The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games and life converge

Battlefield 2042: The Private Portal Experience and A Return To Noshahr Canals

“Don’t be discouraged by a slow start. It offers the time and testing you need to lay the right foundation for success.” –Michael Hyatt

It’s December 2013, a few weeks after the Black Friday sale on origin, and I’d just picked up Battlefield 3 for eight dollars. After joining a match of conquest on Caspian Border, I decide to look around the server browser and see what other modes there were: team death match (TDM) on Noshahr Canals dominated the browser when I narrowed the results down, and out of curiosity, I joined such a server. The fierce firefights among the shipping container captivated me, and in the months coming, TDM in Noshahr Canals became a mainstay of my Battlefield experience; the close quarters environment the map provided afforded me with instant action, standing in stark contrast with conquest, which requires one to travel great distances. In this way, for a little bit of Battlefield excitement during moments where I didn’t have time to sit down for a full match of conquest, Noshahr Canals TDM proved perfect, allowing me to blow off some steam before returning to my coursework. In this way, my open studies term ended, and I accepted an offer to enroll in graduate school; during this time, Battlefield 3 continued to entertain me, and overall, I would go on to tally 137 hours before Battlefield 4 caught my attention. Over the years, I’ve greatly enjoyed the time I spent playing through Battlefield 4, Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V, although none of them quite had the same magic as being able to just spawn in on Noshahr Canals and unwind. When Battlefield 2042‘s Portal mode (Battlefield Portal for brevity) was announced, DICE immediately had my attention; Battlefield Portal allows players to create game modes tailored to their own liking, and although the mode is still quite limited in terms of features and options, it has allowed me to faithfully re-create the Noshahr Canals experience that I remember from my time as a graduate student. Thus, despite Battlefield 2042 launching to unfavourable reception, after assessing things for myself, I’ve determined that now is the appropriate time to kick off my journey into Battlefield 2042 by putting my own private Noshahr Canals TDM server to the test. However, things weren’t all going to be sunshine and rainbows: when Battlefield 2042 became available, players immediately set about flooding Battlefield Portal with experience farming servers. This created a situation where, because they had taken up all of the available resources, other players were unable to initialise their own instances. Moreover, DICE’s response to these farms was to outright disable experience gain and progression. At the time of writing, progression is available to a limited extent, and DICE has managed to address the issue of server instances overwhelming their hardware; after I finished setting up Battlefield 2042, it was a suspenseful few seconds as I went over to my list of private experiences and requested a new instance for my own AI bots-only server.

Moments later, I smiled broadly: my instance had begun, and right away, I was captivated by the immersion and aesthetics. Battlefield 2042‘s portrayal of Noshahr Canals is entirely faithful to the original. The aesthetics and handling are identical to what I remember from Battlefield 3, as are the weapons and sounds. During the duration of my first match against AI bots, I felt as though I were back in graduate school, running around and blasting people when I was supposed to be reading papers for my thesis. The AI bots actually do put up a decent fight, as well. However, my server latency was quite high, and the hit registration is quite inconsistent, especially at longer ranges. Moreover, Battlefield Portal doesn’t yet provide all of my favourite maps from the old classics, and many of the weapons I came to love are unavailable. The hit detection is a known issue affecting Battlefield 2042, and while it was mildly jarring against AI bots, it is clear that against human players, where millisecond differences can mean the difference between a victorious firefight or being sent back to the spawn screen, bad hit detection is a major game-breaker. DICE is said to be working on a fix at this time, along with a host of other issues the game is facing in the performance department. While my eight-and-a-half year old rig is able to run Battlefield 2042 (I’m hitting about 50 FPS on medium-high settings), I have heard that people with current-generation hardware are actually getting only slightly improved performance to my machine, despite having hardware upwards of two to five times more powerful. This can be immensely frustrating, since it does show that Battlefield 2042 is poorly optimised, or even unoptimised. Moreover, the UI feels unwieldy and cumbersome: things that could be accomplished in a single mouse click require two or three clicks, and some things that look interactive are not. The lack of a scoreboard is also quite noticeable; even though I am playing against AI bots, it is helpful to know how many deaths I’ve taken during the course of a match. While the game launched in a difficult state, DICE has had a history of consistently improving their titles over time, and their best Battlefield games similarly had rough starts, before becoming polished to the point where they’re now remembered as the best Battlefield games ever made.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I’ll open my Battlefield Portal experience with a kill from the venerable M16A3, Battlefield 3‘s best assault rifle; the M16A3 I remember had low recoil, high damage and a high rate of fire, making it the perfect weapon for beginning players. However, as memory serves, I switched over to the Heckler and Koch M416 almost as soon as I unlocked it. While both weapons are excellent, the reason why the M416 appealed to me was because both Russian and American factions would be able to use it, and I could therefore unlock attachments for the weapon more easily.

