The Infinite Zenith

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Boundary: Reflections and Impressions From the SteamFest Alpha Demo

“For the wise man looks into space and he knows there is no limited dimensions.” –Zhuangzi

While perusing through a copy of PC Gamer back in 2008 at the local supermarket, I came upon an intriguing featured article detailing a game that had been particularly novel. The premise was that a mining accident that rends the lunar surface, sending billions upon billions of tonnes of lunar material into near-Earth space, damaging infrastructure and threatening to destroy the moon itself. Amidst the ruins, the International Space Agency (ISA), who enforce stellar law, and the Moon Mining Cooperative (MMC), a massive corporation who sought to profit from space mining operations, find themselves spiralling towards an inevitable armed conflict as the ISA seek to bring the MMC to justice and control the limited resources to ensure their survival. Players take control of soldiers and fight with full freedom of movement in a zero-gravity environment. Built for the most cutting-edge PC hardware of its time, Shattered Horizon represented a bold new direction for first person shooters, and despite providing six degrees of freedom with respect to its movement, the game proved intuitive, enjoyable and challenging for players. The only real downside was that one needed heftier PC hardware of the time to play the game (a Core 2 Quad Q6600, GTX 260 and 2 GB of RAM); while the game was counted as lacking in a single-player mode and AI bots to train against, overall, Shattered Horizon was praised for its movement system, unique atmosphere and engaging mechanics. A future update did end up adding a campaign and AI bots, but in 2014, Shattered Horizon was stricken from the Steam Store: the game’s developers, Futuremark, was bought out by Rovio Entertainment, and Futuremark announced that their inability to support the game meant it was unfair to players who picked the game up late in its lifecycle, as they would receive no new updates or content. Attempts to bring first person shooters into space had proven quite unsuccessful: 2013’s Call of Duty: Ghosts, and 2016’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare represented bold stabs at elevating interest in zero-gravity firefights, but were met with cold reception. However, in January of last year, Studio Surgical Scalpels announced a ground-breaking new project called Boundary, and in its trailer, heavily-armoured astronauts were shown flying through the depths of space, engaged in a harrowing firefight amidst the super-structure and narrow corridors of a space station while debris filled the space from the flying bullets. The aesthetic conveyed in this trailer immediately brought to mind Shattered Horizon, as though the game had been resurrected and given a makeover to capitalise on graphics and visual effects resulting from over a decade of advancement. Although intriguing, Boundary fell from my mind until last Wednesday, when I caught wind of the fact that Boundary would be participating in SteamFest, a time of celebrating upcoming games.

After installing the client, joining my first match and winning thanks to beginner’s luck, I spent the past several days playing through Boundary‘s alpha demo to gain a feel for things. Out of the gates, the roughest aspect to acclimatise to was getting stuck in the level geometries. There were moments where I would land on a surface, then attempt to peek a corner, only to get stuck there. Only a frenzied alternating between engaging the thrusters and rising would dislodge me from this surface, and on several occasions, this led to my getting killed. Similarly, after I latched down on a solar panel and prepared to snipe a target, inconsistent movement would lead me to unexpectedly stop aiming down sights, and the foe I’d been tracking would disappear from sight by the time I found a position from which to aim down sights again. Both faults in the movement system resulted in my dying to a player who was doubtlessly enjoying my predicament. Besides the janky movement on surfaces, Boundary‘s UI and UX are very rough. The user interface is cluttered. Menus are difficult to navigate, and it is difficult to determine what one can interact with. Button text fails to describe what a button does, and sometimes can be downright misleading: I accidentally joined the wrong game mode on more than one occasion. In game, the HUD is messy, with elements being difficult to read, and a massive alpha banner covers the lower left-hand side of the screen, blocking one from spotting enemies from that side. Similarly, directional indicators cover the entire screen, obscuring the enemies themselves. The user experience is also tricky in places; switching one’s loadout requires numerous button presses and diving into menus to change out weapons or attachments. The font sizes are on the small size, making things difficult to read, and menus are filled with text. In terms of gameplay, enemy visibility is limited, and the game offers very little in the way of identifying where foes are coming from. On more than one instance, I spawned into the map, only to die instantly from a sniper, or found myself shot in the back before I could respond. In close quarters environments, raising a weapon up to aim down sights is sluggish, as is changing out my weapons – trying to combo ordnance usage into using a primary or secondary weapon to finish a foe off is not viable, and running out of ammunition mid-firefight can be a death sentence, since swapping over to my sidearm is slow. However, enemy visibility and postion identification, together with the slow ADS and weapon swap, is very much a part of the tactical shooter experience in that one must take full advantage of the environment for cover, and understand their gear’s limitations to determine when is an appropriate time to change things up. Further to this, because Boundary is in alpha stage, the UX and UI can still be improved: compared to game mechanics, UI and UX elements are often the easiest to change. Similarly, the movement and environment geometries could also be updated to be a little smoother in places. While it looks like I’ve rattled off a long list of problems, it is quite telling that most of my gripes about Boundary are either related to UI/UX, or my own lack of familiarity with the mechanics. Indeed, once I began feeling more comfortable with things, I found myself having fun – towards the end of the demo period, I had a positive KDR and was winning more games than I lost.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There were three playable classes in Boundary‘s demo: Sergeyev is the default assault, featuring high health and decent mobility. Armed with an AKM, Sergeyev is a good all-around class for attack and defense. All classes are equipped with two ordnance options, as well as two special abilities, and by default, players start with high explosive grenades and EMP rounds. The former can quickly make short work of foes at the expense of having a long switch time, while the latter disable enemy movement for a brief period and can make for follow-up shots.

  • When a player is “killed”, their spacesuits have suffered enough damage to become punctured. In this state, an emergency balloon inflates around the player to keep them alive. In this state, players can be revived by allies, although this act leaves them vulnerable to enemy fire, and during the six hours I spent in Boundary, I was never once revived, nor did I feel comfortable reviving a downed friendly player because of the prospect of being fired upon. In the end, it was much easier to just respawn and keep going, although this only worked because I was playing the Domination mode. The other mode that Boundary‘s demo offers is Elimination in a Counterstrike or Rainbow Six: Siege like mode. The lack of respawns make this mode punishing, and I opted to play Domination for the fact that one could get back into things after being killed.

  • Initially, I did have some trouble adjusting to the AKM’s recoil, but once I did, the weapon did become more manageable to use. In discussions, some have wondered how automatic weapons could work in space: while it is possible to fire a gun in space because the ammunition contains its own oxidiser, and a quick look around finds that both recoil and gas-operated mechanisms could work in space. Recoil operated weapons continue to function because the act of firing a bullet would adhere to Newton’s Third Law, and the chemical reaction between the oxidiser and propellant in a bullet would produce the gas needed to cycle a weapon. Special modifications would need to be made in order for the weapons to operate efficiently, but this is not outside the realm of possibility with existing technology.

  • Despite knowing that the “space” environment is merely a very well-rendered skybox, this hasn’t stopped the visuals in Boundary from being gorgeous. All of the maps look stunning, and here, I score a kill with the AKM on a foe while I traverse the solar panel on one of the maps. The sun and a planet are visible below, and more impressively, reflections can be seen in the solar panel mirror. Boundary has support for real-time ray tracing, although an RTX 2060 or better is required to make full use of the graphics, but even on the GTX 1060 6 GB model, Boundary is a beautiful-looking game whose aesthetic is definitely worthy of Shattered Horizon.

  • Alexandra is the second class available in Boundary; by default, she carries an LMG with sixty rounds, and of all the classes, has both the largest health pool and highest armour amount. In exchange, her mobility is greatly reduced. I found the LMG to be a decent weapon for closer range engagements: at medium and long range, one needs to tap-fire to reduce bullet spread. Having the extra armour and health is nice, especially since one can get attacked from all directions. Over time, as I levelled up each of the classes, weapon attachments became available to me, and I found that Boundary allows one to try out new attachments in a firing range that is accessible from the weapon mod menu.

  • This part of Boundary was excellent design: one feature missing from modern first person shooters is the ability to immediately try out their weapons with the latest mods to see how handling and performance has changed. In this area, Boundary has absolutely nailed it, and games like Call of Duty and Battlefield could take a leaf from Boundary‘s book. After experimenting, I found one sight that proved particularly fun to use for the GSW-MG, Alexandra’s starting weapon. Firing from the hip is not too effective with the heavier weapons in Boundary, but in a pinch, one can do well enough in extreme close quarters; the large circle here indicates the region in which bullets fired will land, showing the extent of spread when hip-firing.

  • After unlocking Sergeyev’s second weapon, the Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle, my experience in Boundary changed completely, and here, I scored a double kill with it. Throughout my time in Boundary, I would go on to earn several more double kills with the GSW-MG and later, Yao Yi’s submachine guns. However, in a manner reminiscent of my Halo 2 Vista days, capturing the double kill badge proved quite tricky: even with Steam’s screenshot function, badges disappeared before I could reach for the button, so this ended up being the only double kill badge I captured. Because Boundary‘s games are five-versus-five, multi-kills are a bit of a feat, so one could say that double kills are a sign of improving in the game.

