“When things are a disappointment, try not to be so discouraged.” –Carol Burnett
Seven months after Battlefield 2042 launched, DICE has finally launched the first content update to their beleaguered title, which has suffered from instability and performance issues since it was released last November. The state of Battlefield 2042 was such that the game’s player-count had been in free-fall since launch, and while DICE attempted to right things with updates to improve things like hit detection, stability and consistency, skeptical players continued to leave the game for greener pastures. With over just a half-year having passed since this launch, DICE has managed to iron out most of Battlefield 2042‘s most glaring technical issues, allowing them to now focus on improving the game loop and turn their attention towards adding new content to the game. Traditionally, content has always been the appeal of a Battlefield game – new maps and weapons kept previous titles exciting and fresh, and earlier Battlefield games have always delivered consistently. New weapons allow players to explore new play-styles, while new maps challenge players to learn new routes and strategies to best take advantage of the map’s design to earn a win. Battlefield 2042, however, has done neither until now, and even with the Zero Hour update, only a single new map has been added, along with two new primary weapons, two new helicopters and one new gadget. In 2018, DICE’s Battlefield V introduced the Panzerstorm map within a few weeks of launching, and then consistently provided new content that culminated in the triumphant Pacific War update, which decisively showed that Battlefield V had everything in place to become an iconic and immersive shooter, a far cry from its initial marketing. Battlefield V‘s lifespan was shortened when DICE announced they were dropping everything for Battlefield 2042, and looking back now, one wonders why this decision was made: Battlefield V had just entered a state where it was highly enjoyable and was poised to revisit iconic World War Two theatres. In retrospect, the decision to end support for Battlefield V was foolish, especially considering that Battlefield 2042 was launched and handled with even less finesse than Battlefield V; while the constant adjustments to TTK were irritating, Battlefield V still delivered consistent gameplay and new content with regularity. Battlefield 2042 is in a very rough spot, a far sorrier state than Battlefield V had ever found itself in: late is the hour in which the Zero Hour update comes, and despite DICE’s claims that they are in a position to finally add content and improve the game per player feedback, faint rumours are suggesting that Battlefield 2042‘s fate will be similar to that of Battlefield V’s, with support ending after one year’s worth of content.
These rumours, if they are true, will prove disastrous for DICE: with the Zero Hour update, it is plain that DICE’s map design team and developers can pull through. Although lacking the same volume of content as previous Battlefield games, the new map, Exposure, is every bit as immersive and engaging as some of Battlefield’s best maps. There are wide open spaces for vehicular gameplay, narrow corridors for intense close-quarters firefights, and vertical cliff sheers that force players to be mindful of attack from above or below. Exposure’s design allows snipers to be effective against careless infantry, vehicles to traverse vast expanses and duke it out while infantry-oriented players might take refuge in the corridors and tunnels of a secret mountain base to control its interiors. The presence of escape routes, zip-lines and extensive cover give infantry players a chance to make a tangible difference without exposing themselves to long-range fire from vehicles and snipers. Similarly, inquisitive players can make use of the map’s interiors to get off a strategic flank and surprise foes from unexpected directions, forcing defenders to stay on their toes. There is, in short, something for everyone on this map – this is what Battlefield’s best maps have traditionally offered, allowing a skilled player to be effective in any play-style on the map. The successful design in Exposure is a mixed-bag; on one hand, it is a highly engaging experience that shows DICE definitely can still put together maps that players can have fun with, but on the other, it raises the question of why DICE hadn’t been designing maps like Exposure, with a creative balance of cover and open spaces to accommodate all play-styles in the manner of Battlefield’s best maps. The entire Zero Hour update carries a similar melancholy about it; everything is plainly a step in the correct direction, being a return to form for DICE, but there is so little content, so late in the game, that one must wonder if DICE’s hearts are in Battlefield 2042 at all. Despite this sense of wistfulness, however, the Zero Hour update does bring with it the most fun I’ve had in Battlefield 2042 since launch.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Until Zero Hour, my time in Battlefield 2042 was spent exclusively in the single-player modes, where I fought bots extensively to unlock weapons and gear. Because DICE had implemented a limiter to prevent players from farming for experience and trivially unlocking everything, the reduced experience greatly extended the amount of time it took to reach level sixty – this is the point where one would have all weapons, vehicles and gadgets unlocked. Similarly, to prevent players from reaching Tier I for their badges, DICE limits players to reaching Mastery 12 with weapons, vehicles and gadgets, but at Master 12, one will have all attachments and options open to them. Here, I give the NTW-50 a go: this anti-material rifle is extremely powerful but cumbersome, handling similarly to Battlefield V‘s BOYS Anti-tank rifle.
