Communication is going to be key in Battlefield 2042. That’s been true of every Battlefield game to an extent, given the series’ particular penchant for rewarding strong teamplay and generating chaos across massive multiplayer arenas. But in Battlefield 2042, everything is bigger than ever before: the maps, the player count, and the number of tools at your disposal to survive it all. Perhaps that’s why I was disappointed to find the Battlefield 2042 open beta so wrought with communication breakdowns.
An old build of the game or not, the beta seemed weirdly archaic in places, particularly for an experience pitching itself as multiplayer-only. I was surprised that locating points-of-interest, and communicating key danger zones and opportunities between them, was such a challenge; and that a Battlefield could do such a poor job of highlighting player positioning amongst the fray of gunfire and explosions, not to mention little in the way of messaging surrounding teamplay and squad composition. Today, DICE has pledged to address some of my biggest concerns with Battlefield 2042 – and that can only be a good thing as we march toward the revised November 22 release date.
One of the most bizarre omissions from the open beta was the ability to pull up the Big Map. The key binding for it was there in the menus, but it didn’t work, making it impossible to get an immediate overview of where battles were taking place, where your squad mates were located, and which of the objective points could best use your attention once your boots were on the ground. Given that Orbital is one of the biggest maps in Battlefield history (and only medium-sized within the roster of seven available on day one in 2042), I’m sure you can imagine why this was a persistent issue.
DICE seems to point toward “debilitating bugs (opens in new tab)” as the reason for Big Map missing the open beta and, potentially, the early access period which will begin on November 12 for Gold or Ultimate Edition owners and EA Play Pro subscribers. However, it should be there for launch, the studio has promised – arriving alongside the otherwise MIA Commorose system, as well as tweaked Compass and Ping features.
The studio says that Commorose (opens in new tab) is “very much present in our builds today”, which should calm some nerves of veteran players and give new recruits something to look forward to. It’s a staple of the series, letting players quickly deliver pre-set messages to indicate where you are, what you need (ammo, meds, orders, whatever it may be), and what dangers you’re facing from a single-button. This, combined with the Ping system, pioneered by Apex Legends to give contextual information on everything from enemies to assets, should ensure that in-game communication is where it needs to be in Battlefield 2042.
Multiplayer has become more and more ubiquitous in the two decades since Battlefield debuted, but the use (and usefulness) of microphones doesn’t always feel as widespread as it used to be. That’s why systems like Commorose and the Compass, designed to let you painlessly communicate opportunities with your squad, are so important, and why 2042 felt so strange without them. There’s so much happening around you in Battlefield 2042 that communication needs to be as easy as can be, to allow for you and your friends to take quick and decisive action, which is another reason why DICE will tweak the Ping system to be more responsive at launch.
Subtle tweaks with a big impact
While these additions and changes sound great, it’s some of the more subtle changes to communication outlined in DICE’s open beta post-mortem that really caught my attention. Taking on feedback, the developer is making a swath of shifts to the user interface, reducing the frequency of the Critical Alert Messaging to free up visibility, increasing the readability of the Kill Log that adorns the left of the screen, and improving scoring events for “Transport Assists, Spawn Support, Resupply, and Heal support.”
A Battlefield that doesn’t reward teamplay isn’t a Battlefield at all, is it? Thankfully, and support players should rejoice here, DICE has taken this feedback to heart. The UI is being altered to better identify healing, repair, and resupply requests, while the time to revive is being reduced. Interestingly, Health Regeneration is being altered, which I’m surprised by given the time-to-kill, although it’s definitely heartening to learn that the developer wants to increase the need for Medics, and that feedback is being enhanced to communicate when you’re successfully healing an ally or landing a Syrette Pistol shot on friendly targets with Specialist Maria Falck.
Battlefield 2042 is a huge change for the series. Cross-play between PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X players is going to be a massive shift for the skill-ceiling, as too are the maps built to accommodate 128 players and the decision to replace traditional Squads with more free-form Specialists. In previous instalments of the game, you can typically get a sense of what you’re going up against and your squad’s composition by way of visual indicators – the outgoing Assault, Medic, Support, and Recon were traditionally dressed and equipped for the occasion. That’s not so easy in Battlefield 2042, something that’s evident after playing with just four of an available 10 Specialists that will be there at launch.
At launch, you’ll be able to see Player Cards before you insert yourself into the carnage to get a better sense of your squad composition – allowing you to further hone your Specialist for the task at hand – while DICE also promises that what we saw in the beta only scratches the surface of the customisation available in the live service shooter. What I’m keen to see are changes made to identifying between friend and foe (IFF), which include enhancements to enemy silhouettes to make them more readable on the battlefield, icons to help identify enemies that have entered a 10m radius of your field-of-view and friendlies within 40m.
These may sound like subtle or even unimportant changes, but with games working to a scale of Battlefield, the devil really is in the details. EA and DICE are trying to launch a platform that can grow long into the future with Battlefield 2042 – and still so much is riding on how the game is received at launch. Server and performance issues can be quickly patched, but more enduring problems to visibility, teamplay, squad composition, classes, and in-game communication aren’t so easily forgotten. But DICE is saying all the right things here, identifying the right areas for improvement out of the open beta. Now all we can do is wait.