Over the course of last week and last weekend, I spent nearly 30 hours playing the Battlefield 2042 beta. I had a ton of fun with the game and there are several things I love about it so far, but there are also a handful of big issues I had with the beta, too. Ultimately, I'm still very excited for the game, but certain aspects of the gameplay have me worried about what Battlefield 2042 will be like at launch.
After spending a few days thinking about the experience, I decided to put together a quick list of the things that I liked about the Battlefield 2042 beta as well as a list of some of the things that could have been better. Here are my thoughts.
What I liked: Vehicles
First and foremost, the thing I enjoyed the most in the beta was using Battlefield 2042's vehicles, including tanks, helicopters, jets, and recon vehicles. I've always been a big fan of using vehicles in shooter games, and so far, Battlefield 2042 hasn't disappointed on that front.
Tanks pack a ton of firepower compared to previous games, and even though the developers made them handle a little less smoothly to compensate, they still make you feel like you have a huge influence on the outcome of ground engagements. Helicopters, meanwhile, have much smoother flying controls than the likes of Battlefield 3 and 4 and are equipped with plenty of miniguns and rockets that are ideal for suppressing infantry targets, blowing light vehicles to bits, or shooting down enemy pilots. The heavily armored transport helicopters in particular are more useful than they've ever been, as their miniguns and grenade launchers enable gunners to saturate an area with deadly ordnance while troops deploy from them. Even recon vehicles can be devastatingly effective when used strategically thanks to their top-mounted minigun.
The only vehicle I didn't love using was the jet, which currently lacks a weapon that can be used effectively against ground targets. Still, the jet is a powerful tool for keeping the skies clear thanks to its deadly minigun and missiles. Also, the jet's VTOL mode is significantly more maneuverable than it was in Battlefield 3 and 4, meaning that you can reliably use it to take down helicopters or try to suppress infantry. Overall, the vehicles in Battlefield 2042 are simply a blast to use.
What I didn't like: Specialists
Battlefield 2042's Specialists system is intended to replace its traditional class-based sandbox with unique abilities that players can use based on which specialist they've chosen. Each Specialist can equip loadouts that are based on Battlefield's usual Assault, Engineer, Support, and Recon classes, but ultimately, players have the freedom to mix and match weapons and gadgets.
The system sounds cool in theory, as it means that unique Specialist-exclusive gadgets like Mackay's grappling hook and Boris' sentry gun can add new twists to the standard flow of Battlefield combat. However, the issue with the way EA and DICE have implemented it is that any Specialist can spawn with any weapon, which I noticed led to some balance problems. For example, if everyone on the enemy team can spawn with rocket launchers and don't have to deal with the limitations of the Engineer class like you had to in previous games, countering vehicles becomes way too easy. The limitations of each class were a large part of what made teamwork such an integral part of the Battlefield experience, and I feel like a lot of that has been lost with the Specialist system.
Another problem with Specialists is that it makes players look identical to one another very often, especially if a lot of people in the match are using the same Specialist. This is an issue that will potentially go away once players unlock Specialist cosmetics in the full game, but regardless, it was pretty immersion-breaking during the beta.
What I liked: Plus system and vehicle call-ins
Battlefield 2042's plus system and the vehicle call-in system are two new mechanics that change the way players interact with the weapon and vehicle sandbox, and after using both of them thoroughly during the beta, I've fallen in love with them. The plus system allows you to swap between various weapon attachments like sights, magazines, and barrels on the fly, while the vehicle call-in system gives you the freedom to airdrop a recon vehicle, anti-aircraft vehicle, or tank to your location (if your team doesn't have too many of them already).
I vastly prefer using the plus system for weapon attachments over the way you have to swap them out between lives in older Battlefield games, as it allows players to be more flexible in combat. The vehicle call-in system, meanwhile, lets you near-instantly drop in a vehicle in situations where one will be helpful to you and your teammates, which is simply awesome. You can even use it to get vehicles into places where they wouldn't normally be able to reach; for example, I airdropped an anti-aircraft vehicle on top of Orbital's massive tower during the beta, which allowed me to easily protect the point from incoming helicopters. Overall, these two systems are a fantastic addition to Battlefield.
What I didn't like: Gunplay
Something that I was struggling with a ton during the beta is Battlefield 2042's gunplay, which felt strangely uncomfortable. It's not terrible, but it certainly didn't feel as smooth and responsive as other Battlefield games, which is disappointing. Weapon recoil was difficult to manage, and it often felt like I was on the verge of losing control of my weapon. Oddly, I found the LMG to be the most stable and reliable weapon, which is weird because without a bipod you would think that an LMG would be the hardest weapon to control.
Speaking of bipods, it really bothered me that there wasn't a bipod attachment available to use with the LMG. The support-style gameplay that Battlefield encourages with LMGs is hard to accomplish without the use of a bipod, and as a result, I had to use it more like an assault rifle instead to be effective with it. It's not possible to zero distances with your scope when using the sniper rifle, either, which makes sniping at longer distances extremely frustrating and unfun. The ability to zero distances and fire on targets from a very long range is what makes Battlefield sniping fun, so I hope the developers add this feature before launch.
What I liked: 128-player count
Battlefield 2042 doubles the match size of previous Battlefield games by making all-out warfare modes like Conquest 64v64 instead of 32v32, leading to significantly more action and much less downtime overall. I was a little worried that this would lead to engagements feeling way too clustered, but since EA and DICE are also delivering the largest maps in Battlefield's history with 2042, I don't think it will be a problem.
After playing the beta, I feel confident that this was a good move for the series. I enjoyed being able to jump into engagements with my teammates very quickly after spawning, as it kept moment-to-moment gameplay exciting and high-energy. Ultimately, Battlefield is all about action-packed battles on a large scale, and 128-player lobbies help achieve that vision.
What I didn't like: Orbital
The final thing about the Battlefield 2042 beta that I didn't like was the Orbital map. Due to its overly open and flat terrain, sparse layout, and lack of cover, Orbital didn't scratch my Battlefield itch for a quality map that supports a variety of playstyles well. The fact that the map left players very exposed at almost all times meant that snipers and tanks were able to reign supreme without much that could challenge their dominance, and it was also way too easy to shoot down helicopters with anti-aircraft missiles since there were barely any large structures or large pieces of terrain that pilots could use to take cover.
Another big issue with Orbital was that its destructible elements were few and far between, and what was there was pretty underwhelming from a gameplay perspective. All you could really do was blow off sections of small structures; you couldn't collapse any of the buildings on the map at all, and while it's true that you can destroy the rocket as it's taking off, the resulting explosion barely impacts gameplay. Compared to maps like Siege of Shanghai from Battlefield 4 that allowed players to level entire skyscrapers and coat the map in thick dust, the destructible elements on Orbital are very disappointing.
Overall, I'm very excited for Battlefield 2042, and I strongly believe that it could end up being one of the best Xbox shooters of 2021 when it releases on Nov. 19. I loved using the game's vehicles and the plus and vehicle call-in systems, and the 128-player match size also plays excellently.
With that said, I have concerns about the Specialists system and the game's general gunplay, as well as the Orbital map. Ultimately, we won't know whether EA and DICE will make any big changes to the game before release until it launches, but I'm hoping that they'll at least make some tweaks that lessen some of the problems caused by the Specialist system and the current shooting mechanics.
Notably, Battlefield 2042 preorders are available now on all systems. The next-gen version of the game on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC costs $70, while players on Xbox One and PS4 can purchase the last-gen version for $60. This version of the game has traditional 32v32 matches and reduced graphical quality.
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