In only a few short hours gamers will get to play the Battlefield Hardline beta for the last time before its release on March 20th.
It’s a game that’s been a long time coming. I first played it at E3, when that first beta was launched during the EA press event. It was OK, but I wasn’t sure about it hitting the October 2014 release date.
And nor was EA.
Rather than “do an Assassin’s Creed: Unity” and fix any problems in post, EA pulled the release date back to early 2015, giving the developer, Visceral Games, some extra time to polish it up.
Hardline takes the series in a brave new direction and with a new studio at the helm. In replacing the traditional military setting with what is essentially a game of cops and robbers, EA have managed to freshen up a franchise that was rapidly falling out of favour. Replacing the franchise’s custodians, DICE, with Visceral Games- veteran creators of the acclaimed Dead Space games, is another bold move that may be exactly what Battlefield needs.
Just as it was with WWII shooters, over the past few years we’ve been spoilt with modern military shooters and it could now be time to give them a rest for a bit. You only have to look at Call of Duty, a franchise that has ridden the modern warfare wagon so hard that it is only an iteration or so away from going full-on laser guns and space ships. It was rather inspired that EA chose to send the Battlefield franchise in a totally new direction rather than inflict us with, say, Battlefield 2242.
As is to be expected, Battlefield Hardline is a game of two halves, with a single-player story-based campaign and multiplayer mode. The single-player mode follows the misadventures of Detective Nick Mendoza as he fights the war on drugs from the street to the source. And that’s about all I can tell you about that right now. The multiplayer game, which is about to be unleashed on players once more via a cheeky last minute beta, I can tell you about.
Last week I received a summons from EA Games to attend Sydney Police Museum for a four-hour multiplayer session on the new beta build of Battlefield Hardline.
The first game type was Hotwire, which is basically a crazy mobile conquest mode, on the trailer park inspired dustbowl map.
Dustbowl is a great vehicle map with twisty, rough dirt tracks sending cars bumping into the air. There’s also loads of cover for the lone wolves to sneak around in.
Hotwire has a series of vehicles scattered about the map which the cops must repossess and the criminals must…well, hotwire and steal. Every stolen or repossessed car acts the same way as a capture point in conquest- lowering the enemy’s tickets. With Hotwire, however, once you’ve taken possession of your car, you really need to try to take out the opposition in their cars.
It’s about the most frantic game mode I’ve ever played. You hoon around in your stolen (or repossessed) car with you or your mate at the wheel. One of you will be hanging out the window trying your best to blow up the opposing teams rides, all the while they are trying to do the same to you.
Next up was Hotwire again, this time on the Downtown map. Once again the gameplay was crazy. With highway ramps and underpasses, this urban map gives the game a Hollywood action movie feel. The addition of helicopters made things even crazier. To top it off, the destructible scenery which is the hallmark of DICE’s Frostbite engine (which powers Hardline) was put to good use with a tower crane crumpling down onto the street during the proceedings.
It was then back to Dustbowl for Conquest Large- traditionally my favourite Battlefield mode. With all the buildings, the action became intense, not quite close quarters, but almost as frantic. Then the duststorm set in, reducing visibility and making the game a bit of a free for all. Riding a motorbike at full throttle when you can only just see to the end of your nose is an experience, I can tell you.
The beta’s final multiplayer mode was also the most involved and the most cinematic: Heist. As a criminal my colleagues and I were charged with robbing a bank on the Downtown map. The cops, on the other hand, where out to foil our bank job.
The heist consisted of three stages, access the vault, blow the safe and escape to the extraction point with the loot. There are three loot bags that must be individually taken to the rooftop extraction point to be airlifted away via helicopter. The roof is very exposed, making it an ideal target for snipers set up on the roof of the on the opposite building.
I found the heist mode fun, but it took a little more time to get my head around exactly what was going on, what with so many waypoint indicators displayed on the screen at once.
The upcoming open beta is going to show players a little more of what to expect when the game comes out. The game feels tighter than before and a lot more polished. The game modes on offer are a change from the usual, but are relatively easy to pick up.
I can understand that some players may be apprehensive about this sudden change in direction for the franchise. The cops and robbers theme does remove Battlefield Hardline from the franchise’s military roots, but there is no doubt in my mind that this is Battlefield. Featuring huge open maps and a variety of cars, motorbikes, trucks and choppers, this new take on the game retains all the great elements that make Battlefield so unique, but in a fresh new packaging.
And, of course, there’s Hardline’s own version of the very familiar Battlefield theme to make us fee l right at home.
Battlefield Hardline represents a brave move by EA Games, to take a franchise that they clearly value and try to make it into something new for the fans to enjoy. Whilst it’s still early days, from what I’ve played so far, it looks like they are on the right track now.
The Battlefield Hardline Open Beta starts in the early hours of 4th February and runs until the 8th on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.