Battlefield Classes have been a core part of DICE's shooter series for almost twenty years, dating back to Battlefield 1942. But Battlefield 2042 Specialists are augmenting that franchise staple in a way like never before, introducing a character roster that instead takes inspiration from the hero shooters that have dominated the competitive multiplayer scene for the last half decade.
In short, say goodbye to the Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Recon classes, and say hello to Casper, Webster, Maria, and Boris, alongside six more Specialists that will launch with Battlefield 2042 this October.
"Players will step into the shoes of the No-Pat Specialists fighting not only for survival, but also for a seat at the table when the last shot has been fired in this war," explains Daniel Berlin, lead designer at DICE. "Specialists open up the sandbox significantly, and you now have much more freedom to create the kind of Battlefield loadout that fits your specific playstyle."
Beyond class conflict
This isn't to say Classes are completely excised from Battlefield 2042's online combat meta. Instead, as Berlin explains, they're "now handled more as a category" under which these new Specialist characters sit.
"So you can imagine that there is a Recon category, and underneath that category you have multiple Specialists that are grouped in terms of what type of gameplay they deliver," he adds. "So the Recon Specialists are great at conveying information about troop movement, and they're also Specialists at disrupting enemy information. Now there's differentiating Specialists underneath every category, but they all share that type of role and that type of gameplay."
Take Boris, the first Engineer Specialist revealed as part of today's Battlefield 2042 E3 blowout. Berlin explains that all Engineer Specialists are centered around using "different means of modern technology to lock down areas and boost defensive position", but Boris is the only Engineer who can deploy a SG-36 Sentry Gun, and use his unique Sentry Operator trait to automatically buff any other Sentry Guns in his nearby vicinity.
All Specialists will thus have their own Specialty and Trait that separates them from others within their Class category. In this sense, then, Classes are less a defined archetype, and more like a starting point for players to explore from, finding their favourite Specialists and, in another step DICE has taken towards greater customizability, equipping them with any weapons, throwables, and secondary gadgets that suit their playstyles even further.
"In previous games, I never really chose a Class based on their gadget," admits associate producer Marie Bustgaard Granlund. "I was more going towards the weapon that was tied to that Class. But a Specialist can use any gun; they're not locked behind their Classes anymore, so if you would like to play as an Assault character like Webster, you can still equip a sniper rifle or a shotgun if you would like to play with that type of weapon. I think that is something that kind of enables more unique playstyles, and something that I'm really excited about."
These options present opportunities for players to create unique Specialist builds that could, in turn, allow for the kind of advanced squad compositions usually seen in the hero shooters that Battlefield 2042 has taken a page from. Webster, for example, has a grappling hook that can get him to elevated positions quickly and easily. Equip the Assault Specialist with a sniper rifle, as Granlund mentioned, and those elevated positions suddenly become ideal sharpshooter perches, which can then be defended against any potential sneak attacks from behind (or above) by Boris' sentry gun.
It's these kinds of tactics, further enhanced by the new Plus system that allows players to switch between weapon attachments on the fly, that DICE is hoping to encourage with Battlefield 2042 Specialists, furnishing the culture of player experimentation and creativity that has been a hallmark of the series since its inception.
Only in Battlefield 2042
As with all hero shooters, there's a concern that Specialists may have a detrimental effect on the health of Battlefield 2042's meta, with fan favourite characters potentially dominating matches in both number and power. While DICE isn't putting a limit on how many people can play as the same Specialist in a match, the studio hopes that the ten available at launch offer enough choice, variation, and viability to maintain a diverse spread of characters across teams. Not only that, but that launch day roster is set to expand over time, with plans to introduce four more Specialists as part of Battlefield 2042's Year One Battle Pass.
But unforeseen consequences are an expectation of any sweeping reform to established formulas, and – sceptical or not – you have to admire the ambition behind Battlefield 2042's next-gen reimagining of the series' classic Class system. More than anything, Specialists are just one example of what DICE is trying to accomplish with Battlefield 2042, returning the franchise to its sandbox heritage with a multiplayer experience that throws players into vast, dynamic theatres of war, and equipping us with the ultimate agency to do whatever we like within them.