I recently played the “BETA”; and I use that term lightly, for the latest in the super-successful battlefield series, ‘Hardline’. The reason I’m down on calling this a BETA is because it is so close to release that our input will make no real impact on the final product; well beyond the expected day one patch.
I just wish publishers would bring back the term demo, because that is what this is.
What did I think of the experience?
Grab a pew and listen closely!
Here we have a game that has never had an ounce of enthusiasm from the consumer, a game that seemed to be pitched, greenlit and created by a think-tank of EA execs who “needed” to have a battlefield game out this year – of course they have the Battlegrounds game out and; while similar, it isn’t battlefield.
The reason for the apathy towards ‘Hardline’ is multifold – it was announced at e3 2014 – a time when Battlefield 4 still didn’t work correctly, people worried that this would take priority over the BF4 fixes and these worries were compounded further with the announcement of Battleground. Battlefield fans were just a little pissed off. Secondly there’s the fact that it was being developed by Visceral and not DiCE (who are generally considered as EA’s most talented developer), roars of “how dare they” and more saucy statements were put out there for all to see.
The third reason however, is a lot more controversial – the premise of ‘Hardline’ is that the police have become militarised and use any method necessary to stop crime in its tracks, this means police with heavy munitions, riot gear, armoured vehicles and helicopters.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? Like Northern Ireland in the 70s, 80s and early 90s!
Who hasn’t played Cops’n’Robbers as a kid? I sure as heck did, no-one survived those games – I ran around shooting like I was Clint Eastwood with my finger pistols.
The premise however was a lot more fun before the incidents of 2014 transpired. In January we had anti-protest laws peaceful protest violently broken up in Hrushevskoho, Ukraine by ridiculously well-armed police officers. And of course in the summer we saw the St Lois riots after the shooting of Michael Brown by the police.
All of a sudden the idea of cops running around ruthlessly gunning down ‘perps’ is an awful lot more real; more than just a little insensitive and potential very offensive to some in society.
I’m not for an instant saying that EA should’ve canned the game – and I’m more than aware that they pushed it back for these reasons, I just think they could have pushed it back to the traditional battlefield release of mid-November – there are wounds around the world that haven’t truly healed just yet.
Let’s get back to how this game actually plays though – it’s definitely Battlefield! The movement is weighty, the gunplay is refined and tight and everything retains its sense of excitement and is frenetic as ever! There are however the layers and modifiers that you will remember from the mainline titles in the series. The team that uses the best teamwork and strategies will win – although there is still players better than you who will kill more than you, there is still a bias on working as a team – for example assists are worth more here than in other shooters, capping objectives and keeping them are worth more than straight kills.
The “BETA” contained 3 game modes;
Three game modes is quite generous in a BETA and you would assume that it would lead to a variety of things to do, right?
Each “mode” is more of a variety than a true mode – what’s worse though is that what’s there was simply not very good.
Conquest (BF’s most popular mode) you have capture points or wipe the other team and take away their tickets; effectively stopping their ability to respawn and win through overwhelming them. Operation Rolling Thunder if you will. This mode is actually really fun, it is fast and frenetic; there is always action going on and while it can be frustrating to be killed by an ‘invisible enemy’ (someone in a sniper position) it never devolves into COD/TF-esque spawn camping scenario.
The downside to this mode lies in the premise of the game, ‘Battlefield’ is all about the big battles, ground war, vehicular combat and aerial battles all going on at the same time – because there are no armies here the aerial battles were just helicopters (and no more than two), vehicles were limited to motorcycles and cars. The whole mode fell a bit…flat. It can’t really rival the scale of previous Battlefields.
Hotwire was the closest attempt at something new, you have to ‘control’ several vehicles dotted along the map and gain points. That’s right it’s a king of the hill game mode – this is progress ¬_¬.
Until you realise that most people are only interested in running around; blowing up the cars and turning every game into team deathmatch. It’s boring, repetitive and more than a bit shit.
Even when people take it serious and play the objectives the car movement is so slow, the handling too ‘syrupy’ and the play area too small for this mode to be anything other than a short-live side-show. This is a shame as there is potential in this mode, but I feel that it would need to be shipped out to a team that understands vehicular combat.
Heist is the bread and butter mode of ‘Hardline’ the robbers have to break in and steal an artefact (money, gold etc) and escape with the loot. Cops’n’robbers shit. Now I really enjoyed the game ‘Payday’ and I had big hopes of this mode being a big budget ‘Payday’ I wanted to plan the perfect heist and get away with it.
Unfortunately there is no planning stage, you spawn at the vault (as a robber) and outside the building (as a police officer) and it descends into just another capture the flag mode, you run with the loot, get shot, drop it, a team-mate picks up the ball, INTERCEPTION! This mode has no unique features, no unique hook, and worst of all, no new ideas…
…this is ‘Hardlines’ biggest issue, for all the talk about rejuvenating the franchise and being a new series it is woefully generic and exceedingly average. It hits a strange middle-ground, it rarely embraces its premise but when it does; it is arguably at its weakest…this suggests that the premise and idea is just not a good fit for Battlefield.
Maybe battlefield should remain a military shooter and for cop drama we should still get out our copies of SWAT 4.
It’s a shame that this game will sell millions and become a huge franchise for EA because that will lead to us never getting the Cops’n’Robbers game we’ve been dreaming about since we ran around the playground with finger pistols.
It’s biggest crime? It will put off other developers from trying to actually make a cops’n’robbers game…
…hopefully the campaign is good.