  • Battlefield Portal‘s implementation of things is such that Noshahr Canals handles exactly the same way as I remember from eight years earlier. I am able to knife my way through the chain-link fences of Noshahr Canals, and barriers where I’d expect to be able to vault over are similarly impassible, as they once were. With classic mechanics returning, I swapped over to the M416 and had a grand old time with it, winning my first-ever match against the AI bots and earning myself an achievement in Steam.

  • Battlefield 2042 is the first Battlefield since Bad Company 2 to be available on Steam out of the gates, and being able to utilise Steam’s built-in screenshot command was remarkably convenient. Since I upgraded to Windows 10 back in May, FRAPS no longer worked with DirectX 12, and so, I’ve been using Rivatuner for screenshots in games outside of Steam. This did have its disadvantages, as it required MSI Afterburner, and this had been causing my machine to suffer from Blue Screens more often than I’d like. After uninstalling MSI Afterburner, my machine’s become a ways more stable, but it is clear that it’s reaching the end of its lifespan.

  • For Battlefield Portal, I have noticed that I am averaging around 50 FPS, and the game has not given me any trouble in my matches so far. However, an old nemesis, high ping, has returned – I’m not sure if it’s a deficiency in servers in western North America, but every time I’ve spun up a private server for my matches, I am eternally stuck with pings of above 150 ms. On any normal server against human players, I’d probably be kicked for high ping, but since this is my server, and AI bots couldn’t care less, I was able to continue playing on my matches.

  • I found that in TDM, the AI bots are actually quite convincing to play against: unlike Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War or Halo Infinite, where I was massacring the bots wholesale, Battlefield 2042‘s bots actually put up a good fight. They can move about the map and shoot with accuracy resembling that of a human’s, rather than getting stuck in the map and shooting with perfect accuracy, as was common to AI bots of an older era. Altogether, the bots are sufficiently sophisticated as to make AI bots-only TDM entertaining.

  • For kicks, I ended up switching over to the recon class during one match and equipped the M39 EMR, a semi-automatic marksman rifle returning from Battlefield 3. Since TDM requires more CQC, I swapped over to the ACOG sights, but it became clear that sniping wasn’t quite as precise as I remember: there were a handful of moments where I would line up a headshot and fire, only to get no hitmarkers and deal no damage. With semi-automatic rifles, the wonky hit detection is most noticeable at longer ranges, while automatic weapons demonstrate how unsteady they can be because of an issue with bloom.

  • Here, I empty my P90 into a foe, depleting my magazine in the process. Back in the day, I could clean out three people with a single magazine – the extremely high bullet deviation in Battlefield 2042 is a known issue, and it makes firefights highly inconsistent. In previous years, I’ve prided myself on being consistently skillful in Battlefield, standing in stark contrast with players of gatcha games like Kantai Collection and Genshin Impact. I have no patience for games where there is a significant luck component, and at least in older shooters, one’s performance and enjoyment boils down to skill rather than chance.

  • Watching bullets bloom around in a random fashion takes the skill out of a firefight – at long ranges, one lacks the confidence that they’ll be able to nail down a target, and in close quarters, it can mean that one takes more bullets than expected to overcome a foe. In a mode where teammates are not able to resupply me, this is especially challenging, since I am running out of ammunition far more quickly than I had in Battlefield 3.