  • The combination of unlocking good ranged weapons and attachments, coupled with my becoming more familiar with the mechanics in Boundary, meant I would begin performing better in later matches to the point where I was going KD-positive and contributing to my team’s ability to keep the entire map locked down. On the other hand, during some matches, my team either did not care for playing the objective or otherwise, was simply outperformed.

  • Unlike Shattered HorizonBoundary only has local sounds audible to the player: one’s own movement and gunfire can be heard, but beyond this, other players cannot be heard at all. Shattered Horizon had gotten around this by keeping sounds and stating that complex processing allowed for sounds to be simulated. In tactical shooters, players must depend on audio cues to determine their foe’s position, and since this is absent in Boundary, it does create for gripping moments where one has no idea where the enemies are coming from. I do not think Boundary will add mechanics for helping one determine where enemy players are, since one could also use this stealthiness to their own advantage.

  • Here, I experiment with Alexandra’s GSW-TAR (I’d hazard a guess that this stands for Tactical Assault Rifle), a burst-fire weapon carrying a maximum capacity of twenty-five rounds and one more round in the chamber by default. This weapon proved fun to use, handling like Halo 2‘s battle rifle, and although I didn’t get around to unlocking it, there is a forty-round extended magazine available if one ranks Alexandra up far enough, which would turn the GSW-TAR into a battle rifle more closely resembling Halo 2‘s.

  • Domination matches are short and intense, lasting a total of ten minutes; at the halfway point, the opposing teams switch spawns so the match is a little more fair. Maps aren’t symmetrical, and the developers do this so any advantages one gains in one half the map are offset by playing on the less favourable side, bringing to mind how in ice hockey and beach volleyball both have teams switching sides to offset any advantages the weather might confer. However, during lulls in the combat, one can really appreciate how well-designed the maps are, as well as admire the scenery: it strikes me as curious that the planets appear to be different on some of the maps, and here, on one of the larger space stations, it would appear as though I were orbiting a desolate, uninhabited planet.

  • Alexandra’s GSW-AMR (Anti-Materiel Rifle) is the most powerful weapon in Boundary‘s demo; per its name, it does the most damage per shot and is limited to a three round capacity. While immensely powerful on a per-shot basis, the weapon is hampered by the fact that it obscures half the screen when equipped, and together with a low rate of fire in addition to its small magazine capacity, the GSW-AMR is actually less effectual than Sergeyev’s Mosin-Nagant, which has a larger capacity, slightly faster firing rate and the fact it doesn’t obstruct half the screen.

  • The Boundary demo ends tomorrow at 1000 PST, but I’ve decided to call it in early: while I’ve had no shortage of fun with this demo, real-world circumstances meant that I have increasingly less time to game. Yesterday, I spent the day clearing out bookshelves and wall units to get everything packed up ahead of the move, and ended up picking up dinner from our favourite Cantonese restaurant (seafood fried rice, sweet and sour pork, Chinese broccoli and seafood, deep fried oysters and mushrooms, Buddha’s Delight, and a chicken and seafood medley cooked in a clay pot): nothing beats a hearty meal after a day’s work. It was surprising as to how quickly an afternoon disappeared.

  • Today, my morning was directed towards assembling the new ergonomic task chair I’d picked up last weekend. A proper task chair is leagues ahead of a “good gaming chair” in terms of comfort, and the chair I ended up going with offers fully adjustable seat height, armrests, and a mesh back rest that fits the contours of my back (the back rest itself is fully adjustable). Altogether, the task chair runs rings around a gaming chair in terms of comfort, practicality and aesthetics; I’d much rather have an inconspicuous and functional chair for my home office space, versus something whose ability to elevate my gaming and development prowess is little more than an urban legend originating from the internet’s less scrupulous corners.

  • The third and final operator, Yao Yi, unlocked on Friday – she’s the fastest moving class in Boundary, sporting the highest mobility at the expense of health and armour. By default, Yao Yi is equipped with the GSW-SMG, a solid close quarters submachine gun with high RPM and solid hip-fire performance. I ended up getting a double kill in close quarters whilst clearing it of foes. Excelling in close quarters scenarios, Yao Yi proved to be extremely fun to use, although with her, it’s advisable to stay near or inside structures, since her weapons are all about short-range engagement.

  • Yao Yi also comes with a shotgun, but I never found this quite as effective as the GSW-SMG: during the first match I played with Yao Yi, I was absolutely shredding with the GSW-SMG despite having no attachments unlocked for my weapons. Traditionally, I’ve preferred close quarters environments as a result of being ineffective with snipers; in my Halo 2 days, I always found the most success by getting up close and personal with foes, whether it be using the battle rifle and melee to stop my enemies, or picking up the power weapons optimised for close-range combat. Battlefield led me to become more comfortable with sniping, and nowadays, I freely switch between long and short ranges depending on what the situation calls for.

  • One mechanic I found to increase the tactical piece in Boundary was the fact that one could patch up their spacesuit if they’d survived a firefight narrowly: the process takes a set amount of time (Yao Yi’s light armour means she can repair sooner, while Sergeyev and Alexandra both take a longer since their armour is heavier), and during repairs, one cannot use their weapons, so players are forced to make a split-second decision on whether or not they want to repair before entering their next firefight. Because of the lack of motion trackers and other means of determining the positions of hostiles, the few seconds it takes to repair can be quite suspenseful.

  • As I became increasingly familiar with Boundary‘s mechanics, sniping became increasingly enjoyable. I found that it was best to hang back from the combat if one were using a slower-firing weapon and pick foes off from a distance (resulting in a Long Shot badge here); if one continues staring down a foe, they become automatically spotted for a while, and their position is revealed to the opposing team. To let players know of this, a test indicator warns players if they’re spotted, giving them a chance to get to cover and wait things out.

  • I believe that overall, there were four maps available to players during Boundary‘s demo: a solar power station, a large space station with a pair of shuttles docked, a partially-assembled space hotel and a linear facility resembling the International Space Station. Each of these maps have a unique aesthetic and are fun to explore, but unfortunately, Boundary‘s demo did not indicate to players which map they were joining after successfully match-making to a server. Knowing the map can impact one’s choice of loadout, and in all shooters I’ve played previously, the loading screen makes it clear which map a user is joining.

  • For instance, on the International Space Station-like map, I prefer equipping the Mosin-Nagant because there are long sightlines, and very few obstructions, making the weapon highly effective; after unlocking the 8x optics for the Mosin-Nagant, I was able to pick enemies off from across the map. While the Mosin-Nagant is slower-firing, using the high explosives ordnance or sidearm, modified to fire on full automatic, allowed me to hold my own in situations where enemies had managed to close the distance on me, and here, I landed a satisfying headshot on an enemy while the planet’s curvature is visible above.

  • Boundary features a full-featured customisation system for both weapon attachments and cosmetics: using an operator unlocks more weapons, attachment and customisation options, while match performance also yields credits that can be used towards player customisation. For most of my run, I ran the default appearances for most everything: all of the guns in Boundary start out with an astronaut-white finish, matching the spacesuit that I had. However, the accumulated points would allow me to pick up different spacesuit textures, accessories for my helmet and even a shoulder badge. These have no impact on gameplay, but admittedly, the weapon skins and accessories do look quite nice.

  • Studio Surgical Scalpels, the developers behind Boundary, is a Chinese company located in Shenzhen, Guangzhou Province. They were originally founded in 2015 by four experienced game developers and have since expanded to ten employees. The Chinese origins of Boundary are apparent in some of the assets and artwork used in the game: patches with Simplified Chinese characters are common, and I actually found myself running into a host of players with handles consisting of all Simplified Chinese characters, including an unfortunate player here that I ended up shooting in the face.

  • Seeing Chinese players, and the occasional Japanese player, led me to wonder what things are like on the other side of the world; I’ve previously read that in China, internet cafés are popular amongst the technologically-inclined crowd, who enjoy them for providing reliable high speed internet and act as hubs for socialising with other users. South Korea and Japan also has a strong internet café culture: in South Korea, gamers are fond of hanging out here, while in Japan, internet cafés offer patrons services like dining and showers. The range of services offered by Japanese internet cafés has created a social phenomenon called “net café refugees”, homeless individuals who have no permanent address and find accommodations in internet cafés owing to their low rates.

  • This phenomenon is touched upon in Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You: after Hodaka arrived in Tokyo, he resided at internet cafés until his funds ran dry, and luck sent him on a path towards Keisuke Suga and Hina Amano. In North America, internet cafés fell out of popularity in the late 90s as homes became wired with increasingly capable connections. Here, in a moment of pure luck, I shoot the lights out to a fellow who had been picking off teammates on server I was on: shinobaeTV is a Twitch streamer who specialises in FPS and primarily plays Escape From Tarkov.

  • While I’ve occasionally run into some streamers during my online escapades, I’ve never actually encountered my favourite Battlefield YouTubers before. There is little doubt that folks who make their living making videos about first person shooters would be uncommonly skilled with them; by comparison, I can be said to “dabble” in video games, playing for my own enjoyment above all else. Admittedly, I was wondering if I should participate in Boundary‘s demo at all because over the past few years, my inclination to play multiplayer games have dropped considerably, and from disuse, my skills have evaporated.

