Ripple Effect's multiplayer mode lets you combine Battlefield 2042 with Battlefield 1942, Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3--while changing all the rules.
Battlefield 2042 is taking DICE's storied first-person shooter back to the future. As it turns out, though, it's also looking to the past, with a multiplayer mode that mixes aspects of 2042 with some of the series's biggest titles: Battlefield 1942, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and Battlefield 3. The new mode is called Battlefield Portal, and it looks like it'll provide a whole lot more than nostalgia.
Developer Ripple Effect Studios, formerly DICE LA, provided us with an early look at Battlefield Portal before its announcement at EA Play 2021, which gave a rundown of its impressive capabilities. First and foremost, it brings a mess of elements from previous Battlefield games into the Battlefield 2042 sandbox. Those are chiefly six remastered maps: Battle of the Bulge and El Alamein from Battlefield 1942, Arica Harbor and Valparaiso from Bad Company 2, and Caspian Border and Noshahr Canals from Battlefield 3. All the maps have been amped-up graphically to fit with 2042's version of the Frostbite Engine, as well as altered in some cases to accommodate the 128-player matches possible in Battlefield 2042's PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S versions.
But Portal goes beyond just allowing you to jump into older Battlefield maps. It also brings back the factions, roles, and classes of those past Battlefield games, plus more than 40 vehicles and 40 weapons from the lot. And once Ripple Effect had decided to bring back those classic Battlefield elements, it started to think about what else it could do with them all.
"When we first started off, our studio wanted to make a love letter to the fans," Portal senior design director Justin Wiebe said in an interview with GameSpot. "Whenever a Battlefield comes out, you always hear from the community, 'Oh, I hope it's going to be like Bad Company 2, or my favorite game was Battlefield 3,' and our answer wanted to be, 'Yes, let's do that....' So we started remastering and we said, 'Yeah, we're going to build all these assets,' working on all of it. And then at some point we stop and say, 'Well, we're going to be building two maps for each of these classic experiences, but we've got all these weapons and these vehicles and these classic World War II planes. I mean, wouldn't it be cool if we could actually take those and play them in the 2042 maps?' Somebody else threw in there, well, what if you could play against the 2042 era and then we were stopped. We were like, so you're talking about scenarios here, 'who would win in a fight?' kind of scenarios."
As Wiebe explained, that started the team thinking about what more could be done with Portal as it started mixing and matching elements from past games. Not only could they allow players to play in multiplayer matches that leaned into the feel of past Battlefield games, but they could start to play those elements off each other in interesting ways.
From there, it wasn't much of a leap to what Battlefield Portal will be at launch: a platform that allows players to create their own custom matches and experiences, combining all those Battlefield elements from a variety of games to make exactly the multiplayer modes they want to play.
What's most impressive about Portal, though, is just how much depth the system allows. It operates out of a website, rather than the Battlefield 2042 game client, to make it easier to use, and it allows players to access it even when they're not playing--this also gives Ripple Effect the ability to update Portal without having to put out patches for Battlefield 2042 proper. (Technically, in fact, you don't even have to own Battlefield 2042 to make creations with Battlefield Portal, although you do need to buy the game in order to actually play them.) The system allows you to quickly create matches where you can adjust all sorts of parameters. Portal's reveal trailer showed a what-if battle that saw a knife-wielding 1942 army face off against Battlefield 3 soldiers carrying only defibrillators. Matches can stay pretty standard, or move quickly into the realm of the truly wacky.
"We were like, so you're talking about scenarios here, 'who would win in a fight?' kind of scenarios."
What's more, Battlefield Portal allows you to customize your matches and modes (what Ripple Effect referred to collectively as "experiences") with a Logic editor. In practice, that means you can change the rules of a Battlefield game at a fascinatingly granular level. Wiebe demonstrated creating an experience through Portal during Ripple Effect's presentation to journalists, setting up a quick match of one team of snipers fighting another team wielding shotguns. He could change each side's capabilities, like taking away the shotgunners' ability to sprint, or making it so that scoring a kill immediately killed you. It's even possible to adjust balance elements, like how much damage weapons do, or to make the player count of one team dramatically bigger than the other.
