Communication is a key foundation to the Battlefield experience. It always has been. Unlike Call of Duty, Titanfall, and any other modern first-person shooters that draw their power from quick engagements and short respawn timers, Battlefield has always asked players to look at the bigger picture. To coordinate around snaking frontlines, to capture objectives in a blur of combat across land, air, and sea, and to synergize with class specializations to ensure teammates have all the health, ammunition, and reconnaissance they need – not to survive, but to thrive. This is why I still find it so hard to believe that Battlefield 2042 launched without all platform voice communication.
In Battlefield 2042 there are limited ways to communicate with your squad or the larger battalion of forces swarming the map. There’s a lightly implemented Commo Rose system, an expletive-filled text chat box, and that’s about it. It means that the 30-minute rounds of Breakthrough and Conquest are surprisingly quiet affairs. You’re able to play Battlefield 2042 and be serenaded by the sounds of gunfire and grenades, rather than screaming players who are upset that a third of the team is crouching just beyond the out-of-bounds line, sniping instead of surging forward towards objective markers.
I’ll be honest with you, sometimes the silence is nice, but too often it’s isolating. Voice chat has been a staple of multiplayer shooters since the early days of online services on consoles – my first experience with it was the push-to-talk capabilities in SOCOM 2 on PS2 in 2003 and the carnage of Halo 2 on Xbox in 2004 – and it has been available for even longer for the PC gamers out there. It’s become standardized, for good reason; friendships have been formed and rivalries developed through the combination of online servers and activated microphones.
Conversely, one of the best decisions that Activision ever made with Call of Duty was giving each player the capacity to mute entire lobbies with a single button press. It’s good to have the option to disengage, particularly when you consider how vitriolic voice lobbies can be. If you’ve been playing multiplayer games online for any period of time, you’ll recognize that they are far quieter today than they used to be – the introduction of cross-game Party Chat through Xbox Live and PlayStation Online basically killed what little reasonable discourse there was in FPS games, leaving the worst and most toxic offenders to roam freely through open game lobbies in lieu of having anyone else to speak to.
Even with all of this and Battlefield 2042’s 128-player servers in mind, DICE’s embattled shooter would be undoubtedly better if you had the ability to communicate via your vocal chords. This functionality was absent at launch and the development team has been working to get it in ever since. It was recently noted that (opens in new tab) “the arrival of voice communication (VOIP) is just the start of the improvements we’re bringing to enhance team play and communications”, although no release date was given nor any sense of how it would function.
When I played Battlefield 2042 ahead of release, the dev team noted that players should use service-level party chat (via Xbox Live or PlayStation Network) to communicate with friends, or external services such as Discord to build squads. On the surface, this sounds like an agreeable compromise. But it doesn’t work in practice – it undercuts the decision to imbue Battlefield 2042 with cross-platform multiplayer support. Sure, PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X players can join the fight together – but you’re going to need something like Discord to make it worthwhile, and that just isn’t possible for every player looking to get in on the action.
Key for cross-play
Will BF2042 go F2P?
Rumors are circulating that EA considered taking Battlefield 2042 free-to-play. As we explore in this feature, Battlefield 2042 has its problems, but going free-to-play isn’t the answer.
As it stands, this is what’s holding back many of my friends from jumping into Battlefield 2042 with me. When cross-play became more ubiquitous in the last generation, it allowed me to play with many of my buddies for the first time in years – they went with the PS4 last generation and I stuck with Xbox One. There’s a reason we’re playing games like Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Fortnite, and it isn’t because we’re wedded to the idea of playing battle royales every night. It’s because these games let us play together across console lines and, more importantly, it gives us an opportunity to shoot the shit in-game as a group when we can’t connect IRL for obvious reasons.
Battlefield 2042 may have given players an arena to play together, but there’s no point to the functionality if we can’t talk amongst ourselves while we do it. Discord simply wouldn’t work for our group – one doesn’t own a laptop, another a smartphone, and one hasn’t used social platforms since the days of MSN Messenger. We rely on being able to use VOIP services in-game to communicate, regardless of what we’re playing. Maybe you’re in a similar situation.
There are plenty of people out there who love Discord and won’t have a problem using it. But there must be a large contingent of players, particularly those who are console bound, who don’t have the knowledge, means, time, or equipment to go through the additional steps of getting a third-party service working to support something as commonplace as in-game voice chat. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to Battlefield 2042, but I’m still having a reasonably fun time with it for a couple of hours every weekend – it’s a nice palette cleanser from all the battle royales I have to play during the week to talk with friends. But until all platform voice communication is introduced, the scope of its play is limited.
Of course, there are problems abound with Battlefield 2042 and VOIP support. How will DICE moderate voice chat in a cross-platform environment? Will it be limited to Squads or will it be proximity based? What happens if the game accidentally sorts groups of friends into different squads? Will it function when you’re thrown back to the lobby between games? How do you stop players from opposing teams communicating? Right now, the value of Battlefield 2042’s cross-platform support is redundant. Sure, it means it only takes a few seconds to load into a server and get into the action, but what’s the point of playing a team-focused game in total silence – pings from the Commo Rose system fall on deaf ears, as too do the starred-out text-chat demands for Specialists to stop sniping and start surging. I reached out to EA for comment but they weren’t in a position to provide one, although given that all platform voice communication is on the near horizon the publisher will have to address these concerns (and many more) soon enough.