18 months of updates in, Battlefield 2042 is about to receive its fifth seasonal content drop. With the update slated to hit on June 7, EA invited me to try out the content before the launch in a closed online preview session. Here are my thoughts on the new content, as well as the future of the game.
As previously announced, Season 5's launch comes with Reclaimed as a new map, three new weapons, three new grenade variants, squad management features, and a number of quality-of-life changes to vehicles, classic weapons, and more.
The new map: Reclaimed
Diving right in, my first impression of Reclaimed was just how small it felt compared to other maps of 2042. It turns out I was correct. DICE confirmed that this is the smallest map yet to hit the game, designed from the ground up to be 64-player centric. You read that right, and the only way to play Reclaimed in 128-mode is to spin up a custom Portal session, though I would hate to see the absolute meat grinder that it would be. Due to the lower player count and smaller map area, you won't find any jets or transport choppers on this map, though almost everything else, hardware wise, is fair game.
If you ever played Battlefield 4's Zavod 311 map, the new arena may feel a little familiar. Set in Czechia, the new map presents a war-torn industrial environment that's been overtaken by nature. It's more naturally dirty and worn down than the maps we've seen so far for 2042. Trees are growing through the industrial buildings' broken roofs, and flashy graffiti covers many of their walls, made by anti-war groups of this universe.
There are three objective points with open-ended flags that allow for vehicles to pressure and takeover, while the remaining three are closed off and need an infantry presence to effectively attack.
Highlights for me were the two side-by-side set warehouses that make up two objectives. These let teams battle it out between them across the road as both buildings' walls slowly crumble from the ongoing battle, leaving only a skeleton in the end. You won't be taking down any of the buildings themselves though, we are way past that level of destruction it seems. Another highlight was the bunker that's carved onto a mountain, with multiple angles of attack available. Shield-wielding Dozer can be an optimal choice of operator here thanks to the more closed-off, narrow sections available.
I can comment on the map layout being extremely heavy with cover too. There were almost no stretches of empty roads or natural landscapes like we've seen in the original launch maps before their reworks.
The play session lasted a couple of hours and was split into two parts offering Breakthrough and Conquest. Unfortunately, the preview experience was mostly against bots, with players only making up a maximum of two squads per team through the whole session I was present in. This makes it both difficult to judge the map's balance, flow, and intensity, as well as to find if there are any natural chokepoints that can slow the momentum from an over-aggressive team.
Weapons, Gadgets, and Squad Management
The bolt action family has a new member: the XCE Bar. While the sound of its firing is not my favorite due to the lack of a proper 'Thud', players looking to drop enemies with well-placed headshots now have another highly customizable choice. Almost every attachment under the sun comes as an option for this sniper, letting it be whatever its user wants it to be. Battlefield 2042's live attachment swapping system shines here too, letting the gun go from a scoped, long-range assassin to a mid-range rifle with a holographic sight for aggressive players within seconds.
Battlefield 4’s popular G36C is also here, which now sports the name GEW-46. The assault rifle is aimed at medium range engagements, which is basically perfect for the new map. I found the spread pattern a little hard to control over long bursts, but I'm sure with the proper attachments, it can be a monster for almost any scenario.
Lastly, into the weapons front arrives the BFP.50, which is aptly described as a hand cannon by DICE. This can two-shot enemies at close range. If you miss though, the rather long gap between trigger pulls means the advantage goes to the enemy to do a quick and deadly spray in your direction.
As with any Battlefield game, there are grumblings from fans about the overuse, or spam, of explosives in 2042. Already, there are grenades, a multitude of shoulder-fired rocket variants, weapon-mounted grenade launchers, C4, airburst launchers, sticky launchers, claymores, and more from the infantry side, and let's not forget all the firepower from ground and air vehicles.
Now in Season 5, DICE is adding to that. We are getting spring grenades that jump up before exploding to flush people out of cover, low-power mini grenades that come in packs of three, and anti-tank sticky grenades that are self-explanatory. It's going to be Christmas for explosion lovers like me, but many others will probably switch to playing as Irish for his projectile neutralizing gadget.
Delivering on fan requests, the classic RPG-7 (V2) is now an option as a standard carry for the Engineer class. It packs a punch too, delivering 35 damage to the back of tanks. Hitting long-range targets still has a special nostalgic feeling when using this retro launcher. Combined with the anti-tank grenades (around 20 damage a pop, and you get two), a lone engineer with the right toolset can now take down heavy armor relatively quickly if they can avoid the gunners.
Finally, squad management is now a feature of Battlefield 2042, something that's weird to even type out considering it was such a mundane feature I had clearly taken for granted in previous titles. A new menu option now allows for the creation of new squads, joining one with free slots, and easily seeing if any squad has a friend in them. Previously, you could only switch to a random squad, and that was essentially a hidden setting tucked away in a corner. Adding to it, DICE plans to bring back XP bonuses for squad members that follow squad leader's orders in a mid-season update as well.
Overall, this is another much-needed content and feature injection for the shooter.
Battlefield 2042 was supposed to be the next major step in the long-running franchise, a true next-gen experience with doubled player counts, near-future set warfare, an extraction game mode, and even built-in customizable content from previous entries. Of course, the horrible launch took the wind out of the sails quite effectively. As I outlined in my original review of 2042, terrible performance, the shocking number of bugs, unbalanced maps, no class system, and lack of some basic features, which we are finally getting around to receiving, made this easily the worst launch of a Battlefield game ever.
One and a half years of updates from DICE have brought the game to a point that probably should have been the launch experience. Classes were brought back, finally giving roles for players to follow, almost all launch maps have received reworks (final one coming later in Season 5), while crashes and visual bugs have all but disappeared. Despite being promoted for its massive battles and focus on team play, the lack of squad management hurt the game heavily in my opinion. But we are finally getting that resolved soon too.
That doesn't mean there have been casualties on the way. The extraction mode's updates were cut early on, and Portal mode is yet to receive any new content from previous Battlefield games since launch too. The studio seems to be struggling with balancing 128-player maps. New specialists are also not in development. These were all major selling points originally. Sure, the game is still getting seasonal updates every few months, but with DICE's focus being moved to a future Battlefield entry that might take an entirely new form, I don't know how many more seasons 2042 has in it, if there are any more at all.
At the time of writing, player counts on Steam shows Battlefield 2042 having around the same number of players as 2018's Battlefield V, which had its own launch controversies. When the newest game in a high-profile multiplayer franchise can't ditch the stigma surrounding a bad launch and attract new players even with continued updates, it won't be a big surprise to me if Season 5 ends up being the grand finale. Though I hope this is not the case.
While DICE has said that work on the game will continue post-Season 5, the studio is being ambiguous about what kind of future support the game will see exactly. It's a shame if EA decides to put Battlefield 2042 in maintenance mode when the game finally feels like it's reaching a good state.
Battlefield 2042 – Season 5: New Dawn hits PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on June 7 as a free update for owners of the game. EA Play, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and PC Game Pass subscription holders are also gaining access for no extra charge.
The gameplay impressions and screenshots in this article were gathered during a digital closed preview session of the upcoming content provided by EA and DICE.