I stare down at the dirt beneath my feet, motionless. Wrapped around my trembling fingers are a set of dog tags that once belonged to a man whose name I do not know. His blood is on my hands, his life taken in the name of a battle we likely will not win. My fractured mind can no longer register the hellish sound of gunfire, though I know the enemy draws near, and so does my demise. As the last vestiges of hope leave my soul, the very earth begins to quake. The all-too-familiar sound of tank treads sailing through mud cuts through the deafening silence as light returns to my eyes. The reinforcements rouse our spirits, inspiring a final attempt at the victory that none of us thought possible. With our lungs filled with renewed vigour and our weapons raised, we charged at near-certain death to take back what was once ours and lay claim to the day.
That, right there, is what the Battlefield series is all about. Sure, I may have gotten a little carried away with the theatrics, but moments like that are why I love this series above all other shooters and multiplayer titles.
Though I had played other games in the series prior, my infatuation with Battlefield truly began with Bad Company 2. The campaign detailing a quirky band of militarised misfits captured my imagination, but the online multiplayer had my heart. Squadding up with a high school friend and learning the ropes was an unforgettable experience. Starting out, being amazed by the scope and size of Atacama Desert, learning the C4 strapped to a quadbike trick during a match on Nelson Bay, trying and failing to cultivate my sniping skills on Panama Canal, these are all moments that ensured I would be a fan for life.
My first love
If Bad Company was my first love, Battlefield 3 must be my soulmate. In 2011 I was at the tail end of high school, where important decisions needed to be made that might shape my first years as an adult. I didn’t give a single solitary shit about any of that, though, because I had just unlocked the G36C assault rifle, and my Engineer loadout was now at maximum efficiency. My mate and I would spend hours upon hours getting demolished in the tight corridors of Operation Metro or bombing across the open fields of Caspian Border in a Humvee, ignoring our homework, and getting little to no sleep.
The years rolled on, and I continued to hoover up every release. Battlefield 4, Battlefield Hardline, Battlefield 1, Battlefield V, I played them all and I love them all (to varying degrees). Then, in 2021, I was offered an opportunity that my teenage self wouldn’t believe. After a decade of playing and loving Battlefield games, I could finally review the latest incarnation. On behalf of WellPlayed, I participated in a three-day pre-release review event for Battlefield 2042, the most ambitious title in the series’ long history.
Alongside hundreds of content creators and fellow critics, I played several hours of 2042, experiencing each of the three core game modes upon which the game was built. Specialists were introduced as a first for the franchise, removing the need for the class system that acted as the foundation for the series. The player count ballooned out to 128 players; the maps were gargantuan in size, the new Hazard Zone game type looked poised to inject elements of The Division into proceedings, and Battlefield Portal asked the community to create their own content.
So many hours were lost to those tunnels
Everything felt so new, so much so that the only time the game felt like Battlefield was when I played classic maps during the Portal session. But hey, games need to evolve and being afraid of change is a road that leads to stagnation, so these changes will be great, and once the game goes live and I can play with my friends, everything will fall into place. I was wrong.
I published my review on time, quickly learning that my 8/10 score was on the…optimistic…side of the equation. The consensus was that too much had changed and the series’ identity was missing, but I was confident that my hands-on time in a vacuum wasn’t indicative of the fun I was about to have with my squad of mates. The reality, however, was the opposite. Upon my request, all of my Battlefield buddies downloaded the game and jumped in, only to lament how disappointing and alien the experience was. A lack of features, broken Specialist abilities and a general every-person-for-themselves mentality in every lobby sucked the excitement from my friends and me. We played 2042 for less than a week before moving on, and I was quietly devastated.
Battlefield games have notoriously rough launches, so I stayed optimistic that 2042 would pull through and make an almighty comeback. Still, my infrequent dalliances with the game would always end in disappointment, so I stopped trying and caring. That was until November of last year.
We geared up, chose a class each and stepped out into a Battlefield reborn. Our squad was back, and so was 2042.
In a blog post, developers DICE highlighted all the tweaks, changes and new content planned for the then-upcoming Season 3. I skimmed most of the post, but something caught my eye: the return of classes to Battlefield 2042. I had been burnt by this game time and time again, but I couldn’t help but hope. I held that hope until January 2023, when the update finally dropped, reworking the entire game to introduce the Assault, Engineer, Support and Recon classes.
With great trepidation, I convinced my friends to give the game one last shot, one last chance at redemption. We geared up, chose a class each and stepped out into a Battlefield reborn. Our squad was back, and so was 2042.
Now I’m not saying that slapping a legacy term into the game magically fixed it, but I am saying that the class system fundamentally solved Battlefield 2042’s most significant issue. Until recently, the game was a free-for-all mess of individual specialists running, wingsuiting and flying around the wide-open maps until one team’s tickets hit zero. With the structure of classes funnelling players into roles, teamwork began to return. Squads could be seen moving as a unit; engineers were focusing less on blindingly running into fights and more on repairing their teammate’s vehicles, and snipers, well, snipers are still the bane of my existence, but they had the support of Recon class.
Such a simple image, but it instantly brought me so much joy
Look back on my fond words for past Battlefield games, and you’ll see a throughline of teamwork and cooperation among friends. The franchise has always been, and should remain, a squad-based shooter where playing the objective is paramount. Reviving your teammates will save you a precious ticket, but it will also net you almost as many points as a kill would. Resupplying your squad can earn you resupply ribbons, furthering your own progression, but it also keeps everyone in the fight. Going full Rambo to take a point alone is great, but working as a team to hold a point, expelling the advances of the less-organised enemy is one of the most satisfying multiplayer experiences to be had.
Updates and patches could help balance weapons and alter maps, but bringing the time-tested classes to 2042 did more for the game than any new season or fresh battle pass could; it saw the return of the core tenet of the Battlefield series:
Don’t think of the singular. Think of the squad.