Battlefield 2042 review: Great ideas with much work to be done

While Battlefield 2042 makes for a solid foundation, several looming issues hold the series back from its full potential.

Battlefield 2042 Hazard Zone
(Image: © Electronic Arts)

When Electronic Arts and DICE stressed that Battlefield 2042 would center around the engaging and diverse sandbox fun that defined the series, I was ecstatic. After all, the fact that Battlefield V promoted twitchy run-and-gun gameplay was a huge bummer — I've always felt that Battlefield is at its best when its core gameplay encourages strategy, squad play, and clever usage of its many weapons, gadgets, and vehicles. This was amplified by 128-player matches and the new Battlefield Portal mode allowing players to create custom experiences by mixing elements from previous games. It was a game that promised a return to Battlefield's roots — for me, a dream come true.

I've now poured hours into the game following its Nov. 12 release, and in some ways, it checks the boxes. Battlefield Portal met expectations as this year's show-stealer, and the vehicle sandbox is nothing short of phenomenal. The game's maps are excellent across the board, too, and new features like the 'Plus System' and vehicle call-ins also give players extra opportunities to get creative with their arsenal. This all leads to memorable moments of ingenuity unique to Battlefield.

Unfortunately, these positives are contrasted by Battlefield 2042's poorly balanced Specialists, the game's small number of weapons, its mediocre Hazard Zone mode, and its numerous bugs and performance issues. Overall, there's potential for a fantastic game here, but more work needs to be done before it's reached.

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a copy of the Battlefield 2042 Gold Edition for PC purchased by Windows Central.

Battlefield 2042: What you'll like

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Battlefield Portal is everything I was hoping it would be.

Ironically, the best part of Battlefield 2042 is Battlefield Portal. It's a mode that allows players to create custom experiences with remade maps and assets from older Battlefield games like Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3 (as well as everything from Battlefield 2042). You can host these on a public server to play as you wish, and it all works very smoothly in my testing.

The options available in the Portal creation tool are mind-boggling; you can enable or disable pretty much every single weapon, weapon attachment, gadget, or vehicle from each of the four games. You can adjust values for damage, health, movement, and more as well. You can even force factions from one game to fight on maps from another game; one of the coolest Portal experiences I've come across so far is "1942 in 2042," which brings World War II-era combat to Battlefield 2042's massive near-future maps. Portal is everything I was hoping it would be, and I can't wait to see what the Battlefield community does with it.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryBattlefield 2042
TitleBattlefield 2042
DeveloperDICE, Ripple Effect
PublisherElectronic Arts
Minimum RequirementsWindows 10, Intel i5-6600K or AMD Ryzen 5 1600, NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti or AMD RX 560, 8GB RAM, 4GB VRAM, DirectX 12
Game Size47.46GB
Launch Price$60

In terms of the main Battlefield 2042 "all-out warfare" experience, which includes the returning Conquest mode, vehicle play is absolutely stellar. Tanks feel amazing to drive and even better to shoot, and their main cannons are deadlier than ever. Scout vehicles balance high top speed with a solid anti-personnel minigun, making them perfect for harassing enemy troops or taking your own to important locations. Attack helicopters can rain destruction down with their smart rockets and 30mm gun, though it's clear that DICE has carefully designed them to be less oppressive than they were in Battlefield 4 (this goes for mobile anti-aircraft as well).

The developers even managed to make transport helicopters good, which is a first for Battlefield. In 2042, they're armored like a tank and come with multiple grenade launcher and minigun gunner positions, giving them the durability and firepower necessary to act as a mobile spawn point for teammates to use near objectives.

Battlefield 2042's maps are also excellent across the board, with the sole exception being Orbital due to its overly-flat terrain and sparse layout. The game's six other maps were designed with carefully-placed sightlines and spawn zones, and each map features a distinct theme and overall design direction. For instance, the sprawling glaciers and ice sheets of Breakaway are open and encourage lots of heavy vehicle play, while the claustrophobic mazes of shipping containers on Manifest are best conquered with lots of infantry. Renewal features several dense chokepoints where defensive tactics shine, while the sandstorms of Hourglass restrict visibility and corral players into close-quarters combat. Each map in 2042 has its own character and charm, and I appreciate that variety.

