In the months leading up to the launch of Battlefield 5, DICE was very keen to highlight the subtle tweaks made to the game’s feel and overall presentation. Even before showing gameplay, the developer was particularly excited about the work that had gone into making the game’s world more reactive and interactive, fortifications, the more refined destruction – and the big one: a complete overhaul to character movement.
Movement is one mechanic that evolves with every Battlefield game. It only becomes apparent how much better the latest iteration is upon going back to revisit older titles. With Battlefield 5, DICE felt like it nailed this core component of any shooter, to a level the studio had never reached before.
Battlefield 5’s characters felt easier and more responsive to control. You can vault over short walls, into and out of windows with momentum, roll to negate fall damage upon landing, run while crouched, and even pull yourself up to higher surfaces. When going prone, the game knew to take your momentum and direction into account; you’d lay on your back if you hit the button as you’re moving backwards, and you can rotate 360 degrees on your back/belly. Character animations would shift and shuffle to support each move gracefully.
It wasn’t perfect, and suffered from some problems - both technical, and in how abusable some of these mechanics could become (hello, slide spam!) - but it was Battlefield 5’s best innovation – one that actually stuck from reveal to well after launch, unlike certain other elements.
So it was particularly surprising to see DICE seemingly throw away all that work when moving to Battlefield 2042. I played several hours of the open beta, and though I didn’t call this out in my initial impressions, it’s something that stuck out the more I played.
Battlefield 2042’s movement learns so little from Battlefield 5’s. Characters feel floatier, and the new faster slide can be spammed and abused in a shocking way, particularly when preceded by the super sprint. You can no longer go prone on your back, and you certainly won’t be able to climb anything that isn’t waist-high. The only really interesting addition is having two sprint speeds, following Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2019’s example.
And this is what I don’t understand. Battlefield 5’s movement mechanics required some slight tweaks to reach perfection, and all the Battlefield players I know expected 2042 to do just that. It felt good to use in first-person, and looked clear and grounded in third-person. Enemy players were much easier to track than they are in Battlefield 2042.
I get that the two games deal with different eras and have varying combat pace; and I suspect some of the more borderline results - skating and zippy movement – will be better at launch. But why throw away all the work that went into creating Battlefield’s most dynamic, responsive and satisfying movement mechanics?
Even setting aside how smooth the animations were, Battlefield 5’s version allowed for a range of tactical options that are sorely missing from 2042. I caught myself trying to get on top of boxes and other taller objects in the beta, thinking my character would grab onto the ledge and clamber, but you can’t do that here.
I don’t know how much of this can be improved, or whether DICE even recognises there’s a problem, but it’s disheartening to watch one of Battlefield’s most interesting updates in years be forgotten like the game that spawned it.