The recently released Battlefield 2042 trailer is full of memorable moments and surprises, but the biggest surprise may be the somewhat quiet reveal that Battlefield 2042‘s setting and plot are actually built around the dangers of global warming.
“The real-world yet fictitious setting pitches a ‘what if’ scenario of societies crumbling in the face of violent climate changes and diminishing resources,” reads a description of Battlefield 2042‘s premise posted on the PlayStation Blog. “Stateless soldiers (‘No-Pat Specialists’) now fight on behalf of the remaining superpowers. The setup is close enough to today to be recognizable, but far enough in the future to include advanced arsenals and destructive weather patterns.”
The Battlefield 2042 website expands on that description by offering a timeline of events that help describe “how we got here.” Basically, the game occurs in a potential future version of our own world in which a series of geological disasters that date back to around the year 2031 accelerate the depletion of global resources. A prolonged period of global suffering gives rise to a group known as “No-Pats” who were essentially abandoned by their countries (or at least see it that way).
Things somehow get worse in 2040 when a debris storm destroys 70% of orbiting satellites and causes “mass devastation.” Suddenly deprived of what few technological conveniences remain, the United States and Russia blame each other for the debris storm as everyone scrambles to find a way to survive in a world at war that’s also still suffering from geological disasters that are now impossible to predict.
In a way, this setup shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, the sometimes forgotten Battlefield 2142 was built around the idea that global warming eventually caused a new ice age. While the Battlefield franchise isn’t exactly known for its sweeping serial narrative, simple logic dictates that the events of Battlefield 2042 will lead into the events of Battlefield 2142.
Yet, the fact that Battlefield 2042 features a plotline and setting built around the threat of global warming is, in many ways, quite surprising and strangely refreshing.
We’re still waiting to see Battlefield 2042‘s gameplay (which is scheduled to be revealed on June 13th during the Xbox E3 event), but the idea of having to contend with somewhat random real-time weather disasters in the middle of a battle is, at least on paper, pretty interesting. It’s a compelling variable that fits well into the already chaotic nature of the “average” Battlefield match.
For that matter, it’s also nice that Battlefield 2042 will focus on something other than a historical instance of the world at war or a loose narrative explanation that ultimately amounts to “eh, why not?” While the Battlefield franchise hasn’t always succeeded outside of its thematic comfort zone (we’re looking at you Battlefield Hardline), this feels like a much more interesting alternative to drawing from the “World War” or “Modern Warfare” well yet again.
Mostly, though, it’s nice that developer EA DICE is bothering to even acknowledge a potentially sensitive topic in the name of doing something that’s a little more interesting. While nobody expects Battlefield 2042 to feature a biting story about the horrors of global warming designed to attack deniers (this is still EA that we’re talking about, and the game doesn’t even feature a campaign), it would have been easy for EA DICE to ignore this idea entirely in the name of avoiding being “political.”
Indeed, EA Dice could have cut the global warming element from the plot entirely, constructed a story about the United States and Russia battling in the future, and few people would have called them out or ever expected them to address the idea in the first place. Instead, they bothered to incorporate an issue that we honestly don’t see a lot of major Triple-A games address despite the fact that it’s both a prominent problem and a source of potentially fascinating thematic scenarios.
It’s undeniably frustrating that members of the Battlefield 2042 team are pulling a Ubisoft by trying to suggest that the game’s use of global warming is largely a gameplay concept rather than a piece of social commentary, but with the next Call of Duty reportedly going back to World War 2 yet again, Battlefield 2042 still deserves at least a little credit for potentially courting controversy in the name of doing something a bit different.