After many long months of waiting, EA has finally unveiled the next chapter of Battlefield and it looks like it will be kicking off the series' tenure on new-gen consoles with a bang. Battlefield 2042 is a futuristic shooter that is set to usher in many firsts for the franchise such as 128-player battles and fully customisable loadouts. Recently, we were given the opportunity to attend an exclusive pre-reveal event (virtually, of course), to learn more about the upcoming shooter and we were able to speak to the game's Associate Producer, Marie Granlund.
One bold step that Battlefield 2042 takes away from its predecessor is that it doesn't feature a single player campaign and the focus is solely on multiplayer. This is something that the Call of Duty series did with Black Ops 4, and even Battlefield V had a limited story focus with only three playable campaign missions present. I asked Marie why the decision was made to retire the campaign in Battlefield 2042 and she told me: "When we looked at our previous games, multiplayer has always been what we do best, it's also something we feel that our players identify what Battlefield is best at delivering."
There might not be a string of missions for players to gun their way through but that does not mean there isn't any context for its bloodshed. The game, as its name suggests, takes place in the year 2042 and things aren't looking too rosy, as food, water, and power shortages have resulted in the worst refugee crisis seen by mankind. With the world in tatters, Russia and the United States have taken up arms against each other and the entire world has been forced to pick a side. It certainly sounds like it would have made for an intriguing campaign, but I'm still happy for any excuse to play with some futuristic tech in a Battlefield game.
Along with the cut campaign, the other detail that resonated with me the most from the presentation is that the game will feature 128-player battles on new-gen consoles. To cater for this larger player count, the maps here are almost four times as large as they were in previous entries and these seem sure to enable for some truly chaotic moments. When I asked Marie about these larger maps, she told me: "Personally, I feel that the scale of the map gives you different types of intensity depending on where you go. So if you want to get into the action you know which areas to go to and if you want a bit of a slower pace and want to be on your guard and step back a little bit, you can also do that. The new generation of Frostbite and also the large scale enables different kinds of player styles."
Speaking of the maps, these spacious playgrounds can even act as a death trap themselves as natural disasters such as tornadoes and sandstorms can occur whilst you're in the heat of the action. Tornadoes can pick up players and vehicles and violently throw them up into the air, so you need to be wary and look over your shoulder at all times. Marie mentioned to me that these natural disasters occur during random intervals and you won't encounter them on every map, so there is an element of unpredictability to them, just like in reality.
You might now be asking, "what about last-gen consoles?" Well, that's where things are a little unclear, as some details surrounding cross-play are yet to be revealed. During the presentation, it was revealed that last-gen owners will still have access to the same maps as those on newer machines, but these will be smaller in size and limited to 64 players. It can be fair to assume that there will be limited or zero cross-play between console generations, but EA simply told us that details regarding cross-play will be shared later on.
Some of these changes may seem controversial, but I can see most fans being pleased with the tweaks made to vehicles. You can now instantly grab yourself a ride using a tablet, so you'll no longer find yourself tediously trekking on foot between objectives. Hilariously, I learned that you can even call in a vehicle on top of other players for an easy kill if they are not being vigilant. Another change is to the roles that players can undertake. Each player in a vehicle now has a more defined role, as there's gunner seats, anti-air seats, and spotter seats. This should ensure that nobody is just sat around bored waiting to get to the next objective.
Another welcomed change that I imagine will go down well with the community is the inclusion of Specialists. These have their special gadgets but they differ from classes in previous games as they enable you to fully customise your own loadout. In previous Battlefield titles there were just four playable classes (Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon), and specific weapons and throwables were tied to these. There's said to be 10 different Specialists available at launch and we were able to take a look at four of them.
The loadouts might be fully flexible but each Specialist has their own speciality which is exclusive to them. One of the Specialists we got to see, for example, was called Webster Mackay and he was equipped with a grappling hook - a perfect tool for scaling buildings and taking out unsuspecting snipers. Another Specialist we are excited to play as is Maria Falck, a supporting character that can be used to easily recover allies by firing rounds of healing ammunation from a distance.
We also learned that Battlefield 2042 would see the series move to a Battle Pass model and this will include both a free and a premium lane. According to the team at EA, the first year will contain four Seasons which will be packed with four Battle Passes, four new Specialists, and several brand new locations. Alarm bells might be starting to ring, but we were reassured that the premium tiers of the Battle Passes will only contain cosmetic items. Thankfully then we can assume that new maps and Specialists will be available as free content and there won't subsequently be a divide within the playerbase.
It's great to see the series on the path to a swift recovery after the rocky release of Battlefield V. Battlefield 2042 looks to be one of the biggest leaps we've seen between entries with its large scale 128-player battles, flexible loadouts, and new natural disasters. I also appreciate minor touches made like the improvements to vehicles. That said, I can see the absence of single player and the seemingly lack or limited cross-play between console generations to be a sore point for some long time fans. Be sure to check back for our full thoughts when Battlefield 2042 launches on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series on October 22, 2021.