One of the earliest leaks we had on Battlefield 2042 was that DICE is working on a mode similar to Escape from Tarkov. It sounded interesting and got a lot of attention from all three fan bases.
Brief introduction to Escape From Tarkov
For those who are unfamiliar with Escape from Tarkov, it is a hardcore FPS where players are deployed on a map alongside other players and AI enemies in order to loot, kill and extract, with the focus on looting and surviving. Tarkov is quite unique as there is no visual indicators of any kind in the game. There is no map, no visual interface, no objective direction and no player marking of any kind, even if you are running in squad it is not uncommon to shoot your teammates that go astray without communicating first. Tarkov is also very harsh on equipment, in a sense that by dying or not extracting you are losing all your loadout that you went into the game with, and having a good loadout is not a piece of cake. So, living and dying in Tarkov has a very big price and that makes every raid filled with adrenaline as you have much at stake.
Battlefield Hazard Zone mode
Battlefield's new mode Hazard zone also takes focus away from killing to collecting data drives and extracting with them. Players compete against maximum of 8 opposing squads in a match which populates between 24 and 32 players, which is unusually low for Battlefield standards. The mode is not just a snatch & grab, because you will do a fair share of shooting and killing as you encounter a lot of AI and players on the way to the drives and back, but the main objective is to get as much as drives before other players and extract safely.
Tarkov has fewer players per map than Hazard zone, so they created maps that have few choke points which works pretty well. Those who are looking for some action know where they will find it and will be rewarded with high-tier loot if they make it out alive, but others who want to loot & extract in silence can do just that. Avoid places that are crowded and settle for low-tier loot with a higher chance for survival.
Battlefield uses smaller portions of main maps for the Hazard zone stage. It also takes another approach by setting the drive locations the same for many squads meaning they will be forced to fight over them. There is also only one extraction location for everyone, twice per game, which kind of enforces 1 squad survival approach. So, you could say that the Hazard zone is more objective oriented and the game's momentum is somewhat more orchestrated by the game narrative itself rather than players, wherein the Tarkov you are free to hit any place you want and extract on a couple of locations at any time.
Time limits are also quite different, where the Hazard zone game takes up to 15 minutes and Tarkov up to 45. Those things do have a downside in Tarkov, because quite often on some maps you will go entire raid without encountering any players, and that can get quite boring especially for casual players. Hazard zone doesn't have that problem as you will have a fight every minute or so, which is more in tune with the Battlefield player base.
Difficulty and grinding
Hazard zone mimics Tarkov in a way that it tracks games you extracted successfully and adds them to an extraction streak which gives you more credit to buy perks & loadout, and resets the streak when you don't extract. However, it is not nearly as harsh as Tarkov, as you can get yourself a good loadout quite fast. That is not necessarily a bad thing, especially for casual players who want to play more laid-back matches. There was a thread recently on reddit where people with crazy amount of Tarkov in-game money complained how they would often equip for a raid, get into the lobby, see a number of players in the lobby, and leave because they didn't want to risk losing their equipment. Hazard zone does not have that harshness, but does come with a price where games themselves don't have that much at stake therefore might be less interesting.
Problem of identity
And that currently seems like a big issue with this mode. It didn't gain traction among the fanbase as it currently doesn't have nor Battlefield nor Tarkov vibe. It is in no man's land without a clear identity.
Battlefield wanted the mode to be more tactically oriented, but currently, it is mostly played by rushing to the loot and shooting everything in between without much focus on tactics. And if that state continues, the existence of this mode could become obsolete. If the mode is only collect & shoot, why would you do it on a smaller map with 32 people instead of playing Battlefield's main mode, in which Battlefield excels (if we ignore the technical issues). There is a chance that in the future the mode attracts a smaller but more dedicated fanbase that would play more tactically but I don't see it happening until they find a good balance between their casual and Tarkov’s hardcore approach.
The future of Hazard zone mode
Dying & extracting should have a value, otherwise why constraint a game to a narrative that doesn't bring anything to the game. But that value does not have to be as harsh as Tarkov’s. Finding that thin line is a challenge I admit, to appeal to casual players with keeping things at stake, but it is the only way I see this mode living on.
Bear in mind that even Tarkov does depend on wipe cycles that occur every 8-10 months, which reset all game's progress and has everyone starting from zero. Battlefield needs to find its own way of making things interesting and having people come for more.