Here's the thing: Battlefield 2042 is really good now

battlefield 2042 season 4
(Image credit: DICE)

In a week that's stacked with exciting updates and betas for shooters, the only one that I want to play is Battlefield 2042. It's the second time I've returned to the least-liked Battlefield in history, except this time I'm having as much fun as the glory days of Battlefield 3 and 4. 

I'm not the only one either: the vibes are shockingly good in the world of Battlefield. Where there used to be an endless feed of complaints, demands, and general outrage on the Battlefield 2042 subreddit there are now funny match highlights, rational balancing suggestions, and this Sundance player doing absolutely impossible things with throwing knives. In other words: it's a normal videogame community.

What's changed recently? The shift has been gradual over the past year, but the last few patches in particular have transformed how 2042 is played, particularly January's 3.2 patch which brought back classes.

I cannot overstate how good 2042's class system is, particularly because it's not just a reversion to classic Battlefield. Specialists are still completely intact with unique gadgets and passive abilities, but they exist within a larger class framework that limits which secondary they can access—a marriage of old and new that, for this grizzled early 2010s BF fan, has brought back a spark I never felt in the BF1 or BF5 days. 

For the first time, I'm actually playing a specific role and not a mishmash of every class at once. There's a calming effect to that, because back when every specialist could use any gadget, I'd feel the constant pressure to swap my med pack or armor plates for an objectively more useful rocket launcher. Now with specialized gadget selection, I can confidently play a medic and design my kit completely around keeping people alive (tip: the smoke launcher is clutch for risky revives) and leave anti-armor combat to the experts.

I'm actually playing a specific role and not a mishmash of every class at once.

All four classes also have a "class gadget" that you always have no matter what: engineers have a repair tool, supports carry defibrillators, recon gets a spawn beacon, and assaults have a quick med syringe good for one HP refill. Placing these in a special slot was smart, because it ensures every class can always do their most important job (like repair or revive).

The new (old) class structure is welcome, but the specialists add a lot of variety too. The newest assault guy, Zain, is great. His signature gadget is an airfoil launcher (like the one Sam Fisher used to lug around) that can lock onto a designated distance and explode midair to tag players hiding behind cover. I enjoy that, even if I don't get much use from his situational gadget, I always benefit from his passive that triggers a heal after getting a kill.

Battlefield 2042's latest Season 4 update was also pretty big too, adding a new map, new specialist, four weapons, and a new light armor tank that has approximately eight machineguns strapped to it. Combine all that with everything else added in the last year and what I'm experiencing is more like a major expansion. 

Some other observations after very fun week of Battlefield 2042:

  • I love all four maps added since launch: Stranded, Exposure, Spearhead, and Flashpoint
  • There's a rail gun now? It can be configured to be a long-range rifle, SMG, or a shotgun. Ridiculously cool.
  • One engineer specialist, Lis, has a manually controlled rocket launcher that I've become obsessed with mastering
  • I didn't see the big deal about scoreboards when 2042 launched without one, but now that it's there, I do enjoy comparing my stats against everyone else
  • You can finally equip defibrillators and zap enemies for an instant kill, which is just the best
  • DICE has slowly been adding the deep vault of classic Battlefield Portal weapons to the main game. I can main the Bad Company 2 GOL sniper like it's 2010!

Another thing I missed in my time away from Battlefield: its absurdly cool maps. It's a shame I stopped playing 2042 just before it got Exposure, a Canadian map that's half forest, half gigantic cliff face that looks like something generated in Minecraft. Just look at this place:

Jump into a match and you can feel the turnaround happening.

I'm even digging the Season 4 battle pass. Not so much because of what's in it, though I have been unlocking the new weapons and gadgets at a steady pace, but because of how you progress through it. Similar to Apex Legends, every tier requires around ten battle pass points. You can get a lot of points in a single match just for doing well or through weekly challenges that hand them out like candy. I'm surprisingly eager to complete them, probably because challenge goals like "get 20 hipfire kills" or "use this gadget in a weird way" fits a non-serious shooter like Battlefield better than Overwatch or Rainbow Six.

After a year of eating crow for releasing Battlefield 2042 with lots of bugs and deeply unpopular design changes, it's nice to see DICE has found its footing. Jump into a match and you can feel the turnaround happening. This past week, in-game chat has been a positive and constructive place.

My teams have been complimenting each other's driving skills, politely (and often impatiently) requesting air support, and filling the post-game feed with GGs. That's a major improvement over launch week, when chat was almost exclusively exasperated complaints and refund requests.

The only shame in it all is that, just as Battlefield 2042 is entering its prime and player numbers are on the rise, DICE is winding down on new stuff. Season 4's specialist, Blasco, will apparently be the game's last. There will apparently be a Year 2 with at least one new map and more cosmetics, so at least we'll have that. I'm just glad that, until whatever's next for the series, there's finally a great modern Battlefield from this decade.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.