  • On the flipside, when things do work out in Battlefield Portal, they work extremely well, and here, I give the engineer class a go – the SCAR-H is every bit as fun as I remember it was. Back in Battlefield 3, the SCAR-H was a hard-hitting carbine with a low firing rate, making it more effective at long rangers compared to other carbines available to the engineer. To overcome the bloom, I ended up falling back on the old trick of tap-firing to help me control recoil better. Over time, I imagine that I’ll reacclimatise to the recoil mechanics of Battlefield 3; at the time of writing, I’ve just spent a shade over two hours in Battlefield 2042.

  • With two hours in the books, while I’m certainly not familiar with Battlefield 2042 and its mechanics just yet, I have seen enough to know that I am happy with my purchase and will be continuing to play this game to more fully experience the single-player aspects. The presence of AI bots means that I no longer have to commit several hours per week to unlock everything; earlier Battlefield titles had recurring events that I needed to direct a nontrivial amount of time to, and these days, dedicated gaming time is something I do not have a whole lot of. As such, knowing that Battlefield 2042 does offer options for me to play at my own pace is most welcome.

  • The transition away from gaming isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I have mentioned that being offline has actually been most cathartic. Earlier today, I stepped out to begin doing a cleaning of our new home – most of the place has been wiped down now, and it’s just the bathrooms left. We also ended up taking some detailed measurements ahead of purchasing new furniture. After this comes vacuuming and clearing things down once more, and then the furniture shopping can begin. Because this took much of the afternoon, the sun had set by the time we decided to call it a day, and we ended up grabbing an old classic, Southern Fried Chicken with gravy and fries, washed down with a tall glass of ginger ale, for dinner.

  • We’ve also begun watching the latest 007 movie, No Time To Die; this movie had been delayed several times, and while it was originally to première back in April 2020, the global health crisis resulted in the release being pushed back to November 2020, and then in January, the release date was further changed to October 2021. The rationale was that the film was an integral part of the box office, and while originally, there had been no plans to make the film available on streaming platforms, No Time To Die did end up becoming available on November 9. The home release is scheduled for December 21 of this year. One wishes that more anime films would do the same, although this is a pipe dream at best, and as for No Time To Die itself, other than a completely disappointing opening theme, the film itself is solid in all other areas, worthy of any James Bond film.

  • Back in Battlefield Portal, I’ve switched over to the support class and equipped the M240B light machine gun. I equipped the bipod, mounted up and began shooting at distant foes, landing a few kills after finding that tap-firing has returned; because of how bloom currently works, automatic weapons are always accurate with their first bullet, and by tapping out two to three bullets, I am able to reach out further than if I keep the trigger down. The M240B isn’t the M249, which was my preferred LMG back in the day, but it remains a solid choice.

  • Besides the M240B, players can also equip the M60E and the Type-88 as a part of the support class. It is not lost on me that the weapon variety in Battlefield Portal is significantly less than what Battlefield 3 originally provided; at launch, there were seven LMGs compared to the three in Battlefield Portal. I am hoping that over time, more classic weapons and maps will be added to the mode. In particular, being able to run Metro, Seine River and Grand Bazaar would be particularly welcome: besides Noshahr Canals and Caspian Border, these were the maps I had grown very familiar with prior to picking up the Premium Pass.

  • Here, I manage a triple kill (three kills in rapid succession) on Ai bots hanging out in the container area using the SPAS-12. This shotgun makes a welcome return, and in Battlefield 3, was introduced with the Close Quarters expansion (which was my personal favourite). After I unlocked it, it quickly became my go-to shotgun because it had the tightest spread of any shotgun, allowing it to remain reliable at longer ranges than other shotguns. The other mainstay, the 870 MCS, is the most powerful shotgun on a per-shot basis.

  • Running the recon class and the M98B, chambered for the .308 Lapua Magnum rounds, brings back memories of a Firing Range post series I ran many years ago for Sword Art Online‘s Sinon, who ran with a PGM Hecate. The Firing Range posts were my attempt at replicating LevelCap’s Loadout series, where he ran with iconic setups from TV shows, films and novels to see how they’d perform in Battlefield. However, since anime loadouts were never covered, I figured I’d try my hand at them. The closest equivalent I could have in Battlefield 3 was the M98B, and at the time, I’d just reached a high enough rank to unlock the weapon. While capturing screenshots for the discussion, I ended up going on my first-ever killstreak to earn myself a combat efficiency ribbon.

