“All great beginnings start in the dark, when the moon greets you to a new day at midnight.” –Shannon L. Alder
Buckshot sails past my teammate and into my skull, sending me back to the deployment screen. In past Battlefield games, I’d be shown the foe who killed me, and I would wonder if that player had been lucky, skilled, or if their level was low, using cheats. However, there’s no time for such thoughts here in Battlefield 2042; I decide to spawn into the M1A5, and moments later, I’m back in the heat of combat. This time, I’m protected by composite armour in all directions. I proceed to single-handedly slaughter an entire capture point on my own and buy my team some breathing room, but in that time, the enemy team has managed to begin capturing another point on the map. I immediately race over, leaving a trail of dust and destruction in my wake. Battlefield 2042 represents a dramatic departure from the class-based multiplayer shooter that DICE had perfected over the years. For one, it is now possible to play solo on a private instance, and this alone has made Battlefield 2042 a relaxing experience. This year, the mantra “at my own pace” has dominated my discussions. I am happiest when taking in entertainment in the manner of my choosing, and Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes have provided exactly this. The AI bots I join in a given match play as humans would. They capture objectives, fire on me when I draw near and duck for cover when I return fire. While their performance can vary, they can be challenging and unpredictable like human players, but unlike human players, possess no ill-will towards me. No AI bot has yet killed me from across the map with a shotgun, camped in a single spot all match to spawn frag teammates, or singled me out in text chat for a fight. For this reason, Battlefield 2042 is fun; spared the trouble of having to deal with an excessively zealous enemy team and teammates who can’t perform, players who believe camping is a legitimate strategy and folks who count on cheats to gain the upper hand, I am able to properly play Battlefield 2042 at my own pace. The pressures associated with multiplayer evaporate as I am able to focus purely on a goal for that match. If I’m intending to give a newly-unlocked weapon a go, I can equip the base weapon and not worry about being destroyed by players using the optimal loadouts. If I wish to rank up my tanks, I can park on a capture point and hammer away at foes towards the unlock thresholds without try-hards from the other team destroying my tank with air-to-ground missiles. In fact, the absence of highly proficient pilots means for the first time in a Battlefield game, I’ve been able to learn how to fly, as well. Previously, I’d be shot down by enemy pilots who’ve unlocked everything for their air vehicles of choice within seconds of spawning in to an aircraft, but the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 lack the same level of aggression, giving me a chance to learn how to fly in a live match.
The solo experience is a complete breath of fresh air from previous titles, where I’d necessarily need to play against overly-determined foes who care only about their stats, and Battlefield 2042 has met expectations in this area. Similarly, thanks to two post-launch patches from DICE, gunplay has become sufficiently smooth so that assault rifles can perform at medium ranges. Performance is, for the most part, satisfactory – my aging hardware still runs Battlefield 2042 on medium settings. In this way, I’ve spent twelve hours playing against AI bots in the solo All-Out Warfare mode, and I’ve reached level 18. Over these twelve hours, I’ve played enough to determine that Battlefield 2042 is sufficiently satisfying so that I will be continuing with the game as it continues to mature and grow. Battlefield 2042‘s launch has been rough, and I’ve heard that since launch, player count has decreased by upwards of seventy percent. The game is one of the most negatively reviewed games on Steam, and day after day, endless Reddit threads are created, instructing others not to buy the game. While most of it is irrelevant or overblown, some of these feedbacks have merit: Battlefield 2042‘s problems lie predominantly in performance issues, lack of essential quality-of-life features like a server browser and scoreboard, and the fact that solo modes offer drastically reduced experience points compared to multiplayer proper. These are the sorts of things that should be slotted under DICE’s “high severity, high priority” fixes. The other point that I’m in agreement with are the map designs the new All-Out Warfare maps. While the maps themselves are visually stunning, there is far too much empty space between congregation points. This means that for most players, the average match will consist of sprinting to a capture point, perhaps scoring a few kills and then dying instantly to a sniper, or sprinting to a capture point and being killed by an enemy helicopter along the way. There’s no buildings or vegetation to provide cover for moving infantry, and there’s not enough vehicles, like quad bikes, to allow squads an accessible means of swiftly moving between capture