Visceral Games working on Battlefield: Hardline

Yesterday, a leaked trailer, pointed to the announcement of a new Battlefield game coming at E3. EA is attempting to remove the trailer from all over the internet, but has since admitted that it was, in fact genuine, and has launched the game’s official website, which currently consists of nothing more than a declaration that the game will be unveiled at the publisher’s E3 conference on June 9.

Despite this silence, a number of details can be gleaned from the trailer. Battlefield: Hardline, will be a police themed shooter with a cops-and-robbers type setup. The fact that Battlefield is moving away from the military themes that have defined the series for years isn’t the only big news to come from the leaked information. Visceral Games – the studio behind the Dead Space series – appear to be developing the latest Battlefield installment. At face value this doesn’t seem like such a big deal; Visceral is a good studio with a pretty solid track record. The bigger news is the police theme then, right?

Wrong.

Rather than pitting each team directly against each other, both teams in Hardline‘s multiplayer have different goals. SWAT teams are tasked with rescuing hostages, while the robbers need to successfully pull off a heist. There is, of course, a single-player mode, which promises improvements to what is traditionally considered the weak link in Battlefield‘s otherwise excellent track record. Playing as a wronged Miami cop out for revenge, the game promises the most open environments in a Battlefield title to date, and the AI driving your opponents has been reworked from the ground up to ensure a different experience every time you play. In addition, levels are structured like a TV show, with recaps at the start of each level cliffhangers at the end. Environments are destructible, and Battlefield 4‘s trademark Levolution features return, creating a fast-paced and dynamic layout to each level and map.

Battlefield: Hardline marks several firsts for the Battlefield franchise. As mentioned, it will be the first Battlefield game that won’t have a military theme. It will be the first Battlefield to not be developed by Swedish game studio DICE – who have worked on every iteration of the franchise since the original Battlefield 1942 in 2002. Finally, it’s the first major first-person shooter to be developed by Visceral since James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire in 2001.

We know that DICE is busy working on Star Wars: Battlefront and the new Mirrors Edge, and with Battlefield 4 having been out almost a year – which has had its share of technical problems since launch – in the run-up to E3 many will have been wondering what new Battlefield news, if any, we might get this year. So it came as a surprise when the news leaked this week that Visceral Games would be working on the next installment – albeit a non-numbered sequel. DICE, having been around for over a decade has since expanded into multiple teams. They were able to simultaneously develop Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefield 3 at virtually the same time while also creating the frostbite 2 engine. DICE is clearly a triple-A developer so I would have sooner thought them to expand further rather than hand off their baby to another developer.

It seems to that this might have been out of their hands. Battlefield is a cash cow for EA, and with Call of Duty’s stock slipping somewhat, they can’t risk waiting years for their next big shooter and miss an opportunity to gain market share. This all points to EA mandating Battlefield as an annual title. From a business standpoint this makes perfect sense, of course. From a creative standpoint it raises some questions. DICE has famously said they can’t make a Battlefield game every year; which leaves other, potentially unproven studios to pick up the slack.

But in terms of Hardline, here’s where it gets tricky. Visceral is also a busy studio – working on an unannounced Star Wars game with Amy Hennig, who recently left Naughty Dog. They aren’t as large as DICE and might not be able to handle the strain of two triple-A games in concurrent development; although, presumably DICE is lending a hand. This is also the first we’ve seen of the game, which will likely be released this year to compete with Call of Duty in November. Which begs the question; how long has this game been in development if Dead Space 3 only came out last year? A rushed Battlefield often leads to serious technical issues at launch (see Battlefield 4), which if allowed to continue over several titles will undoubtedly damage the Battlefield brand.

But what about the obvious question: is Visceral the right studio to hand this project to? Agent Under Fire was their last first-person shooter. After that, they transitioned to third-person and never looked back. We know the studio has talent, but are they prepared for the very different challenges that a triple-A first person shooter will bring? Have they improved their multiplayer development since the poorly received Dead Space multiplayer? And if the the rumors that Visceral was involved in Battlefield 4’s development are true, have they worked out the technical issues which still plague that game today? We’ll have to wait until E3 for some of these answers. Until then let’s cross our fingers, and hope that this isn’t the first step toward diluting a franchise that has been responsible for some of the best shooters of the last decade.

Julian Meush

Julian Meush

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Comic geek, Batman nerd and hockey fan, Julian hails from Winnipeg, Canada, and divides his time between playing a stupid amount of games and reading a stupid amount of comics.
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