Developer: Visceral Games, DICE
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Platform: PC via Origin, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
There seem to be many experiences which only occur within the universe of Battlefield. From swift exits from a helicopter, to breaching a wall just to down a sniper, the action comes swift and often times very physical.
Most recently, the Battlefield has come to encompass law enforcement in Battlefield: Hardline, barely nipping at the coattails of mass media coverage in various cities. To drive an emphasis on the physicality of the job duties, EA, Visceral Games and DICE have attempted to emulate some of the experiences to be held within the confines of the large, sandbox gameplay. To deliver on this emphasis, the development teams have showcased the current builds of the game via the first Closed Beta, and most recently with the launch of the Open Beta on February 3rd. The Open Beta brought in over 6-million players to explore the new efforts.
Setting politics aside, the game of cops & robbers has long played amongst youth. Whether you were the “good” or “bad” guys, the fun wasn’t necessarily in the role, but more so found in the chase. Delivering on this seems to be what was in the plans when creating the game modes in Hardline.
The thrill of the heist was made ever so popular with games like the Payday: The Heist series. While other games like GTA V are boastful in reproducing the experience, it seems a bit more fitting for the first-person experts. In terms of Battlefield: Hardline, it is actually executed quite nicely.
Players take on the role of either the robbers or the police force in place to stop them from entering the bank. These close quarter battles are divided by escape routes and impending doom from either side of the gun. Robbers must gain access to the vault and move the package. Once in-hand, the escapee must trust the sights of his fellow gunners and make it safely to transport. In the meantime, the police force files through narrow hallways, dropping blue-flared molotovs, and throwing gas grenades in order to limit the cons’ abilities to move that money.
This is something different from the original Closed Beta, if memory serves right. Instead of having vehicles where money is obtained, the package/briefcase is then moved, creating different sense of objective within the map. Areas must be defended/attacked in order to move the game along, which is in contrast to the mayhem that ensued from the previous archetype.
Grand theft auto (not the game, but the act) is a crime with hefty repercussions. In the game of Battlefield: Hardline, it comes with rewards and many other attributes.
In the Hotwire mode, identified vehicles are littered throughout each map. The initial sprint to obtain first access presents a challenge in itself. It is almost like a capture-the-flag style game, however, the flag is on the move. And the flag is a car. And the people inside the car have guns. Oh, and there’s helicopters raining fire from above.
At first, the game mode was a huge turn off. The initial distaste was due to various players within the map not playing to the rules, but instead treating it as a team-deathmatch arena. After leveling up, there seemed to be more and more experienced players that would actually partake in obtaining vehicles and lending a helping hand to defend from attackers. As a passenger you can fire directly from your seat or lean out of the window gangster-style and fire away.
The mode was extremely fun, especially watching debris fly after plowing through a row of trash cans. But, the maps, seeming large on foot, are too small for a vehicle to run endless laps on. Also, the amount of vehicles could be increased to support a bigger field.
This is one of the most traditional modes when it comes to the Battlefield experience. There are few instances where players have access to large portions of square footage, and that doesn’t happen very often within the confines of the multiplayer first-person shooter realm. While these efforts are well appreciated amongst large-scale attacks with planes, and helicopters, it is almost a bit too much for the Hardline atmosphere.
For the most part, the terrain was broken up by vacant buildings and usable vehicles. However, with only cars, motorbikes and the single-spawning helicopter on each side, it left more to be desired in terms of the Large Conquest maps, but seemed to only congest the smaller maps where driving seemed to encompass a feeling similar to a spinning hamster wheel.
While the game had plenty of vehicles to obtain, the general feel of driving seems like it needs slight tweaks here and there. The motorbikes felt stiff and rigid when launching over hips and rocks. The turning felt natural, unlike that of the cars. There are upgrades for vehicles as well, such as chassis upgrades that allow for less damage from explosions. Which, if you’ve ever played any Battlefield experience, you know that there are a LOT of them.
For many traditional players, it wouldn’t be 100-percent wrong to assume that many would like to forget that Battlefield 4 even exists. I have fortunately, or unfortunately, only dabbled in its existence limitedly. However, I do find things such as presentation and art style represented a bit more cleanly in Hardline. The most noticeable comparison can be found with ditching the obstructing lens flares, and driving for a cleaner, less contrasted view.
Speaking in terms of the iconic destruction, in this early build there really wasn’t much to be exploited. There were instances of gun fire penetrating slabs of concrete, like in the cornerstone pillars found within the downtown Downtown Los Angeles map. Hiding almost ten feet back left me hit with bullets, and eventually killed. Crashes with cars also felt somewhat misrepresented. The impacts felt uneventful and minor, even as opposing squads sped at one another only to come together in a minor bump and not much else.
With vehicles, houses, and some bushes not even shuddering at the barrage of gunfire, my hopes are that there is more included when it comes to the final release.
Side Note: I did play the Open Beta on both PC and Xbox One. I was surprised to find it more appealing on my PC in terms of visuals. I don’t know if it wasn’t particularly optimized for the Xbox One, however, it held up pretty well with my aging video card.
The classes were very similar to what stemmed from the Battlefield 3 era. The Operator class functions like the previously implemented ‘Medic’ class, having a med kit mixed with assault capabilities. I did find the RO933 to have a much tougher learning curve, having the iron-sights feel actually feel like you were holding it closer to your face. The Professional class finds its roots as the Recon/Sniper, while the Enforcer acts as the hard-muscled, close-quarters combatant.
Much like that of the Sniper class found in games like Medal of Honor: Warfighter, the Sniper was accompanied by such secondary weapons as the G18, which comes in the form of the G18C. The Enforcer class was also provided with an automatic pistol as a secondary weapon. Each weapon has its own abilities and can be unlocked with either money that is earned and the gained skill area. This is the game’s skill leveling system, having money earned through each match via kills and things like Hotwire vehicle control, and continues to build on the overall criminal theme of the game.
While it did make sense for the game to payout skills in the form of dollars, it was a bit confusing to see items locked, and others available for purchase. Items become swiftly available, which may leave players wanting more options and accessories in the long run. If I’m purchasing, what exactly am I leveling up for? While this might seem like a minor nuance, it was obstructing to the game’s flow and made it like the game was distancing itself from previous Battlefield blueprints.
The Bottom Line:
I can’t help but think that the Medal of Honor franchise has been scrapped in lieu of a semi-new IP, that being Battlefield: Hardline. There were many elements that made it feel like Hardline was somewhat of an offspring of the two franchises, having faster action like Medal of Honor but still encompassing weapon details and carrying its physics engine over from Battlefield. The overall presentation in terms of art style is a bit more vivid, bright. The contrast high contrast of light, lens flares and grittiness—despite it essentially being a cop drama—has been wiped clean.
I can say that I did have fun playing, despite others’ lack of interest in game-modes and the objectives at hand. I would have liked to see at least a Team Deathmatch element just to scope it out. But, I did find that the Heist, Hotwire and Large Conquest held their own in terms of offering variety and replay value to the Beta.
There are a few things that could be cleaned up before the final launch. But at the end of the day it felt like Battlefield: Hardline has limited differences from its predecessors and needs to find something to give it a more striking identity. Something a bit more branded, and less like its soldier-style counterpart. But, the likes of the story may detail that a bit better. In many ways, far less tactical, riding along the same lines as Warfighter, with a taste of Battlefield.