points. I also find myself unable to join a squad of AI players, resulting in long walks should I ever die. The recurring joke, that Battlefield 2042 is a virtual track-and-field simulator, holds true in solo All-Out Warfare; in the absence of a vehicle, I tend to stay at one capture point because of how long it would take to hoof it over to the nearby control points, even on the smaller maps solo players are provided with. A bit of extrapolation would find that larger maps would be very difficult to traverse. It would be phenomenal for DICE to address these issues in their maps: Battlefield V initially had similar problems, and without dramatically changing up maps, DICE had fixed these issues by providing a handful of respawning motorcycles at capture points and adding fences, foliage and trenches to make it easier for infantry to move around in. The community appears to believe otherwise for the present, but DICE’s track record speaks for itself: Battlefield games typically start out roughly, and then improve over time. As such, it is likely the case that over time, Battlefield 2042 will improve – maps will be updated to handle better, basic UI elements will return, and, if my luck holds, optimisations will be introduced so even older rigs like mine can run the game with reasonable frame rates.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Because I spent a total of six hours on the Orbital map during Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, I’ve elected to play on different maps. Playing multiplayer proper means utilising Battlefield 2042‘s matchmaking system, and from what I’ve heard, this approach makes it really tricky to play on one’s preferred maps. Unfortunate player can get stuck on the same map two or three times in a row; as such, having a proper server browser would be mandatory. In my case, since I’m playing solo, I have the choice of picking which map I play on every time.
- Here, I play on Hourglass, a sand-swept portrayal of Qatar’s Doha. Massive skyscrapers can be seen in the distance, and although the illuminated city is gorgeous, there is a lot of open space on the map, making a vehicle mandatory. In earlier Battlefield games, I’ve commented that one thing I enjoy most about a well-designed map is that there is enough variety to accommodate all combat options without favouring any one weapon type or play-style. The larger maps of Battlefield 2042 openly favour vehicles, and early in my experience, I found that I could single-handedly control the tide of battle if I were to spawn into a tank: here, I destroy an enemy vehicle and earn myself a killtacular in the process.
- The experience gain in solo mode might be stymied, but the flip-side is that unlocks for weapons and vehicles progress normally. This makes solo a great place to become familiar with weapons and vehicles; when something is initially unlocked, there are no additional options available for it, and its handling might require some time to get used to. Previously, trying newly-unlocked weapons out on human servers would be painful, since I’d be destroyed in the blink of eye by folks playing better weapons. Conversely, here in solo All-Out Warfare, I am afforded the chance to get used to a base weapon. Here, I shoot a helicopter out of the sky with the M1A5, the American MBT, in a manner reminiscent of my Battlefield 3 days.
- Kaleidoscope is set in Songdo, South Korea, and it is another map where there is a large central business district surrounding the actual map itself, a large open park with little cover. The park area offers next to no cover, and one can be attacked from all angles even if they are cautious; people report that nothing is more frustrating than surviving a harrowing firefight at close quarters with another squad, only to be picked off by distant snipers. These events have led some to express a wish for DICE to modify the maps. While the maps themselves cannot be easily changed in terms of layout, simple changes like adding trenches, fences and foliage as cover would make a massive difference.
- These small changes would allow for more close-quarters environments and also break up the line of sight for snipers, forcing snipers to play more strategically. DICE has previously done something similar in Battlefield V: the Panzerstorm map was notorious for favouring vehicles, and anyone who spawned into a tank could decimate infantry unchallenged. The map was later altered so trenches and fences broke up open fields, giving infantry flanking routes and allowing them to sneak up to vehicles in order to counterattack.
- I can now say that the AI bots in Battlefield 2042 are definitively a cut above the bots in other games I’ve played: Battlefield 2042 bots can traverse the maps well enough to capture objectives and force players to respond, will reprioritise their focus if I fire on them, and utilise their equipment when appropriate. I have died on several occasions to bots that would astutely swap over to their M5 Recoilless Rifles and hammer my tank with rockets, and similarly, enemy tankers immediately stop firing on infantry with their coaxial MG and change over to their MPAT rounds to take me out when I arrive.
