I’m going to be honest: I hate review scores. When EGM reworked its review system in 2019 and switched from a 10-point to a five-star system, I was yelling from the back to drop the scoring system altogether.
Unfortunately, the reality is that only certain outlets can get away with reviewing games in a scoreless manner, where the words of the review matter more to readers than the number attached to it. For the rest of us, who rely on clicks from strangers rather than a dedicated base of readers who follow us for our actual voices and opinions, we need the score. It’s the only way anyone is going to give a shit.
However, I have published scoreless reviews before, but we tend to call them “impressions.” Most of the time, I do this because I haven’t played enough of a game at embargo to fully assess its score. Frankly, these are my favorite reviews to write, mostly because I know that if people read them then they will have actually read them and not just looked at the score. They also give me a bit of freedom to view games not as a product to be judged but as a piece of media to be observed, analyzed, and critiqued.
When it came to my 6,500-word review of Battlefield 2042, the other EGM editors and I went back and forth on whether to give it a score when we did. The review was based on a three-day online review and capture event that let critics and other content creators go hands-on with every aspect of the game, including all of its characters, weapons and gadgets. We played on every map at least once, and we played all three modes—All-Out Warfare, Hazard Zone, and Portal. Given the amount of time I played the game, and the amount of content I’d experienced, I felt that I had a pretty good handle on the actual design and gameplay to give my opinion, but I was concerned about the game’s launch.
Ultimately, we decided that, as someone with a ton of passion for Battlefield, who has played and written extensively about the series as a whole, my opinion on the latest game was worth getting eyeballs on it, and that meant giving it a score—albeit with a caveat written at the end that I did not experience the game in a live environment.
Obviously, I should have published that caveat in bolded, 1,000-point font. Or I just shouldn’t have given the game a score when I did. That’s something I fully own up to.
When I booted up Battlefield 2042 on November 11th thanks to a free trial through my Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, there were already issues, the worst of which was an error that prevented players from even joining servers. However, that bit was soon ironed out, and the version of Battlefield 2042 I played on that day, against whatever console players were aware enough to redeem their free trial, was about as close to the version that I reviewed as Battlefield 2042 will probably ever be again. Except it was even better because I was playing with my friends, all of whom are lifelong Battlefield players, too.
The real trouble started the next day, when the “early access” version launched for everyone. I don’t know if it had something to do with full cross-play being on, or if some of the issues were more noticeable because now we were forced to play against PC players, but something felt different. Bugs like not spawning in with a loadout or not being able to revive downed players became much more prevalent, and server issues—which DICE quickly ironed out—were preventing some players from even connecting.
And there are other issues that I didn’t experience just based on the nature of the review event. I wasn’t playing against the general public whose main goal is to get as many kills and as high a score as possible. I was playing against content creators and other critics who were trying to experience as much of the game as possible, as well as staff members and the occasional AI soldier. I also had all of the weapons, attachments, vehicles, and gadgets available to me, so maybe DICE’s vision of rock-paper-scissors balance was more obvious. I certainly wasn’t getting killed by hovercraft every five seconds like what’s happening in the game in its current state. I played the game on PC, but I used a controller 90 percent of the time and didn’t experience any of the issues with aiming or aim assist that players are reporting. I was even able to get kills reliably with the lever-action shotgun, for what that’s worth.
Obviously, what I experienced in the review event is not 100 percent reflective of how many players are experiencing the game in its current state. Based on the Steam reviews, players are not happy, and they shouldn’t be. I can live with a few bugs—it is a Battlefield game, after all—but the consistent server issues and the fact that players who spent more money to access the game early could barely even play it at times is just inexcusable.
What’s more inexcusable to me, however, is the reaction from the Battlefield community. Voicing your opinion about the game is one thing; personally attacking developers, critics, and people who, despite the game’s flaws, still enjoy playing it is another thing entirely. Asking for bug fixes and weapon balance and holding a publisher and development studio as a whole accountable for their product is a necessary aspect of being part of a game’s community. Bullying and attacking an individual who tweeted to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishment of launching a game that’s as big and complex as Battlefield 2042 while working from home during a goddamn global pandemic is the epitome of toxicity.
Personally, I’ve received plenty of hateful messages about my review, which is fine. I’ve received negative responses to reviews in the past, but not to the degree that I have for this game. Being specifically targeted by a content creator with literally 50 times the amount of followers that I have on Twitter will do that. I understand being upset with the state of Battlefield 2042, but when there is such an outsized difference between the reach of one person over another, setting the dogs on that person verges on bullying. Especially when they are only quoting the inherently false Metacritic version of my review’s score and not the actual content of the review itself. (We score games on a five-star scale, with 1 star meaning “awful” and 5 stars meaning “great”—not “perfect.” Metacritic then converts all our scores to a 100-point scale by multiplying our score by 20. Do you see the issue there?)
If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have scored the game until I could have tried it in a live environment, but besides the long list of bugs and the lack of a server browser, I still stand by everything I said in the review. And yes, I did mention the lack of a scoreboard. Guess what? It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, the biggest issue I have with the game that I didn’t encounter in the review event is not being able to turn off cross-play from the menus on Xbox consoles—but that’s apparently more Xbox’s fault than DICE’s.
The point of reading a review isn’t just trying to decide whether or not you should buy a game. It’s also an opportunity to analyze game design choices, and as much as you might disagree with me, I think the choices that DICE made are the right ones for a player like me.
If you disagree with my point of view on certain aspects of Battlefield 2042’s design, like the Specialists or the maps, then I’m clearly not a reviewer you need to read. Read my other reviews and see if our tastes align. If so, great. Thanks for reading. If not, that’s great, too. It means neither of us have to waste our time.
Battlefield 2042’s launch has been rough, but I think DICE is already doing a better job than it did during Battlefield V in communicating to players the changes and updates it’s making with the game, and I hope that players can soon experience the absolute joy I felt when I first played the game. Some of them already are.
But Battlefield has a bigger problem than bugs and hovercrafts. There’s a streak of toxicity running through the “greatest community in the world” that is leading to people harassing developers, critics, and content creators. While they claim to be fans of the franchise, they sure don’t show it. Instead of the game’s subreddit hosting discussions of strategies and tips and cool highlight clips, it has become an unending river of negativity and complaints. These community members claim they want the best for the game, but how do you do that by alienating everyone who is actively enjoying it?
I love Battlefield 2042. After the more down-to-earth historical iterations over the last five years, 2042 is exactly the over-the-top sandbox that I’ve been craving. I regret scoring it when I did, but I don’t regret what I said about it. Before you attack me for my review, at least do me the courtesy of reading the damn thing. Believe it or not, I actually put a lot of work and thought into it.