  • Playing through Boundary‘s demo, however, I quickly learnt that while my reflexes are certainly not what they were, patience became my greatest asset. I did the best in matches where I anticipated my opponents’ movements and positioning, and then reacted accordingly with the tools available to me. While my speed and aim are no longer enough to out-perform someone younger, I can capitalise on things like flanking and map knowledge to nonetheless hold my own. Indeed, it was in this way that towards the end of my time in the demo, I was able to consistently go KDR positive.

  • One thing that might need to be dialed back for the final release is the fact that the ordnance players have access to are exceedingly powerful: a volley of high explosive grenades can wipe even Alexandra out, and here, I got hit with an EMP barrage. EMP rounds disable one’s thrusters, leaving them to float helplessly in space, but in spite of this, I managed to turn Yao Yi’s GSW-PCC, a weapon resembling the P90, against this foe, surprising them: just because one is drifting doesn’t mean they’re defenseless, and determined players can still survive even when their ability to move around is significantly degraded.

  • One thing I did notice (and found hilarious) was the number of kill-trades I had in Boundary: a “trade” occurs when both players act in a way as to defeat one another simultaneously. In one particularly unusual match, I ended up with a KDR of exactly 1:1 because every death I incurred, I traded with my opponent. In games, trades are usually considered to be a sign of weak netcode or bad design; Battlefield 4 had been notorious for kill-trades back in the day, although numerous patches and updates to the backend rectified the issue. Here, I narrowly managed to avoid a trade on virtue of having heavier armour while playing as Alexandra.

  • Having now roughly put in about six hours into Boundary, the lingering question is whether or not this game will join my (considerable) library of other titles. While I did have a handful of frustrating moments initially while learning the mechanics and map layout, once I became more familiar with the game, I was having quite a bit of fun. There is no denying that Studio Surgical Scalpels have done a phenomenal job of bringing 2009’s Shattered Horizon to life in Boundary, and this has certainly been a worthwhile game to experience. My verdict at present is that this game is something I’d like to see a little more to before I make a concrete decision: Boundary has all of the right things in place, and for now, having a bit more information will help me out with said decision.

  • Altogether, I am glad to have taken the time to try out Boundary, which allowed me to experience a space tactical shooter (something I’ve been longing to do since reading about Shattered Horizon years earlier); the idea of a proper space shooter is one that still remains relatively unexplored, and it is fantastic to be able to play a game that is very much grounded in reality. With this post in the books, we exit the last weekend of Februrary, and here, I will close off with two remarks. First, I will note that I’ve got one more post lined up before the month is over, for the #AniTwitWatches Girls und Panzer revisit, and second, Boundary came up a bit unexpectedly. With the SteamFest demo over, I will be returning my efforts into Project Wingman as I aim to move towards the game’s halfway point.

Overall, Boundary‘s greatest strength is in its aesthetics. Everything about Boundary conveys the feeling of an authentic tactical space shooter; the astronauts themselves wear bulky, heavily-armoured spacesuits and make use of a large, highly-evolved version of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) that NASA utilised in 1984. The spacesuits provide the astronauts with access to a pair of ordnance launchers and other equipment, as well as additional functions that specialise each astronaut type in its role. The environments are similarly detailed, feeling as though they are the types of facilities that are extensions of what current space programmes can already construct. Interiors of space stations feel like slightly more sophisticated versions of the International Space Station or Tiangong, while exteriors make use of the same scaffolding and solar panels as seen in reality. The slow, methodical movement systems gives players a sense of mass despite the apparent weightlessness, and the weapons themselves feel realistic; they resemble modern firearms modified to work in space. The movement system and six degrees of freedom, coupled with the chaotic space station environments and lack of motion trackers, mean that players must constantly keep their heads on a swivel – foes can come from any direction, and similarly, one can utilise full freedom of motion to ambush unsuspecting players. The weapons themselves feel modestly powerful, and the in-game explanation for how spacesuits survive damage from firearms is grounded in reality: the spacesuits themselves are vulnerable to fire, but players wear varying amounts of armour that absorb and deflect bullets. Careful aim is needed to hit weak points (for instance, a single shot to the helmet will take a player out of the fight), and hitting the MMU or armour plates deal reduced damage. The mechanics also forces players to be strategic in how they approach firefights; if one comes out of a firefight alive, they must also find a safe place to patch up their spacesuit, during which they will be vulnerable to enemy action. In the time I’ve spent with Boundary, it is clear that the tactical aspect of this tactical shooter is well-thought out, and the core gameplay elements are solid. Further to this, despite looking amazing, Boundary does run well on even older systems. Altogether, Boundary has succeeded in bringing Shattered Horizon into the 2020s – the game looks great, handles reasonably well and only has a few areas where it needs improvement. Beyond this, Studio Surgical Scalpels have done an incredible job with Boundary, and while I’m still on the fence about whether or not this game will enter my library once it is launched on account of my erratic schedule, the game has proven to be very promising and has what it takes to set itself apart from the giants of the industry.

Halo Infinite: Initial Impressions, The Banished, A New Weapon and Setting Foot on Zeta Halo

“The missions change. They always do.” –Master Chief

In the chaos resulting from Cortana’s actions in Halo 5: Guardians, a former faction of the Covenant known as the Banished attack the UNSC Infinity, led by the warlord Atroix, attacks and destroys the UNSC Infinity. Atroix defeats the Master Chief and casts him out into space, where a UNSC pilot, Fernando Esparza, locates him. Their Pelican is captured by a Banished warship, prompting Master Chief to board the warship and disable it. While the Master Chief is working to take out the warship, a beacon is received, hinting at the presence of a “weapon”. Making his way through the cavernous interior of Zeta Halo’s massive interior, Master Chief locates the source of the signal and finds a Cortana-like AI calling herself The Weapon. She explains that her original directive was to delete Cortana and then herself, but somehow managed to survive the process. The Master Chief retrieves her and fights his way to Zeta Halo’s surface, defeating the warlord Tremonius in the process. After clearing out a Banished camp, The Weapon explains that the Banished have taken over UNSC outposts on the surface of Zeta Halo and suggests that clearing them out will give them an advantage as they make to ascertain how many survivors remain from the UNSC Infinity’s destruction. This is Halo Infinite‘s campaign after two-and-a-half hours of gameplay, marking the first time a new Halo’s been available on PC at launch since Halo: Combat Evolved was released, and while 343 Industries’ previous instalment, Halo 5: Guardians, was met with cool reception for introducing a meandering, convoluted story, Halo Infinite makes a bold effort in returning the franchise to its roots. The end result, coming six years after Halo 5: Guardians, shows that for their part, 343 Industries had been successful; the story continues on with the dynamic between Cortana and Master Chief that Halo 4 had portrayed, while at the same time, placing the events on a Halo ring that the series is named after. With a promising new narrative and a return to an iconic setting, Halo Infinite‘s campaign is off to a strong start; everything about Halo Infinite is faithful to the original aesthetic, while at the same time, properly bringing Halo into the modern era.

At the heart of Halo Infinite is a responsive and smooth movement system. In earlier Halo games, movement felt sluggish and slower. Players were limited to walking and jumping. By Halo: Reach, sprinting was added as an armour ability, and this subsequently became an integral part of the game in Halo 4. However, contemporary shooters have very evolved movement systems: Titanfall seamlessly combines wall-running with standard movement, and Battlefield introduced the idea of being able to vault over fences by jumping near them. DOOM similarly implemented a ledge-grabbing feature, where players could automatically catch onto and pull themselves up a ledge if their jumps landed them nearby, and DOOM Eternal further improved this mechanic, making it possible to move around a map in a creative manner. Halo Infinite enters this realm by introducing the grappling hook, which allows Master Chief to latch into and pull himself towards a surface quickly. In addition, Master Chief can also grab onto an enemy with the grappling hook and rappel in for a quick kill, or else pull nearby items close. The grappling hook of Halo Infinite is an upgrade over DOOM Eternal‘s meat hook, which similarly extended gameplay options. A more versatile movement system in Halo Infinite means that map designs can be more creative, allowing keen-eyed players to fully utilise their environment in order to be successful. Together with a visceral and tactile combat system, Halo Infinite is a winner in gameplay: firefights feel immensely satisfying, and the game makes every effort to communicate the results of a player’s actions clearly. Red hit markers are used to let players know when they’ve scored a kill, allowing for attention to be redirected to a new target. The firearms are diverse and unique, creating an environment where picking one’s weapons matter again. Halo Infinite also marks the first time the series deals with boss fights in a traditional manner: before Master Chief can exit Zeta Halo’s tunnels, he must first fight Tremonius, who has a larger health pool and stronger energy shields than standard enemies. The introduction of proper boss fights in Halo adds variety to the game and punctuates moments of exploration and classic firefights with with platforming and strategy. Mechanically, Halo Infinite is built on solid foundations, adding enough new features to modernise gameplay while at the same time, making the core elements of a high standard. In the knowledge that the basics in Halo Infinite are nailed, I can focus my attention on exploration and progression into the story.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Whereas Halo 4 presented a humanity filled with a newfound confidence, Halo Infinite‘s humanity is scattered, hunted and defeated. This is emphasised for the player’s benefit right at the beginning: the UNSC Infinity, mightiest of humanity’s vessels, is under siege, and Master Chief himself is being ragdolled by Atriox despite putting up an impressive showing. The atmosphere Halo Infinite conveys, of humanity being forced onto the backfoot, is consistent with the feeling that originally accompanied the original Halo games.

