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During one goofy moment in my demo of Battlefield 2042, I really felt I was enjoying myself. A tornado had appeared on the map, leaving destruction in its path. I jumped off a building and opened my parachute. But instead of avoiding the spinning tornado, I flew into it just to see what would happen.
I laughed along with the rest of my squad, as they had done the same thing. We all died. As publisher Electronic Arts says in its marketing, that was one of those “only in Battlefield” moments, and it’s what the devs at DICE hope will distinguish Battlefield 2042 this year from Call of Duty: Vanguard in the holiday selling season.
The tornado, which you can see in the embedded videos, was one of the hallmarks of playing the beta for the newest installment of the Battlefield series coming from DICE and Electronic Arts on November 19 across the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms. It’s a sometimes crazy experience played on huge maps with as many as 128 players and a destructible environment with dynamic events.
Early access to the open beta starts today for players who have preordered or are members of the EA Play subscription service. Full access to the beta starts on Friday October 8 and then runs through Sunday October 10. This version has three modes: Conquest, Portal, and Hazard. You will hear a lot of hooting and hollering from those people in your home playing the beta.
We played the Conquest mode on the Orbital map only. It was a huge map, but EA called it a “medium-size” map, set in Kourou, French Guiana. The battle is over control of a rocket site where a launch is imminent. The rocket can take off, but one side can also destroy the rocket. And once in a while, as we found out, a storm can hit the map, followed by a tornado.
The center of the map has a wide open and hilly space where vehicles can dominate the play. On a huge rocket launch pad, you can can take a fast-rope up to a high platform on the rocket launch pad tower. But to go higher, you have to use your grapple hook, if you have one of those in your kit. You can also parachute onto the top of the rocket tower. And towers with ziplines allow you to zip and shoot at the same time.
Nearby building complexes house cryogenic tanks for fuel. Other spots on the maps include an assembly building and a massive Crawlerway (the wide path they use to move rockets to the launchpad). The buildings can take a lot of damage, particularly from helicopter gunship attacks from above or tank main gun hits.
The rocket can start a launch sequence that begins with fueling. During this six-minute period, the rocket is vulnerable to damage. After that, the launch will begin and it will take off. If you do enough damage, it will explode and take out everything nearby.
Hands-on with Conquest mode
This is the all-out warfare mode with more than 128 players on the map at the same time on the PC (or 64 players on PS4 or Xbox One). Everyone has to fight for control of objective points, known as sectors.
I played on the PC via Origin with a couple of veteran streamers who were quite good about getting me excited about the gameplay. That’s because they were always screaming and yelling whenever anything happened.
The map was so big that we had to run some long distances to get to the action. But at any moment, you could get thrown into chaos as another squad or a sniper launched an ambush. If you’re killed, you can rejoin the action after a brief delay by spawning on your teammates. If they’re in combat, you can’t spawn on them. In that case, you can spawn on key locations that you control on the map.
I was in a tank for a bit and had to hide from a helicopter, so I drove into a tunnel. I hopped out to peek outside, and was promptly slain by a ground soldier. My partners often led the way, and we discussed where we would spawn. As an organized group, we fared much better in terms of surviving on the battleground. Normally, when you’re a cog in the wheel of a 64-vs.-64 multiplayer battle, it’s hard to stay alive.
Since it’s a Battlefield game, you can jump into quads, Humvees, tanks, helicopter gunships, transport helicopters, and jets. You can also deploy drones or robot attack dogs with some very menacing guns.
You can select from among four specialists: Casper the recon soldier, whose specialty includes a recon drone and a movement sensor. Mackay is an assault soldier with a grapple gun and a nimble ability that enables him to move while aiming. Falck is a support soldier with a S21 Syrette pistol and a medic skill. Then you have Boris the engineer with a Sentry gun.
The first time I logged in as an assault soldier, I had no weapon in my hand. I logged back in and I suddenly had a gun. The assault rifle felt good, but for some reason the sniper rifle didn’t even have a scope. I was sniping people by looking down iron sights. That was silly, and I’m sure they’ll fix that later. Others clearly figured out how to shoot with scopes as I got shot from a distance a lot. But I didn’t have time to figure it out. So I went back to the trusty assault rifle, which came with a grappling hook.
As we played, the weather started changing. It started out sunny. Then the rain started to fall and we noted how realistic it looked. Then the rain came in sideways as the wind started blowing things around. It took a while but we finally noticed the tornado in the distance. It was dynamic, picking up anything that was in its path and throwing it into the air. We jumped off a building and screamed as we flew into it. It really did change the battlefield, and distracted all of us from the business of shooting the enemy.
As you can tell from the hooting in in the video, with my partners who were Twitch streamers, I enjoyed myself more in the Battlefield 2042 beta than I did in the Call of Duty: Vanguard beta. But we’ll see how these games come out after they cross the finish line and finally arrive. Call of Duty comes out first on November 5, while Battlefield 2042 is coming two weeks after that. It’s going to be some interesting combat ahead as both publishers vie for our attention. May the best game win.
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