The next Battlefield game is called Battlefield 2042, and it’ll be out October 22. It’s set in the near-future (think Boston Dynamics robot dogs, not laser guns), but for once the setting isn’t the biggest thing to talk about. In fact, it’s the least interesting thing about Battlefield 2042, which I may never have said about another Battlefield game. Here are the important facts:
- The max player count has been doubled to 128 on PC and the new consoles
- The 128-player maps are divided into sectors containing clusters of control points; capture all the control points in a sector to control it
- Classes (engineer, assault, support, etc) are now categories that contain specialists. Each specialist has a backstory and unique gadget, but can carry any gun.
- Gadgets we’ve seen: A grappling hook, a health/revive gun (think Doc in Rainbow Six Siege), an auto-turret (think Team Fortress 2), a movement sensor (to catch people sneaking up on you while you’re sniping)
- 10 specialists at launch
- Free/premium battle passes
- Four seasons and four new specialists per year
- Post-launch maps will all be free
- “Levolution” is back, baby. What we’ve seen: tornadoes lift players and vehicles into a vortex, a sandstorm blots out the sky, a space rocket launches (or maybe explodes)
EveryoneOne guy has a wingsuit (Correction: I thought I’d heard wingsuits were universal, but EA tells me it isn’t so. It’s one specialist’s gadget, and that specialist hasn’t been revealed yet.)
- Some vehicles have spotter seats (a small detail but I like the sound of it)
- No battle royale, but there are some mystery modes
- No singleplayer campaign
- Release date: October 22, 2021
- PC stores: Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin
- Gameplay trailer reveal: Sunday, June 13
That’s a lot of information, so it’s probably for the best that the reveal trailer focuses on being fun more than explaining everything. The video isn’t all that tonally different from the Battlefield 5 reveal trailer—a montage of Fast and the Furious-style speed and violence—but there’s an enthusiastic self-awareness to it that comes off as more confident. The renditions of stupid Battlefield stunts are great.
I first saw the trailer last week under NDA when DICE introduced the game to press and influencers. A small part of the NDA from that event still remains in effect, but I can talk about all of the Battlefield 2042 design details DICE shared—the specialists, modes, maps, and so on—as well as the release and post-launch plans. Here are all the important details we have so far:
The most significant change is the doubled player count: 128 per match. It’s the first time Battlefield has strayed from the 64-player standard it established 19 years ago with Battlefield 1942, and it puts it into a small club of other 100-plus player shooters. (Scavengers can do over 9,000 players, but only in an experimental mode, and while you can technically get several hundred people fighting in PlanetSide 2, it’s nearly a decade old now. Call of Duty: Warzone is more comparable, and has done 200 players, but the experience wasn’t actually very fun.)
The increased player count is accommodated by bigger maps that are divided into sectors. Within each sector, there’s essentially a mini-Battlefield match playing out. In the standard Conquest mode, teams can hold a sector by holding all of the points within it. It sounds like you could spend all your time hanging out in one map sector, but there’s nothing stopping you from calling in a vehicle and heading elsewhere. The near-future tech doesn’t include mechs—sorry Nat!—but you can get a tank dropped from the sky with maneuvering thrusters. And yes, you can drop them on snipers to squash them like the cowardly house flies they are. (Please don’t do it to me if I’m sniping, though.)
What will likely be the most contentious change is the introduction of specialists. They’re sort of like Rainbow Six Siege operators in that they have names, backstories, and special gadgets and abilities, but they’re more flexible, because they can use any weapon you’ve unlocked. Battlefield class archetypes like ‘assault’ and ‘recon’ are still there, but DICE now describes them as categories which specialists will fit into.
It’s a huge change. Battlefield classes have been fairly strict until now: You get themed gadgets and only certain categories of weapon. Engineer gets SMGs, recon gets snipers, support get LMGs, etc. That’s all over. At launch, Battlefield 2042 will include 10 specialists, so that’s 10 unique gadgets and abilities which can be paired with any gun. You can also change your gun attachments on the fly, allowing you to, say, swap from close to long range optics to zoom in on a sniper who’s harassing you. It’s way more loadout decision making than has ever been in a Battlefield game.
So far, DICE has revealed four specialists. Here’s who they are and what they do:
Wikus “Casper” Van Daele
Birthplace: South Africa
Specialty: OV-P Recon Drone (what it sounds like, a remote control spotting drone)
Trait: Movement Sensor (he’s alerted to people sneaking up behind him, at least if they move too quickly)
Specialty: Grappling Hook (the ‘zip and you’re there’ kind, not the swinging kind)
Trait: Nimble (he moves fast)
Specialty: S21 Syrette Pistol (heals or revives from a distance, like Doc in Rainbow Six Siege)
Trait: Combat Surgeon (revives teammates to full health, instead of partial health)
Pyotr “Boris” Guskovsky
Specialty: SG-36 Sentry Gun (like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch’s turrets)
Trait: Sentry Operator (sentry guns are more effective when he’s nearby)
So, in Battlefield 2042, you can be a fast guy with a grappling hook and a sniper rifle, or a distance healer with a machinegun, or a guy with an automatic sentry gun and an assault rifle, or any other combination of gadget and gun. It should be interesting! It also sounds like a considerable balancing challenge.