  • The first mission is set inside a Brute warship, and right out of the gates, I am reminded of Destiny‘s Cabal, whose gargantuan frames and utilitarian ships share parallels with the Brutes’ designs seen in Halo Infinite. Long characterised as a barbaric, war-like species, Brutes favour aggression and strength over finesse, and while Brutes tend to look down on humanity, they aren’t above picking up human weapons off their foes on the battlefield. Here, I wield the Mangler, a mainstay Brute sidearm that fires massive spikes at foes. The weapon is extremely powerful and handles similarly to a slower-firing version of the Halo: Combat Evolved pistol, but with a lower firing rate and projectile drop to balance things out.

  • The UNSC assault rifle in Halo Infinite is the MA40, an evolution of the MA37 seen in Halo 5: Guardians, which is itself a successor to the assault rifles seen in earlier games. An all-around performer, the MA40 is a fast firing weapon with less spread than its predecessors. It is able to hit targets further away with greater reliability than its predecessors, and carries enough ammunition to, in conjunction with grenades, make short work of a crowd of Grunts and Jackals. During this first mission, the entire setting is in the narrow corridors of a Brute warship, bringing to mind how Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 both started in claustrophobic spaces (the Pillar of Autumn and Cairo Station, respectively).

  • The tradition was broken in Halo 3 and Halo: Reach, but Halo 4 has players start in side the Forward Unto Dawn. I actually enjoy these missions because Halo has always excelled in presenting wide-open environments, and coming from the narrow confines of a starship, or the vast caverns Forerunners had built, into a pristine bit of wilderness has always been the most breath-taking moments of a Halo game. Halo Infinite is touted as being a ways more open than any of its predecessors, allowing the game to capitalise on the wonderous setting, but for players beginning their journey, one must get through the first two missions.

  • While this can feel a little arduous, the first two missions actually act as an opportunity to familiarise oneself with Halo‘s newest toy: the grappling hook. This versatile tool has multiple applications, ranging from reaching hard-to-reach places to being able to pull distant items closer. One particularly amusing feature is the fact that the grappling hook can actually latch onto enemies and stun them, leaving them open to attack. When used in conjunction with closing distance, the grappling hook behaves a great deal like DOOM Eternal‘s meathook.

  • The Revenger is a new weapon that fires searing plasma bolts over short distances: projectiles arc and are affected by gravity. This weapon is powerful but cumbersome, and I found its utility to be in softening up groups of enemies before finishing them off. Unlike earlier games, plasma now deals damage to players for a few moments after it is discharged, and it takes a few moments for the plasma to evaporate. This shows how far Halo‘s come: small details like these bring Halo Infinite to life, and also alters the ways players approach the game in subtle ways.

  • The Needler makes a welcome return, and like its predecessors, it is capable of super-combining to create devastating explosions that can kill even Brutes. Once Master Chief reaches the warship’s control room and finds that he is unable to cleanly disable the tractor beams holding Esparza’s Pelican in place, he decides to destroy the ship instead by overloading its engines. The Brute warship begins disintegrating, but the Banish seem unfazed. In the end, Master Chief cannot make it back to Esparza, but fortunately, Esparza is around to pick up up outside the warship’s wreckage.

  • Halo Infinite doesn’t allow players to replay completed campaign levels, and while this decision does seem strange, it appears that 343 Industries was focused on making the core experience solid first, before adding back long-standing features. Like co-op, 343 Industries is suggesting that being able to replay campaign missions to completely collect audio logs, Spartan Cores and other items will be added later on. For me, this is perfectly okay, since I do not expect I’ll be finishing Halo Infinite‘s campaign so quickly that I’ll be replaying missions again for completeness’ sake.

  • After Master Chief retrieves a new communique, Esparza consents to drop him off on Zeta Halo, feeling that whatever weapon Master Chief might be able to acquire could be helpful in getting them both home. Contrasting the utilitarian interiors of the Brute warship, Forerunner architecture is angular, smooth and features plenty of clean lines. In this second missions, Elites are encountered for the first time, and like their classic incarnations, equip energy shields and side-strafe to evade attacks. Classic techniques like the plasma pistol overcharge and any headshot will quickly dispatch them, as will seven Needler rounds.

  • During the open beta, I was a little underwhelmed by the Pulse Carbine: this weapon is basically the Storm Rifle from Halo 4, but fires in four-round bursts rather than on full automatic. The burst properties were quite unknown to me in the beta, but now that I’ve had a chance to get into the campaign, I’ve found that it handles like the Battle Rifle: a single burst at close range will kill weaker enemies, and a burst will also disable a Jackal’s shields. Three bursts will drop an Elite’s shields. The weapon initially appears tricky to use, but the weapon has a very unique property: the plasma rounds travel faster the further they are allowed to travel and the plasma rounds weakly lock onto targets, making it a superb medium range weapon.

  • This past weekend marks the halfway point from the start of December to Christmas, and this past weekend, I enjoyed my first-ever day off since 2017. I ended up using that time to fully finish the Master Grade Kyrios, a process that took five hours from start to finish, and altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed the build. The kit is incredibly detailed, feels solid and looks amazing. Yesterday, I spent most of the morning waiting for new beds and mattresses to arrive, and then by evening, I attended the company Christmas party at a local Italian restaurant. Dinner started with Arancini (stuffed rice balls), Tuscan Bruschetta (a flatbread with tomato, basil, olive oil and a dash of vingear), and a Caprese Salad. The centrepiece was grilled Chicken Parmesan with seasonal vegetables and potatoes, which was superb.

  • After dinner and a desert Saltinbocca, there was a live show, as well. I didn’t arrive home until half an hour to midnight; while I’d been quite exhausted from a longer day, it was also a great chance to get out and celebrate with the team: I had the chance to converse with people I’d not met in-person previously, since we’d been working from home, and the food was fantastic: Italian food is something I don’t have often, and when done well, different dishes have completely different, vivid flavour profiles. With this Christmas party in the books, I only have one more week of work left before my winter vacation begins. I anticipate spending this time handling the remainder of the furniture delivery and assembly, as well as hitting IKEA to pick up any smaller items we’ll need for the new place.

  • In the spare time I have, I’ll aim to continue on with my blogging and wrap up what remains to be written about. This naturally will extend to include Halo Infinite: I am hoping to make a bit of headway into the open world and check out Zeta Halo for myself. Here, I’ve found the Stalker Rifle, a cross between the Beam Rifle and Covenant Carbine from earlier Halo games. This weapon is actually a joy to use, being a highly reliable solution for longer ranges than the automatics and burst fire weapons. In earlier Halo games, I always carried a good medium range weapon and then paired it with whatever the situation demanded. For now, I am holding onto the assault rifle and pulse carbine to fulfil the role of a solid medium range solution.

  • As Master Chief progresses through Zeta Halo, armour upgrades and Spartan Cores will be found. The latter unlock acccess to different abilities that augment the Mjolnir armour’s functionality, while the latter improves an ability’s functions. The approach taken in Halo Infinite brings to mind the likes of Far Cry, which has similar mechanics. For now, I’ve found that the grappling hook to be an ability I am making extensive use of, so I’ll probably focus on getting this one fully upgraded before looking at the other abilities.

  • A few weekends ago, shortly before Halo Infinite was due to launch, uncivilised and counterproductive discussions were occurring on social media, to the point where people were issuing threats against those who disagreed with them, led moderators to temporarily put a hold on all discussion. It was actually shocking to see people defending this level of negativity: someone actually went so far as to claim that excessive negativity is a “human right” because it’s supposedly the “the only mechanism by which people can campaign for, and achieve change and improvement”. This is soundly untrue: change and improvement comes from people acquiring the skills needed to make a tangible difference, and then working hard to reach a point where said change and improvement can be implemented.

  • As it stands, excessively negative individuals have no inherent value to society. This holds true for those who tear down game developers, and it certainly holds true of those who pull anime apart pixel-by-pixel. Criticism is only valuable if it offers a course of action, such as a suggestion for improvement, and in their absence, defenders of negativity are not meritorious of consideration for the simple fact that their aim isn’t to be constructive, but rather, to gain notoriety. Here, I square off against Tremonius: the two Jackals accompanying him can be a distraction, so I finished them off first, before using the Skewer against him. The presence of boss fights in Halo Infinite is a first, but I found this first one to be most enjoyable, a change of pace from the usual firefights.

  • Once Tremonius is beaten, Master Chief will board the elevator and ascend to the surface of Zeta Halo. Players will be greeted with a verdant evergreen forest and blue skies, but there’s little time to enjoy the scenery. This forward operating base is crawling with Banished, and Master Chief must clear them out. However, even if one is short on ammunition after the fight with Tremonius, there’s a plasma turret up on the cliff overlooking the Banished-held territories below. This turret handles similarly to the turrets of older Halo games and will make short work of foes, at the expense of reducing mobility and forcing one into third person mode.