- Early on, I hopped into a Condor and managed to land the front gunner’s seat. We had come under fire from a Super Hind, and my pilot had managed to position us behind it. With the 50 mm rounds, I destroyed the Super Hind, landing me my first-ever Killtrocity in Battlefield 2042 (in fact, this was one of my earliest kills against live opponents). The transport vehicles tend to be heavily utilised owing to how large maps are, and destroying a fully-occupied vehicle can yield a ludicrous amount of points. However, I chalk this moment to beginner’s luck, more than anything.
- Ribbons are disabled in the single-player modes, presumably to prevent abuses, and here, I score enough kills to earn a combat ribbon. I’ve missed ribbons: they were absent in Battlefield V, but Battlefield 1 had an excellent system where ribbons were based purely on player actions. To see this simpler system return in Battlefield 2042 was quite welcome, as ribbons reward players for playing a certain way. Unlike earlier Battlefield games, ribbons in Battlefield 2042 are tiered: one can earn ribbons three times in a match, with each tier granting more experience points as a result.
- Upon returning back to Battlefield 2042, I found myself performing about as well as I had towards the end of my time in Battlefield V: the reason for this is because when Exposure first launched, it was a new map, so players wouldn’t have time to learn every nook and cranny in the map for camping, ducking away from a firefight or laying an ambush. Similarly, playing against AI bots meant I had a very good sense of how my weapons handled, so I was joining the game with an arsenal I had a modicum of familiarity with. Initially, I tried the AK-24, a hard-hitting assault rifle with a longer range than the starting M5A3 and found moderate success with it.
- The M5A3, on the other hand, is an excellent assault rifle meant for closer-range engagements; it has a higher rate of fire, but with the right attachments, can be made into a makeshift marksman rifle for taking on more distant foes. Having now used the weapons out against live players, I’ve found the M5A3 remains my personal go-to for its high RPM and low recoil: like Battlefield V, the gunplay in Battlefield 2042 is consistent and enjoyable. Random bullet deviation isn’t quite as strong in Battlefield 2042 as it was in Battlefield 1, so for my part, firefights are solid.
- Whereas Battlefield 1 and V gave points for dealing damage to opponents based on amount, Battlefield 2042 will yield assist points equivalent to a kill if one was involved in any way. The scoring system in Battlefield 2042 is quite generous with points, and for me, just spotting enemies can lead to piles of assists coming in. I’ve found that no matter what I’m running, the proximity sensor is an indispensable asset, allowing me to swiftly locate nearby foes on the mini-map. 3D spotting is still absent, but the plethora of spotting options and improved soldier visibility means that camouflaged players are no longer the issue they were in Battlefield V.
- One curious trend resulting from my return to Battlefield 2042 was that I found myself using the FXM-33 AA Missile (basically, the FIM-92 Stinger) with a much higher frequency than I had in any previous Battlefield game. The trick to mastering this weapon is to fake out enemy pilots by locking onto them without firing. When locked on, some pilots will immediately deploy flares to break the lock. This also renders their air vehicle immune to being locked onto again for some time. However, the reload time for flares is longer than the delay in being able to lock onto them again.
- Thus, once I’ve made an enemy pilot waste their flares, I immediately lock onto them again, and fire. This trick allows me to consistently land successful strikes on enemy helicopters, blowing them out of the sky. Previously, in Battlefield 3 and 4, I’ve had no success with the Stinger because I would always fire as soon as I got a lock – if a pilot deploys flares after a missile is fire, the missile will lose its lock on the aircraft. Battlefield 1 and V did not have any effective man-portable anti-air weapons, allowing a skilled pilot to single-handedly control a match. Even I was able to get in on the fun in Battlefield 1: the while I’m a terrible pilot, I was able to get work done with the Ilya Muromets bomber.
- Conversely, Battlefield V offered assault players the Fliegerfaust, and prior to the weapon’s being nerfed, the weapon was obscenely powerful against planes, to the point where even I was able to enjoy the satisfaction of ruining a pilot’s day. The Fliegerfaust would eventually be weakened, requiring two full salvos in order to down an enemy plane. I’ve never felt that man-portable anti-air weapons were ever over-powered – a good pilot can effectively control an entire game, so giving players effective anti-air solutions balances the game out. Battlefield 3, 4 and 2042‘s implementation of anti-air weapons are fair.
