Battlefield Hardline Beta – Hands On Preview
Battlefield Hardline faces a tremendous challenge. Here we have a Battlefield game that both deviates from and adheres to traditional Battlefield gameplay and design while ambitiously attempting to win over non-Battlefield fans while keeping veteran fans happy. It’s an industrious goal, to be sure, but one that many gamers may not expect to come to fruition given a problematic early beta.
I myself was impressed by Visceral’s ideas for the Battlefield franchise, but with many reused assets and weapons, I wasn’t entirely sure this was a game that needed to be a full game, and not simply a downloadable expansion. I was recently given the chance to sit down for an extensive hands-on session with Hardline and I can admit, I went in not expecting much in the way of improvements – but I was dead wrong. Not only have Visceral fixed every problem I encountered within the early beta, but they have revealed new gameplay and maps that have made me thoroughly excited for the release of the final game. Read on to find out why you should be too.
We gathered there at the Sydney Justice and Police Museum, some 20 journalists from a variety of backgrounds. Chatting to some of the other guys revealed that we pretty much all shared one common hope: we all really wanted Hardline to be good. While some people had scratched their heads at just how an idea Hardline’s cops vs criminals gameplay could work, we had all agreed that if anyone could make it work, it would be Visceral Games.
It wasn’t too long a wait before we were greeted by EA Australia and their friendly PR representatives, who processed us (mugshots and all) and led us to our gaming stations. We sat down to view a trailer of the game’s campaign mode, which introduced us to Nick Mendoza of the Miami Police Department. What followed next was a series of car chases, explosions and shootouts met with dialogue that wouldn’t be out of place in a cop action movie like Point Break, Speed or Die Hard. The tone was mostly serious, but I also got the impression that there will be some humour in the story as well – which will be great if done correctly.
Three members of Visceral Games’ staff were present at the preview: lead multiplayer level designer Jeff Zaring, senior producer Scott Probst and senior multiplayer designer Evan Champlin. They walked us through some of the challenges faced by the team at Visceral, but also how excited they were with taking the franchise in new directions. The trailer for the single-player campaign illustrated that with Hardline’s story, more is more. Expect an over-the-top action extravaganza as opposed to Battlefield‘s usual squad-based stories that predominantly have one foot planted in realism. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still realism, but Visceral also want to deliver a more satisfying and exciting campaign than what the series is known for.
After our briefing, it was time to jump into some actual gameplay. We began with two rounds of Hotwire, a multiplayer game mode where cops and crims compete over control over various marked vehicles. Both teams spawn in their respective bases, creating a mad rush to reach the vehicles before their opponents. The vehicles are varied too, with the only determining factor of what vehicles are present being which map is currently being played. The city will see the occasional sports car, but mainly contain sedans, motorbikes and trucks, whereas the desert town map we played featured four-wheel drive vehicles and off-road bikes.
The vehicles drive exceptionally well, and the focus on speed from Visceral hasn’t compromised control or accessibility in the slightest. Everyone who was present was able to control their vehicles with precision, and it wasn’t long before the room was filled with laughter and positive reactions from crazy stunts and vehicle multi-kills. In all honesty, Hotwire’s objective seemed a little vague to me, as all the police and criminals had to do was drive around in their cars without actually securing them. Think a game of Capture the Flag only with multiple flags and instead of delivering the flag to your base, you simply run around as long as you can with the flag in your possession. The lack of an end-game event didn’t detract from the overall fun though, especially as passenger players are able to sit on a car’s window sills and shoot at their enemies from it – a risky tactic that allows for a great range of visibility but also makes the player an easier target.
After cutting our law-enforcing and law-breaking teeth on Hotwire, it was time to play some Heist. Heist feels more varied than Hotwire, as there were layered objectives to complete and the action took place at a number of different parts of the maps. My first game of Heist saw me assume the role of a criminal. I took breaching charges, a high-powered pistol and a ballistics shield into the match with me, as well as a rifle.
My team and I drove as fast as we could to the bank we were hitting. The atmosphere was tense to say the least – the pressure was on and we wanted to fill our loot bags and make a swift getaway. Our driver rammed our car through the front doors of the bank – a quick way of entering the bank but one that also wrecked our car. We sprinted inside and made our way to the vault room. Piles of money littered various tables in the room which everybody frantically began to loot. I guarded the door and once everyone else was done, made my way into the vault room and loaded up my bag. By this time the cops had arrived and a hectic shootout had unfolded.
Luckily for me I had noticed that I could use one of my breaching charges to blow up the rear wall of the vault room! I destroyed a large section of the wall and made my escape through the cafe next door. After that, I rushed to the objective marker to secure my loot – which would have been a lot quicker had it not been for a number of police players that had used grappling hooks to secure a nearby roof as a sniping point. Pinned down behind a car, I managed to take out two of them with my .50 caliber pistol. I equipped my ballistics shield and used it to deflect the sniper’s rounds, though after I made my way past them, more police showed up behind me! Putting the shield on my back, I was able to crouch and slowly make my way towards my goal, securing my loot and being the first person on my team to do so – it felt awesome.
Now while Battlefield is known for its intense open-world action, a lot of the appeal of Hardline is how much broader the gameplay feels. Every single player in a game has the means and opportunity to create exciting moments, whether they blew up a hole in a wall for an escape (like me) or if they managed to climb a building with a grappling hook and pin criminals behind a wall or other form of cover. There is a bigger variety of tools and grenades to take into battle as well. I was feeling pretty adventurous so instead of taking my baseball bat into battle, I replaced it with a sledgehammer. While the sledgehammer was extremely heavy and cumbersome to swing, I was able to bury it into multiple players taking cover behind a police car – and I was able to use it to obliterate locked doors and other obstacles that would have normally stood in my way.
This new-found flexibility also applies to weapons themselves, with weapon attachments feeling as though they have a greater effect on their respective weapons – definitely a good thing! When players unlock them in the final game, their game will improve and they will have a greater sense of being rewarded.
Before the Battlefield Hardline preview, I had a take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards it. It looked like fun, but the gameplay didn’t vary enough from the traditional Battlefield games to get me excited for the game. Now that I’ve played a more developed build of the game, it has made its way to the top of my “most anticipated games” list alongside Rainbow Six: Siege, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Final Fantasy Type-0 HD and Tom Clancy’s The Division. This bad boy can’t arrive quick enough!