Hunkered down behind a hill, I set up a turret at the peak to ward off any US soldiers who may try to make their way over the top. My squad has captured the sector and we need to secure it while the rest of our 64-player team attempts to capture the other sectors within Battlefield 2042’s Orbital map. Just as we think we’ve got the hold on the area, I hear the rumble of an engine and suddenly a quad bike comes speeding over the hill, flying through the air and ultimately taking out a handful of team members before crashing into a wall. It’s a surreal moment and, despite the casualties, I can’t help but laugh – this is quintessential Battlefield.
Playing the Battlefield 2042 open beta, there were many moments such as this that really hit home the sheer absurdity of it all. What adds to this absurdity is the sheer size of the map itself, 128-players battling it out for control of the majority of sectors within this massive map. When developer EA Dice called Battlefield 2042 the “most ambitious” series entry to date, it wasn’t lying.
Battlefield 2042 is overwhelming at times, but that’s exactly what makes it so enjoyable. Just don’t attempt to take it too seriously.
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Don’t go in the tunnel
The Battlefield 2042 open beta grants players access to the game’s All-Out War multiplayer mode, dropping players into a 128-player match (64 players on each side) within the Orbital map, set in Kourou, French Guiana. The map sees you battling over a rocket launch site as a “controversial space launch becomes a race against time”. In the beta, it’s not quite clear why the rocket launch is controversial, but it makes for a brilliant chaotic set-piece as the match progresses.
The Battlefield 2042 open beta grants access to four Specialists: Wikus “Casper” Van Daele, Webster MacKay, Pyotr “Boris” Guskovsky and Maria Falck. Each Specialist has its own class: Maria, for example, is Support, and so should be healing up fallen comrades, while Casper is Recon and so stealth is his speciality. Each Specialist can use any loadout but has a specific cool gadget that’s unique only to them – such as Boris’aforementioned turret that only he can set up.
While I tried out each of the Specialists, Boris was my guy. His turret provided me with the extra cover I so desperately needed as I got to grips with Battlefield 2042 and the swarming enemy soldiers that scurried around the map like aggressive ants at a picnic.
That’s perhaps the biggest benefit from Battlefield 2042’s increased player size: there’s just no letting up. While you won’t constantly run into a plethora of enemies constantly, you will nearly always come across someone wherever you are. Sure, the map has scaled with the player size, but I never struggled to find an enemy or a teammate when on foot, and there are so many players that the action never stops.
But it’s in Battlefield 2042’s “clusters,” as developer EA Dice calls them, that the real fun happens. Clusters are points within sectors that naturally encourage players to swarm, resulting in big ol’ firefights. The best experience I had with a cluster was in a tunnel system in a northern sector of the map. The tunnel system was dark and definitely filled with enemies but, as my team was losing control of the sector, we decided to push through the tunnel in an effort to clear it out. There were plenty of us after all.
As we moved through the darkness, I saw a glint of light and immediately knew it was all over. An evil Boris had set up his turret out of the line of sight within the tunnel, meaning we were down the stairs before we knew it was there – myself and fellow team members were quickly gunned down, while a few more fought valiantly on, the flash of their guns lighting up the darkness. We probably should have expected that. The next time, we were more prepared, coming in with grenades to take out the troublesome turret before pushing the US out of the system and claiming victory.
The clusters are brilliant and they mean that, wherever you go, there is action happening. At one point I was simply walking to a destination and overhead a vicious dogfight was taking place. It made me feel like a very small cog in a much larger machine, but in the best possible way.
Team work makes the dream work – tornados aside
Our venture into the tunnel probably would have been more successful had voice chat been working. While I was running a Discord voice chat with one other journalist I knew, the feature was unavailable in-game (at least during the open beta we played), preventing us from sharing our thoughts and plans with our team members. It meant that teams were mostly running around like headless chickens, which isn’t ideal for maps of this size.
What’s more, due to the number of players, the teams are split into squads of about five, with each squad meant to play its own role in the overall victory. Without voice chat, this just didn’t happen. While I could see my squadmates within the map, highlighted in green, I had no idea what they had planned. Spoiler: mostly trying to blow up the rocket (which you can do after it initiates its launch sequence). But even if we had been allowed to voice chat, which will be possible in the full release, I don’t think we would have been much more organized. Battlefield 2042 seems to encourage play rather than competition. Sure, you don’t want to lose, but most players seemed to be spending the time exploring all the features on offer – possibly because, in the beta, it was their first time playing the game.
The moment a tornado ripped through the map, everyone dropped what they were doing and headed for the swirling beast. I drove a tank into the eye of the tornado, amidst a sea of parachuting soldiers and thrashing jet fighters, just to see what would happen – after all, I only saw one during my three-hour playtime so this was my chance. Unsurprisingly, but very pleasingly, my tank was thrown across the battlefield. Less pleasingly, it threw me into an out-of-bounds zone and my tank blew up.
I’m not a huge first-person shooter fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Battlefield 2042 open beta. That’s mainly because it felt like more than an FPS, instead offering a chaotic playground where anything could happen – and likely would happen – and because I didn’t feel the competitive pressure that I can do with games such as Call of Duty.
But that lack of pressure is a double-edged sword. Those who want to take a more competitive approach will likely have to put up with players who simply want to have fun, while those who want to just have fun will likely be nagged by those who want to win. While the roll-out of Battlefield Portal may see those who want to ‘play’ pivoting towards that mode, or even towards the unrevealed Hazard Mode, those playing All-Out War will likely have to put up with the nuisance to a degree – at least until the novelty wears off.
What I advise is, during the beta period, don’t take Battlefield 2042 too seriously. Run someone over with a tank, crash a jet into a rocket and even parachute into a tornado – the serious stuff can come later.
The Battlefield 2042 open beta is live now, so if you want to jump in and experience the game for yourself, you can do so now. Check out our guide on how to play the Battlefield 2042 beta.