Battlefield 2042's Hazard Zone aims to squeeze down the margins of the franchise. If you’ve grown tired of Battlefield's all-encompassing chaos — if you no longer want to dodge helicopter strikes, artillery blasts, and tank shells like gristle in a meat grinder — here is a new game mode that places you in a tight, tiny squad of four. Together, you’ll venture into terrain that no Battlefield has gone before; a world bereft of infinite respawns, control points, or the reassurance that a whole army always has your back.
I wasn't afforded the opportunity to play Hazard Zone, but from a brief keynote delivered by Senior Design Director Daniel Berlin, the third major pillar in Battlefield 2042 seems to be an interesting hybrid between Counter-Strike tactics, MOBA-style composition building, and a straight-up battle royale. The fiction, like everything in 2042, is hilariously apocalyptic. Satellites are falling from the sky, and we've decamped to various Battlefield maps to secure the valuable "data drives" left to rot in the smoldering husks. You and three other players will select specialists plucked from 2042's All-Out Warfare format, and the team edits their precise loadout of gadgets and guns before deployment. Hazard Zone is capped at 32 players on the new consoles and PC, and 24 on last-generation machines. alongside rival groups, NPC combatants guard the objectives, and they'll need to be dispatched as you secure the payloads. To me, that sounds a bit like the creeps from League of Legends, and I hope they make DICE's famously beautiful maps feel a little more alive.
That's the core loop here. You barge into a map, secure as many drives as you can, and ideally extract out with everyone alive. (Yes, Hazard Zone features permadeath, though there is a way for your squad to buy you back in.) The most interesting tidbit I learned from the presentation is the mode's closed-circuit economy. The drives you rack up are transmuted into "dark market credits," which are then spent on different weapons and munitions in future Hazard Zone matches. I mentioned Counter-Strike above because it really seems like EA is toying with a similar warfighting economy that Valve originally established, where we spend a few minutes in a lobby deciding if we want to drop a wad of in-game cash on the AWP or whatever. Remember, those "dark market credits" are exclusive to Hazard Zone; you won't be hoarding them for the cosmetics market. It's always a relief when a studio adds a currency to their game and limits it to exactly one variant of play.
Across the board, 2042 is shaping up to be one of the boldest Battlefields in years. The traditional bedlam is good and fun, but I'm most excited for the profoundly robust level editor introduced with Portal, and the thinky, more cunning approaches possible in Hazard Zone. It's been a century since 1942; about time this old dog learned some new tricks.
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