Battlefield 2042's first content update was delayed while DICE methodically fixed bugs and added features like VOIP to the 128-player shooter, which hasn't turned around its icy reception yet, but not for lack of trying. That work is ongoing—big map redesigns are still to come—but videogame seasons can't be held back forever. Season one of Battlefield 2042, called Zero Hour, starts this Thursday, June 9.
The season will add a free new map called Exposure, a mountainous Canadian map whose serenity contrasts with the cycle of helicopter death and rebirth that characterizes Battlefield matches. It will also introduce Battlefield 2042's first battle pass. Some Battlefield players and onlookers have said that the pass doesn't include enough (most of this info leaked early), but on the plus side, EA and DICE haven't locked anything but cosmetics behind the premium battle pass track.
That means that the new specialist, Ewalina Lis, will be unlockable by any Battlefield 2042 player whether or not they've 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 she can steer via a nose-cam. I was able to try playing as Lis during a preview session on Monday, and steering her rockets around is as fun as it always is in games. They have limited range and it's tough to hit wobbly helicopters, though, so it doesn't seem like her rockets will tilt the vehicle/infantry balance too hard toward infantry.
That's also true because Lis acts as a counterbalance to two new helicopters, the YG-99 Hannibal and the RAH-68 Huron, which will be unlocked in the 10th and 11th free battle pass tiers. Both helicopters have stealth modes which disable most of their weapons, but drop them off radar and prevent missile lock-ons. Lis, of course, will still be able to manually guide rockets into the stealth choppers while they're shrouded.
For infantry, a 'Ghostmaker' crossbow, suppressed BSV-M marksman rifle, and smoke grenade launcher will also be unlockable in the free battle pass track. The premium battle pass unlocks fancy skins for that stuff and more, but nothing flyable, drivable, or shootable. (Which I could see being disappointing for those who own it.)
The new map, too, is a free addition for all owners of Battlefield 2042.
The preview server where I was able to try Exposure—I didn't get a deep sense of how it plays, but enjoyed jumping off a big cliff—was limited to 64-players, which makes sense, because DICE has said that it's now focusing on smaller maps. The developer recently made Breakthrough mode 64-player only, too.
"What we have seen is that smaller maps with 128-players are a lot of fun," says Battlefield 2042 senior producer Ryan McArthur. "So I think when we say we're going to smaller maps, it's not that we're going to go down to 64-player Conquest."
64-player-only maps could happen, McArthur added, but if DICE can "find the fun" with 128 players, it'll keep making 128-player maps. Exposure is one of the smaller maps that he says is fun with 128 players.
Exposure's original design was modified in some ways, particularly in relation to cover, following complaints that Battlefield 2042's other maps contained too many flat expanses between points. It's the first time we'll see what practical effect map design feedback has had.
Sometime during Battlefield 2042's first season, a patch will also introduce a new version of Kaleidoscope, one of the original maps that DICE committed to redesigning following that criticism. Updates to Battlefield Portal are also coming during season one (an increased vehicle budget is one), as well as patches related to animation, performance, and balancing. The season will last 12 weeks, but gameplay-related stuff like Lis and the helicopters will be unlockable even after the season and its battle pass conclude.
Battlefield games have made comebacks following mass discontent before: Battlefield 5 was strongly disliked by many for a while, and now it's a favorite. That could happen for Battlefield 2042, although I don't think we'll see a big reversal this Thursday when season one starts. I look forward to playing the new map, and the battle pass will give players new things to work toward, but it hasn't quite transformed at this point.