A ‘Battlefield’ under fire

Rather than setting off with a hiss and a roar, Battlefield 2042 has stalled somewhat on start-up...
Rather than setting off with a hiss and a roar, Battlefield 2042 has stalled somewhat on start-up. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
From: EA
For: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X,
Xbox One, PC

Stop me if you have heard this before.

And stop me if I have written this a dozen times in recent years.

Majorly-hyped game from extremely wealthy company gets released. Game turns out to be in basically a half-finished state. Gamers express emotions ranging from disappointment to anger. Company swings into damage control mode, pumps out a bunch of fixes and, eventually, the game gets good.

It should perhaps be no surprise that the latest game in the wildly popular Battlefield series has followed this script so closely.

This is, well, just how it seems to be with modern games, which can be tweaked and improved so easily with patches. If a gaming company is lucky, the fix comes quickly enough — or with enough cool features — to keep the community happy (think No Man’s Sky). But if things go bad, things go very bad (Cyberpunk 2077, ugh).

My suspicion is that Battlefield 2042 will eventually be just fine, that the game will work seamlessly and all the little first-person multiplayer shooter fans around the world will stop complaining.

But this is yet another example of a game burning through some early goodwill.

While BF 2042 has not experienced anywhere near the amount of bugs that killed Cyberpunk, there have certainly been enough to make you grind your teeth.

Screen freezes and full game crashes have been on the niggly side, but the real frustration has been over loadout issues. Time and time again, your loadout — basically, the gear and weaponry you have marked as your favourite — gets wiped completely.

The game also launched with no voice communication tool — a bizarre omission for a multiplayer game that often has you playing in squads with strangers — and no scoreboard.

And one final quibble: most of the game’s seven maps feature wide open spaces that make combat both boring and, frequently, frustrating as you die, respawn, travel for miles then quickly die again.

So, no wonder the PC version of the game was eviscerated on Steam, or that BF 2042 was overtaken in player numbers by, gasp, Farming Simulator 22.

But it’s not all bad.

The glitchy stuff is already getting patched. Elements like full voice comms will be introduced. And when BF 2042 works, it works really well.

It has always been a series about warfare on a grand scale, and the introduction of cross-play and 128-player battles only expands that ambition.

I’m an irregular participant in multiplayer first-person shooters — constantly getting smoked by teenagers with faster reactions is no party — so when I play, I just want to have fun. And this, perhaps more than any Battlefield game since Hardline, is very fun.

Set in a future that really is not that far away, the game includes some fun new weapons and cool gadgets like deployable turrets, as well as the ability to occasionally call in vehicles so you don’t have to waste too much time running across the map.

Gunplay is generally quite smooth, and there are satisfying moments to be had when the action is at close quarters.

Some have grizzled about the overhaul of the class system and the introduction of characters who have some unique skills but can wield any of the weapons and gadgets you unlock, but I kind of like it.

Gameplay modes are limited but that is potentially not going to be an issue as the work-in-progress ‘‘Portal’’ mode, which allows gamers to create customised scenarios using maps from previous Battlefield games, could change the game entirely in the coming years.

I’m a bit disappointed the game has no single-player mode at all, but that could just be me showing my age.

BF 2042 is not awful. It’s also not great. Let’s come back in a year and see how it develops.

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