  • After clearing out the first group of enemies, I came under fire from more Banished on the cliff above. They’re standing closely to a bunch of fusion coils, so I ended up burst-firing the assault rifle to set these off, allowing me to easily clear them out without needing to close the distance. This area is meant as an introduction to the sort of world Halo Infinite offers players, suggesting that for a given problem, there are always several solutions one can utilise to complete their goal. The only thing that Halo doesn’t do well is stealth, but beyond this, having a semi-sandbox is going to be quite exciting.

  • After realising the power that amassed fusion coils can provide as a force multiplier, I ended up reaching the platform, waited for the Banished to arrive, and then detonated one of the fusion coils. Upon exploding, these created a chain reaction that cleared out the entire launch pad, leaving a handful of stragglers that could then be mopped up without much effort. In this way, I ended up taking this forward operating base, which, according to in-game documentation, is an area where players can fast travel to, resupply and link up with allied forces.

  • While the possibilities are quite varied, I think that my approach now will be to finish off the side quests and unlock as much of the map as I can before pursuing the story missions. This way, I will have the best possible amount of armour abilities unlocked for the campaign ahead. Here, I’m wielding the Hydra Launcher I picked off Tremonius; this weapon was introduced in Halo 5 and is described as a multiple missile launcher. I’ve only used it to one-shot Brutes, since it handles more like a shotgun than an anti-armour solution. However, unlocking a forward operating base does mean I gain access to more weapons, and this means I’ll be able to kit myself out with my preferred weapons before attempting whatever lies ahead for me in Halo Infinite.

From my two and half hours of time spent in Halo Infinite, it is early to say what themes and motifs Halo Infinite covers. However, I can say that what I’ve experienced has been fun so far, and as such, 343 Industries’ decision to delay Halo Infinite by a full year was a decision that proved wise and appropriate. When the game was showcased in June 2020, it was met with mixed reactions: on one hand, the gameplay and mechanics looked amazing. However, the visuals proved to be a point of contention: Halo Infinite did not particularly look like a modern game, and while the world assets and the lighting looked sharp, textures were still quite lacking. Realising the potential for disaster on account of all the memes that followed, 343 Industries astutely took Halo Infinite back for additional work rather than insisting on a 2020 launch. The end result speaks for itself; Halo Infinite is the smoothest-playing and best-looking Halo game made to date. Textures are more detailed, character models are less uncanny, and overall, Halo Infinite feels precisely what one would expect Halo to be. While the game does have a few flaws (the inability to replay campaign missions, absence of co-op mode and a poorly thought-out progression system for the multiplayer come to mind), overall, once I set foot on Zeta Halo and captured Tremonius as a forward operating base, all of these issues melted away as I began considering what my next actions should be: I can continue to clear out areas of the map and make travel easier by finishing the side missions, or I can press forward with the story and see how The Weapon and Master Chief’s experiences unfold, delving deeper into the secrets that Zeta Halo contain. One thing is for sure; seeing the distinctive curvature of the Halo ring on the horizon, rendered using modern game engines, is an absolutely astounding sight to behold.

Battlefield 2042: Twelve Hours of Solo All-Out Warfare and First Impressions

“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 2042Battlefield 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 341 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.

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.

Battlefield 2042: A Reflection on the Open Beta

“This strength test is all about what Battlefield 2042 does to your computer, and not what your computer does to Battlefield 2042.” –J. Neilson, Forged in Fire

Entering the Battlefield 2042 open beta, the biggest question on my mind was whether or not my aging rig would even be able to run DICE’s latest Battlefield title at passable frame-rates. The minimum requirements had called for an Intel i5-6600k, which overall, has about a five percent edge in terms of performance over the nine year old i5-3570k I’m currently running. The open beta represented the best way to, without charge, test whether this CPU stood any chance of opening Battlefield 2042, and after I finished my preload in Tuesday night, I went about the remainder of my week as usual. When I was granted access to the open beta on Friday, I promptly opened my client after the day’s work hours ended, and immediately found myself faced with sluggish, choppy performance: after joining a match and parachuting over to the rocket hangar at capture point bravo, I came under fire from some enemy players. I ducked away into cover, then got the jump on one of my pursuers as they turned away, and after aiming down the M5A3’s iron sights, I dumped the magazine into my foe to earn my first kill of the beta. All of this happened at around 24 FPS, and it became clear to me that my eight-year-old machine had hit its limits. I subsequently headed over to a remote corner of the map, away from the combat, set all of the visual effects down to medium, and was met with a surprising result: Battlefield 2042 began running at a still-choppy, but playable 40-50 FPS (dropping to about 30 FPS on a small handful of moments). I thus finished my first match and went on to unlock a range of weapons to experiment with. During my play-testing, I found that my GTX 1060 was at around 60 percent usage, but my CPU was struggling the entire time in-game: Ivy Bridge processors have a feature called “Turbo Boost”, which kicks in whenever the CPU requires additional horsepower. The hardware automatically overclocks the CPU, raising the clock speed to give this extra performance while at the same time, keeping the assembly within safe temperatures. However, running Turbo Boost for prolonged periods still places a bit of a strain on a CPU that is eight years old, and it is clear that either this build of Battlefield 2042 still needs to be optimised before launch, or the time might be approaching where I will need to build a new rig. While my machine did encounter difficulties with the Battlefield 2042 beta (I suffered two blue screens in total), I was otherwise very impressed that the beta ran at all, with the frame rates that it did. Overall, my rig survived: this is equivalent to a blade taking on a few rolls during the infamous strength test on Forged in Fire, but otherwise, remained intact. My machine passes the strength test, although whether or not it will KEAL is a different matter entirely (albeit one that I’ll have to wait until after launch to find out about).

Because of periodic performance drops, my own experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta are not complete or wholly representative of my performance in the game. Lag led me to miss shots, fail to respond quickly enough in a firefight, or even waste ammunition on what I thought was a player (but was actually a player model that hadn’t been updated properly). In spite of this, the beta was still immensely enjoyable. The first thing I noticed was that the scale of battle is larger than ever. It makes sense as to why Battlefield 2042 would require more CPU power to fully experience: the chaos of 128-player maps is a massive step up from the 64-player maps of previous games, corresponding with an increase in the processing power needed to calculate and keep track of everything. Moreover, gun-play was satisfying, and weapons handled very consistently: after getting used to their recoil patterns and learning to position myself better in firefights, I began rediscovering my old enjoyment of tap-firing down a distant foe. Every kill is satisfying, and Battlefield 2042 appears to have altered things so the kill system is more similar to Battlefront II’s, where dealing appreciable damage to an enemy is rewarded the same amount of points as scoring the kill itself. Similarly, the movement system was relatively smooth: features from Battlefield 1 and V, like crouch-sliding and vaulting return, creating more options for moving around the map and escaping otherwise deadly situations. The core mechanics of Battlefield 2042 appear to work well for the game. However, it is clear that this is a three-month old build: the UI is unwieldy, and critical features did not work in the beta. I was unable to issue squad commands, thank players for reviving me or open the map at all. These issues are something the team indicates that the release build will address. The specialist system is a larger issue for Battlefield 2042: during my games, I noticed that teamwork was practically non-existent: the lack of dedicated medics and support players meant no one was topping off health or ammunition, and there was no incentive to do so. The lack of restrictions on weapons and gadgets allows a sniper to constantly top off their own ammunition, and assault players can easily heal themselves. One possible fix for this would simply be to restrict gadgets to certain specialisations, and similarly, every specialist should have access to one unique weapon class, and subsequently, there can be all-class weapons, much as how Battlefield 3 and 4 had done so. The specialist system is ingrained in the game, but if these minor adjustments aren’t too tricky to implement, their addition would define specialist roles more clearly and return team-play elements to the game. One element that currently is a deal-breaker is player visibility: this was an issue in Battlefield V and favoured campers. Battlefield 2042 has not addressed this issue, but this time, players can blend into their surroundings even when actively moving. Moreover, the lack of clear team indicators introduces new problems: I found myself shooting at teammates in some firefights because there hadn’t been anything to show they were teammates. While I’m very much in the minority who thinks this way, I find that the return of 3D spotting would be helpful. Players should always be able to spot for themselves, and then recon players can spot for their teams as a class perk. The inclusion of 3D spotting would reward players for thinking tactically ahead of a firefight, and force players to consider how they move around a map, as well. Overall, while Battlefield 2042 shows promise, it is still early to be determining if DICE has properly learned from the aftermath of Battlefield V.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • If there were a single screenshot to sum up my experiences with Battlefield 2042‘s open beta, this would be it: a stunning view of the Guiana Space Centre as a storm rolls in. Battlefield 2042‘s theme is climate change and its impact on conflict, but unlike its predecessors, which featured a single-player campaign, Battlefield 2042 will launch without a campaign, with its story being told by the maps’ design. The large-scale effects of climate change means that Battlefield 2042‘s maps can be set across the world and need not be tied to any one region, as with previous Battlefield maps.

  • The first kill I got in Battlefield 2042 came with the M5A3 assault rifle, a fictionalised version of the SIG MCX series that is chambered for the 6.8mm SIG cartridge. I ended up choosing a different screenshot for my first kill because that moment had been too dark, and because I am a little superstitious in games, I believe that I’ll have a better experience in a given open beta if I get my first kill before my first death. In practise, the M5A3 has a good firing rate and high accuracy, especially when equipped with the extended barrel, Cobra vertical grip and the Maul Hybrid 1.5-3x sights.

