128 players sure is some good marketing juice. ‘Bigger than ever’, ‘more explosive’, etc, etc, is the perfect sort of jargon to get people to buy Battlefield 2042, and the big player number fits neatly into my tinfoil-hat narrative that 2042 was always meant to be a battle royale. Turns out, I hate it. Lots of people hate it. Something went very wrong here. In a game with over 100 players in a lobby, how is it possible to feel this lonely?
Battlefield 2042’s maps are not designed well enough for 128 players, the game struggles to run smoothly (even on high-end PCs), and the total chaos of vehicle spam reaches a keyboard-smashing level. It’s not that this many players in a match isn’t feasible – other games, like Hell Let Loose, manage just fine – but it just doesn’t work in 2042. You die to vehicles constantly, most fights you have with a player are interrupted by someone else shooting you in the back, and the lack of cover on the horribly bare maps adds to the disappointment pie. Nothing makes this more obvious than the 64 player Breakthrough and Conquest modes recently added to the game.
64 player Conquest is the closest to Battlefield that 2042 has felt so far. There are quiet moments, moments where you can appreciate the radio from inside your vehicle, the slow trudge of your squadmates across the dunes, and intense gunfights between you and a single enemy soldier – the sort of stuff that balances out all the chaos. These aren’t boring moments. They’re moments I haven’t been able to experience because I’m usually getting gunned down by a Nightbird for the sixteenth time. It could be my nostalgia for the classic 64 player rhythm and pace, but even 2042’s maps feel better when shrunk down to accommodate the smaller player number. Yeah. Those terrible maps are actually alright, it turns out.
The majority of my Conquest games with 64 players have been tightly fought, coming down to 20 or 30 points at times. Your impact on the map is amplified because there are fewer players. You can make more interesting flanking runs and objective captures because there aren’t 15 players sitting at the back of the map with snipers or in a Bolte. If you play one of the original Battlefield soundtracks over your gameplay, it almost feels like a real Battlefield.
The more subdued Battlefield experience makes me miss what DICE has labeled ‘legacy features’: the lack of a scoreboard or dedicated servers. These are problems that I have overlooked until now because the core gameplay is so distractingly bad. I would love to be able to stick with the same squad in the next match, the smaller player count means you actually interact and play with your teammates. The matches are much tighter. We deserve a rematch, but the game says nope. On to the next lobby with you. Reading the scoreboard is the perfect way to judge yourself against the enemy team and give you an idea if you’re actually doing anything to help. Give me something to play for.
As well as missing features, there are still balance problems with 64 players. Some bright spark somewhere decided not to reduce the numbers of vehicles in 64 Conquest and Breakthrough, so you still die a lot to them. Some of the maps feel awkward in Breakthrough specifically, with the attackers having too much of an advantage. The maps still lack cover in general and still look like everything’s made out of plastic.
But I’ll still log on to play later. The smaller player count just about makes 2042 playable. There is a lot of work to be done on this newest iteration in the series, but it’s clearly not the end of the series as we know it. If the 64 player mode is removed, I’ll do what everyone else seems to be doing: revisit the older Battlefield games. They’re still brilliant, and they do it with 64 players on a server.
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