Battlefield 2042’s first content update was delayed as DICE methodically fixed bugs and added features like VOIP to the much-loved 128-player shooter. That work is ongoing – major map redesigns are yet to come – but video game seasons can’t be put off forever. The first season of Battlefield 2042, called Zero Hour, begins this Thursday, June 9.
The season will add a new free map called Exposure, a mountainous Canadian map whose serenity contrasts with the helicopter death and rebirth cycle that characterizes Battlefield matches. It will also introduce the first Battlefield 2042 Battle Pass. Some Battlefield players and viewers have said the pass doesn’t include enough (most of this information was leaked early), but on the bright side, EA and DICE haven’t blocked anything other than cosmetics behind the battle pass premium track.
This means that the new Specialist, Ewalina Lis, will be unlockable by any Battlefield 2042 player, regardless of whether or not they paid for the premium version of the Battle Pass. That wasn’t a given: Rainbow Six Siege doesn’t make new operators free, for example.
Lis is the Tier 4 Battle Pass unlock. Her special ability is Armor Hunter, which detects nearby damaged enemy vehicles, and her gadget is the G-84 TGM, which launches rockets that she can direct via a nose camera. I got to try playing as Lis during a preview session on Monday, and driving her rockets is as fun as ever in games. They have limited range and it’s hard to hit wobbly helicopters, so it doesn’t look like their rockets will tip the vehicle/infantry balance too hard towards the infantry.
This is also true because Lis acts as a counterweight to two powerful new helicopters, the YG-99 Hannibal and the RAH-68 Huron, which will unlock in the 10th and 11th free battle pass tiers. Both helicopters have stealth modes that disable most of their weapons but keep them under the radar and prevent missile blocking. Lis, of course, will still be able to manually guide rockets to stealth helicopters while they are covered.
For infantry, a ‘Ghostmaker’ crossbow, a suppressed BSV-M sniper rifle, and a smoke grenade launcher will also be unlockable in the free battle pass lane. The premium battle pass unlocks fancy skins for these things and more, but nothing that can fly, drive, or shoot. (Which I could see being disappointing to anyone who owns it.)
The new map is also a free addition for all Battlefield 2042 owners.
The preview server where I was able to try Exposure – I didn’t have a deep understanding of how it works, but I enjoyed jumping off a big cliff – was limited to 64 players, which makes sense because DICE said it’s now focusing on smaller maps. The developer recently made Innovative mode for 64 players onlyalso.
“What we’ve seen is that smaller maps with 128 players are a lot of fun,” says Ryan McArthur, Senior Producer of Battlefield 2042. “So I think when we say we’re going to go smaller maps, it’s not that we’re going to reduce to 64-player Conquest. “
64-player-only maps can happen, McArthur added, but if DICE can “find the fun” with 128 players, it will continue to create 128-player maps. The exhibit is one of the smaller maps that he says is fun with 128 players.
Exposure’s original design was modified in a few ways, particularly in relation to the cover, following complaints that other Battlefield 2042 maps contained too many flat expanses between points. This is the first time we’ll see the practical effect of feedback on map design.
At some point in the first season of Battlefield 2042, a patch will also introduce a new version of kaleidoscope, one of the original maps that DICE undertook to redraw after this criticism. Updates to Battlefield Portal are also coming during Season 1 (a vehicle budget increase is one), as well as patches related to animation, performance, and balance. The season will last for 12 weeks, but gameplay-related things like Lis and the helicopters will unlock even after the season and your battle pass ends.
Battlefield games have returned after mass discontent before: Battlefield 5 was heavily hated by many for a while, and is now a favorite. That could happen for Battlefield 2042, though I don’t think we’ll see a big reversal this Thursday when season one begins. I’m looking forward to playing the new map, and the battle pass will give players new things to work with, but it hasn’t completely changed yet.