  • I didn’t have too many opportunities to play armoured vehicles in the open beta; pilots were being much too aggressive, and the lack of teamwork meant that shoulder-fired anti-air weapons weren’t too effective at taking them down. Land-air balance has always been an issue in Battlefield games: good pilots can single-handedly control entire matches, and some design choices in previous Battlefield games, like the Ilya-Muromets, were downright broken. Modern settings means a wider range of anti-air options, and Battlefield 2042 will need to give players more options against air vehicles in order to balance things out.

  • The infantry combat is generally my favourite aspect of a given Battlefield game, and here, I help the team to defend against capture, capitalising on the high-ground to mow down a player running along the catwalk below. Orbital is the map featured in the beta, and despite being a very large, open map, there’s enough variety in the map design so all weapons can be effective, depending on where one is. The M5A3 is probably the most versatile weapon available in the open beta, having enough accuracy to pick off enemies at range (especially if one tap fires and runs the right attachments) and enough firing rate to react quickly to someone at close quarters.

  • During matches, the rocket on the launchpad will sometimes launch, creating a particularly impressive visual spectacle for players, comparable to the rocket launch of both Five Centimeters per Second and Hathaway’s Flash. I’ve seen my favourite Battlefield YouTubers attempt to board the rocket, and they ended up phasing through the geometry before learning that the rocket tops out at an altitude of five kilometres. This resulted in many laughs. For me, I didn’t have anything quite so exhilarating: I witnessed two rocket launches during my run of the Battlefield 2042 open beta, and after dying to a sniper during my first launch, I decided to take cover so I could view the second launch in peace.

  • Battlefield 2042‘s hitmarker system is quite unlike anything I’d previously seen: they appear to be much more subtle and difficult to spot. However, every kill was satisfying to earn, especially those longer-range shots. One nifty feature about Battlefield 2042 is that the Maul Hybrid optic has an integral red dot sight attached to the main optic, making it easy to switch between 1.5x magnification and 3x magnification with the push of a button. The dynamic attachment system reminds me a great deal of how Crysis handles things, and I imagine in the completed game, players will unlock multiple attachments, and then pick four they want to carry into battle at any given time.

  • Since we’re now back in the modern era, a wide selection of effective LMGs are finally available again. The only LMG available in the open beta was the LCMG, a fictionalised version of the Knight’s Armament Company LAMG; in reality, this was meant to be a lightweight and modular LMG that could adapt to a variety of situations. Despite its promise, the LAMG never saw any military use, although I have seen this weapon before in The Division 2, where it is called the Stoner LAMG and was one of my favourite weapons in the endgame, at least until the Hunter’s Fury gear-set became available.

  • I’ve always had a fondness for LMGs in Battlefield: early in every Battlefield game I play, I am not so familiar with the recoil patterns on assault rifles, and tend to waste my ammunition hitting air in firefights. However, with their larger ammunition capacity (offset by a longer reload time), LMGs are a bit more forgiving and allow me to lay down sustained fire. More rounds in the air means an increased probability something will hit my foe (i.e. “spray and pray”). The LCMG can be customised with AP rounds to increase its efficacy against light vehicles: one of the stranger design choices in Battlefield 2042 is the fact that weapons can have different ammo types. While cool in theory, I’ve actually never felt any need to switch out the standard ammunition.

  • Here, I score a kill with the Kriss Vector, known as the K30 in-game. The K30 resembles its counterparts from other games in that it has a high rate of fire and therefore, is particularly well-suited for CQC. The base K30 comes with a 20-round magazine, but DICE was nice enough to provide the extended magazine option, which allows for a total of 40 rounds per magazine. I ended up scoring a pair of kills in the rocket hangar with it while making my way to the top. The scale of the buildings in Battlefield 2042 are immense, and capture point bravo is a particularly fun one to fight over, since the rooftop is open to helicopters, and the team holding it must be cautious of players sneaking in from below, as well.

  • Ribbons finally make a return in Battlefield 2042: DICE had gotten rid of them in Battlefield V, but they had been present in earlier Battlefield games as an incentive for teamplay, as well as rewarding players for doing well. I’ve had a fondness for ribbons, since accumulating them gave insight into what kind of tendencies I had as a player. Medals were also fun to earn, although I also remember that the big frustration with them comes from being killed while attempting to take a screenshot after earning one: because of the way my key mappings are set up, I need to either take my hand off the mouse or keyboard in order to capture said screenshot.

  • While I’d never been effective with anti-armour weapons in Battlefield 3 and 4, after Battlefield 1 and V, I’ve become much more comfortable with equipment in this category: a little bit of teamwork can mean that, even on foot, vehicles are not unstoppable threats. Battlefield 2042‘s brings back the M2 Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifle from Bad Company 2 as the main anti-vehicle option. It has a very slow reload, but can devastate light vehicles and even take a third of a tank’s health away in a single shot. I imagine that more anti-vehicle weapons, like the RPG-7, SMAW and AT4 could be available in the full game.

  • Here, I score a kill on someone calling themselves “Shizuka_hiratsuk”, evidently named after Oregairu‘s Shizua Hirasuka, using the DM7 (the Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 in real life) marksman rifle. This semi-automatic rifle reaches out a little further than the M5A3 and is a solid precision weapon that fits my play-style. Although the ACOG sight and its chevron reticule was a bit tough to use, the weapon can nonetheless deal excellent damage at range, making it a solid option. Players with anime names have always stood out to me in multiplayer first person shooters, especially when they get the upper hand over me.

  • However, this never happened once in Battlefield 2042: normally, after dying to another player, their name is clearly displayed for me to check out, and Battlefield also indicates how many times we’ve gotten one another. However, the UI meant I never got around to seeing names in prominence, and moreover, I never found myself antagonised by a single player because of the fact that maps are so large. Rather than facing 32 players, I’m now facing 64, so it’s less likely to run into the same person twice. The larger player count has had one additional side-effect on my gaming, and I’m actually a lot more relaxed when I’m being beaten by different people.

  • I’m not anywhere as competitive as I was seven years ago, which was when I was really getting into Battlefield 3, but a part of me still enjoys getting back players who got me. In one entertaining moment during the beta, I was killed by a sniper at capture point alpha. Realising he was chilling on one of the geodesic domes, I promptly changed my kit out for the SWS-10 and managed to shoot him in the head. I’m rocking the recon specialist here, which comes with a spotting drone, C4 and my personal favourite, a passive radar that indicates whether or not there are any hostiles nearby.

  • The assault specialist is equipped with a grappling hook for getting around quickly: like the Q-Claw from Agent Under Fire, the grappling hook is a fantastic tool for ascending buildings and gaining a vantage point quickly. If memory serves, the assault specialist’ perk is being able to have more mobility compared to the others. This high-mobility play-style means that one might actually be better served running with a PDW or shotgun for close-quarters dominance. On the topic of Agent Under Fire, Thanksgiving Long Weekend has proven to be the perfect time to dust off the old GameCube and enjoy some old-fashioned humans vs AI bots on Town and Castle. Unlike yesterday’s blue skies and sunshine, today’s been grey and snowy, making it perfect for gaming, and since the global health crisis kicked off, I’ve been doing a lot more with the GameCube, so we actually ended up faring moderately well against the AI bots on maximum difficulty.

  • Had the open beta come out in October 2018, I probably would’ve been happier for it: by October, the Xamarin project had been deemed ready for release, pending a few bug fixes and tests. Conversely, back in September, the Xamarin project was in dire straits; there’d been a large disagreement about what constituted as HIPAA compliance, and it was put forth that HIPAA compliance demanded a 26-digit alphanumeric code that was given to users on sign in. In the end, the firm’s CEO stepped in, determined that the 6-digit code I was proposing was still compliant and allowed me to continue with my work. The resulting sign-in and onboarding became an order of magnitude simpler for my troubles, and I returned home just in time to spend a few days on the Rotterdam map in Battlefield V‘s open beta.

  • My experiences in Battlefield V‘s beta led me to pick the game up in November 2018, and by that time, I’d received an offer for a new iOS developer position, allowing me to leave behind my first start-up’s woes and its connection to the computational oncology firm in the US. That time period was characterised by relief to be setting aside work that was beginning to tax me more than it excited me. Out of vain curiosity, I decided to take a look to see what became of the app I finished, but as it turns out, the app has been stricken from both the App Store and Play Store.

  • While the computational oncology firm has advertised that mobile app would be a major part of their ecosystem, it is a little disappointing to see no advancements on the mobile side of things in the past three years. Reminiscing about these moments makes me immensely thankful that with the Battlefield 2042 open beta, I am afforded time to enjoy the beta without worrying about whether or not the JSON responses coming from the backend would arbitrarily change without warning: this time around, my main concern was whether nor not my machine could even run the open beta, speaking to its age.

