|Stranded is a new map introduced in Season 2|
|Reviewed by:||Mark Goninon|
|Release Date:||19 November 2021|
|Time played:||143 hours|
Back to the Future
Although I'm not terribly good at the Battlefield games, I consider myself a veteran of the series as I've played most of its entries. While I dabbled a little bit with Battlefield 1942 while at LAN parties, I spent a good chunk of my time playing Battlefield 2, Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4. I didn't spend that much time with Battlefield 1 but I did with the last iteration Battlefield V and ended up enjoying it, which is why it received a score of 8/10.
Battlefield V wasn't without its flaws and a lot of fans were longing for a return to the modern warfare setting that was last explored in 2013's Battlefield 4, so there was considerable hype for Battlefield 2042 as it was going to be set in the near-future. Battlefield 2042 is set in the same universe as Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 (the character "Irish" voiced by the late Michael K. Williams, actually features in this game) but obviously more than two decades later. Due to many natural disasters brought about by climate change, societal collapse becomes prevalent around the globe and many of these refugees become known as the Non-Patriated or "No-Pats". In 2040, a communications blackout plunges the world into chaos and the world's two remaining superpowers, the United States and Russia, fight a proxy war by employing No-Pat mercenaries to secure critical resources.
|Is Battlefield 2042 now a hero shooter?|
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Despite some areas of the Battlefield experience being significantly changed, most of the default mode called "All Out Warfare" actually remains the same: it's still a team-based First Person Shooter played on relatively large maps combining the use of infantry, vehicles and aircraft. The game has the usual modes of Conquest (which is essentially Capture the Flag) and Breakthrough (where an attacking force has to slowly push back an opposing force, sector by sector).
In terms of new features, environmental hazards such as tornadoes and sandstorms have been introduced to the maps which fits in with the lore (i.e. increased frequency of natural disasters due to climate change) and while these events do make you change your tactics on the fly, which you'd think would be a good thing, it can sometimes feel extremely unfair too, especially if you're already losing a game and a big tornado blocks your path to victory.
The game also has a new mode called "Portal" which allows those that have nostalgia for previous Battlefield games to replay them using the Battlefield 2042 engine. You're able to play maps with the original classes and weapons from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3, and while they're not an exact facsimile, they're close enough. What's even better is that the Portal mode has a server browser!
"Wait a minute", you're probably saying. "Are you telling me there isn't a server browser in the base game?" Yes, you heard right, you can no longer use a server browser to play the default mode called "All Out Warfare". Matchmaking is done automatically and initially, a lot of information was hidden from the user: you never knew if you were in for a long wait or not since you weren't even given information on how many players were waiting in the queue (fortunately, this has since changed and the game now notifies how many people are waiting for the game to start and what the minimum threshold is).
The "All Out Warfare" mode has also done away with classes and has Specialists similar to hero shooters like Rainbow Six Siege (although this will change in the future, more on that later). Currently, you have specialists which are grouped as an "Assault", "Engineer", "Recon" and "Support", but these titles don't really confer any benefits unlike the previous game, Battlefield V where an engineer would actually be better at repairing vehicles, for example. Instead, the specialists have a unique gadget they can use and that's really the only thing you need to consider since you're able to use any weapon you like regardless of which specialist you pick. The game is all about picking your favourite weapon and gadget then picking the appropriate specialist. It steers the game even further away from the team-based experience found in previous iterations of Battlefield and the game feels more like Team Deathmatch with vehicles.
So, if you're a Battlefield veteran lamenting the lack of classes and a server browser, having a Portal mode that makes you even more nostalgic for the good ol' days is probably not going to win DICE many supporters.
|It's not all bad. I like what they've done with the End of Round screens|
All the Good Times We Had We'll Have Again
It's not all bad though. There are some good things about this game, such as the improved End of Round screen that randomly showcases the achievements of three players (e.g. Most Revives, Most Vehicles Destroyed, etc.) instead of an ace squad (which can get kind of boring if it's the same squad over and over again). When the game initially came out, these End of Round screens were the subject of ridicule due to some really cringey lines (to the point that Angel's "Don't be sad, this is just how it works out sometimes" became a meme referring to the broken state of the game) but DICE have since removed them and have tried to tap into the more grim, post-apocalyptic tone that is portrayed in every other aspect of the game. I also like how you can turn radios on while driving vehicles. It adds an extra level of immersion and it's always cool listening to some David Sanborn style jazz-fusion as you're dispatching opposing forces.
The game is also still evolving and DICE are hard at work fixing issues with gameplay which means it is always improving. Some would argue a lot of these changes they're bringing in, should've been in the game from the start, and while I tend to agree, at least they haven't given up on the game just yet. For example, DICE has acknowledged that there are issues with many of the maps in terms of open space, making it incredibly difficult for infantry to traverse across it, especially on modes with a lack of vehicles to offer protection or speedy transport. They've already implemented some changes to existing maps by adding undulating terrain and more cover, and they're planning to continue reworking maps in the future. As mentioned before, they're also intending to bring classes back. Their current plan is to not impose limits on weapon choice (which I still think is a mistake) but to restrict the gadgets that certain classes can bring. I've always talked about this with respect to the Battlefield series and still believe "less is more". Back in Battlefield 2, you were only offered a choice of a couple of primary weapons per class. Otherwise, the gear for that class was the same. Having classes makes the game easier to balance and forces players to work together as a team since you are more dependent on your teammates to succeed instead of a bunch of "lone wolves" who are only concerned about their KDR.