- This isn’t to say that AI bots can replace human players: there are some moments where the bots can become pretty bone-headed as a result of limitations in their decision algorithms: towards the end of a given Breakthrough match, AI bots will always just congregate on the capture point in the aim of keeping players from capturing it. Allied bots similarly seem to have a problem rushing in to take the points, and as such, the end of a match on some maps becomes impossible to win on my own. However, other maps give me a chance to drive a vehicle onto the capture point and finish the match off quickly.
- Having now had the chance to try the PBX-45, I’ve found it a superbly reliable and enjoyable weapon to use. The base weapon has low recoil is low, high firing rate and good hip fire accuracy. When aiming down sights, tap-firing the PBX-45 allows it to reach out further than one would imagine. The PBX-45 is inspired by the LWRC SMG-45, a next-generation submachine gun firing the .45 ACP rounds and entered production in 2019. Battlefield 2042‘s weapons are all inspired by existing weapons, but rather than going with venerable classics such as the HK416 or AK12, DICE has opted to go with cutting-edge weapons.
- Here, I drive a tank on another match of Breakthrough on Breakaway, which is set in Antarctica’s Queen Maud Land region. As it turns out, Shōwa Station (as seen in A Place Further Than The Universe) is also located in Queen Maud Land. Battlefield 2042 supposes that by 2042, illegal drilling operations will have occurred here. For me, Breakaway is probably my favourite of the Battlefield 2042‘s maps; besides sporting excellent scenery, there’s actually a bit of cover to utilise in between the different capture points. Despite being a snowy, icy map, Breakaway is broken up with rocky regions and a massive drilling platform, adding variety to the map.
- It turns out that the bolt action rifles do have penetration; I found this out when I landed a double kill with a single shot while pushing towards the final set of capture points. While solo All-Out Warfare is fine for levelling up even with the constraints in mind, the fact that everything is so far apart means that firefights are less frequent. I would like to see DICE implement deathmatch options for both multiplayer and solo/co-op in All-Out Warfare, as it would offer players a means of focusing purely on unlocking attachments for their new weapons.
- For me, the biggest problems in Battlefield 2042 at this moment are performance issues and the fact that progression in Battlefield Portal is restricted. Things like aesthetics can be improved over time, and DICE historically has a good track record when it comes to fixing bugs surrounding ballistic properties and UX. I bought Battlefield 2042 for the fact that one can play against AI bots, and in this area, the game does handle in a satisfactory, if less-than-ideal, manner. However, being restricted in experience gain is a bizarre decision, and the outcome is that a vast majority of players, like myself, are punished by the actions of a few number of players.
- The solution for experience farming is, theoretically, a simple enough concept: if a server alters AI behaviour and attributes like health to beyond a certain threshold (e.g. setting AI to stand still or having less than half of normal health), then XP is automatically disabled for that server. Otherwise, progression equivalent to that of solo All-Out Warfare would be permitted. This approach would allow solo players to be rewarded for spending time in the game, while only punishing those who abuse Battlefield Portal‘s capabilities. This would be the optimal solution, but in the absence of such an implementation, I still see myself playing Battlefield Portal on its own: everything in this mode is fully unlocked from the start and ready to go for players.
- For the sake of exploring every map, I ended up swinging by Discarded, which is set in Alang, India. This map features the rusting husks of derelict cargo ships that are being decommissioned and scrapped for parts. The ships themselves are massive, and their labyrinthine interiors are perfect for close quarters combat, whereas outside, wide open spaces on the muddy coasts facilitate sniping and vehicular combat. The extremities in the maps justifies the presence of a + system, which is the colloquial name for the menu that allows for weapon attachments to be swapped on the fly, just like in Crysis. While the system was initially questioned, I’ve actually found it to be quite powerful.
- Even though I’m presently only able to switch between a handful of sight, barrel and under-barrel types, being able to switch out a holographic sight for long range optics and exchange a suppressor for a heavy barrel has meant I could change my optimal combat range when going from the interiors of a ship, to the wide open plains surrounding each vessel. The + system actually does add a bit of nuance to things, and picking attachments to best suit one’s play style at certain ranges enhances Battlefield‘s weapon customisation system. As players unlock more options for their weapons, it is possible to have an assault rifle handle more like a submachine gun for unexpected close quarter situations with a change to the equipped ammunition and barrel attachment, for instance.
