Battlefield 2042: 128 players, Siege-style characters, no singleplayer

Battlefield 2042 is the next Battlefield game, and it will be released in October. It’s set in the near future (think Boston Dynamics robot dogs, not laser rifles), but the location isn’t the most important aspect of the storey. In fact, it’s the least intriguing aspect of Battlefield 2042, which is something I’m not sure I’ve ever said about a Battlefield game. Here are the key details:

  • The max player count has been doubled to 128 on PC and the new consoles
  • The 128-player maps are divided into sectors containing clusters of control points; capture all the control points in a sector to control it
  • Classes (engineer, assault, support, etc) are now categories that contain specialists. Each specialist has a backstory and unique gadget, but can carry any gun.
  • Gadgets we’ve seen: A grappling hook, a health/revive gun (think Doc in Rainbow Six Siege), an auto-turret (think Team Fortress 2), a movement sensor (to catch people sneaking up on you while you’re sniping)
  • 10 specialists at launch 
  • Purchasable battle passes: four seasons and four new specialists per year
  • Post-launch maps will all be free
  • “Levolution” is back, baby. What we’ve seen: tornadoes lift players and vehicles into a vortex, a sandstorm blots out the sky, a space rocket launches (or maybe explodes)
  • Everyone has a wingsuit
  • Some vehicles have spotter seats (a small detail but I like the sound of it)
  • No battle royale, but there are some mystery modes
  • No singleplayer campaign

That’s a lot to take in, so it’s probably for the best that the reveal trailer prioritises entertainment over information. It’s not all that different in tone from the Battlefield 5 announcement trailer—a montage of Fast and Furious-style speed and violence—but it has a more confident, exuberant self-awareness about it. The recreations of ridiculous Battlefield stunts are hilarious.

128 Players

The most noteworthy change is the increased player count, which now stands at 128 each match. It’s the first time Battlefield has deviated from the 64-player standard it established with Battlefield 1942 19 years ago, and it joins a select group of shooters with more than 100 players. (Scavengers can handle over 9,000 players, but only in an experimental mode, and while PlanetSide 2 can theoretically handle several hundred people fighting, it’s been nearly a decade.) Call of Duty: Warzone is more equivalent, with 200 players, but it wasn’t a really enjoyable experience.)

Larger maps separated across sectors accommodate the increased player count. There’s effectively a mini-Battlefield match going on within each sector. Teams in regular Conquest mode can hold a sector by capturing all of the points inside it. It appears like you may spend all of your time in one map section, yet there’s nothing stopping you from summoning a car and venturing elsewhere. Sorry, Nat, but the near-future technology doesn’t include mechs, but you can get a tank dropped from the skies with maneuvering thrusters. And, sure, you may drop them on snipers to squish them like timid house flies.

Specialists

The inclusion of specialists is likely to be the most contentious shift. They’re similar to Rainbow Six Siege operators in that they have names, backstories, and unique gadgets and skills, but they’re more versatile because they can use any weapon you’ve earned. Battlefield class archetypes such as ‘attack’ and ‘recon’ remain, but DICE now refers to them as categories into which specialists will fit.

It’s a significant shift. Until now, battlefield classes have been very strict: you only acquire themed gadgets and specific types of weapons. Engineers receive SMGs, recon gets snipers, support gets LMGs, and so forth. That’s the end of it. At the debut, Battlefield 2042 will contain ten specialists, which means ten distinct gadgets and abilities that may be combined with any weaponry. You may also switch between gun attachments on the fly, allowing you to, for example, zoom in on a sniper who is pestering you. It features a lot more loadout options than any Battlefield game has ever had.

DICE has thus far disclosed four experts. Here’s a rundown of who they are and what they do:

Wikus “Casper” Van Daele
Birthplace: 
South Africa
Class: Recon
Specialty: OV-P Recon Drone (what it sounds like, a remote control spotting drone)
Trait: Movement Sensor (he’s alerted to people sneaking up behind him, at least if they move too quickly)

Webster Mackay
Birthplace:
 Canada
Class: Assault
Specialty: Grappling Hook (the “zip and you’re there” kind, not the swinging kind)
Trait: Nimble (he moves fast)Advertisement

Maria Falck
Birthplace:
 Germany
Class: Support
Specialty: S21 Syrette Pistol (heals or revives from a distance, like Doc in Rainbow Six Siege)
Trait: Combat Surgeon (revives teammates to full health, instead of partial health)

Pyotr “Boris” Guskovsky
Birthplace:
 Russia
Class: Engineer
Specialty: SG-36 Sentry Gun (like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch’s turrets)
Trait: Sentry Operator (sentry guns are more effective when he’s nearby)

So, in Battlefield 2042, you may be a swift man with a grappling hook and a sniper rifle, or a distant healer with a machinegun, or a man with an automated sentry gun and an assault rifle, or any conceivable device and gun combination. It should be exciting! It also appears to be a significant balancing difficulty.

