‘Battlefield 2042’ preview: cracking fun, but oversimplified

I played Battlefield 2042 and I didn’t even get to see one lousy tornado

All I wanted was to see a tornado. One of the big selling points of Battlefield 2042 – outside of future guns and adorable robot dogs you can call from the sky – was extreme weather, and the map we’re playing for this capture session, Orbital, has the chance of a huge tornado bursting in and messing with everything.

I’ve played several Battlefield games, and I kind of know what to expect at this point: you capture a point, you shoot some bad guys, you ride around in a vehicle. That’s all present and correct here with a few changes. What I really wanted was to experience a brutal tornado.

And it never happened, throughout four hours of play. Admittedly one hour was spent in a Discord chatting with two other players, because Facebook’s earth-shaking service outage seemed to also knock out BF2042’s servers and force us to kick about. I took the time to order a Souvlaki wrap. It was a pretty good outage.

Battlefield 2042
Battlefield 2042 Credit: EA DICE.

Battlefield 2042 is Battlefield. This means you get the same combined arms gunplay as infantry and vehicles plow into each other. The Battlefield moments. The Rendezook. You don’t see helicopters fall from the sky, spewing commandos as they plummet to the ground in a fireball. During my hands-on, a jeep smashed into some rubble in front of me and flipped into the sky. The player jumped out and gunned three of us down as we were stunned with confusion.

The shooting is good, with guns feeling weighty, and grenades having real oomph. The flexibility to Battlefield’s new loadout system means it’s not unreasonable to be clutching enough weapons to single-handedly turn the tide of a small war. Things will explode – although destruction feels lacking – and the whole time jets buzz overhead, helicopters rain down death, and soldiers roll from place to place like an undulating tide of mayhem.

The end result is that every game feels invigorating, even though I have a lot of concerns about whether Battlefield 2042 is really an all-timer, or just fun in the way that localised chaos often is.

Battlefield 2042
Battlefield 2042 Credit: EA DICE.

While the shooting feels good, weapons feel uninspired and the plus system – which means you can change the attachments on your gun at any time – makes me a bit worried that it gives too much flexibility to players: after all, you can fight with a long-range set-up as you head towards a building, before mixing it up to something better for close encounters when you actually reach the building. The plus system is fast, fluid and even lets you rechamber your gun for different calibers, add or remove a silencer, and switch between scopes to ensure you’re never left short.

I’m also not wild about Battlefield ditching its class system for the new “specialists.” These specialists still fall into the classic archetypes and you get the assault class, engineers, the medic, the recon. But every character is free to equip anything they want now. Again, it’s a simplification that means you always have anything you need.

Did I mention that you can pretty much call in a tank, anti-aircraft cannon, or even a jeep wherever you are now?

These systems all feel like we’re just cutting away the friction to ensure players can just be blasting away the whole time. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if they add anything to the experience for me, and if anything serves to actually cheapen the experience slightly. A lot of great Battlefield anecdotes involve you caught in a bad situation and doing the best you can to make the most of it. In 2042, you could just switch up your weapon to be perfect for the situation, make sure you’re carrying the right kit to make up your shortfalls, and if you really get in trouble? You can just drop a tank out of low orbit. Kill a guy by shooting him in the face with a grapple gun if you want.

Still, it does feel like Battlefield and the combat does feel engaging, so I’m going to give it a chance: I feel uneasy about Battlefield 2042 as a long-term fan of the series, but it could be my purist sensibilities are just bristling at iteration. Who am I to stand in the way of progress?

It would be bloody great if they could make those map-destroying tornadoes a little more common though, eh?

Battlefield 2042 will release on November 19 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC.

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