- During one match of Conquest on Discarded, I ended up boarding an attack helicopter and scored my first-ever kill with a helicopter in any Battlefield game. Until now, the presence of other players meant I never had the chance to learn the controls. While the AI bots are smart enough to train their anti-air guns and missiles towards the sky when I fly, they are nowhere nearly as persistent as human opponents. In this way, I learned how to move the helicopters and get it to go exactly where I wanted it to go, and I also got a better measure for the weapons available from the pilot’s seat.
- Back on the ground, I will remark that Angel is the best specialist, bar none, for solo All-Out Warfare; his passive ability is to revive downed allies faster and bring them up with their armour topped off, while his equipment allows him to call in a loadout crate. This ability is the most mundane of the specialists, but in practise, it is also the most useful of the abilities. I am now able to switch weapons and gadgets outright if a situation changes: if I am pinned down in an area, I can call in a crate and switch over to the medic loadout, then as soon as I extricate myself, I can return to an anti-armour role. Similarly, if opponents begin engaging me from ranges beyond what I’ve configured my assault rifle to do, I can pop over to a DMR or bolt action rifle.
- The initial smart rockets attack helicopters have access to are underwhelming and require a few hits in order to kill, but I ended up getting the hang of them. My goal now is to unlock the 70 mm anti-personnel rockets for both factions, which lack anti-armour properties but would be particularly lethal against infantry. Generally speaking, an attack helicopter is at its best when there’s another player occupying the gunner’s seat: they can focus on an anti-infantry role while I deal with vehicles. In the absence of a gunner, and in the knowledge that the AI aren’t overly aggressive about anti-air combat, I have also found success by raising the helicopter’s altitude, switch to the gunner’s seat to clean up infantry on the ground, and then return to the pilot’s seat so I can steer the helicopter back into the air for another attack run.
- It feels a little unusual to run a predominantly support player without LMGs, and Battlefield 2042 has a rather disappointing two LMGs available for players to unlock at this point in time. The LMG that I do have access to right now, the LCMG, is a decent option to run, and I’ve found it to be quite useful for clearing areas out; on Kaleidoscope on Breakthrough, the last capture point is located on the roof of a skyscraper, and this creates an unusual situation where the defenders are guaranteed to win because the allied AI have no chance of breaking through in a concerted fashion. However, the placement of enemy AI also means that one could capitalise on their behaviour to score kills and work towards their weapon progression.
- A week ago, it was Black Friday, and I ended up going shopping for new bed frames and mattresses, where I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I saved a hundred dollars on my bed frame. This weekend, the day was spent finishing off the Christmas shopping – I finished most of mine back in the first week of November, having anticipated that supply chain problems could make Christmas shopping considerably more difficult. At present, there are only a few odds and ends to look after, and gifts for the folks most important to me are already secured, leaving me to leisurely browse the local mall. Winter has also begun arriving in my region: the past week had been snowy, and today saw -6ºC temperatures with gentle flurries.
- A Cantonese-style dinner wrapped up what was a relaxing and somewhat brisk day – sweet and sour pork with mayonnaise and apricots, beef brisket and daikon, seafood Chinese broccoli and 小炒皇 (jyutping siu2 caau2 wong4, a stir-fry with fish, shrimps, chicken and deep-fried tofu) ended up being the perfect way to take the edge from a cooler night. This weekend is a bit of a breather from the recent flurry of activity, and in the weeks upcoming, the goal will be to finalise the furniture for our new place. The beds, wall units, couches, coffee table, desks and shelves are good to go, so all that’s left are night tables, shelves for the bedrooms and dining table. Once those are bought, I can capitalise on that vacation time to begin building the furniture, and then begin moving some personal effects over.
- Sniping in the open beta was a little inconsistent, but with the fixes that have occurred since Battlefield 2042‘s launch, sniping has become a superbly enjoyable activity. I miss the days when the game would give players bonuses for landing headshots from extreme ranges: besides rewarding sharpshooting and skill, it was also an elegant way of telling players their headshot distance. Here, I nail a shot on an AI bot from about 200 metres away; bullet drop in Battlefield 2042 is less pronounced than it was in Battlefield 3 or 4, although this is purely something I’m saying based on observation, and I feel that I’ll still find it useful to spend more time with bolt action rifles.
