Battlefield 2042 impressions and gameplay preview

We saw and played some of Battlefield 2042 ahead of launch. Impressions and exclusive gameplay video included for your pleasure.


Now three years removed from the launch of Battlefield 5, EA and DICE are ready to unleash the next generation of Battlefield to millions of loyal fans. Early on Friday, November 12, Battlefield 2042 will be made available to those who have pre-ordered the Gold or Ultimate Editions of the game, as well as subscribers of the EA Play Pro service. This will be the general public's first chance to play the game ahead of its wider November 19 release date. 

Ahead of this early access release period, I was invited to attend a virtual review event for the game that was hosted by EA and DICE. Along with other gaming press and social media influencers, I got to see and play various parts of Battlefield 2042 ahead of Friday’s launch. Due to the conditions of the virtual review session and a lack of access to the full game itself, we felt that writing a review based on a limited interaction with the software in conditions that don’t accurately reflect the way the game will be experienced by the public would be less than helpful. In lieu of this, I will offer some of my thoughts on the experience, along with video capture from a few game modes and maps. Expect a proper review once we get to log some time with Battlefield 2042 alongside the game-buying public.

Boots on the ground

The virtual review event for Battlefield 2042 took place over several days, with each dedicated to showcasing one of the shooter’s three primary modes, All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal. The All-Out Warfare sessions focused on both Conquest and Breakthrough modes on a few of 2042’s all-new maps. As the established standard mode of multiplayer Battlefield action, Conquest mode offered a glimpse into the game on terms that longtime series fans will be familiar with. Each team is tasked with capturing and holding waypoints on the map. Once a team reaches a majority of territory controlled, the opposing team begins to lose tickets. This continues until one team’s ticket allotment expires.

I saw some time in Conquest on the map Orbital, which many players will remember from the Battlefield 2042 open beta. I also got into a short skirmish on the Kaleidoscope map, which features an enormous urban park nestled between skyscrapers. The action played out as you might expect, but it was hard to get a handle on how things would work as the sessions were short and the server seemed to have more bots than other players. Especially with Kaleidoscope, I spent some of my early playtime trying to find my surroundings and battle against the frustrating weapon attachment and loadout interfaces.

The Conquest servers were shut down to prepare for our foray into Breakthrough. I was able to play a couple of long rounds of the mode on the map Renewal, which features a large wall dividing a barren desert from a lush, green agriculture operation. Breakthrough first made an appearance in Battlefield 1 and makes the journey to 2042 with the fun intact. It works like a massively scaled-up version of Battlefield classic Rush game mode and I found the experience of playing this mode to be more enjoyable than what I saw of Conquest. 

The clear, concise nature of the objective made for a more rewarding jaunt than the musical chairs shuffle that many Conquest servers devolve into. I’ve not been terribly fond of the wide-open area of 2042’s massive maps, but Breakthrough helps funnel the action to all the best locations and seemed to promote team and objective play in a way I didn’t see in Conquest. Heading into the final release of the game, I intended to revisit Breakthrough across all the maps I didn’t get to see and might save Conquest for a rainy day.

Highway to the Hazard Zone

The second day of the Battlefield 2042 virtual review event put a focus on Hazard Zone, one of the game’s all-new modes. Squads of four players will be pitted against each other in a race to secure solid gold Iomega Zip disks from downed satellite pods. Your orders are to locate and retrieve those diskettes while avoiding being murdered by other teams and multiple waves of AI-controlled occupying forces. All weapons and equipment must be purchased prior to a round starting, similar to the mechanic popularized by Counter-Strike. Squads earn credits to buy better gear by downing enemy players, AI soldiers, and extracting with the gold diskettes.

Once you touch down in Hazard Zone, you’ll whip out a fancy rangefinder-type device that can spot downed satellite pods and players can then highlight the location so it appears on your squad's HUD. You make your way to the pods and hold down a key to remove the data. You can purchase Hazard Zone-specific perks that offer passive bonuses like extra disk carrying capacity.

While I like the idea of Hazard Zone, it felt pretty boring in the sessions I participated in, for a few reasons. First, my squad never really ran into any other human players for any meaningful amount of time, thus lowering the tension the mode could have. Wiping the AI-controlled occupying forces will be trivial for most Battlefield or first person shooter vets. There were way more crashed pods available than I expected and it seemed simpler to just collect your squad’s disk limit and jump out of the session. 

