As part of this week’s E3-like slew of game news and reveals, EA has taken the wraps off one of its most unsurprising games of the year: Battlefield 2042. But don’t get too excited. The word “reveal” should be taken with a grain of salt, as we really don’t know a ton about how the game will work—and expect that EA will play fans like fiddles via a slow news trickle until the game’s launch on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation on October 22.
For now, the game’s developers at DICE have confirmed that this is indeed a recognizable Battlefield game, complete with massive team combat, the return of popular objective-based modes, and aspirations to deliver the series’ biggest battle arenas yet. I’ve been at Ars long enough to hear that very promise three times, and to its credit, DICE’s staff tends to deliver on increased battling scope with every major installment.
The biggest change this time is finally—fiiiiinally—cranking the maximum player count up to 128 combatants on a single, super-sized map in the game’s PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 versions. The series has famously maxed out at 64 players since its very first entry, and over the years, DICE reps have explained away the limitation by saying more players doesn’t always mean more fun. But those statements largely came before a certain 100-player genre changed everything, and last week, DICE showed high-level pans of a few upcoming maps to prove out its design philosophy: discrete zones that teams can divide-and-conquer throughout, instead of lumping that many players into hallways of death.
Yet EA isn’t ready to ditch the previous console generation, and that means PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the new game will launch with a 64-player maximum per match. EA and DICE did not confirm how cross-platform play may work between last-gen and next-gen consoles or between the platforms compatible with 128-player maps, but suffice it to say, this technical limitation on two generations’ worth of BF2042 will certainly split its playerbase to some extent.
Join the weaponized mob of garbage-town nomads
That deficiency will feel more severe within BF2042 than other games in the series, since it will ship without any campaign content to speak of. Instead, EA and DICE are recommending that fans who want a break from online combat play the game’s multiplayer modes against AI bots, either alone or with real-life squadmates.
In an attempt to downplay the lack of campaign, DICE’s developers dangled the idea of plot nuggets appearing in the ongoing multiplayer modes. But these revolve around arguably the series’ most cockamamie plot yet. In BF2042‘s version of the near future, a climate crisis in the early 2030s will force millions of people out of their homes around various parts of the world. Due to geopolitical somethings-or-other, no nations will take these teeming masses in as refugees. So they… yes, I’m serious… become a weaponized mob of nomads who are eventually conscripted to fight as existing nations’ vigilante forces when a massive world war erupts in 2042.
Somehow, DICE’s developers were able to follow that story by revealing a few of the new game’s high-tech weaponry and vehicles—which these war-nomads supposedly constructed on their post-climate collapse rafts and towns made of floating plastic garbage—without breaking out into laughter.
But EA didn’t show off many specific weapons or vehicles beyond the unsurprising inclusion of tanks and helicopters, and we only got to see four of the game’s ten new “specialist” classes, which will expand the series’ traditional breakdown of four classes. It appears that some major combat abilities, like using ziplines, grappling hooks, and wingsuits to get around the game’s insanely large maps, will be restricted to a few specialists each, but exactly how those abilities will play out remains unclear at this point. While the series will get its first-ever paid “battle pass” in BF2042, this won’t apply to specialists or their abilities; EA insists that this additional paid content will be entirely “cosmetic.” Additionally, like 2019’s BFV, BF2042‘s future map content will be part of the retail purchase price, with no additional DLC purchases required.
The rest of the event contained a lot of announcements that led to unanswered follow-up questions. Dynamic weather events will appear on every map, and we saw a tornado lift and carry players across at least one of the game’s seven maps at launch, but what other natural disasters may befall combatants? Players can use a special ability to phone-in the delivery of a tank or fighter plane, but what other wacky, Call of Duty-like abilities and gadgets will players get access to? Destructible buildings will return, but without any visual proof of those, what will they look like, and could they be as massive as fully collapsible skyscrapers? Two brand-new gameplay modes have been teased, but EA slapped both of them with massive “stay tuned” stickers, along with seven versions of the phrase, “These are not battle royale.”
For now, we have the above gallery of “cinematic” shots to at least hint to the size and scope of the game’s seven combat arenas. While we saw what EA and DICE called “real-time gameplay footage” during last week’s presentation, it’s being held for public reveal until a later date, and what we saw doesn’t look nearly as polished as the above screens, so keep those grains of salt handy while watching EA release morsels of BF2042 information over the next four months.
Listing image by EA / DICE