- Exposure is an aesthetically pleasing map, more so than any of the other existing Battlefield 2042 maps. The southern edge of the map is dominated by a rockfall resulting from the landslide that exposed the hidden research facility, and the northern area is dominated by a massive lake. At first glance, the trees here are of a brilliant shade of yellow, suggesting that the map is set during the autumn. However, closer inspection finds that these are evergreens, which don’t yellow unless they’re afflicted with pests, or undergo extreme temperature change – this small detail could hint at how damaging changing weather patterns have been in the Battlefield 2042 world.
- The Battlefield 2042 story has been ill-explored in the game – while the marketting materials indicated that the game would explore the effects of adverse climate events through the maps and specialist’s backgrounds, the actual product never delivered on this aspect. A campaign would’ve been more appropriate, and probably would’ve given players one more aspect of the game to take on. Here, I land a headshot from afar with the DXR-1, which has quickly become my favourite long-range option in the game, reaching out further and having better accuracy than the starting SWS-10 .
- During the course of my first entry into Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer, I also ended up utilising the game’s LMGs. Of the weapons in Battlefield 2042, LMGs received the short end of the stick – only two are available at the time of writing, and while both have noticeably different traits, earlier Battlefield titles had a more impressive selection of these high-capacity weapons, which are best suited for covering choke points. The LCMG is the default available, and while it lacks the firing rate and capacity the PKP-BP possesses, it is slightly more accurate.
- While farming for healing, I managed to reach rank eleven for the battle-pass, giving me access to the Hannibal, a new stealth helicopter. The stealth helicopters available to both Russian and American factions are excellent anti-infantry platforms with the options for equipping anti-ground or anti-air missiles. In stealth mode, the helicopters lose their direct attack arsenals but cannot be locked onto, and instead, pilots gain access to bombs that can clear out entire capture points. These helicopters are fun to fly, and while I’ve rarely been able to get to a vehicle in live matches, one can still unlock attachments for them in single player modes.
- Battlefield 2042‘s option for single player modes against AI bots may seem extraneous, but the biggest advantage about having these modes is that it provides one with a sandbox for trying new unlocks out and ranking up weapons and vehicles. These modes do have their merits, and in fact, I’ve found that compared to the firing ranges of earlier Battlefield titles, solo modes are a fantastic sandbox environment to get familiar with new weapons and even practise flying against targets that do shoot back.
- While landing headshots from long ranges is immensely satisfying, I miss the days of when Battlefield would give a bonus for the distance such a shot was landed from. The point system in Battlefield 2042 feels less sophisticated than its predecessors did, and I have heard reports that the reason behind DICE’s inconsistent performance of late stems from the fact that many of the original developers have left, and the new developers are unable to find the same passion and bring the same drive to the table as the previous developers have.
- In conjunction with the distractions brought on by the global health crisis, DICE’s current team is not collaborating and working together with the same cohesion as previous teams had, in conjunction with possessing less experience with Battlefield all around. This corresponds to why Battlefield 2042 has not, as a product, conveyed the same look-and-feel of what players have come to expect from a Battlefield title. While inexperience and poor teamwork might account for some of what players have seen, what strikes me as odd is the fact that DICE’s current developers already have precedence from the earlier team for what makes for a successful Battlefield title.
- To be honest, I’m not sure why DICE has a tendency to rework the networking code and physics wrappers every time a new Battlefield title is made: in software development, good developers will create modular libraries that can be reused. So long as the game engine itself isn’t changed dramatically, these libraries can be utilised to form the basis of the game, and then new assets can be built around a solid set of core frameworks. This is how I approach app development: I tend to write wrappers and helper classes around dependencies. Then, I can make calls to my own classes anywhere in the app that requires that functionality.
- In this way, if any changes happen to a library, rather than having to go through my entire app and make sweeping changes, I can just update my wrapper classes, and I’m set. Similarly, if I suddenly need to write a new app that requires similar base functionality, I can just import this wrapper, and out of the gates, I’m guaranteed something that works (said wrappers would already have passed testing previously). This is an example of the adaptor pattern, and for me, it makes it significantly easier to maintain a project. Applying this to Battlefield would mean that, unless a game were to use a new version of Frostbite, developers could (and should) draw from existing networking libraries and physics tools for the basis of their games.