- Because I’m certainly not a skilled pilot by any stretch, being able to hop into a match of solo Breakthrough or Conquest and practise flying in the context of a live match has been remarkably helpful. In previous Battlefield games, this simply wouldn’t be possible, and while tutorials are offered, I’ve found that like real life, I tend to learn best when given a chance to apply the basics towards a tangible objective. This is how I picked up C# and Unity for the Giant Walkthrough Brain and how I became a self-taught iOS Developer.
- The sandbox environment in Battlefield similarly is conducive for self-driven learning, and looking back, this is something I’ve come to enjoy from all of the Battlefield games I’ve picked up. According to the blog’s archives, I wrote about my first impressions of Battlefield V about three years ago. Back then, I found the most frustrating aspect of the game was player visibility. Beyond this, I was hopeful that DICE would continue introducing new content to the game, and while Battlefield V ended support a year-and-a-half into its life, the game did end in a decent state. While visibility was never adequately addressed, DICE did fix a host of issues with Battlefield V, leaving it in a playable state after support for the game was dropped. Unfortunately, the game succumbed to cheaters, and after that final match on Al Marj Encampment in mid-June last year, I’ve never returned. Had Battlefield V offered a solo mode with AI bots, the story would be very different.
- At around this time three years earlier, I had just accepted a new job offer and had a few weeks to myself. Besides sleeping in and perhaps spending a little more time playing Battlefield V than I would have otherwise, I also decided to take the bus downtown to get a feel for the route one morning. That day, I also ended up enjoying a delicious Lobster and Scrambled Eggs poutine from a local breakfast institution, as well as explore the then newly-opened central library, where I spent the entire morning reading Reader’s Digest’s Treasures of China, a beautiful coffee table book that showcases the beautiful landscapes and dazzling cultural artefacts of China. I’d given up hope of reading that book again, but thanks to a bit of holiday magic in the present, that book will be joining my private library this Christmas along with Smithsonian’s Space, another book I’d been longing to buy.
- Like Battlefield 2042, Battlefield V‘s launch was a bit rough, and players back then similarly decried the lack of content and numerous bugs. However, since DICE did add extensively to Battlefield V‘s content and patched out the more critical bugs, the game became much more immersive: the Pacific Update stands as one of my favourite expansions to any Battlefield game ever. Owing to this history, I hold similar expectations for Battlefield 2042 and will anticipate that with time, more primary weapons, sidearms and maps will be added to the game. For now, though, I am content to work through the unlocks that are available, and here, I manage to score a killtacular on enemies chilling in a vehicle using the M5 Recoilless Rifle. AI bots are fond of gathering in vehicles, making multi-kills quite common.
- The SVK is modelled after the SVCh (Snaiperskaya Vintovka Chukavin), a Russian designated marksman rifle manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern. The real world equivalent is designed to supplant the SVD marksman rifle and unlike its predecessor, is a modular weapon that can accommodate different calibres and possesses a Picatinny rail, allowing it to mount different attachments. From what I’ve seen of the SVK so far, it hits harder than the DM7, but has a reduced magazine capacity. The default optic is also a little tricky to use.
- Conversely, the AK24 is an excellent assault rifle: par the course for the Kalashnikov derivatives, the AK24 has a slower firing rate and more recoil than the M5A3, but in exchange, hits harder per round and is more reliable at range. In the beginning, I only had the iron sights for it, but as I’d mentioned in the open beta post, iron sights no longer bother me quite as much as they did during my Battlefield 3 days: being forced to use iron sights in Battlefield 1 and V has seen to it that I’ve adjusted, and in Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, not having a sight also meant being able to equip an alternate attachment instead.
- While I’ve yet to unlock the attachments that bring out the best in the AK24, even having a few attachments to bolster the weapon’s performance slightly is welcome. Shortly after unlocking the AK24, I returned to Revival to see how the weapon handled, and that particular match was exhilarating: my team had fallen behind early on, but thanks to my captures, we held the lead until late game, when the opposing team managed to sweep victory from under us by the margin of five tickets. The outcome was as lifelike as any match against human opponents.
