Ever since publishing my initial review for Battlefield 2042, my opinion of the game has steadily declined to the point where I don’t even have it installed anymore. There are a ton of reasons why I’ve completely lost interest in the game. I can only play the same handful of maps and modes and experience the same bugs for so long before feeling like the game and its developer aren’t respecting my time and emotional investment.
Despite all its lingering issues, I had fun with the latest Battlefield for a while. Maybe I’m delusional, but I still think the core gameplay offers a lot of flexibility, and the patches that DICE has released have genuinely helped fix some of the game’s more egregious issues. Yet, as the weeks have gone on, my frustrations with the game and my boredom with its content have continued to grow.
I was still holding out hope that the launch of Season 1 on June 9th would at least give me a reason to come back long enough to grind the battle pass that I already owned with the Ultimate Edition. But after getting the chance to go hands-on early with the game’s first actual content update since it launched in November 2021, I think I can safely say that 2042 will continue to remain uninstalled from my Xbox Series X.
That’s not to say that the content coming with Season 1, called “Zero Hour,” isn’t good, because—well, I was going to say it is good, but I refuse to make the same mistake that I made with my review. Given the limited amount of time I had with both the new map, Exposure, and the new Specialist, Lis, I truly don’t feel like I can definitively judge whether either are good additions. That’s especially true considering there were less than the maximum players in most of my sessions and we didn’t even get to try the 128-player version of Conquest.
From what I experienced of Exposure, it has some good qualities. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re a dedicated vehicle player or prefer more close-quarters combat. There’s a lot of dramatic verticality, as the map is literally a mountain. At the top are more open areas and a base to fight over. In the middle of the map are tunnels and offices, and at the bottom are crashed planes and rocky terrain. It’s also one of the more detailed maps in 2042, with visuals that make it clear that this is a setting ravaged by war and natural disaster.
However, the map still suffers from the kind of “flow” problems that the rest of 2042’s maps suffer from. It feels like a bunch of smaller maps combined into a bigger one. Its different sections don’t necessarily form a cohesive whole, and traversing its rocky inclines relies heavily on 2042’s ziplines. According to producers, Exposure is the first map where feedback from the community impacted its development, and that can be seen in the form of more cover, but it appears that DICE is still struggling with making bigger maps that still feel like cohesive battlefields and less like Frankensteinian creations cobbled together from disparate concepts.
The new Specialist, Lis, should help mitigate some of the vehicular dominance that’s cursed Battlefield 2042 ever since it launched (though, to be fair, recent patches have also helped give infantry players some breathing room). Her remote-controlled rocket launcher, which works just like the TV missile from previous Battlefield games, is powerful in the right hands but also hard enough to control that helicopter pilots still stand a chance. One of Lis’ most interesting features is not what she brings to the fight, but what she doesn’t: Lis players are prohibited from bringing the M5 recoilless rocket launcher and the anti-air rocket launcher as their secondary gadget. This could be a preview of things to come when DICE finally decides how they’re going to rework the Specialist system.
Other than that, Season 1 introduces two new weapons and two new stealth helicopters. There’s the Ghostmaker Crossbow, which is a one-hit kill at short and even medium range and is especially notable for its explosive arrows, which can damage both infantry and vehicles alike. The other weapon, the BSV-M Marksman rifle, is more of a DMR than a sniper rifle and can be a versatile weapon depending on how you kit it out in the Plus menu. I only got to fly the stealth chopper once, and almost immediately crashed it, but I was surprised that the gunner seat featured a 360-degree turret with a fairly powerful machine gun, which will surely add it to the overflowing pantheon of vehicles that 2042 players hate.
Really, I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by what DICE is bringing to the table with Season 1. We’ve waited nearly seven months for… one new map, two new weapons, and a new Specialist? We won’t even get to experience our first reworked launch map until we near the end of this 12-week first season, and Portal—arguably the best aspect of 2042—gets a vague promise of new weapons but no new maps. I didn’t need to play the content to know that it was too little, but experiencing it solidified how underwhelming the quantity is.
But there was something else about Season 1’s content, besides its relative lack, that didn’t sit well with me, and that’s how much it favors keyboard and mouse players over controller players. Controlling Lis’s rocket was much easier with a mouse than a controller, and both weapons are clearly made for skilled precision players. Even the 360-degree gunner turret on the stealth chopper will become a nightmare in the hands of a PC player. And it just solidified the real reason why I stopped playing Battlefield 2042: cross-play.
As a console player, cross-play just sucks for me, and I especially hate playing against PC players in Battlefield 2042. It doesn’t help that aim assist on controllers has never worked properly, which makes facing those PC players—even though they too are experiencing mouse input issues—pretty much impossible for anyone other than those most skilled with their sticks. But PC players have other advantages. Advanced movement techniques like sliding around corners and bunny-hopping are much easier to accomplish with a keyboard. And even with 2042’s plagued performance on PC, you can still run the game at a higher frame rate than what console players can achieve. Sure, you can turn cross-play off, but good luck finding a match with the game’s dwindling player numbers. Cross-play just taints the entire experience.
I was really hoping that DICE would announce that it was making adjustments to how cross-play works in 2042. Console-only cross-play, which Apex Legends manages, would be fine, and would still probably have the player population required to fill 128-player Conquest servers. In fact, console players might actually start coming back to the game if they didn’t have to face off against PC tryhards. But, during a Q&A session after our hands-on gameplay, DICE dodged every question about cross-play that I and several other people asked.
It’s disappointing, but that’s just par for the course when it comes to Battlefield 2042. Even though its producers claim that they are fully backing this game and that they plan on developing it for as long as possible, they’ve already lost a majority of its player base, and the kinds of changes DICE is making, while positive, are granular and will only really matter to the small community still surrounding the game. The fact that one of DICE’s big talking points about the future of 2042 is character animations and that the characters will now turn more at the hip before moving their feet just feels sad.
If DICE wants players to return, it needs to be swinging for the fences and not feel satisfied with the paltry amount of content available in Zero Hour. You can’t say that you’re committed to a game and then only release one new map after seven months of nothing. In addition to changing or removing cross-play, Battlefield 2042 could get me back with more than one map per Season, new Portal content and a concerted effort to fix some of the current weapons, a server browser for All-Out Warfare (or at least persistent servers), faster reworks of older maps, and way more weapons. Given DICE’s recent history, especially with how it abandoned Battlefield V and even 2042’s Hazard Zone, I’m not holding out hope.
If I do end up reinstalling 2042, it won’t be because of anything that the game itself did, but more due to my disgusting FOMO and compulsive behavior that will drive me to unlock all of the cosmetics I get with the premium battle pass, which I already own. That way, I can dress up characters I don’t care about in a game I will barely play. At least the new skins look cool.
Images: Electronic Arts