Source: Electronic Arts (Image credit: Source: Electronic Arts)

I also love Battlefield 2042's Plus System and vehicle call-ins, both of which are new for the franchise. The former allows you to swap between your weapon attachments on the fly, while the latter provides on-demand ground vehicles airdropped to your location. I've had a blast rapidly switching between attachments to adapt to the enemy and spawning tanks in places they're not supposed to be (I've shot down several helicopters by spawning them on buildings).

Lastly, the game's presentation is great overall, which is typical of DICE and its in-house Frostbite engine. Audio and graphics are as snazzy and impressive as ever, especially with ray tracing enabled. With visuals like these, watching the chaos of 128-player matches unfold in front of your eyes is spectacular.

Battlefield 2042: What you won't like

Specialist Irish is great for locking down important chokepoints.

The Specialist system is cool in theory, but DICE's execution is flawed.

The biggest problem I have with Battlefield 2042 is the Specialist system, which has replaced Battlefield's traditional classes with individual characters that come with unique abilities and traits. The idea is cool and theory, and the power of Specialist abilities can lead to some big plays. However, the current iteration of the system is pretty flawed. Some Battlefield 2042 Specialists feel like they're significantly more useful than other characters, leading to situations where you feel like you're at a disadvantage by not using them. These include the wingsuit-equipped Sundance and Mackay with his Grappling Hook, both of which have a huge impact on fundamental gameplay.

All Specialists can also equip weapons and gadgets that have traditionally been restricted by class choice. Snipers are no longer tied to the Recon class, while all players can now use rocket launchers and C4. Traditionally, classes with these gadgets were balanced with limitations, such as the inability to use assault rifles as the Engineer in exchange for the ability to equip rocket launchers. In 2042, those limitations are gone, meaning everyone on the battlefield is a jack of all trades. Class limitations are one of the core things that encouraged players to play as a team, which makes the implementation of Specialists especially disappointing.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There's also something about Battlefield 2042's gunplay that feels "off" to me, at least on PC using mouse and keyboard. It's not bad, but it's definitely not as smooth as previous games such as Battlefield 4. I've tried messing with my sensitivity, and while it helped somewhat, there's still something about it that feels a bit clunky.

Speaking of gunplay, don't expect much variety from Battlefield 2042 in that department. There are currently only 22 weapons in the game at launch, dwarfed by past games like Battlefield 3 and 4. Earning new guns as you rank up remains one of the best parts about Battlefield progression, which only highlights the limited weapon variety.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Notably, Battlefield 2042's Hazard Zone isn't anything special. In it, you and your squadmates need to hunt down AI soldiers, steal their data drives, and then extract before enemy squads take you out (you can also hunt other players for additional drives). Extracting will net you some in-game currency that you can use to buy weapons and gadgets in follow-up matches. The mode is fine, but there's way too much space between your spawn and most points of interest, which usually results in a painful amount of sprinting and not much action. Gunfights are exciting once you actually get into one, but overall, I just found myself wanting to go back to Conquest. There also isn't voice chat in Battlefield 2042 at launch, making it very difficult to actually communicate with your squadmates. DICE has confirmed voice chat is coming, but it's yet another step back from past games.

Finally, Battlefield 2042 has a ton of bugs and performance issues, both big and small. I've encountered everything from broken buttons in the UI to hard crashes in the middle of gunfights, and while I've been able to improve stability by lowering the in-game settings, it's not up to modern standards. The list of known issues isn't small, including a bug that prevents some players from earning XP or unlocks at launch.

Battlefield 2042: Should you play it?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Battlefield Portal, 2042's vehicle play and maps, and the new plus and vehicle call-in systems are all fantastic — and graphics and audio also exceed expectations. However, the unbalanced Specialist system, tweaks to gunplay, flawed Hazard Zone mode, and numerous underlying performance issues leave quite a lot to be desired.

Electronic Arts and DICE have created a great foundation with Battlefield 2042, but for the game to succeed in the long term, improvements need to be made. I have high hopes that its latest will eventually blossom into one of the best PC games available, and maybe the Battlefield game of my dreams, but the launch offering leaves a lot to be desired.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.