Public opinions of the game following today's trailer release were split into two camps: those praising the frenetic thrill-ride and those bemoaning the price and lack of a campaign. Yes, Battlefield 2042 will skip the story mode and focus entirely on multiplayer.
For some, the lack of a single-player mode is a non-starter, an element too crucial to be missing in a AAA game. But if you ask me, the campaign should have gone AWOL after the Bad Company series.
Battlefield campaigns are hit or (mostly) miss
Remember, the Battlefield franchise was established on its multiplayer mode. Battlefield 1942, Battlefield 2, and Battlefield 2142 had single-player modes but they consisted of AI battles fought on multiplayer maps. A true story mode didn't arrive until Battlefield: Bad Company, which had a focused plot revolving around a squad comprised of four ragtag soldiers. DICE stopped short of making it a trilogy to the dismay of its fanbase.
Given the success of the Bad Company campaign, it only made sense for DICE to include a campaign in Battlefield 3. But with an unfocused plot, plodding AI, and a linear progression, the single-player mode was unquestionably the weakest aspect of an otherwise critically acclaimed release.
That didn't mean DICE was incapable of replicating its past successes. As they say, if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. And they did just that with Battlefield 4, Battlefield Hardline, Battlefield 1 and Battlefield V. Of those, only one received praise for its campaign (Battlefield 1), and even then, it was criticized for being short-lived. My advice? If you've tried again and failed, it's time to change course.
Putting all of your ammo in one box
By abandoning the campaign, DICE can focus its efforts on the multiplayer experience, which is what gives the games in this franchise staying power. While we can't say with any certainty that the inclusion of a campaign caused the failings we've seen in recent Battlefield multiplayer modes (Battlefield 4 and V especially), putting every effort into the multiplayer in Battlefield 2042 should ensure that it launches without major bugs.
A smooth launch will be crucial to the success of Battlefield 2042. We've seen what can happen when a game is released before it's ready; just look at Battlefield 4 which was released with a myriad of technical bugs, glitches and crashes. The damage caused by these errors and the legal troubles surrounding them cannot be overstated. To put it bluntly, DICE needs Battlefield 2042 to be its smoothest launch ever if the franchise has any chance of reaching new heights.
Moreover, dropping the single-player campaign means the studio can pump more content into the multiplayer modes. As it stands, the game will launch with four Specialist classes and seven maps. Those figures are hardly record-setting but the maps in Battlefield 2042 are said to be of a greater scale than ever before and will feature dynamic environments.
I asked the Laptop Mag team what they thought of Battlefield 2042 skipping the campaign and launching at $60 on PS5 or $70 on Xbox Series X. Senior writer Rami Tabari was originally against the idea.
"The fact that Battlefield 2042 doesn’t have a campaign alarmed me at first, but I was quickly convinced that it's OK. There are tons of unique and amazing single-player games without multiplayer content, and they excel at what they do. Why shouldn’t there be a full-priced multiplayer game that does the same?" he wrote.
Multiplayer needs to shine at launch and beyond
Tabari went on to say that DICE needs to ramp up the multiplayer mode if it's going to get away with ditching the campaign.
"DICE needs to make up for the fact that there is no campaign by going full-force into the game it’s making. Not only does DICE need to make a new Battlefield game that’s jam-packed full of multiplayer content, but the developers need to be ever-present when the game launches afterward. Unlike a single-player game, a multiplayer title has a living and breathing ecosystem. You can’t just put one out there and leave it alone. It needs to adapt and transform to the player’s feedback so that they continue to be engaged."
I agree. If Battlefield 2042 is the AAA game EA and DICE are making it out to be, then the multiplayer needs the equivalent amount of content seen in past single-player campaigns. That can come in many forms, be it additional maps, vast customization options, additional multiplayer modes, or fun new vehicles.
As Tabari puts it, "If EA wants this title to have a long life, Battlefield 2042 not only needs post-game content (free and paid) but it needs enough of it for there to be something for everyone."
To address the elephant in the room, I have sympathy for those who prefer to play by themselves or don't want to pay for an online subscription. All I can say to those people is that Battlefield hasn't provided a compelling first-person experience in years, and that there are much better first-person shooters for those wanting to play an engaging story mode.
With Battlefield 2042, DICE is doubling down on what it does best by launching only a multiplayer mode — it's a decision that we feel could return victory to this long-running franchise.