Battlefield 4, was for all intents and purposes, something of a mess. The singleplayer was forgettable, and although the multiplayer component remained as fun and frantic as ever technical problems left many frustrated, as months passed with the game’s multiplayer still under maintenance. With the announcement of Battlefield Hardline at E3 this year, EA has a lot to prove.
DICE, the creators of the Battlefield series are still involved in development, however Dead Space studio Visceral Games are leading development, which is currently set for release on the October 21 for PC, PS4, Xbox One, as well as PS3 and 360.
Hardline is not another military-focused Battlefield game though. Instead, gameplay is centered around the classic cops vs robbers formula, and of course heists – something which is bound to find the game compared to Payday. Think Heat or The Italian Job, only with the familiar weight and spectacle that the series is known for, and you’re partway there.
The first thing that is instantly noticeable from the beta is just how much Hardline feels like Battlefield 4. The typical array of rifles, shotguns, pistols, SMG’s, Snipers and RPGs all make an appearance. This is all typical for a Battlefield game of course, but its a little jarring to see cops running around with grenade launchers. There are some unique tools, though: a grappling hook can be used to traverse from rooftop to rooftop, while the melee slot is occupied by a baseball bat instead of a knife. But it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more interesting guns or gadgets in the beta to separate the arsenal from military focused shooters.
The HUD and UI also feels like it’s been ripped straight out of Battlefield 4, complete with the ability to spawn on team mates. Vehicles, a long-time staple of the series return, but there’s more of an emphasis on everyday models. A white van makes an appearance for the robbers, along with fast cars and bikes for both sides. This new emphasis on everyday vehicles is one of the areas where Hardline feels markedly different to previous Battlefield games. Tanks and ATVs would instill a sense of horror in previous games, but now that these vehicles have been replaced with far more fragile inclusions, the sight of a car or bike is an opportunity for a skillful kill.
So far, the beta features just one map – High Tension – and it’s is a rough approximation of downtown Los Angeles, with tall skyscrapers and empty city streets. High Tension has all the makings of a great Battlefield map, with wide open areas for medium-range skirmishes and tall buildings which allow for a good amount of verticality. Triggered destruction events (sorry EA, we refuse to call it Levolution) are back, and in the beta take the form of a falling crane.
Many will be pleased to know that snipers, a staple almost of Battlefield games, appear less viable at the moment. Snipers in previous games were often rage-inducing, so it’s refreshing to see less of a focus in the latest title. With offices, car parks and a host of smaller indoor areas dominating the existing map, the pesky sniper appears to be less of a looming threat. It would have have been nice to see the map given more life, with civilians running away as the cops and robbers do battle, but sadly this isn’t a feature, and it makes the urban setting feel a little less believable (hostage taking could have been an interesting feature, for example).
Two modes are currently available: Blood Money and Heist. Blood Money is a twist on the classic Capture the Flag, with a single money stash placed on the map with both teams tasked with taking it back to their truck. You can opt to carry more cash but this means staying put in the often chaotic area, even longer. it can be tense as the enemy team can steal from your truck, however it can at times be a little overwhelming, when there are multiple people carrying and dropping cash. Heist on the other hand, tasks the criminals with stealing one of two cases of money and taking in back to base. Sure, the criminals have to blow the doors off of the money vans, but it’s disappointing that’s all there is too it. There is no code stealing, or ramming a van off the road or anything we haven’t seen before in a shooter, for that matter. Lets just hope that we will see more unique and inventive modes in the full release, as there is undoubtedly some potential for some unique modes based around both fictional and non-fictional heists.
Being a Battlefield game, there are of course a number of different classes to play as. The Operator, Mechanic, Enforcer and Professional play the usual roles of Medic, Anti-Vehicle, Support and Sniper. They all play identically to previous Battlefield titles, and also level up independently from each other. There’s also an overall player rank of course, that nets you rewards such as weapons or camouflage. Weapon unlocks on the other hand not only need to be earned through leveling up your classes but also through spending in-game currency earned from playing heists. This sounds interesting on paper, but could frustrate some people who feel funneled into playing a particular mode simply to get a new weapon.
Graphically, Hardline is shaping up well, with some lovely-looking particle effects and smooth animations which can make matches all the more exciting and thrilling. Sure, some of the vehicles interiors look a little blurry at the moment, but we have confidence that with the Frostbite engine at their disposal, DICE and Visceral will be able to make the game shine graphically before the title’s final release. Audio wise, DICE’s excellent work with weapon effects continue, with each weapon sounding unique and powerful. However, we did encounter a recurring audio hiccup in which engine sounds from vehicles would take a couple of seconds to kick in – an issue we also noticed in Battlefield 4. Other than that though, so far there don’t appear to be any serious issues such as the hilarious stretched limbs from Battlefield 3’s beta.
Overall, Battlefield Hardline has plenty of potential to deliver some fun and interesting cops vs robbers firefights, all based around Battlefield 4’s framework. While the modes on display so far may not shake things up dramatically, Battlefield’s excellent gunplay and impressive production values remain intact, along with some crazy “only in Battlefield moments”, such as landing a cop car on an enemy helicopter.
Hopefully by the time the game releases in October, Hardline will be able to distinguish itself from it’s parent seriesby having some interesting modes and crazy weapons. We may even finally see a good singleplayer campaign with the creators of Dead Space at the helm (well, we can but hope). We’ll continue to keep a close eye on Hardline in the run up to its release.