I‘m wingsuiting low over Caspian Border, playing as operator Sundance. The enemy is dug in and have repelled most of our full assaults. But while they’re watching for tanks rumbling over the horizon, I’m trying to get behind them, planting the charge and spawning my entire squad.
It doesn’t go to plan. At the last second, another player bumbles out of a building, looking up as I hit the ground in a roll and come up shooting. The next minute or so is a blur filled with Sundance’s trademark cluster grenades, but we get a plant down, and as we finally die – swarmed by angry defenders that have abandoned their defences to come and mess us up, I hear the rumbling of friendly tanks. We got the point. “Fuck, that was fun,” I thought. “When did Battlefield 2042 actually feel fun?
On the very pages of NME’s website, I declared that Battlefield 2042 wasn’t a very good game when it launched in November 2021, slapping a three-star score on it and suggesting it was a Battlefield game that didn’t understand the real magic of the franchise it was in. With over a year of consistent updates culminating in the recent class update that brought classes back to the game, EA seems to have recaptured that magic and the game is now – you can quote me here – fun as shit.
Along the way, EA has ensured a little bit of that past Battlefield magic is in place. Maps and weapons have been sprinkled in from the throwback Portal mode, with weapons to be unlocked and maps to be played. Even the franchise’s best mode, Rush, has returned for players that don’t vibe with the more classic Conquest or didn’t fancy the new Breakout mode.
But it’s less about what EA has added or taken away, and more about the barriers to enjoyment it has cleared by moving some of the weirder ideas out of the way. The squad update means you can’t, for example, be a sniper with the ability to give yourself ammo and tuck yourself away from the fight. Instead, players are nudged towards teamplay and encouraged to work together to keep each other safe. Rush mode removes the heavy vehicle customisation seen in the other aspects of the game, providing you with exactly what you need to get the job done but nothing on the same terrifying level as Battlefield 2042’s launch hovercrafts, godless killing machines that would decimate entire teams. The cross-shaped in-game weapon customisation is sadly still involved, but eventually you forget about it – it will put you at a disadvantage at times, but it’s such a silly idea I often just prefer not thinking about it at all.
Not all of the changes to the game have landed. The class system is a long way from perfect, but it’s a lot of fun. Right now, the support class is often forced to choose between the incredibly useful medical bag, and the equally useful ammo bag. The different support specialists all have their own quirks on how to handle this though, meaning it’s very easy to make it work with a little lateral thinking. The disappointment isn’t in these difficult choices, but because these choices highlight the fact that very few of the other classes have this much depth at the moment.
With lots of the weirder 2042 additions scaled back or hacked from the game entirely, we’re left with a game that is a little safer – something I don’t usually advocate for, but here it does seem to be a broad improvement – that makes it much easier to see how good the core game actually is. Firing a PKP machine gun into an approaching tide of attackers is sublime, throwing a heat-seeking grenade into the air and watching as it locks onto a helicopter and brings it down generates a real frisson of excitement, and then there’s the fun of pelting an enemy-spewing MAV, a vehicle which an entire team can spawn on, with rockets before the enemy players overwhelm you.
If I were to review Battlefield 2042 now, it would be in a much more favourable tone. It feels like the game has just gotten out of its own way a bit and let people get stuck in and enjoy the huge firefights that Battlefield has always been known for. This is great news, because no one does large-scale combat quite like Battlefield 2042. The fighting is ferocious, backed up by some solid gunplay, interesting tactical decisions and just the right amount of cracking gunfire. There are all the debris-spewing explosions you would expect from Battlefield, often caused by fiery air transports crashing down to earth, shot down by crack ground troops…or, more likely, taken out by a tree that was a little closer than the pilot estimated.
After a rocky launch, Battlefield 2042 appears to have come good, delivering on its initial promise. Maybe it’s time you gave it another go?
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