(Pocket-lint) - We've waited a long time for this - Battlefield 2042 has had a slow journey toward its launch, full of delays either acknowledged or behind the scenes, but its Open Beta is finally here, letting untold thousands of players onto the map Orbital to sample its delights.
After a lot of exploration and more than one close win, we've gathered our thoughts on how the next big Battlefield game is shaping up, just a few short weeks away from its final launch date.
A sight to behold
Orbital is a massive map, by most games' standards, comprising distinct areas but really focussed around one bloody great rocket - which will either launch or explode violently depending on how much damage each server full of players decides to pump into it.
It's a really gorgeous environment, full of greenery and industrial outposts, and the dynamic weather systems that EA and Dice have been making noise about really do enhance that feeling of place. We've had matches where the sky was blue with brilliant sunshine for nearly the whole duration, while others were carpeted in cloud and rain.
Every so often, too, a proper storm will roll in, bringing with it a dynamic and unpredictable tornado that, given how novel the game is, tends to capture the entire server's attention. It'll swirl vehicles and players around, chucking them halfway across the map, and bringing a hazy spray to massive swathes of land.
This all makes for an impressive variability, with matches feeling nicely distinct from each other even with just the single map to explore. The huge size of the playing field, meanwhile, is obviously mitigated by the prevalence of vehicles.
Any time you like, you can call in a buggy or any other vacant rides in which to get to your destination, although in close quarters you might prefer to deploy a robot dog for some fire support. On top of this, the old Battlefield tradition of lucky timing nabbing you a jet, helicopter or tank returns.
Each of these feels fun to pilot, chunky or fragile depending on the vehicle, and air controls as always take some real getting used to. In the hands of a skilled pilot, though, devastation is entirely possible.
Old familiar feeling
That brings us on nicely to how BF2042 actually feels to play, at this stage (on a build that Dice has been clear is at least a couple of months old). On the one hand, plenty feels familiar, with vehicles to choose from and a wide array of ranges at which to fight.
Yet, equally, everything feels a little new compared to Battlefield V or the last modern entry, Battlefield 4. For one thing, classes are gone, replaced by specialists with unique abilities like turrets or a healing syringe gun.
These are fun to play, especially the grappling hook of Mackay, but with only four to choose from in this test, we were struck by how often our opponents looked identical to us. A bigger roster and skins might help with this, but we do slightly miss the distinction between the two teams that older Battlefields always had.
Other innovations feel great, though. Swapping out your weapon's attachments on the fly feels brilliant and genuinely useful, although we're hoping there will be more attachments to choose from at launch. It lets you play more than one playstyle in a single life far more capably.
Player movement is also noticeably faster than in previous games, closer to Warzone in how zippy it is, and that makes for way easier hurdling and mantling than in older Dice games, which we're glad to report.
The gun-feel is solid, too, although noticeably not too high-recoil. There aren't dozens of weapons to test, but we had fun with most ranges, although SMGs felt a little underpowered. Sniping has acres of drop, but that's appropriate given how powerful it can be.
This is a Beta, though, so issues are inevitable, and we encountered widespread lag throughout our sessions. Whether this explains why hit registration was iffy, and the ping system seemed to only work part of the time, we're unsure, but they feel like the sort of problems that should be ironed out by launch.
More than a little promise
We don't want to get too far into the weeds on a Beta build that's already out of date, but this test landed just about where we expected it to. There are parts where Dice has changed so much that we feel nostalgic for the old ways (we're looking at you, readily available ammo crates).
Despite that, though, in just a few matches we racked up a litany of those Battlefield moments that just sing compared to Call of Duty and other shooters.
Forcing helicopter pilots to eject with heat-seekers then shooting them before they parachute to safety. Base jumping away from a fight we can't win only to find ourselves in a different battle at a huge building's base. Taking a jump slightly wrong on our quad bike and accidentally nailing the perfect corkscrew to land safely.
It's all there, and when we've got even more maps and modes to explore we're confident that Battlefield 2042 will offer more up in spades. It's going to be interesting to see how smoothly it can get out of the traps, though.