- This would make it far easier to create new games, since every new game would already have a solid, proven set of fundamentals. For the end-user, it would mean things like rubber-banding, latency, connectivity issues and poor hit-registration would be a non-issue. If a previous Battlefield had good networking code, then reusing these libraries means the fundamentals shouldn’t be a concern. New Battlefield games would simply require designing new maps and assets, as well as writing new code for controlling game behaviour. This method is why Infinity Ward is able to push out new Call of Duty titles year after year, changing up only the stories, maps and other assets.
- If DICE had wanted to differentiate itself from Call of Duty, assuming that they adhere to good software engineering practises, they would then simply need to continuously support Battlefield titles by providing new, refreshing content for large-scale, sandbox environments over a few years, and only release new games when they wish to change out the era or settings. Everything I’ve mentioned here sounds like common sense – other Battlefield influencers have mentioned the same thing. My statements are backed by experience in software development, so I can ascertain that Battlefield influencers do have it right when they present their criticisms of Battlefield 2042.
- As a player, rather than a developer on the team, I’m not privy to all of the inner workings at DICE. There could be other forces at work, such as executive meddling, so I can’t presume to judge the developers for their actions. While Battlefield 2042 is a symptom of larger problems with DICE, and players end up paying the price, I will note that it’s not all doom and gloom, either – when things connect in Battlefield 2042, I find myself having fun. Here, I use the anti-air missile to shoot down yet another helicopter, landing me a triple kill and earning me one of the assignments, to get a multi-kill using explosives.
- While I’m generally having fun with Exposure and a return to the multiplayer, I will note that this fun is probably a consequence of also having a superior CPU. When I attempted running Battlefield 2042 with my 9-year-old i5 3570k, the game would push my CPU usage to 100 percent. With an i5 12600k, CPU usage hovers around 10 percent and goes up to 15 percent when things get more chaotic. I’m running a GTX 1060, and while the frame rates are pretty consistent, I am currently running things on lowest settings to get the best performance possible. While my GTX 1060 is holding out, I am looking to upgrade my GPU once the Lovelace series is available.
- Zero Hour introduces a new operator, Liz: her passive ability is being able to spot vehicles, and her custom gadget is a camera-operated missile launcher which, when fired, allows one to guide the missile to its target, ignoring any countermeasures like stealth mode or flares. While these missiles are slightly weaker, they are remarkably enjoyable to use. Liz can only carry two missiles at once, and they recharge slowly once depleted, preventing them from becoming overpowered. The concept of a TV-guided missile is not new: 2003’s 007 Nightfire featured the AT-420 Sentinel, which operated on the same principles, and during the second mission, the Sentinel is how Bond must defeat the Hind attacking them when he’s escaping Drake’s castle.
- For most of my time, I chose to run with Angel; in single-player modes, his ability to revive allies with bonus armour isn’t particularly noticeable, but with human allies, bringing players back to life with extra armour can be helpful. I ultimately found the loadout crate to be immensely versatile, allowing me to rapidly switch loadouts as the situation demands. Angel is the most versatile operator in this regard, specialising in nothing, but being capable of adapting as circumstances change. I have seen plenty of players running Sundance: her wingsuit is a remarkable asset for quickly traversing large distances quickly.
- Thanks to duking it out with AI bots, I was able to unlock everything for both my American and Russian MBTs – while one can pick different shells and secondary armaments, I find that the starting options (MPAT shells and a light co-axial machine gun) are sufficiently versatile for handling most situations. In reality, Multi-Purpose Anti-Tank shells are less effective than dedicated APFSDS rounds against armour, but Battlefield 2042 treats them as the de facto option for combating tanks. Curiously enough, the HEAT rounds (High-Explosive Anti-Tank) are marked as being better against infantry and lighter vehicles where in reality, beehive and HE rounds would respectively fulfil those roles.
- Besides getting new maps, the other aspect of Battlefield updates I would most look forward to were new weapons. Zero Hour adds two primary weapons and one gadget, which is underwhelming compared to previous Battlefield games, but on the flipside, the BSV-M Marksman Rifle introduced presents players with a novel way of playing. In its base form, it’s a suppressed marksman rifle with reasonable accuracy, making it useful for picking off foes at medium ranges. However, with the right modifications (an extended magazine), it becomes a submachine gun.