Modes

Battlefield may have finally succumbed and become a character shooter, but it hasn’t succumbed to another current trend: there is no battle royale mode and no plans to create one. Firestorm will not be returning, at least not for the time being. There is also no single-player narrative, however, you may play multiplayer-style battles completely against bots and advance that way if you like. Apparently, AI has improved significantly. (I’ll agree only if I witness a bot grab the helicopter I wanted, smash it into the side of a hill, and lie there for the remainder of the game to snipe.)

DICE’s nomenclature for the traditional Battlefield modes: point capture in Conquest and more linear attack-and-defend combat in Breakthrough is All-Out Warfare.

There are two mystery modes in addition to All-Out Warfare. Hazard Zone, for example, will be a high-risk, squad-focused option. That’s all DICE would say for the time being, but based on the description and the name, I believe we can safely assume that Dark Zone, Hunt: Showdown, and Escape from Tarkov have served as an influence. I’d be astonished if it’s not similar to those infiltration and extraction shooters.

DICE LA has devised a third mode, which will be shown at EA Play Live on July 22. It’s being billed as a “love letter” to Battlefield enthusiasts. In this situation, I have absolutely no notion what it is. Perhaps it’s a return-to-basics mode that reintroduces spending half the match sprinting and swimming? Is there going to be a Battlefield 1942 remake? Something smaller and more exploratory?

Setting and maps

The scenario is in that rather boring near-future frame where technology hasn’t become noticeably cooler—drones, robots, meh. The basic assumption is standard galactic brain speculation: A number of countries have crumbled as a result of global warming, leaving significant portions of the world’s people stateless. Naturally, stateless individuals (“Non-Patriated” or “No-Pats”) have organized elite mercenary forces that now fight for the United States and Russia—or perhaps for themselves. This will all be explored through seasonal updates in the absence of a single-player campaign.

The maps are visually appealing and feature large destructive set-pieces, such as the rocket on Orbital, which may either launch smoothly or not so smoothly.

Here are the seven All-Out Warfare maps that’ll be at launch, described in EA’s words:

  • Kaleidoscope: Set in Sogdo, South Korea. Forces here will clash to control a quantum-powered disinformation hub after an attack threatens the global network.
  • Manifest: Set in Brani Island, Singapore. Players will see a strategic flashpoint emerge as global trade chokes this location which is vital for the American supply lines.
  • Orbital: Set in Kourou, French Guiana. The battle here is over a rocket launch site as a controversial space launch becomes a race against time.
  • Discarded: Set in Alang, India. Here you see shipbreakers facing tidal extremes as factions fight to secure rogue nuclear assets.
  • Renewal: Set in the Eastern Desert, Egypt. Players will fight for a groundbreaking agriculture technology center in the Egyptian Desert.
  • Hourglass: Set in Doha, Qatar. Shifting sands and a lost shipping convoy tear a city center apart.
  • Breakaway: Set in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Struggle over oil and gas pushes soldiers to the brink as an industry clash with nature and ice gives way

Pre-launch and post-launch plans

A technical test for Battlefield 2042 will be held in early July for “players designated as Battlefield veterans.” They’ll be required to sign an NDA for that. Hazard Zone will be accessible to play early at some time before launch, and there will be an open beta for those who preordered.

After the betas, Battlefield 2042 will be released in full on October 22nd, rather than the traditional staggered release for subscribers. The PC version will be accessible on EA’s Origin shop as usual, but it will also be accessible on Steam and the Epic Game Store this time. Even if you buy it on Steam, it will likely start a mini-Origin client, but it’s still good to have Battlefield back.

The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S releases will be identical to the PC version, although the PS4 and Xbox One versions will only allow 64 players. EA declined to comment on whether PC/console crossplay will be accessible, but it’s a popular feature, so it’s plausible. If that’s the case, I doubt last-gen console owners will be allowed to participate because they’ll be getting a modified version of the game.

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