  • One of the most exhilarating and terrifying moments I had during the entire beta was when I saw my first tornado: I had spawned on a squad mate, but the tornado changed direction and immediately headed for us. The tornadoes that strike Battlefield 2042‘s maps appear to be EF0 (or EF1s at most): while they’re capable of lifting vehicles into the air and easily carry players, the tornadoes don’t do any appreciable damage to the map’s buildings, creating a bit of inconsistency (a tornado capable of throwing vehicles would also uproot trees and shred roofs from houses, which is EF3-level). However, as a gameplay mechanic, I’ll let this one slide and note that here, as I seemingly glide towards my death, a bolt of lightning also strikes very close to my position, creating a surreal moment.

  • Lightning strikes in Battlefield 2042 have EMP effects and will disable vehicles, as well as scramble the player’s HUD; this is a clever effect that speaks to the dangers of how relying on complex electronic systems can leave one in a tough spot should said systems go down. Fortunately for me, I ended up steering myself away from the tornado, which also changed course at the last second, and after landing on the ground, I immediately set about trying to help my team turn around a losing match even though it’d been too late.

  • In a different match, I’ve switched over to the support specialisation and are running with the PBX-45, a copy of the LWRC SMG 45 that actually proved to be unexpectedly effective and fun to use. The SMG 45 was first introduced in 2015 and entered production in 2019. Firing .45 ACP rounds, the SMG 45 is a newer weapon and accordingly, has not appeared in many games. Battlefield 2042‘s PBX-45 marks the first time the SMG 45 appears in Battlefield (previously, the SMG 45 was in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare as the Striker 45).

  • In the days of Battlefield 3 and 4, PDWs and SMGs were hipfire machines whose small size made them laser-accurate and perfectly suited for close-quarters combat. In fact, during my Battlefield 3 days, once I unlocked the MP5K, it became my default go-to weapon: with the laser sight and extended magazines. Battlefield 1 featured SMGs as the primary for the assault class, and by Battlefield V, SMGs were the default weapon for medics. Although their applications have changed, all Battlefield SMGs (and PDWs) retain excellent hipfire performance.

  • The PBX-45 is a remarkably entertaining weapon to use, and one more thing that I’m particularly fond of its the reload animation: if one isn’t reloading from empty, the operator will pull the old magazine out and swap it for a new one, but keep the old magazine in hand to stow it. However, if reloading from empty, the old magazine is discarded. Cool reload animations have been a part of Battlefield since Hardline, where DICE really began having fun with the reload animations, but in Battlefield 1 and V, DICE upped their game by providing unique reload animations based on a weapon’s ammunition state.

  • I managed to capture this beauty of a lightning bolt while a tornado was tearing up the far side of the map here. In reality, taking stunning lightning photos is a skill and requires familiarity with the techniques. Professional weather photographers like Warren Faidley have taken some of the most iconic pictures around, and as a child, I was always fond of checking out weather books from the library to admire these images. In games like Battlefield 2042, lightning lingers on the screen for a fraction of a second longer than it does in reality, and that means so long as I hit the screenshot button quickly enough, I’ll have myself nice photo.

  • The weather patterns in Battlefield 2042 aren’t anywhere nearly as disruptive as the snowstorms of Battlefield V, and while visibility lowers whenever a storm blows in, it’s not bad enough to interfere with gameplay: even though the screen does get covered in water droplets from the rain, visibility isn’t severely degraded. Having said this, the tornado can be quite disruptive, and once the novelty wears off, it’ll become something that can negatively impact a match for players: the tornado locks down a large section of the map, and under the right circumstances, might even disrupt things enough for the other team to mount a comeback, meaning that the outcome of a given match can come down to chance rather than skill.

  • Here, I quickly reload the G57 pistol after drawing it and scoring a kill to save myself from certain death. Modern shooters tend to provide players with a sidearm as their secondary, a weapon to switch over to it when their primary runs dry. I imagine that the G57 is modelled after the Heckler and Koch Glock G17 (evidenced by the grooves on the slide’s rear. Battlefield has historically treated the Glock line of pistols as a fast-firing, moderately hard-hitting and reliable pistol. Pistols can be customised on the fly, as well, although during the open beta, there was no option to attach a suppressor.

  • While I only had six hours in the open beta, I did put in enough time to unlock the M44 Revolver, which looks like the Model 44SS6 .44 Magnum. Unlike the G57, whose strength lies in its accuracy, ease-of-handling and rate of fire, the M44 kicks like a mule and hits like a truck, dealing massive damage when it lands a successful hit. During the height of my Battlefield days, I used to run with the MP-412: this revolver still dealt excellent damage, but had a slightly faster firing rate than the .44 Magnum, meaning it could be counted on in a pinch.

  • Altogether, I played twelve rounds of conquest during the open beta, and of these twelve rounds, I only won three of them. I’m not sure what the story is, but even though I was playing the objective each and every around, I was more likely to wind up on the losing team than the winning team. However, I will note that 12 games is too small a sample size to draw meaningful data from. During earlier Battlefield games, some days, I’ll go on the most ridiculous lucky streaks where I’d play three winning games in a row, and then after a break, come back to play two more victorious matches.

  • Then, on other days, I could go and play three losing matches in a row. The law of large numbers states that over time, my victories and losses will trend towards an average and approach 50 percent from either the left or the right. However, my tendency to play the objective meant that in general, I always won slightly more often than I lost. In Battlefield 2042, outside of determining if my machine could run the game at all, my other goal had been to try as much of the infantry firearms as I could. Because of the way the Battlefield 2042 beta worked, I was able to get a very good idea of what the different weapons handled like, and here, I’ve brought the LCMG back out.

  • Owing to the haste of my deployment, I dropped right into a firefight and didn’t have time to change out my optics or underbarrel options. In spite of this, I managed to score a few kills while pressing forwards with my team into the hangar. In modern military shooters, I’m fond of equipping optics right away, since having a red dot sight or ACOG can make target acquisition much easier. However, I found that in moments where I only had iron sights, I was having considerably less trouble with them than I had before. This is like a consequence of the fact that playing so much Battlefield 1 and V in the past five years has meant that I’ve become accustomed to using iron sights for tracking targets.

  • Back in Battlefield 1, most weapons were actually better off without the crude sights available in a WWI setting, and some weapons had highly clean posts that made finding targets straightforward. Similarly, some weapons in Battlefield V had decent iron sights that could be used without much trouble. Since iron sights no longer bother me, when I play through other games like Call of Duty, I can be comfortable trading off the sights for other attachments. Of course, where sights are available, I’ll still use them: here, I’m running the PBX-45 with the K8 holographic sight, which is clear and easy to use.

  • Just for kicks, I ended up switching over to my M5 Recoilless rifle and shot a player with a rocket, since they were out of my PBX-45’s effective range. Had I attempted to engage them at this range, they would’ve noticed me throwing rocks at them and ducked for cover. Conversely, by expending a M5 round on them, I was assured of the kill, which I’m sure would’ve been a shock. I used to do something similar in Battlefield 1: since the assault class’ SMGs didn’t have much reach, I would use the AT rocket gun to pick off foes that I couldn’t otherwise reach without alerting them to my intentions.

  • Here, I managed to headshot a player calling themselves Gryphin2004 (a Family Guy reference, perhaps?) using the PBX-45, at a range that I didn’t think the weapon would work at. This particular player had killed me several times in a row by camping in the building, and it was with great satisfaction I managed to get him back one before the match ended. There weren’t many frustrating moments during the beta, but if I had to name one, dying to this camper was one of them. I’ve long disliked players who camp, since it shows excessive concern for one’s KDR over the team results, and in fact, campers are only second to cheaters in my books, when it comes to players who shouldn’t be in the game.

  • Here, I managed to score a double kill with the M5 Recoilless Rifle on a tank below: by the end of the beta, I was right at home with the M5. Players also have access to an anti-air weapon similar to the FIM-92 Stinger, and while I never got much use out of these weapons, developers have indicated that to balance them, they might make them a one-hit kill against air vehicles. If this is true, this would be a boon for folks on the ground: air vehicles are an annoyance, and in every match I played, enemy pilots went unchallenged, while for the most part, pilots on my team were not anywhere nearly as effective. Knowing that anti-air weapons could swat them out of the skies in a single hit would force pilots to play more cautiously: aircraft are equipped with countermeasures, but they have a cooldown, so a part of the skill in flying would include knowing when to back out of a fight.

  • Out of curiosity’s sake, I also ended up giving the AK24 a shot. This weapon appears to be the AK-12, a modernised AK-47, and in Battlefield 2042, hits harder than the M5A3. On the flipside, it also has a much larger recoil: I found the weapon to be quite uncontrollable when the Maul Hybrid sights were equipped. On the other hand, the iron sights, K8 and Fusion Holo sights don’t accentuate the recoil too much, making them my preferred choices for combat. Overall, however, I did prefer the M5A3 over the AK24: the M5A3 is laser-beam accurate with the right attachments, and I’ve had success with this rifle at ranges I didn’t think possible: one of my most exciting moments was burst-firing down a foe at over a hundred metres with the M5A3.

  • My experiences in the beta suggests that weapons of Battlefield 2042 are going to handle in distinct ways, and then the attachments will further accentuate a weapon’s strengths (or mitigate its weaknesses). The ability to switch attachments out on the fly is actually a pretty clever mechanic, since players with foresight can add to their inventory the attachments that they feel will work for them, and then in between matches, they might be able to customise their inventory to fit a particular play-style. Unfortunately, because of where this beta was, no deeper customisations were shown.

