The Battlefield 2042 reveal has the modern military shooter community hyped up that one of the "big two" is making a return to the modern/futuristic setting that arguably made the mainstream AAA juggernaut what it is today. While the main info drop about the upcoming game will take place at EA Play in July, we already know more than enough about 2042 to be excited.
Fans of the series feel similarly, so much so that the multiplayer population of Battlefield 4 spiked hard following the announcement, as players sought to get their futuristic Battefield fix even though 2042 isn't out until October 22. With a Call of Duty game slated for Fall - as it always is - this year is going to be a hot one for shooter fans.
With the next game being a return to the classic XX42 formula, now is as good a time as any to make an utterly definitive and in no possible way controversial ranking of the Battlefield games we've enjoyed over the years, with which undoubtedly nobody will take issue in the comment section. Right? Okay then - here we go, from least good to best.
There is a reason we didn't word this list as "worst to best" earlier on and used "least good to best" instead. This is since the lowest-scoring entry, Battlefield Vietnam, still isn't a bad game - it just doesn't really bring anything new to the table other than its setting. Broadly speaking, this is a palette swap of Battlefield 1942, and confusingly the second game in the series as opposed to Battlefield 2 - the odd naming scheme of the franchise is a returning theme.
Battlefield Vietnam did have its asymmetric multiplayer aspect going for it, but the concept still had... teething pains at the time. For 2004, the game was definitely one of the top dogs, but it didn't exactly age gracefully, and there is little reason to go back any play it for any but the most hardcore of Battlefield fans.
We suspect this will be one of our most controversial rankings, because Battlefield Hardline is a technically competent game that builds upon the mechanics of Battlefield 4 in creative ways, while also taking the setting and framing of the franchise into what could be considered an unusual, interesting new direction.
The problem is that said new direction was switching out the military for law enforcement, and the political under- and overtones of a first person shooter painting a heroic picture of America's dangerously over-militarized police institutions is really not a good look. It was problematic in 2015 and looking back at Hardline, it got all the worse as subsequent years saw greater media attention pointed at rampant police brutality and the unavoidable related race politics.
It must be reiterated at functionally, this is a good game, but considering the subject matter, it's a yikes from us.
Battlefield 2 played a significant role in the evolution of the Battlefield franchise, introducing many features that would end up laying the groundwork for the cooperation-focused, squad-based, vehicle-heavy large scale tactical battles for which the series is known today. This is where the franchise started finding its own voice and standing out from the crowd, so to speak. It was also Battlefield's first foray into a modern setting, which would characterize some of the most popular future entries in the series.
While Battlefield 2 is thus a very important game for the series - and don't get us wrong, it was and is a good game, too - every idea it fielded has been eclipsed by a more recent entry. The large-scale tactical squad battles in a modern setting riff is one that the series has kept perfecting over time. Battlefield 2 is good - the games that followed in its footsteps are great.
Battlefield: Bad Company
Bad Company 2 achieved a level of success and praise, whilst garnering a serious cult following, that would belie the comparatively minor splash made by its predecessor. Bad Company broke new ground for Battlefield with an unusual level of attention given to the single player story campaign - though the multiplayer definitely still got some love - with a full blown plot and unique cast of characters. Bad Company also introduced revolutionary destructible scenery mechanics which would grow to define modern Battlefield.
Bad Company also was considered clunky, sluggish and a bit ugly for its time, which was likely the result of the new (read: volatile and unoptimized) destructible scenery technology requiring a lot of development attention, shifting focus from raw graphical fidelity.
Similarly, many fans and critics praised the game for daring to introduce a story, and while it was considered humorous beat-by-beat, the overall narrative didn't hold up under scrutiny. Luckily for us the community recognized the potential alongside the rough edges - Bad Company crawled so that Bad Company 2 could run.
Battlefield V is the latest entry in the series, and no doubt it comes as a surprise to see the newest game reach such a middling score. Full disclosure: Battlefield V has a bit of a history with controversy over 'historical accuracy' because it allowed players to select female soldiers as playable characters. As far as we are concerned, this is one of the best features of the game; it is a historically proven fact that women fought in WW2, and erasing that simply reinforces toxic male privilege.