- Switching between a semi-automatic rifle and a submachine gun allows the BSV-M to excel both indoors and outdoors – if one can time their attachment switching appropriately, one can effortlessly transition between exchanging fire with enemy marksmen and helping their team push for an objective. One aspect Battlefield 2042 has really tried to accentuate, and one that the community (even the more notable influencers) miss, is the fact that the weapons are quite versatile. Adaptability seems to be a recurring theme in the weapons, and the + system allows players to mix things up with a much higher degree of flexibility than before.
- At the time of writing, I’ve made some progress in getting the assignments done: I’m only a stone’s throw away from unlocking the crossbow, which looks like a fun, if impractical weapon. However, I have no plans to reach the maximum tier; summer’s underway now, and after a rainy few weeks leading into the summer solstice, this past weekend’s seen some gorgeous weather that’s seen me spend a bit of time outdoors. Yesterday, I ended up taking a twelve kilometre walk to visit a side of town I’ve not seen since my university days, and today, I dropped by the neighbourhood bookstore. It was an immensely relaxing day, and since there’s a Starbucks adjacent to the bookstore, I found myself thinking it would be quite nice to buy an iced coffee and spend an hour there just taking in the atmosphere.
- This week, I’ve only got three workdays, having opted to extend my Canada Day long weekend by one day. In retrospect, I might’ve not taken the day had I known I would be permitted to start a major upgrade and refactoring project, but on the other hand, a day off to enjoy the summer isn’t unreasonable, considering I’ve been going full throttle since December. Back in Battlefield 2042, I managed to shoot down a helicopter using Liz’s guided missiles, earning myself another triple kill. I’ve noticed that unlike the other missions, which have adverse weather events, Exposure is consistently sunny and pleasant, allowing players to focus on the game itself.
- I’ll wrap this post up with my earning a proximity sensor badge: this gadget has been most helpful, and being able to utilise it has allowed me to contribute greatly to the matches I’ve played. I imagine that a difficult road lies ahead for DICE, and while it is plain that the DICE of today is no longer the DICE I remember from the Battlefield 3 to Battlefield 1 days, it still remains fun to hop into a game from time to time and mess around. Having said this, I will likely return to write about new developments in Battlefield 2042 as they appear: DICE has indicated they will continue making improvements to the base game’s maps, and further to this, with at least three more seasons on the horizon, I am hoping to see at least some new content in the upcoming months.
I had initially stayed off multiplayer servers since Battlefield 2042 launched because I struggled to connect to servers and load visual assets properly (on the rare occasions I could connect, my player model did not load with the gun visible, and I found that both allied and enemy players were completely invisible to me, rendering the game unplayable). Instead, I spent most of my time playing single-player AI bot matches to rapidly unlock weapon attachments and new gear. In addition, I also played Battlefield Portal extensively to relive my old memories of Battlefield 3 and Bad Company 2. Although it was immensely fun, I similarly felt a hint of melancholy: the best days of DICE had appeared behind them, and the countless hours I dumped into Noshahr Canals were little more than a mere memory. However, with Zero Hour and its seasonal progression system, I found new incentive to play Battlefield 2042‘s multiplayer. This time around, I found a game that was smoother and more consistent than I had known previously. For the first time since launch, there was motivation to enter a multiplayer server, join a squad and have fun in capturing objectives, reviving teammates and landing headshots against human opponents. Admittedly, a part of me had wanted to stay away from multiplayer servers, knowing that I’d now be going up against players half my age with double my reflexes. However, when I joined my first match, I was shocked to learn I could still hold up. Where other players may have superior response times and better aim than myself, I compensate with a veteran player’s sense of patience and awareness. I retreat behind cover and move in ways to make myself scarce, utilise every tool available to me in order to spot my foes, and never rush into a situation without ascertaining what I’m up against. In this way, to my surprise, I found myself having the same kind of fun I did in the earlier Battlefield titles, to the tune of making some progress through the seasonal content and unlocking the BSV-M Marksman Rifle, a remarkably versatile weapon that can be changed from a long-range semi-automatic rifle into a submachine gun on the fly. Despite a disappointing showing thus far, Battlefield 2042 still has its moments, and more than once, I found myself wishing that DICE would commit to this title. With the attention and focus the community deserves, Battlefield 2042 may yet redeem itself and, like Battlefield 4, become a title that is worth playing.