I’m going to cut to the chase: tornadoes are a fantastic addition to Battlefield 2042. It’s been years since a game has made me smile like this. It takes three matches before a telltale funnel cloud finally forms, and when it does everybody – all 128 players – drops what they’re doing and heads straight towards the tempest, which welcomes them by plucking them from the ground and spinning them around like spiders in a vacuum cleaner. Shipping containers, attack helicopters, and jeeps join the party, occasionally slamming into the puny soldiers and sending their remains ragdolling back to earth.
As you might expect, there’s not much you can actually do while being flung around by 120mph winds. Open your chute and you’ll be whisked around the tornado’s periphery in relative safety, free to take pot shots at any enemies you hurtle past. Cut your chute and you can dive deeper into the cyclone or slingshot away from it, which, depending on whether or not you’ve lost your bearings by now, will either dump you out of bounds or deliver you to a vantage point you couldn’t reach before. Of course, you might just fly straight into the side of a building. Or a crane. Or an airborne pickup truck.
128 players rushing towards a lethal tornado to have a big, dumb fight in the clouds. Simply exquisite. Others may disagree, and there’s certainly a case to be made for 2042’s tornadoes being too disruptive, but sometimes you need a game to encourage you to just have some fun. Turns out DICE can be very persuasive.
I should point out that all of this action is taking place on Orbital, which has a rocket launch as its centrepiece – and no, it doesn’t always go to plan. It says a great deal about Battlefield 2042 that sabotaging a space rocket and watching a small percentage of the map go up in smoke is a relatively mundane set piece.
Set on the lush coastline of French Guiana, Orbital is one of 2042’s medium-sized maps, which is ludicrous given it’s more than four times the size of Battlefield V’s Narvik. It’s also gorgeous: a slice of rugged hillside jutting out from a carpet of rich, pine-green vegetation. At its core is the launch site, which carves up the wild landscape with two giant, utilitarian structures and a cluster of surrounding maintenance tunnels and hangars. This is where the majority of the action takes place, and could easily be a conquest map on its own, with the launch pad and assembly building acting as perfect opposing capture points. There’s space outside for vehicles while the tunnels and warehouses allow for close-quarters fighting, with plenty of sniper nests for good measure.
It's been years since a game has made me smile like this
You can’t afford to focus entirely on the launch site though, as there are a couple of capture points based on the ridge above that cater to slower, more drawn-out squad battles, and a cryogenic plant to the south for intense, fast-paced skirmishes. This is a cleverly designed map where you really can employ any style of combat provided you’re in the right area. There’s also an abundance of elevators and rappels that make reaching vantage points considerably easier. This opens up some of the more heavily congested areas on the map, both for aggressive flanks and if you just want to avoid an incoming tank.
It’s just one map, but it feels like a perfect storm (you know, because tornadoes) of Battlefield’s key elements. There are distinct pockets of action and each area feels like a different type of fight. There are glimpses of ARMA 3 in the hilltop clashes, the tunnels that connect each area create good choke points for anyone who misses the iconic Metro map, and the wide-open crawlerway is a dream for tank commanders.
Specialists feel like a natural step forward for the series, separating Battlefield’s class-based abilities from their traditional loadouts so that medics can roam around with snipers and scouts can lay down suppressive fire with LMGs. The result is exactly as intended: players are finally choosing their role based on the ability they want, rather than the weapon class it’s tied to. I’ve always loved playing a medic in Battlefield games, but I also love taking down tanks and silently assassinating enemies from a hillside perch. The change to specialists means I can do all three in one life, and it’s so damn refreshing.
DICE has sanded down some of the series' harsher edges
Not all specialists are created equal, however. While I had no trouble finding a use for medic Falck and assault trooper Mackay, whose grappling hook can be used to rapidly scale buildings, the ghillie-suited Casper and turret expert Boris both seem a little too situational for Battlefield 2042’s chaotic pace.
But I think I’m happiest about the changes to weapon handling. While the Battlefield series has always excelled in terms of audiovisual feedback, recoil control and aiming have always felt floaty and loose. In 2042, however, there’s a weighty swing when you bring an LMG up to your face to shoot – it really rocks up to your shoulder – and when you pull the trigger each shot punches the muzzle upwards, leaving tiny perceptible gaps between rounds where you can correct the recoil.
The new plus system – which lets you seamlessly swap weapon attachments in the heat of battle – isn’t going to win over the realistic military shooter crowd, but it’s a change that takes a lot of the frustration out of Battlefield’s multiplayer. Spending a couple of minutes sprinting towards a firefight only to realise I should have taken a 3x scope rather than a red dot is a scenario I’m glad I’ll never have to endure again.
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It’s a tweak that’s representative of 2042’s design philosophy: less friction, more action. DICE has sanded down some of the series’ harsher edges, and the result is a polished – albeit not necessarily in the technical, bug-fixing sense of the term – multiplayer shooter with an unprecedented emphasis on fun, whether that’s quicker access to gunfights, more flexible loadouts, or getting sucked up into a tornado and spat out into the rotor blades of a helicopter gunship.
The Battlefield 2042 open beta kicks off this week, you can find more details on pre-load, how to gain access, and timings via the link.