It's a little strange playing Battlefield 2042 after the rough year its had. What was once thought as the third coming of Christ in FPS form turned out to be one of the worst launches in gaming history, completely alienating its fanbase and sending 2042 into a death spiral that it seems to have narrowly avoided.
This may seem like a cheap shot at Battlefield 2042 (we all know the story, after all), but I was once one of those poor sheep rewatching gameplay trailers and fawning over the grappling hooks. I was ready to give it all to 2042 and got burnt in the process, like so many others.
Thus the prospect of returning to 2042 three seasons later is a unique chance to see how far it’s come and if it’s managed to turn things around. I’ve seen DICE work its comeback magic before with Battlefront 2, after all, so why can’t this be any different?
It still has a way to go, but almost a year after launch, Battlefield 2042 feels like a much more stable and enjoyable game than ever before, a boon bolstered by Season 3’s great new map and specialist options. The bridge can’t be unburnt, but for lapsed Battlefield fans, it might be worth taking the long way around.
My preview focused entirely on the third season’s new content, including a new map set in Sweden called Spearhead, and a new assault-focused Specialist named Zain, alongside some new weapons and vehicles.
The biggest new addition here is the new map, and it feels pretty unique thanks to its lack of verticality. Spearhead is about as big as you’d expect a Battlefield map to be, the majority of which features hilly Swedish wilderness that’s practically begging for snipers to camp on, and some massive arms factories for close-quarters indoor combat. You can get up to a higher vantage point if you’re clever, but it doesn't feel like it suits the map, at least when I was playing Breakthrough and Conquest.
It’s pretty strange for a Battlefield map to be so boots-on-the-ground focused, but it works well in making Spearhead feel new, and I loved its more intense gunfights that took place within the Mirror’s Edge-esque factories. It’s going to be polarising for those players who still look back fondly on maps like Siege of Shanghai, but I think it’s a good change, especially when combined with the new Specialist.
Like most other Battlefield fans, I’ve never been a big fan of the Specialist system, but Zain feels like one of the stronger ones so far. Although his air-burst rifle doesn’t clear enemies out from cover as it was supposed to (I guess not everyone’s a big a scaredy-cat Battlefield player like me), his passive ability lets him heal as he kills enemies. This speeds up combat significantly and makes it feel more in line with something like Modern Warfare 2.
At the moment, Zain’s passive does make him feel a bit more overpowered compared to the other Specialists, at least from my limited time with them, but his most assault-focused gameplay feels like a big enough draw to those who feel Battlefield can be a bit too slow at times.
Aside from some new weapons and vehicles that I only had a limited time to mess around with and couldn’t get a great handle on, that’s really all that Season 3 has to offer, and, at its core, it’s still just more of the same Battlefield experience. Until the promised Specialist reworking coming in Season 3 that I didn’t get to preview here, it's just more of the same content, and not too much of it at that.
For consistent Battlefield 2042 players, that’s probably going to be a bit of a letdown, but for lapsed players, I think it could be the perfect time to jump back in and give Battlefield another chance. For me, this small preview of Battlefield 2042 was like seeing the game with fresh eyes and getting a glimpse into what could be.
Sprinting around the battlefield and hearing explosions on all ends, sticking close to your squadmates and forming a strong bond for an imperceivable half-an-hour of your life, and raging as someone else picks the vehicle you’d had your eye on – that’s all Battlefield, and it was all present here without a bug in sight.
I’m not sure that Battlefield 2042 can ever recover from its launch and be the juggernaut that EA was hoping for, and I’m not sure whether Escalation and its more ground warfare-based combat will appeal to all fans, but it was enough to make me think about giving 2042 a second chance. Considering it has some trial weekends coming up, it might just be the perfect time for some forgiveness.
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