First impressions: Battlefield Hardline

Battlefield Hardline, soon to be the latest iteration of the award winning Battlefield franchise, hosted an open multiplayer beta experience for gamers from 3-8 February 2014. With a thematic shift from military combat to cops vs criminals, this popular first-person shooter is developed by Visceral Games and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield Hardline is the first in the series to be developed by a studio other than DICE.

Initially planned for release in October 2014, Hardline promised to refresh the series and bring new and exciting aspects of gameplay with the change in theme. However, after failing miserably to impress in its initial open beta test in mid 2014, fans of the series proclaimed it is a mere  ‘Cops and Robbers’ expansion pack of its predecessor, forcing Electronic Arts to delay its release to March 2015 to allow Visceral Games time to improve the game with the received feedback. With this new open beta, has Visceral Games done enough to live up to its promise?

Conquest, Heist and Hotwire were the three game modes players could sample. Conquest returns as a Battlefield classic in which players have to capture areas of the map that contain spawn points. When a team controls the majority of the map (e.g., 3 out of 5 spawn points), the opposing team’s spawn tickets start bleeding out. 1 ticket is also consumed every time a player spawns. When a team’s ticket counter hits 0, the other team wins.

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Robbers zip-line across the rooftops while attempting to escape with the loot.

Heist is a neat combination of Battlefield’s Rush and Capture-the-flag game modes. It requires robbers to blow open bank vaults and transport the cash to 2 designated locations while the cops attempt to stop them.

Whether it be zip-lining across rooftops or engaging the cops in a shootout on the streets, robbers have different options to reach their objective. While offering diversity in the point of approach, however, player options are still underwhelming and games can become quite repetitive as robbers have to pick up and transport the cash to the same location every single time. What would be interesting is to vary the location of the bank vaults and designated locations from game to game, preventing the routine from getting old fast.

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Cops chase down robbers at high speed, resulting in mayhem and fun.

Hotwire is much like Conquest, except that teams have to control designated vehicles instead of areas. Specific cars and trucks act as mobile capture points. To capture a vehicle the driver has to hit and maintain a certain speed, forcing everyone to drive at full tilt while also defending and attacking other mobile capture points. What often results is epic high-speed car chases and reckless fun.  Heads stick out of car windows and motorbikes drive frantically, providing an hysterical, action-packed experience.

While Hotwire has the potential to be Hardline’s most enjoyable addition, the map offered in the beta, Dust Bowl, was terrible for this game mode as players defaulted to driving in circles along the outer boundary of the map, leading to an unfortunate lack of variety despite the crazy-mad thrill it promised.

Hardline does boast a new and improved unlock mechanism. Instead of going through linear unlock routes, players are now able to unlock guns and accessories of their choosing using in-game currency that they earn. This change is an extremely positive one for players as they no longer need to face a long, tedious grind just to unlock something they want.

Other quirky additions include funky hip hop music in cars — which makes you feel like an absolute badass behind the wheel; and easter eggs such as rare occurrences of comical reload animations some of which can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dWzVJGOS2E

Gunplay, graphics and audio is as spectacular an experience as before. The removal of tanks and attack helicopters has made it more in tune with the overall theme of cops and robbers. Gone is the outlandish idea that cops carry rocket launchers as standard-issue. Instead, rocket launchers are now limited to certain designated collection points on the map. Go for it!

Hardline as it stands today has proven that Visceral Games is entirely capable of creating its own version of a Battlefield game while still delivering the core Battlefield experience. After many improvements and additions, Hardline certainly stands on its own and cannot be mistaken as an expansion pack or just another Battlefield clone. Hardline may yet have that special something that has a genuine shot at being the best Battlefield game yet. Considering the beta only offered limited access and with even more features to be released in the final version, Battlefield Hardline is definitely one to keep an eye on.

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