  • The Firing Range series never really took off, but now that Battlefield Portal is here, assuming more content is added to it (by way of new maps and weapons), it could be fun to bring back the Firing Range and try out things from Sora no Woto or even Girls und Panzer. In fact, one of the possibilities about Battlefield Portal I had been particularly excited about was the prospect of being able to do a 1-versus-20 faceoff, featuring one modern MBT against twenty WWII-era Panzer IVs and Tiger Is. Being able to finally simulate what would happen against Akeiko “Daigensui” Sumeragi’s beloved tanks would have finally allowed me to put to bed the tired adage that Sumeragi was an expert on all things.

  • For the time being, however, I’m not sufficiently versed in Battlefield Portal‘s online editor to put together such a mode: I would need to have a means of expressing the logic to spawn players directly into vehicles and then preventing them from exiting their vehicles. In fact, I’m not even sure if this is possible in the current editor. Originally, air superiority existed in Battlefield 3, where players would spawn into a jet and were unable to exit, creating vehicle-only combat. The same rules would hypothetically allow for a tanks-only match, and I am hoping that, if it is indeed the case that such a mode is not presently possible, it is added in the future.

  • Assuming this to be the case, I would also love to run a single Battlefield 2042 soldier armed to the teeth with modern AT weapons, against twenty German tanks, just to prove that Panzerfahren on its own is not representative of modern warfare (which largely follows a combined arms doctrine) and therefore, Sumeragi should not be treating Girls und Panzer as an anime requiring military expertise to understand. Until such a time as when Battlefield Portal becomes flexible, there is still quite a bit to do. I’ve got a few modes set up to play classic conquest on Bad Company 2 and 1942 era maps as well, and Battlefield 2042 also offers a solo mode for conquest and breakthrough.

  • Altogether, I will be continuing on with my Battlefield 2042 journey over the next few months, and my next aim in this game will simply be to explore maps in the solo mode. There is limited experience gain here, and the objective is simply to get my weapons up as far as the cap will allow. Once I’ve had a chance to try the All-Out Warfare modes, I’ll be returning in December to share my thoughts on things like gunplay and map design, once DICE has had the chance to smooth things out. Finally, it is worth mentioning that I also picked up Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut alongside Battlefield 2042; the game is on sale for 85 percent off right now. I’d played through the original back in 2014, and as we near the Giant Walkthrough Brain’s tenth anniversary, it does feel like Human Revolution will be worth revisiting, as well.

Battlefield 2042, especially though Battlefield Portal, has shown that the game does have the potential to be the definitive modern military shooter I’ve been looking for: the inclusion of AI bots are Battlefield 2042‘s most significant feature, and originally, DICE had indicated that players would be able to unlock everything even when playing purely AI bots. With this now disabled, DICE appears to have reneged on their original promise about Battlefield Portal. With this being said, Battlefield Portal already has everything unlocked for the classic mode, and while there are serious issues with hit detection, it does not feel as frustrating as it could be against human foes. Overall, having been around Battlefield for almost a decade as a casual player, my ultimate metric for determining whether or not a given experience is worthwhile is fun and immersion. More serious players are right to hold DICE to a higher standard to ensure that game mechanics are polished, and that their experience is as smooth as possible. For me, however, I play intermittently, to blow off steam and unwind; what I’ve seen in Battlefield Portal is promising and looks to precisely fit the bill for what I seek. Ultimately, so long as DICE addresses the performance issues and bugs, I could see myself continuing with this game for a very long time: Noshahr Canals TDM comprises of around three eighths of the time I spent in Battlefield 3, and the ability to play against AI bots, away from cheaters and overly-serious streamers, means that Battlefield Portal offers that fine balance between the large-scale sandbox experience Battlefield is best known for, and the personalised individual experience I’ve come to look for in games. While I won’t claim that Battlefield 2042 is in an acceptable state at present, I remain optimistic that over time, the more critical issues will be addressed, and I will have the game I’ve been dreaming of having; a place to mess around with new concepts and re-live old memories alike, all at a pace of my choosing. Those first few matches on Noshahr Canals were promising, and despite the current flaws in Battlefield 2042, not having to play against cheaters and try-hards is a breath of fresh air, precisely what I look for in games with longevity.

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