostalgia factor wasn’t enough to overcome my disappointment in the user interface or the flighty vehicle controls.
One new development for this release is the increase to 128 players on certain maps, doubling the previous limit of 64 players in a match.
That improvement was something of a mixed bag for me, as the thrill of watching an army of teammates rush an objective is tempered by server instability and rampant bugs, a familiar complication for long-time fans of the franchise.
These shortcomings don’t negate the game’s overall potential, but some online reviewers have review-bombed the release on digital platforms like Steam.
Some of their criticisms are reminiscent of the negative reaction to the series’ previous entry, Battlefield 5, after a preview depicted a British woman leading a squad during combat in World War II.
Negative reviews decried the presentation for being historically inaccurate, prompting a Twitter response from executive producer Aleksander Grøndal that the series would always prioritize fun over authenticity.
Fun should always be a priority for games like Battlefield, which historically has used emergent player behaviors to promote out-of-the-box thinking. Battlefield 2042 holds the potential for a fun experience, but as it stands now for many players, the game remains a work in progress.
Battlefield 2042 is now available for purchase on the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4 and Playstation 5 and Microsoft Windows.