Battlefield Portal is still the most exciting thing about Battlefield 2042

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Battlefield 2042’s pivot to characters was as inevitable as the backlash to Battlefield 2042’s pivot to characters, but even those jeering at the beta from the balcony start listening when Battlefield Portal comes up. If gadget warfare with unique specialists doesn’t sit well with you, Portal promises that you can return to the halcyon days of Battlefield 1942, Battlefield Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3, and even design a Battlefield mode that’s uniquely suited to your tastes. The time has come for us desk chair balance experts to prove we actually know the correct time-to-kill tuning for a Battlefield game.

DICE explained Portal pretty thoroughly when it was announced, but a new gameplay trailer (embedded above) shows off some of the classic maps and a blog post published today provides the most detailed rundown of the system we’ve seen so far.

Portal can be thought of as an unusually powerful custom server configurator. It’s categorically not like Halo’s Forge mode, because you can’t build or modify maps. Rather, what we’ll be able to do is design playlists using Battlefield 2042’s new soldiers, weapons, and vehicles, as well as those from the three classic Battlefields I mentioned, with custom rules and variables.

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We’ll be able to mix and match armies, however unbalanced it may be, turn knobs like bullet velocity and health regen rate, and flip toggles like friendly fire and squad reviving. It goes pretty deep, all the way to a visual logic editor for designing your own rules and win conditions. When Portal was first announced, DICE expressed that, yeah, even silly, obviously lopsided modes are possible: If you want to make a 1-v-127 mode, you can do it.

What I’m most excited about is the prospect of designing ridiculous PvE modes using Battlefield 2042’s bots, which can also be customized. I want to gather a few friends to fight hordes of World War 2 AI infantry with an attack helicopter.

Today’s blog post shows us what Portal’s web tool actually looks like, but what remains a big question for me is how well the sharing and discovery tools will work. Say I design my dream 128-player Battlefield mode. How do I fill it with other players who like my vision? Will thousands of variants on ‘WW2 vs modern day’ exist simultaneously, all mostly empty and relying on bots to be playable? Will players swarm to whatever modes DICE chooses to promote? The studio has talked about these questions, but I don’t think we can know the answers until it’s actually operational.

Aside from Portal and the standard Battlefield game formats, Battlefield 2042 will include Hazard Zone, a Hunt: Showdown-inspired mode in which squads compete to steal data drives and escape the match alive. Battlefield’s last attempt at a more modern mode, BF5’s Firestorm battle royale mode, more or less fizzled, and I’m curious to see what DICE has built with presumably a bit more time and experience.

Battlefield 2042 releases November 12 for EA Play Pro subscribers, and November 19 for everyone else.

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