For some Battlefield fans, last weekend's Battlefield 2042 (opens in new tab) open beta lowered their expectations for the full game, which will release this November after a month-long delay.
"I've had Battlefield disappoint me before, but this is the first time I actually thought the inherent core game was bad," wrote Reddit user TerrorFirmerIRL (opens in new tab), who said they cancelled their Battlefield 2042 pre-order following their experience with the beta.
Former Battlefield esports competitor Xfactor (opens in new tab), who currently streams (opens in new tab) Apex Legends and other games, had similar feelings. Battlefield 2042 is "flawed from a fundamental Battlefield shooter perspective," he told PC Gamer this week. Not only was the beta unacceptably buggy to him—a flashback to Battlefield 5's launch—it featured "dumbed down" guns and other identity lapses.
My experience in the beta was often frustrating, but when I squadded up with some friends—we could only get three of us in a game, annoyingly—I had a good time playing tank commander and running around at the foot of a rocket ship. I also enjoyed bothering snipers with a flying drone, as seen in the gif below; Clearly I am not a player of Xfactor's caliber.
Morgan enjoyed the beta, too, and we weren't alone in having fun despite the some obvious flaws. "Most people I know IRL really liked the game," wrote TiToim (opens in new tab) on the Battlefield subreddit, "so I guess the small hater percentage come here on social media to express themselves."
Wherever players came down on the Battlefield 2042 beta, no one's denying that it was buggy as hell. One of the bugs highlighted by Xfactor is a returning bug from Battlefield 5, he says. A video he posted on Twitter shows a player seemingly materializing behind him after firing a couple silent gunshots.
Battlefield 2042 has player position issues when you quickly turn your field of view. Often times when you quickly do this players can move 2-20 feet in a single frame and vehicles can move a few hundred? How bout invisible players being back again? This happened a lot. pic.twitter.com/WTcot9thKSOctober 8, 2021
DICE says that some of the issues that were present in the beta are already fixed in the version of Battlefield 2042 that's being prepped for November. The beta was also very limited: One map and mode accessible through a stripped down UI. Not everyone is convinced that the spacetime anomalies they experienced in the beta will be resolved by launch, though.
And even if the launch were wholly bug free (unlikely), plenty of design complaints would remain for players like Xfactor. Another big target of criticism are Battlefield 2042's new specialists, which replace the usual classes. Like Rainbow Six Siege operators, specialists are characters who carry unique gadgets such as a healing pistol and grappling hook. Unlike Siege operators, they can otherwise carry any gun and equipment loadout. A sniper can have anti-tank rockets, an LMG user can have anti-air missiles. There are ammo crates, but who wants anything other than rockets and missiles and C5? (That's futuristic C4, I believe.)
"You can't tell who is next to you and who you are shooting," said Xfactor. "How do you prepare or counter that?"
There will be more specialists in Battlefield 2042's release version, so you won't necessarily see so many duplicates running around, although that won't necessarily help with identifying loadouts. Fans who are fundamentally opposed to the change have started looking to 2042's other offerings for hope, namely Battlefield Portal.
Portal will allow players to design and play custom game modes that pull weapons, vehicles, and maps from Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, and Battlefield 2042. If it works, it could be an ideal answer to fans who don't like the new-style Conquest mode: Go to Portal and find a group of players who are using Battlefield 3 classes instead of specialists.
A third Battlefield 2042 mode, called Hazard Zone, was revealed this week, and its Escape from Tarkov-inspired design may also be a draw for those turned off by the standard "All-Out Warfare" playlist from the beta. A common theme among the reactions is that specialists make more sense in Hazard Zone (and should be quarantined with it).
The cycle repeats?
Complicating any attempt to use the Battlefield 2042 beta reaction to predict how the full game will be received is that opinions on which Battlefield games are good and which are part of Satan's plan are eternally in flux. Today, Battlefield 1 is widely considered a shining star in the series, but some of the comments about its beta were just as harsh as today's comments about the Battlefield 2042 beta.
"I thought [Battlefield 1] was ridiculous and won't be buying it, even though I am a fan of BF4," said one commenter in 2016. Other players complained that Battlefield 1 was too much like Call of Duty and that no one was reviving them, complaints which are exactly mirrored in some of today's criticisms of the Battlefield 2042 beta.
Most surprisingly, the once-reviled Battlefield 5 is now good according to a seemingly large number of players. In a popular Reddit comment from this week, for instance, a fan laments that Battlefield 2042 lacks features that were present in previous Battlefields, including building sandbag walls in Battlefield 5—a feature I don't recall anyone seriously caring about after BF5 launched.
This seemingly widespread change of heart comes in part from all the improvements DICE has made to Battlefield 5, but probably also has to do with audience turnover. BF5's harshest critics from 2018 aren't necessarily the people playing and talking about it today. (I often have to remind myself that when people talk about preferring "old" Battlefield, they usually mean Battlefield 3 or Battlefield 4, not Battlefield 1942.)
Fans in the Battlefield subreddit are joking about the predictable cycle of Battlefield praise and criticism.
"It is the law. No Battlefield game can be truly loved until the successor has had a buggy beta," wrote user Apokolypze in response to a post celebrating Battlefield 5.
If the Battlefield beta reaction seems especially harsh this time, it may be because EA and DICE did a good job of presenting 2042 as a game made for longtime fans. The Battlefield 2042 reveal trailer got a lot of people excited for a multiplayer-only Battlefield game that 'gets' what they like about the series, and EA is calling it "the grand return of all-out warfare." Meanwhile, Battlefield Portal has been described as a "love letter" to fans of the series, and DICE's attempt at a more modern mode, Hazard Zone, isn't being stuffed in after the fact like BF5's Firestorm battle royale mode. What I hear from all that is: 'We've learned our lessons from Battlefield 5.' That perhaps helps explain why the reappearance of old Battlefield 5 bugs in the 2042 open beta led to some unusually heightened feelings of disappointment. (But not that unusually heightened.)
As a fairly laid back enjoyer of Battlefield games—I'd rather not publish my K/D ratio, in other words—I didn't hate the Battlefield 2042 beta. Still, I'm in the camp that really hopes Battlefield Portal is more than a novelty. It's what I'm most looking forward to when Battlefield 2042 releases on November 19.