The Battlefield 2042 open beta has come and gone, and now players wait to see what will change in the launch version of the game. DICE has most likely been diligently squashing bugs and making minor changes, but the sweeping gameplay structure is more or less set in stone. This includes one of the more controversial changes to the Battlefield formula: 2042‘s introduction of Specialists in lieu of the traditional class system. It would be impossible, at this point, for DICE to back out of the Specialists route, but there are three important changes that could be made for the sake of improving them.
Over the years, Battlefield has typically offered players four classes to choose from when selecting a spawn location. Their roles have changed slightly according to which game they’re picked from, but the classes effectively organized teams and squads into individual roles. Classes would dictate which weapons and gadgets a player can use, usually specialized to fill a niche on the battlefield. For example, Medics would get health kits and defibrillators, while Engineers would be supplied vehicle repair tools and anti-tank mines.
Battlefield 2042 is essentially nixing past gameplay features in the name of player agency. Players now choose from a roster of Specialists who each have their own unique gadget, like a grappling hook or a sentry turret. This special gadget is the only thing that separates one Specialist from another. Any gun can be used at any time, and the other equipment slot is open for a wide variety of tools – medical or ammo crates, rocket launchers, armor plates, etc. 2042‘s move toward Specialists has effectively eroded any specific roles for players to fill.
The chief concern with Specialists, alongside the beta’s issue of team identification, is that giving players complete freedom over loadouts might have detrimental side effects on team play. Good cooperation is still necessary to win, and a squad working closely together could be successful in the beta, but there’s very little nuance left in choosing a Specialist rather than a class. Especially when dealing with teammates not in the same squad, it’s impossible to tell who might be carrying ammo or a med kit. In a nutshell, the key to having the Specialists realize their full potential is to shift them toward more traditional class roles.
Battlefield 2042 Specialist Changes: Exclusive Equipment
The Specialists in Battlefield 2042 are technically already arranged into classes. Taking the beta’s four Specialists as examples, Mackay is Assault, Falck is Support, Boris is Engineer, and Casper is Recon. The problem is these effectively mean nothing except for a very loose categorization of what their unique gadget and passive abilities do, and anyone in Battlefield 2042 can have a rocket launcher or med kit. Casper is Recon because his drone can do reconnaissance, and his passive ability tells him when enemies are close, but Boris is Engineer simply because he has a turret. 2042 should just take these already assigned classes a step further to implement more restrictions on loadouts.
With 10 Specialists coming to 2042 at launch, and more on the way, there will still be plenty of gadget variety within each class thanks to the special abilities. Giving each Specialist class a set of available equipment will, however, incentivize players to change Specialist in order to fill a specific role in the squad. Engineers can get the repair tool, Support can have med kits, and so on. Wanting Specialists to have their own unique abilities is fine, and their gadgets are actually fairly interesting, but it didn’t have to come at the expense of Battlefield‘s core structure. Saying Mackay, who has a grappling hook, is Assault means nothing if players can still equip a sniper rifle, recon grenades, and an ammo box and pull themselves on top of a tower to do no actual assaulting.
Battlefield 2042 Specialist Changes: Exclusive Weapons
Mackay snipers brings up another easy fix that goes along with categorized gadgets: weapons exclusive to certain Specialist classes. In the Battlefield 2042 open beta, it seemed like Mackay was by far the most popular choice of Specialist because of his increased mobility. This was especially true for those wanting to snipe from afar, since Mackay’s grappling hook makes it possible to get into otherwise inaccessible places (like the upper atmosphere by hooking onto one of Battlefield 2042’s rockets). This means that players weren’t using the Recon Specialist – the one actually wearing a ghillie suit – to snipe. Giving each Specialist only certain weapon categories would further reinforce the Battlefield tenet of in-game roles needing to be filled.
Battlefield 4, for instance, struck a middle ground in this regard through its wide selection of weapons. Each class had its own weapon category (Engineer had PDWs, Recon had snipers, etc.), but there were also DMRs and carbines available for all. This made each class independently useful, but allowed for some of the variation that 2042 is trying to achieve. Engineer in BF4 wasn’t restricted to close range, and Recon wasn’t pigeonholed into sniping, but there were still limits on available firearms. Battlefield 2042 wouldn’t even have to do it based on classes; each Specialist could have a different combination. Falck could have SMGs and LMGs, with Boris given LMGs and assault rifles. There would still be plenty of variety thanks to 2042‘s new in-game weapon customization, but the current, complete freedom in weapon choice doesn’t make the Specialists more specialized, it just makes their unique utility a gimmick.
Battlefield 2042 Specialist Changes: Progression
A final change that could improve Specialists is giving each a progression path. Battlefield V, for all its faults, made a rather interesting addition to the series by giving each class different Combat Roles. Basically, ranking up in a specific class would unlock new tiers on a small skill tree. The Assault class had the option of being oriented more toward eliminating enemy infantry or destroying vehicles, for instance. This would be a good incentive for players to both master specific Specialists, as well as branch out to upgrade more characters. It’s also a good way to add gameplay variety without sacrificing Battlefield‘s team play.
There are a lot of interesting directions Specialist progression could go, and additional skills would build on the existing gadgets and passive abilities. Casper players could be forced into selecting either more range on his proximity scan, or have it scan more frequently. Boris’ turret could be upgraded to do more damage to vehicles instead of infantry, or vice versa. Combine this with the above recommendations of exclusive gadgets and weapons, and Battlefield 2042 ends up with a system that borrows from traditional Battlefield elements but still attempts to innovate with Specialist abilities.
Battlefield 2042‘s introduction of Specialist is an interesting addition to the series, especially when viewed as an attempt to build on its celebrated sandbox elements. But the removal of combat roles is a major issue that’s piggybacked on the new design. Specialists are singularly defined by their unique gadgets, but they ostensibly have nothing to do with contributing to Battlefield‘s squad-based gameplay. Instead of having Specialists who specialize in a certain role, loadouts can be min/maxed to provide the best solo experience. Trying to give players more freedom through Specialists in Battlefield 2042 is an admirable goal, but it doesn’t have to come at the expense of the coordinated, cooperative gameplay the series has built its reputation on.
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