Season content is unlocked in a similar way to Battlefield V and I'm actually having quite a bit of fun unlocking the new weapons, vehicles and specialists. Sometimes the new vehicles or aircraft they introduce to the game seem to make the existing arsenal obsolete (e.g. stealth choppers vs attack choppers) but the devs are always tweaking the stats to ensure they don't get too overpowered (I still hate stealth choppers though).
Sluggish performance and bugs galore
It's not uncommon for a Battlefield game or any AAA title for that matter to be buggy on release. However, it's been several months since release, the game still has bugs and my PC is unable to run the game smoothly (although my five year old PC is probably the main culprit in this regard).
I've experienced several problems with the game including micro-stutter, framerate drops, squad joining issues, crashes to desktop and servers switching maps mid-game. Most of these issues have eventually been resolved or are at least tolerable now, but one issue I haven't been able to resolve is me having to load the game twice in order to play.
Those that have been following my Weekly Round-Up Wednesday posts will know what I'm talking about: I had an issue where when I booted up the game for the first time, it would get stuck on the initial loading screen but it would not show the Connecting to Servers icon. Forcing the game to close and re-opening it would result in the game wiping my old settings and loading the default ones. I would then need to reconfigure the game, change the resolution (since the resolution defaults to 1024x768) and replay the tutorial (the game forces you to play a tutorial the first time you boot it up). You could imagine how annoying this would get if you had to repeat these steps each time you opened the game.
I eventually found a workaround that would at least prevent the game from reverting to default settings each time I opened it, but why it does work is beyond me: turning a DirectX 12 flag on in a configuration file now saves me time from reconfiguring the game but I still have to open it twice in order to play. I've attempted many things to fix the issue including:
- updating graphics card drivers
- repairing the game files
- running Windows System Repair
- reinstalling graphics card drivers in Safe Mode
- clearing Origin's cache
- turning Cloud Saves on in Origin
- re-installing the game
- re-installing Origin
Nothing has worked, short of reformatting the computer, and that's a step I'm not really prepared to do right now (especially when I've got heaps of other games on my Pile of Shame to go through)!
Anyway, I've also been having issues with sluggish performance. Initially, I had a GTX 1060 3GB installed on my machine which ran Battlefield V and a whole bunch of other games fine. However, Battlefield 2042 was a different story. I noticed that the minimum system requirements for the game required a video card with at least 4GB of VRAM, so I found a spare GTX 1050Ti 4GB (which on paper is slower than the GTX1060 but it at least has more VRAM). Improvements in performance were negligible so I eventually decided I would get a new video card and now I'm running an RX 6600 which has 8GB of VRAM.. Unfortunately, again the performance gain was negligible which leads me to believe the main bottleneck is actually my CPU which happens to be a 7th generation i7 (and we're already up to 12th generation i7s). So, my only solution now is to buy a new PC and that's definitely something that's out of my budget for the time being.
Anyway, this is more of a "me" problem and might not be a problem at all for you, dear reader. But just be warned if you happen to have a PC that's a few years old and runs a whole bunch of other AAA games just fine, this might not be the case with Battlefield 2042 and I'd recommend you only consider playing it on a relatively new PC.
|Concurrent player count in Battlefield 2042 from SteamDB|
Is anyone still playing this?
Prior to the release of the season content found in the first season Zero Hour and the current season, Master of Arms, it was quite difficult to find a game. It's hard to tell actual numbers but many, including myself, have been using the Steam concurrent player numbers of Battlefield 2042 to give a rough idea of how popular the game is at any given time.
When the game was first released, there were understandably a lot of players. There was a lot of hype surrounding the game and it especially appealed to those wanting the Battlefield series to return to the modern era. On Steam at least, there were over 100,000 players playing at the same time back in November 2021. Eventually numbers kept dropping until there were only around 2,000 concurrent players playing it daily. It was really difficult to find games during this time (which was earlier this year). One night, I even tried to wait and see how long it would take me to find a game and I recorded it taking 45 minutes. Thankfully, things are slightly better now. You'll notice a peak when Season 1 released of around 15,000 daily players and a peak of 17,000 with Season 2. You can often find about 10,000 Steam players playing the game concurrently now, but it's obviously only 10% of what it used to be.
So, while it's possible to find someone who plays it nowadays, it's nowhere near as easy as it was when the game was initially released.
Although DICE has tried their best to refresh the Battlefield formula by making it more like a hero shooter, sometimes trying to implement whatever was popular a few years ago isn't the best strategy and sticking to what you do best actually makes you stand out from the crowd. Also, it's still relatively easy to find bugs in this game and performance is sluggish on anything but the most recent PCs. The game has its fun moments though, and there are still a few Battlefield die-hards playing this game. With some TLC, it could be better, but it's been almost a year since release now and the game is still being polished.
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