Battlefield may have finally given in and become a character shooter, but it hasn’t been tempted again by that other modern shooter trend: There’s no battle royale mode, and there are no plans to make one. Firestorm is not returning, at least not for now. There’s no singleplayer campaign, either, although you will be able to play multiplayer-style matches entirely against bots and progress that way, if you want. Apparently the AI has gotten a lot better. (I’ll only agree when I see a bot steal the helicopter I wanted, crash it into the side of a hill, and lie down to snipe for the rest of the game.)
All-Out Warfare is the term DICE is using to encompass your standard Battlefield modes: Announced right now, the point capture of Conquest and the more linear attack-and-defend battles of Breakthrough.
Beyond All-Out Warfare, there are two mystery modes. One is called Hazard Zone, and will be a high-risk, squad-focused mode. That’s all DICE will say right now, but based on that description and the name, I think we’re pretty safe in assuming that inspiration has been taken from The Division’s Dark Zone, Hunt: Showdown, and Escape from Tarkov. I’d be surprised if it’s nothing at all like those infiltration and extraction shooters.
A third mode was created by DICE LA, and will be revealed at EA Play Live on July 22. It’s described as a “love letter” to fans of the Battlefield series. In this case, I really have no idea what it is. Maybe it’s a back-to-the-basics mode that reintroduces spending half the match running and swimming? A full Battlefield 1942 remake? Something smaller and more experimental?
Setting and maps
As for the setting, it’s in that somewhat disappointing near-future window where technology hasn’t gotten significantly cooler—drones, robots, meh. The premise is the usual galaxy brain speculation: Due to global warming, a number of the world’s countries have collapsed, leaving large parts of Earth’s population stateless. Naturally, stateless people (“Non-Patriated” or “No-Pats”) have formed elite mercenary armies who now fight on behalf of the US and Russia—or maybe for themselves. Without a singleplayer campaign, this’ll all be explored through the seasonal updates.
The maps look cool, and have big destruction set-pieces, such as the rocket on Orbital, which can either have a smooth launch or a not-so-smooth launch. (I asked whether players could affect that outcome, and didn’t get an answer, but probably yes.)
Here are the seven All-Out Warfare maps that’ll be at launch, described in EA’s words:
- Kaleidoscope: Set in Sogdo, South Korea. Forces here will clash to control a quantum powered disinformation hub after an attack threatens the global network.
- Manifest: Set in Brani Island, Singapore. Players will see a strategic flashpoint emerge as global trade chokes this location which is vital for the American supply lines.
- Orbital: Set in Kourou, French Guiana. The battle here is over a rocket launch site as a controversial space launch becomes a race against time.
- Discarded: Set in Alang, India. Here you see shipbreakers facing tidal extremes as factions fight to secure rogue nuclear assets.
- Renewal: Set in the Eastern Desert, Egypt. Players will fight for a groundbreaking agriculture technology centre in the Egyptian Desert.
- Hourglass: Set in Doha, Qatar. Shifting sands and a lost shipping convoy tear a city center apart.
- Breakaway: Set in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Struggle over oil and gas that pushes soldiers to the brink as an industry clashes with nature and ice gives way
Pre-launch and post-launch plans
The next thing we’ll see is the first gameplay trailer, which will be shown this Sunday, June 13.
There’ll be a Battlefield 2042 technical test in early July for “players identified as Battlefield veterans.” They’ll be under NDA for that. At some point before launch, Hazard Zone will be available to play early, and there’ll be an open beta for those who preordered.
It doesn’t sound like EA is doing its old-style staggered release for subscribers—after the betas, Battlefield 2042 will release in full on October 22. As usual, the PC version will be available on EA’s Origin store, but this time it’ll also be on Steam and the Epic Games Store. It’ll definitely launch a mini-Origin client even if you buy it on Steam, but it’s still nice to have Battlefield there again.
One interesting note about the console versions: The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S releases will be the same as the PC version, but the PS4 and Xbox One versions will only support 64 players. EA wouldn’t say whether PC/console crossplay will be available, but it’s a trendy feature, so it’s possible. If so, I doubt last-gen console owners will be able to join in, since they’re getting a tweaked version of the game.
Who’s making Battlefield 2042?
Swedish developer DICE remains at the helm for the next Battlefield game, although offshoot studio DICE LA is working on something Battlefield-related, too—DICE LA senior design director Justin Wiebe said as much on Twitter recently.
Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella (whose career can be traced back to Medal of Honor: Allied Assault and the original Call of Duty) is leading DICE LA, and recently said that he wants to rebrand the studio to express that it’ll make its own games in the future. That somewhat contradicts the news that it’s working on Battlefield, but maybe it’s multi-tasking. Right now, we don’t know whether the LA studio is working on the same Battlefield as DICE HQ—a mode for it, maybe—or if it’s working on a different Battlefield game.
Over in Sweden, Oskar Gabrielson continues to lead DICE as general manager. He took that title in 2016, and has been managing DICE games since 2012.
Need For Speed studio Criterion is also getting involved now. Earlier in 2021, EA announced that the next Need For Speed is delayed so that Criterion can support DICE on Battlefield.
“[Battlefield] is shaping up great, the team has been working incredibly hard, they pushed hard last year, and yes, we have been working from home,” said chief studio officer Laura Miele. “And it’s hard; it’s hard to make games from home, and the [EA DICE] team is fatigued a bit.”
Calling in Criterion may seem like an odd choice at first, but they have history working with DICE. They’ve previously backed up EA DICE on Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront 2, and Battlefield 5.
Will snipers still spend the whole match lying on a hill?
Would it be a Battlefield game if they didn’t?