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ID: 209551


Date: 2021-06-09

Battlefield 2042 will host 128-player combat on PC, next-gen consoles Oct. 22

Last-gen versions top out at 64 players; no single-player campaign this time. As part of this week's E3-like dump of game news and reveals, EA has announced one of its most unsurprising games of the year: Battlefield 2042. But don't get too excited. The word "reveal" should be taken with a grain of salt, as we don't know much about how the game will work—and we expect that EA will tease fans with a slow news trickle until the game's launch on October 22 on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation. For now, the game's developers at DICE have confirmed that the game is indeed a recognizable Battlefield title, complete with massive team combat, the return of popular objective-based modes, and aspirations to deliver the series' biggest battle arenas yet. I've been at Ars long enough to hear that very promise three times, and to its credit, DICE tends to deliver on an increased battling scope with every major installment. The most significant change? The developer is finally—fiiiiinally—raising the maximum player count to 128 combatants on a single, super-sized map in the game's PC, Xbox Series X/S, and PlayStation 5 versions. The series has famously maxed out at 64 players since its very first entry, and over the years, DICE reps have explained away the limitation by saying that more players doesn't always mean more fun. But those statements largely came before a certain 100-player genre changed everything, and last week, DICE showed high-level pans of a few upcoming maps to showcase its design philosophy: providing discrete zones that teams can divide and conquer throughout, instead of lumping that many players into hallways of death. But EA isn't ready to ditch the previous console generation, and that means PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the new game will launch with a 64-player maximum per match. EA and DICE did not confirm how cross-platform play will work between last-gen and next-gen consoles or between the platforms compatible with 128-player maps, but this technical limitation on two generations' worth of BF2042 will certainly split its player base to some extent. That deficiency will feel more severe with BF2042 than in other games in the series, since the title will ship without any campaign content to speak of. Instead, EA and DICE recommend that fans who want a break from online combat should play the game's multiplayer modes against AI bots, either alone or with real-life squadmates. In an attempt to downplay the lack of a campaign, DICE's developers said that plot nuggets would appear in the ongoing multiplayer modes.  But these plot points fit into what is arguably the series' most cockamamie story yet. In BF2042's version of the near-future, a climate crisis in the early 2030s forces millions of people out of their homes around various parts of the world. Due to geopolitical somethings-or-other, no nations take these teeming masses in as refugees. So they become a weaponized mob of nomads who are eventually conscripted to fight as existing nations' forces when a massive world war erupts in 2042 (yes, I'm serious). DICE's developers followed up that story reveal by showing some of the game's high-tech weaponry and vehicles, which these war-nomads presumably construct on their post-climate-collapse rafts and towns made of floating plastic garbage. But EA didn't show off many specific weapons or vehicles beyond the unsurprising inclusion of tanks and helicopters, and we got to see only four of the game's ten new "specialist" classes, expanding on the series' traditional breakdown of four classes. It appears that some major combat abilities—like using zip lines, grappling hooks, and wingsuits to get around the game's huge maps—will be restricted to a few specialists each, but exactly how those abilities will play out remains unclear. While the series will get its first-ever paid "battle pass" in BF2042, it won't apply to specialists or their abilities; EA insists that this additional paid content will be entirely "cosmetic." Additionally, like 2019's BFV, BF2042's future map content will be part of the retail purchase price, with no additional DLC purchases required. The rest of the event contained a lot of announcements that led to unanswered follow-up questions. Dynamic weather events will appear on every map, and we saw a tornado lift and carry players across at least one of the game's seven launch maps, but what other natural disasters may befall combatants? Players can use a special ability to phone in the delivery of a tank or fighter plane, but what other wacky, Call of Duty-like abilities and gadgets will players get access to? Destructible buildings will return, but what will they look like, and could they be as massive as fully collapsible skyscrapers? Two brand-new gameplay modes have been teased, but EA slapped both of them with massive "stay tuned" stickers, along with seven versions of a warning: "These are not battle royale." For now, we have the above gallery of "cinematic" shots to at least hint at the size and scope of the game's combat arenas. While we saw what EA and DICE called "real-time gameplay footage" during last week's presentation, it's being held for public reveal until a later date, and what we saw doesn't look nearly as polished as the above screens. We'll see more as EA releases morsels of BF2042 information over the next four months.