I’ve sunk 30 hours into Battlefield 2042 - I’ve battled with an overpowered Hovercraft, screamed silently into my mousepad as I’m shredded again by a helicopter in the middle of a barren desert with absolutely no cover, and then quietly shut down my PC when I’ve hit the third straight-to-desktop-crash in a row. Barring any surprise launch-day patch from DICE, this version of early access 2042 is the version that will launch for everyone worldwide on November 19. Prepare for a tornado of disappointed fans.

You know when everyone said that Specialists were going to be the biggest problem in Battlefield 2042? The game is in such a sorry state that the Specialists actually seem to be the redeeming factor. I’ve got to get that disclaimer out of the way. The Wingsuit is fun. Carrying C4 with my Sniper class is fun. There is still teamwork. The timeless Battlefield system isn’t ruined by the Specialists. No - that timeless system is ruined by a lot of other things.

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2042’s core gameplay is boiled down into two simplified modes: Breakthrough and Conquest. Breakthrough is your classic Operations mode, introduced with Battlefield 1 and refined in 5. Push, pull, get stuck in a chokepoint. Conquest is, well, Conquest, except now you’ve got multiple capture points inside each sector. This is just Battlefield. I literally don’t even know what to say to you other than “This is what you were expecting.”

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128 players in a game is beautifully hectic. I cannot fault the technically mind-boggling capacity of 2042 to run a game of Breakthrough with 128 players. It is awe-inspiring to watch your team of 64 spool out over the first capture point. Wingsuits, tanks, helicopters - it’s total chaos. These are the Battlefield moments fans live for, but they’re short-lived. A shallow veneer that covers up some of the game’s most serious faults.

That 128 player chaos is actually the cause of some of these issues, at least indirectly. 2042’s launch maps might be some of the most poorly designed in the entire series, and trust me, I’ve survived through spawn camps on Battlefield 5’s Hamada, dealt with bombers on Battlefield 1’s Galicia, and seethed my way through matches on Battlefield 4’s Gulf of Oman. The scale of the maps is excessive and the majority of them feel devoid of life and, crucially, cover.

Take Breakaway, one of the new maps, played in Breakthrough. This vast white snowscape is gorgeous. Visually, it was one of my favourite maps in trailers and pre-launch marketing. Turns out it’s a hellscape. Everything is white. Your little head sticks out from 1000m away. Say hello to the DMR and DXR. There is almost zero cover. Hovercraft rule supreme, destroying the backline of desperately huddled teams behind snowbanks. One of the final sector fights takes place over frozen icefields. “Throw smokes!” you shout in your team chat, but no one listens. These frustratingly massive maps are compounded by the prevalence and strength of vehicles. Helicopters are back and better than ever. Once we see more people at a high level, jets will be back in force, too. It has me desperately hoping for some popular Infantry-only Portal servers.

Battlefield 2042 helicopter ride

Portal is 2042’s redeeming feature. A system that allows you to replicate aged Battlefield experiences in the fancy new Frostbite engine. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is as good as ever. 1942 glistens with modern graphics. Of course, during the Early Access period Portal has been exploited by players to create XP farms, so I haven’t really been able to play as much of it as I would like - it currently doesn’t give you any XP. I’m still holding out for Portal to keep me satisfied while DICE takes on their inevitable march of turning 2042 into the game they promised.

Oh, and there is no scoreboard. Such a small, fundamental part of Battlefield that I always expected to be there is completely gone. There is no ability to select the server you want to play on. It’s to keep servers balanced, probably, but it also stinks of Skill Based Matchmaking, and Battlefield was always our last bastion against the growing surge of SBMM. This also means you have no rapport with your teammates or grudges against the enemy team, the stuff that has always made Battlefield stand out against its FPS competitors. The audio is terrible, especially the footsteps (oh god, the footsteps). Balance is all off. The servers are laggy, and the game isn’t even fully out yet. Oh boy, there are some real issues here, but it’s a Battlefield launch, that’s to be expected, right?

Unfortunately, this goes deeper than a rocky launch. It’s hard not to be disappointed with this 2042 offering. You know when the devs said this is a game to “celebrate Battlefield”? They’ve stripped away some of the most fundamental elements of the series and added tornados and Wingsuits to make up for it. It’s Marketing 101. Explosions, tornados, and swooping helicopters look great. One day, they probably will be great. DICE is one of the best when it comes to post-launch patches - for better and for worse. But if you’re on the fence about buying Battlefield 2042, I would just wait. It’s hard for me to condone purchasing what is essentially an unfinished product - an unfinished product with Battle Passes, too. Just wait. It will be a better game in a year’s time. Maybe even six months. If you’ve never played Battlefield and want to experience some of the sheer beauty of 64v64, I say go for it. Just don’t expect an experience that will keep you interested for more than a couple of weeks.

Anyway, what’s that I heard about Halo Infinite?

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A PC code was provided for this review. Battlefield 2042 is out worldwide on November 19.

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