  • Since DICE has advertised that Battlefield 2042 will have a deeper progression system than that of Battlefield 1 and V, I am hoping this translates to something that was more similar to that of Battlefield 3 or 4‘s: Battlefield 3 had the perfect amount of unlocks, while things in Battlefield 4 felt a bit overwhelming. Documentation from DICE indicates that players will have unlocked everything they need to be successful by level 100. At the time of writing, I have no idea how long this journey would take: with earlier games, it took me about a year to get everything unlocked, and this was assuming an average of two to three hours of play every week.

  • During one match, I spawned onto the hangar rooftop at capture point bravo and decided to equip the SWS-10 for some sharpshooting. This is the TRG M10 in real life, a bolt-action rifle manufactured by the Finish company SAKO. Chambered for the .308 Winchester round, the TRG M10 can also fire .300 Winchester Magnum and .338 Lapua Magnum rounds, as well: the M10 is an upgraded, modular design that was introduced in 2011, and one of its most noteworthy features is that the toolbox for changing out the rifle’s barrel, bolts and handguard is built into the weapon itself, allowing it to change between different calibres with ease.

  • In Battlefield 2042, veterans have reported that the sniping is a little off, but during moments where long-range shots connect, it is immensely satisfying: I managed to pick off foes on the ground below from up here, and it felt incredible to fire a shot, watch it sail over to the target and strike them in the brainpan. Unfortunately, Battlefield 2042 doesn’t display the distance a headshot was made from in its beta, but these shots were incredible to land. It took me a few shots to get a feel for how the SWS-10 handled, especially with respect to bullet velocity and drop, but one thing I did find strange was the fact that the weapon appears to already have a straight-pull bolt, removing the need to scope out and chamber a new round in after one round was fired.

  • In a later match, I ended up running into a player called “not_alexus_marie” and promptly pasted their pate several times into the ground: curiosity got the better of me after I collected these screenshots, and I’m now wondering if this is the small-time Twitch streamer from Illinois that I wasted so casually. Battlefield 2042‘s lack of scoreboard, and an unusual UI in the death screen meant that during this beta, I remember those whom I’ve felled more vividly than those who outfoxed me in combat. While some gaming journalists are suggesting that some players are already using cheats in the beta, I never once felt that my foes were using software to gain an unfair advantage over others. Any time I died was a consequence of my own lack of spatial awareness, poor positioning, or the fact that my reflexes are no longer what they used to be.

  • On occasions where players looked like they one-shotted me or shot me through walls, it became apparent that my aging hardware might’ve created that discrepancy. Indeed, when I began playing more cautiously, I found myself staring at the spawn screen with a much lower frequency, and here in the beta, I do not believe I’ve run into any cheaters during the course of my six hours. DICE has stated that Battlefield 2042 will use Easy Anti-Cheat, a well-known and robust system which, in conjunction with its in-game reporting system, and an implementation of both an IP and hardware ban, should be enough to deter cheaters, which have run rampant in games like Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Warzone.

  • Cheaters were responsible for my increasing disinterest in Battlefield V, more so than any other shortcomings of that title (whether it be the poor enemy visibility, inconsistent TTK/TTD decisions, decision not to visit iconic WWII Theatre in favour of obscure ones), and what was baffling was the fact that players on my own team would adamantly refuse to acknowledge that they were playing against a cheater, despite said cheater going 120-1 five minutes into the match. In this day and age, the desire to cheat in a multiplayer game is a consequence of a desire for notoriety, for a bit of extra internet fame.

  • By yesterday evening, I’d become quite familiar with all of the open beta’s weapons and had a passable idea of how the mechanics had worked, enough to be scoring consistently well. In the last full game I played, I ended up 19-19 despite having fallen into a 2-10 hole early in the game. The team I was with was still defeated, but my own personal performance suggests that, if the time allows for it, I could probably still have a good time with Battlefield 2042‘s main game modes. Towards the end, I began running with the engineer specialisation, which brings with it an automated turret for locking down certain areas by creating a distraction.

  • During the chaos of one firefight, I ended up accidentally switching off my M5A3 for a SWS-10, and since players were swarming the capture point, I was able to pick a few off with headshots. Observant readers and players who participated in the open beta alike will have noticed that Battlefield 2042 has sectors that must both be held before it can be considered to be under one team’s control. This approach would be a fantastic way to improve team play, although speaking truthfully, the lack of a working command system meant that in the end, I lone-wolfed things for the entire duration of the beta.

  • While my approach means that any squad will make short work of me, I was a little surprised to find individual players running around the map without any support, such as this individual here. I found them on their lonesome and proceeded to make short work of them before they even got a single shot off. In a squad with good communications, as soon as one member is fired upon, the squad can move in to defend one another, secure the area and revive anyone that was downed. I’ve only ever played Battlefield once with friends during an office team building event five years earlier, but I still remember how effective we were: we topped the scoreboard, was the best squad and ended up carrying our team to victory despite none of us being particularly exceptional FPS players.

  • One of the biggest challenges I faced in the beta was with the gunner seats in vehicles: they were extremely jittery, and it was nearly impossible to get a good shot off on a target. During one of my final matches, I spawned into an Apache attack helicopter’s gunner seat and manned the 30 mm cannon with gusto, helping to clear the ground for my team in a round my team had no hope in heck of winning. I’ve never been much of a pilot myself, but I do have a fondness for manning the gunner seats in vehicles. With a good pilot, I am able to really do damage in the gunner’s seat.

  • It suddenly strikes me that the more recent Battlefield releases have all coincided with a milestone in my life: Battlefield 4 launched after I graduated from the Bachelor of Health Sciences programme, and Battlefield 1 released after I finished graduate school and begun the transition over into industry. Battlefield V launched right as I got a new job, and Battlefield 2042‘s launch date is going to be very close to my possession date. At the time of writing, there’s a few more things I have to tend to ahead of this, but I am very excited about things.

  • Truth be told, I am surprised that things had happened as quickly as they did; even back in August, I’d only been house hunting and never thought that a property meeting all of my requirements would become available on the market this soon. A lot can happen over the course of a year, and while 2021 saw its share of challenges, the year also saw numerous positive changes. I’ve been incredibly lucky in many regards, and this is something I am immensely thankful for. If I were making decisions on the basis of emotion alone (as opposed to reason and logic), Battlefield 2042 would be an easy purchase simply for the fact that it coincides with a major life event, much as how Battlefield 41 and V did.

  • However, this isn’t how I roll: instead, whether or not I end up buying Battlefield 2042 will be determined by how well the game runs at launch and whether or not Battlefield Portal fulfils my requirements. Provided the game can run well, and Portal offers what I am looking for, then Battlefield 2042 will be worth the cost of admissions. The game has most certainly been fun during the open beta, and here, a solitary kill with the LCMG marks the last one I got before the servers shut down; I had just started a match, but it was getting late, so I decided to call it quits after getting one more kill.

Having put a total of six hours into the Battlefield 2042 beta, the main deciding factor now as to whether or not I’ll pick up the game after it launches, or if I will wait, is determined by a few things. The first is whether or not DICE does indeed optimise the game so it’s not pushing my CPU to 100 percent utilisation for extended periods. I’ve heard that people with more recent CPUs still experienced the same issues, so it is possible that building a new PC might not be the solution to this. Waiting to hear from early-adopters who buy the game will allow me to gain more information before making a decision. Similarly, the open beta has only shown one game mode (Conquest) on one map (Orbital). Battlefield 2042‘s biggest feature is Battlefield Portal, a full-scale sandbox mode that allows players to have full control in designing games for themselves. On first blush, this mode appears even more enticing and immersive than Battlefield 2042 proper. Depending on what is available and possible within Battlefield Portal, this alone could be worth the price of admissions (assuming my machine can run things smoothly). Finally, the open beta evidently is an incomplete build of the game that is not production-ready: numerous issues do need to be addressed, from UI layout, functionality and performance before DICE can have a smooth, satisfying launch. Historically, DICE’s records with launches are mixed: Battlefield 4 was a disaster, but Battlefield 1 was exemplary. Overall, my position now is simple: I will wait until around the holiday season to determine whether or not Battlefield 2042 joins my library. Building a new PC is straightforward enough, and my current machine still runs Battlefield 2042 in a satisfactory manner, so the main deciding factor now is going to be primarily seeing how well Portal works in practise. The prospect of being able to play bots on a private session to experiment with outrageous scenarios (like how well a single M1A2 fares against 20 Tiger I tanks), or join servers with outlandish game modes designed for relaxation rather than competition, is most enticing. Similarly, I am getting up there in the years to be squaring off against youth with faster reflexes: the ol’ fingers and brain no longer move as quickly as they did when I was a university student. Gone are the days where I could survive a firefight against an entire squad, so on days where I don’t feel like fighting real players, having the choice to mess around in Battlefield 2042 maps and modes at a more relaxed pace would also be welcomed. As such, this Battlefield 2042 open beta has been very informative for me: I know my rig can (just barely) run Battlefield 2042, the setup is still fun enough for me, and once I have a little more information on things like features and Battlefield Portal following the game’s launch, I’ll be able to make a more informed decision on things.