Once you make your experience, you can create it as a match to let other people play if you so choose (you can also password-protect your matches so only you and your friends can play if you prefer, and you can potentially even play in experiences alone against AI if you'd rather do that). Portal will make community-made experiences available on what looks a lot like a traditional server list, and you'll be able to search through it based on tags for the elements included, like specific eras and maps, or the rules in play, such as allowing for friendly fire. There will also be developer-created experiences you can try, and Ripple Effect will also highlight community creations the developers particularly like, or which are particularly popular among players. All community experiences are credited to their creators, too, so you can be sure everyone knows what you've made.
Because Portal allows you to change the parameters of Battlefield matches pretty extensively, it's easy to assume that the mode would be separated from the rest of Battlefield 2042's multiplayer suite when it comes to earning experience, unlocking weapons and equipment, and advancing the game's season pass offerings. But Ripple Effect clarified that that's not the case--you'll still be able to earn experience points while playing in most Portal matches.
"Whether you're playing in All-Out Warfare, you're playing in Hazard Zone, or you're playing in Portal, you're earning XP because I think it would be tragic to have this time-limited, let's say battle pass, and you're feeling like you should not play Battlefield Portal because you're afraid that you're not going to make progress, you're not going to be able to unlock all the cool stuff," Wiebe said. "So for us, it was a huge priority to make sure that no matter where you play the game, you're going to earn XP, you're going to progress your battle pass, and you're going to unlock your cool attachments and stuff. Now, we know by the nature of a builder, people are going to make things that maybe can inflate the XP earn rate and things like that. So we've built in certain safeties, I would call them, in order to protect the experience--so people can try, but they won't be able to exploit it too badly. But the most important thing is people's time will be valued and that they will be able to contribute and earn the rewards and progress no matter where they play in the game."
"The most important thing is people's time will be valued and that they will be able to contribute and earn the rewards and progress no matter where they play in the game."
What's more, Ripple Effect said, the gear you unlock as you play and the new Operators that become available across Battlefield 2042's seasons will also unlock in Portal, so you'll have access to new elements in the builder as they come into the game.
Portal isn't quite as robust as, say, full-on modding tools, as it carries a few key limitations. Currently, you can choose which era of Battlefield to draw characters, equipment, and vehicles from for each team, but you can't mix those elements together on a single team. You can edit the logic of the match, which lets you mess with the rules, but there's no spacial editor--so you can't create your own battle royale mode for Battlefield, Wiebe told GameSpot, since you can't place items on the map itself or adjust the respawn pool.
But as Ripple Effect noted repeatedly during its presentation, this is just the "start of the journey" for Portal. The developer said it'll be paying attention to how players use Portal once Battlefield 2042 launches, while also responding to feedback and requests to add features down the line. Wiebe said Ripple Effect is looking to build a platform for the community to interact with the developer, where Ripple Effect can take feedback and suggestions and keep the community informed on what changes might come to Portal in the future, and why they are (or aren't) being added.
And it sounds like there's a lot you can do with logic editing in Portal, and while you can't completely mod the game, you can drastically change the experience. Wiebe mentioned an experience he'd recently played that another developer had created, called Gunfection, that demonstrated some of the weird things that are possible with Portal.
"You can imagine it's a Gun Game-slash-Infection mode, which I was just like, okay, how's this going to work? And the way it works is basically one team starts off playing Gun Game [a popular shooter mode in which players' weapons periodically get swapped] and almost everybody is playing that, except for one player who's on the Infection team. And so while everybody's playing Gun Game, rotating through guns as they get kills, any time they get killed by the infected player, they actually become infected.
"And the infected are these crazed mechanics with drills. That's all they got, and super speed. So they're running around with drills, trying to drill people and trying to kill them. And so all of a sudden you have fewer and fewer people playing Gun Game and more infected crazy mechanics coming at you, until there's sort of the last man standing playing Gun Game. And it just opened my eyes to the potential of this thing where you took two completely different game modes and you just mashed them together and created an entirely new experience. And that kind of was the moment, I'd say, for me, where I was like, holy crap, we've got something special on our hands here."