Back in 2006, DICE released Battlefield 2142, a futuristic take on its popular series of large scale multiplayer shooters. Until that point its games had focused on more familiar themes—World War 2, Vietnam, modern (for the time) combat. But suddenly players were given the opportunity to stomp around in mechs, turn briefly invisible with active camo, and drop robot sentry guns. This unexpected dose of sci-fi was pretty divisive at the time, with some critics claiming it was a glorified mod for Battlefield 2, which had launched just a year earlier. But if those people knew that this was to be the only real example of DICE getting even slightly experimental with the series, they might have appreciated it more. After the release of 2142, it was back to business as usual for Battlefield, and that's a damn shame.
In October, DICE is set to release Battlefield 2042. This new game is set in the near future, in a world ravaged by climate change. After 70 percent of the satellites orbiting the Earth come crashing down, causing a global blackout, the United States and Russia decide it's time for a war. So far, so bleak. But in the true spirit of conflict, the state of the planet hasn't slowed the world's superpowers developing new technology to help them destroy each other as efficiently as possible. This Battlefield has a touch of sci-fi, including little robot dogs that fight alongside you. You know, like those disturbing Boston Dynamics things you always see people posting videos of on social media. I hate them. They creep me out.
I'm cool with robot dogs. I look forward to running around with one, and hopefully getting to stroke its little metal head between bursts of gunfire. But apart from that, and a few other semi-futuristic gadgets like deployable turrets, Battlefield 2042 feels very familiar. The scale is bigger and the levels are more comically destructible than ever—but it's still just guys running around in camo, firing assault rifles, driving tanks, and flying jets. It's Battlefield, but bigger, and that really isn't enough to get me excited after years of playing these games. I need something bold, new, fresh, and exciting. I need mechs.
Mechs rule. That's a fact. A big, chunky robot loaded with guns, with someone inside piloting it? It doesn't get any better than that. That's why I feel like DICE needs to stop messing about with these inbetween settings, and just go straight for the full-on, big robot future. Battlefield 2142 ultimately wasn't that great, but the seed of something special was there. There was something thrilling about playing that familiar Conquest mode, but with the ability to climb into a mech and having futuristic gadgets to tinker with. And there was Titan mode, where two rival teams fought to bring down colossal warships floating above the map. Imagine how exciting that mode would be realised with modern technology.
I know, there are plenty of mech games out there. I could fire up MechWarrior, Titanfall, BattleTech, or Brigador to get my fix. But the idea of a vast multiplayer game on the scale of Battlefield, with those absurd production values, going fully futuristic? That's the stuff of my pathetic dreams. I do like the choice of 2042 as a date for the new game, though. It's DICE subtly acknowledging the existence of Battlefield 2142, which means they haven't forgotten about it. So who knows—maybe if this game does well they'll make a direct sequel and advance it 100 years into the future. Then I might finally get to ride that gloriously detailed Frostbite-rendered mech. Until then, I guess the robot dogs will have to do.