- As such, while Battlefield 2042 still needs a bit of work before I’m ready to step into the realm of multiplayer, the solo mode has proven to be satisfactory, offering me a modernised sandbox environment to play in without worrying about rampant cheaters and juvenile players plastering memes into text chat. As such, I see no merit in paying too much heed to the non-stop vitriol that is being generated on social media; at the end of the day, I’m having fun, and that’s all that matters. I have seen that Battlefield is most enjoyable with some mates, but since most of my friends don’t have an interest in this series, I’ve spent the whole of Battlefield 3, 4, 1 and V on my own. This has never diminished my experience in any way, and admittedly, it is fun to see how far I can get on my own.
- Having now gained a rough idea of how Battlefield 2042‘s solo modes handle, I do see myself returning, at my leisure, to unlock things and have a good time in my private sandboxes, away from a community that has only become more negative and unbearable since I last wrote about Battlefield. I don’t play Battlefield for a living, and I don’t tie my self-worth to my performance in a video game, so I see little reason to participate in that particular side of the community; so long as the game provides me the large-scale sandbox experience I’ve come to love, I will continue to enjoy it. Finally, DICE has announced that a new map will be joining Battlefield 2042 – this map is called “Exposure”, and I am rather looking forwards to checking it out. This time around, thanks to the presence of a solo mode, I am similarly confident that I’ll be able to easily explore the map once it becomes available.
My impressions after spending twelve hours in Battlefield 2042 have been largely positive, thanks in no small part to the fact that it is now possible to get a private All-Out Warfare session going. Here, the limitations that affect the larger multiplayer mode are not as apparent. Map sizes are slightly smaller, and vehicles are always available, making travel a little easier. I’m squaring off on a server of 63 AI, rather than 128 human players, so performance is similarly less of an issue. For this reason, I do see myself staying in the solo All-Out Warfare experience for the foreseeable future. While being killed by cheaters and having to contend with youth whose vocabulary seems limited to memes is annoying, the main reason why the AI bots remain appealing is simply from the fact that my machine is aging and therefore, unlikely to be able to keep up on a server of 128 human players. While perhaps speaking poorly of Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer component, these observations also serve to show how powerful AI bots have become. We are now at a point where I am able to play a convincing match against AI bots without ever encountering human players, and although the AI bots are still limited (allies and foes alike do not adapt to situations as quickly as humans would), I’ve nonetheless had a solid time so far. The biggest impediment right now is the fact that experience and unlocks are constrained right now thanks to the actions of a few impertinent players creating “1 HP EASY XP FARM” modes and flooding Battlefield Portal with these servers during the game’s early access period. The problem was exacerbated by unethical gaming journalists promoting these modes as a means of quickly levelling up during this timeframe, harming the experience for the remainder of the players. The reduced XP has made it far slower to unlock new weapons and gear, as well as outright preventing attachments from being unlocked in custom TDM experiences. So far, this has not been an impediment, but as I continue to level up, and the experience required for each successive level increases, I imagine that I will be feeling the effects of this more severely, the further I level up: DICE and EA did assure players that they would have full access to progression regardless of which modes they play, so it is imperative that progression be returned to Battlefield Portal such that it is at least similar to what it is in solo All-Out Warfare. DICE has had a history of sorting out issues to create increasingly stable and consistently enjoyable games, so I am hoping that Battlefield Portal and solo All-Out Warfare will receive their own fixes in the near future. In the meantime, I will continue advancing through Battlefield 2042 at my own pace – Battlefield 2042‘s latest patch was a major one and addresses a large number of in-game issues that improved gameplay in a tangible way, and most excitingly, added vehicular combat TDM to Battlefield Portal. This particular mode has been of great interest to me – it will now be possible to properly set up a server where I can simulate the outcome of pitting myself against AnimeSuki’s conceited Mädchen und Panzer World of Tanks clan to settle a decade-old argument, and I have a special discussion in mind on this matter once I get that game mode set up.