Unfortunately, the game overall does contend with other issues which, while not preventing it from cementing itself as one of the best military FPS games in recent years, do prevent it from eclipsing the better entries of the Battlefield franchise. Clunky movement, bugs and some map design issues keep Battlefield V from being the best it could be.
There's just something about the classics, you know? Fans really need to know what they're in for if they wish to delve back into the very beginning of the series: Battlefield 1942 was a very, very different game from a very, very different era. Many of the features we consider signatures of the Battlefield series today simply didn't exist back then, and the overall gameplay worked very differently too. We're not just talking about older graphics here.
That said, Battlefield 1942 was utterly revolutionary for its time, and it ended up leaving its mark on the entire genre like few other games ever do. It kicked off one of the biggest franchises in the industry which we're still playing all these years later. It may not have aged as gracefully as some of the timeless classics of video game history, but it is still a damn good shooter.
Battlefield 3 came out in at an interesting time in gaming, when a lot of major AAA series were launching their third main entries, or major titles with a 3 on the end - Battlefield 3 is the 7th main game in the series. Yes, we are confused too. But hey, Modern Warfare 3, one of Battlefield 3's main competitors, was hardly the third Call of Duty game either.
Battelfield 3's most lasting contribution to the series is likely the "white-blue lights in the background with a weird orange glow on the front" key art aesthetic that we've been looking at literally all the time ever since (expanding on Bad Company 2's addition of just the orange glow), but it also moved the franchise up a notch in terms of mainstream popularity when it released. As great as it was, Battlefield 4 would go on to be basically the exact same game, just better.
When in doubt, mechs.
Battlefield games with modern setting always veered ever so slightly into the futuristic, but only in miniscule amounts that would still be believable as present-day settings. Battlefield 2142 dared to go beyond that and took the series over a century into the future with a full-blown sci-fi setting long before Activision somehow tapped John Snow to be a space terrorist or whatever.
It's definitely one of the most unique and fresh experiences the series has to offer, and we're ready for Battlefield 2242 whenever the time comes - but 2042 will do for now. Based on the trailer it has really really small mechs, so that's something, right?
Battlefield 2142 takes the "ecological disasters muck the future" premise of 2042 and goes ham, depicting a world gripped by a new ice age, wherein the two remaining superpowers fight over what little unfrozen land remains. Owing to the futuristic technology on display, 2142 had some exceedingly unique game modes, chief among which is Titan - an experience we wish would be replicated in modern games ever since.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
As mentioned before, where Bad Company was a flawed gem that dared to innovate on the Battlefield experience and stumbled as a result, Bad Company 2 took all the hard lessons learned and put them to work in a game which retained all of the good parts of its predecessor and fixed the rest. The result was a game that played better, looked better, had more advanced destruction physics and packed a better story.
To this day you'll see Bad Company 2 mentioned with reverence, and it remains a fan favorite among Battlefield aficionados and shooter players in general. Beyond improving over its predecessor in every technical sense, Bad Company 2 also delivered a stronger storyline, making Battlefield games real competitors in the realm of FPS campaigns as well as in multiplayer.
Following the announcement of Battlefield 2042, the player count of Battlefield 4 - despite having launched in 2013 - spiked. On the one hand this is understandable, since it is the most recent vaguely futuristic entry in the series and people eager for 2042 want to get their fix. It's also just an utterly fantastic game with a top-tier multiplayer experience.
This wasn't always the case, though - Battlefield 4 had a troubled launch. While not as disastrous as the recent Cyberpunk 2077, or EA's own Star Wars: Battlefront 2, the huge quantity of bugs and crashes caused all sorts of controversy right after launch. However, after the kinks were worked out and even more content added with some DLC, Battlefield 4 quickly became a redemption story and went on to become one of the greatest multiplayer shooters out there, and there's very good reason why hundreds flock to play it even today.
While sci-fi and modern futurism seems to be Battlefield's bread and butter, it reached the peak of its capabilities when taking a risk with the setting - so few shooters dare to adapt the First World War, since one would think that trench warfare and the weapons of that era do not make for a good action game. Battlefield 1 proved that very, very wrong.
With a compelling story mode and a multiplayer experience for the ages, Battlefield 1 didn't just write itself into the annals of the genre, but also prove once and for all the WWI is a suitable setting for military FPS games, and shouldn't just be the realm of strategy games alone.
We eagerly await the release of Battlefield 2042 and see where it slots into this list!