After having issues with specialist gear in our session, we were told that some specialists will not have access to their unique gadgets in Hazard Zone and there is nothing in the game menus or UI that indicates this. I still don’t fully understand the push for specialists after playing more of the game and now knowing that some of them are going to be less useful in certain modes confuses me further. Killing the AI forces seems to pay out just as well as a successful extraction, so I suspect more balance passes will be needed for Hazard Zone to reach its potential. Again, I only saw this stuff for a short time, so things could play out much differently on a live server.

The classics are classic for a reason

On the final day of the Battlefield 2042 virtual review event, Battlefield Portal mode took center stage. We were given an overview of the Portal editor web client and dropped into a session using Bad Company 2’s Arica Harbor map. The game mode seemed to be a 4v4 deathmatch mode where one person from each squad was marked as a VIP and could be seen through walls. You couldn’t select classes or gear and were given random equipment on each respawn. 

Following that session, we got dropped into what seemed to be a basic free-for-all deathmatch. It was okay-ish, but you can get a basic deathmatch experience in any number of other games. The hosts then offered up a remix of the free-for-all session we just completed that only granted new rockets if soldiers jumped five times. This remix mode was to show off a bit of the complexity in Portal’s logic editor. I have no doubt’s that the community will be able to cook up some compelling content with these tools, but I was incredibly disappointed that these basic deathmatches were how DICE chose to show off this mode.

At the end of the session, DICE finally offered what many in attendance were anxious to see, classic Battlefield games recreated in 2042. The first session saw Classic-style 1942 on the newly re-made El Alamein map. While it doesn’t actually feel like 1942 gameplay at all (you have to aim down sights, the movement feels more modern, and the UI elements show modern equipment and vehicles instead of period-correct indicators), I think fans are going to get a kick out of this ‘reimagined' 1942. Just as everyone in my squad was giggling with delight over Discord, the servers dumped everyone in preparation for the next session. There were a few cries wondering why we had to endure 90 minutes of odd deathmatching to get a few fleeting moments of 1942 goodness.

Those complaints disappeared when we saw that Bad Company 2 classic was up next. I saw a full round of Rush on Arica Harbor and maybe three or four minutes of Valparaiso before the servers booted us for the third session. While Classic Bad Company 2 mode felt closer to the original than Classic 1942, it was still a bit off from feeling just like you remember. None of that matters though because the magic managed to make it through. 

The maps seem to be using identical geometry from the originals, so all my old tricks and moves seemed to work well for the few moments I was on the ground shootin’ dudes and shock paddling my downed brothers. All the new graphical effects and flourishes do help to enhance the experience. One specific example I noticed was in the opening moments of the attacking team’s push into Arica Harbor. The wind now kicks up sand everywhere, preventing those in spawn (and those who are trying to camp spawn) from having an easy time spotting each other. Exploding M-Com stations now spray accelerant all over the ground as flames engulf the area where the box once sat. I was grinning the whole time.

The final session saw Classic Battlefield 3 mode. Unsurprisingly, this Portal preset felt the most like its original inspiration. The series began to shift towards its current direction with the release of Battlefield 3, so it makes sense that its maps and weaponry would slide right into the 2042 framework. What I saw looked solid enough, but I couldn’t help but think about more Bad Company 2. All of the sessions for the Classic Portal presets certainly did a great job of getting me excited for 2042 in a way that playing the open beta and previous virtual review event sessions did not.

Looking ahead

That’s not to say everything was perfect. As mentioned above, I found the UI for loadout and weapon management to be annoying at best and detrimental to the game’s long-term success at worst. I assume things will get patched and changed as the game takes shape after launch, but I can’t think of a good excuse for how we ended up with what is currently on offer. I also experienced some crashing and performance issues throughout the event, but that could be down to my own PC or lack of game-ready drivers. I am cautiously optimistic for what EA and DICE will deliver on Friday, but even if most of 2042 turns out to be a miss, Portal still has the power to keep players coming back if more classic maps arrive post-launch. In the meantime, look out for our formal Battlefield 2042 review soon. We’ll see all of our dedicated chatty ShackBattlers on the front lines this weekend.

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

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