Battlefield Portal is wild. After the rumours of what Ripple Effect (formerly DICE LA) was working on for Battlefield 2042 and how it would mash-up classic Battlefield content, getting to take in exactly what Battlefield Portal offers surpassed any expectations I personally had.
There is something for pretty much every Battlefield fan to be found in Battlefield Portal. If you just want to play Battlefield 1942 (or 1943) again, then you have two of the original game’s maps recreated for the modern era, if you’ve got a hankering for the classic Rush mode in Bad Company 2, there’s that as well, and then there’s a couple of Battlefield 3’s best, with their showstopping destruction events.
But Battlefield Portal is so much more than just an opportunity to revisit some of the series’ best bits. That is obviously a big part of it, but Ripple Effect has combined this historic content, the maps, weapons and vehicles, and everything that Battlefield 2042 will offer with an extensive game editing tool that will let players flex their creativity to cook up custom game modes and variations on the Battlefield theme.
This comes through the Battlefield Builder, a browser-based tool that will let you effectively run a custom or private server at its most simplistic – setting things like map rotation, target score, and drawing from a handful of preset game modes – or dive into extensive logic tools that will enable you to cook up custom game modes and quirky one-offs. It should be accessible to pretty much anyone, compared to the old days of modding, and it is possible to have these custom experiences brought to all platforms that Battlefield 2042 is releasing on.
Demoing the system for us, Senior Design Director Justin Wiebe delved into one of a handful of match types he had created: ‘SVS GG’ a snipers vs. shotgun mode mixed with the constant weapon changes of gun game. Sounds like a classic.
Initially, Battlefield Builder just looks like a bunch of checkboxes and sliders. Pick a game mode, choose the maps, set max player count, spawn system, squad limits, and so on – you can even have asymmetric teams if you want. Then you pick the content for the two sides, selecting from the different eras and factions – WW2 Allies vs. BF3 Russians? – which automatically selects all of the weapons, vehicles, classes, gadgets and attachments that match… before you’re then able to delve in and enable or disable these as you see fit.
The first real step into nitty-gritty details sees you able fiddling with the fundamentals of the game. There’s a friendly fire toggle, sliders for player speed and damage, aim assist, reload options, and you can mess with the UI to turn off the minimap, friendly ID, pinging, and disable the Battlefield 2042 plus menu customisation system.
However, that’s nothing compared to what you can do with the Rules Editor. A visual editor geared toward simplicity, letting you define a rule, set up a condition under which it’s triggered and then an action that follows. It’s through this that Wiebe was able to set the mode to force equip weapons, drawing from an array that is assigned to each team, set up a team structure so that it’s a team gun game where all progress is united, add in checks and weapon restrictions to ensure the correct guns are being used, and that people haven’t switched to grenades or gadgets, and so on.
From there it’s simply a case of what you want to do with your creation. You can test it using Battlefield 2042’s integrated AI – AI backfill is optional for Battlefield Portal – keep the mode private or share it with select friends and password protect it, or simply throw it open to all and sundry. You could even share the code and get help to collaborate on a creation.
Perhaps the main oddity is that this core content is seems like it’s being shuffled off to one side of the “main” All-Out Warfare game modes: the huge 128-player battles in Conquest and Breakthrough. One of the very first questions people asked after seeing the initial Battlefield 2042 reveal was “Is there Rush?” It seems that the answer is “Yes, but you have to go digging for it.” The same goes for the classic game content that Ripple Effect has carefully recreated, walling it off so that it doesn’t need to be updated to truly support 128-players – you can, however, set up a 128-player rush on Arica Harbor if you want. We’ll just have to see how well it’s all presented to players at release.
While we’ve seen similar creative tools presented to players in other games, having them appear in Battlefield 2042 is a welcome surprise, especially when DICE and EA have often been slow to react and enable basic custom servers in the past. There’s the potential for some great game modes to be translated across, and I’m sure YouTubers and streamers will have plenty of fun cooking up silly one-offs like robot dogs vs. helicopters, or trying to crowbar a battle royale mode into the game. Personally I’m just glad to have the excuse to go and play some Bad Company 2 remastered, though. More of those maps, please.