For all the leaks it suffered prior to E3 2014, Electronic Arts pulled a coup when it made the Battlefield: Hardline closed beta available for PC and PS4 the moment its media briefing ending. The beta is now open to all PC users.
My initial experiences with Battlefield multiplayer weren’t the most positive. I remember throwing my hands up during Battlefield 3 and outright abandoning the experience altogether. The enormous warzone complete with vehicles, varying skills and weapons, players with seemingly perfect aim and much more wore me out fairly quickly. Nonetheless, when things did click, Battlefield presented a very compelling and realistic play-style that, while not for everyone, could compel you to spend time with it.
Visceral Games’ Battlefield: Hardline may seem like it pulls away from that style of multiplayer but deep down, it’s still Battlefield. You can replace the USA army with cops and the Russians (or Chinese, if you’re busy with Battlefield 4) with robbers but it’s the same shooting mechanics, the same movement style (more or less, which we’ll get into) and the same insane amount of destructibility.
Is it fun though?
During the closed beta, we had access to a single map – the same showcased at E3 wherein you can play as either the cops hunting crooks down or the crooks as they travel through high-rises and make their daring escape. The two modes available were Blood Money and Heist.
Blood Money is your typical grab-and-bag style of play. Both sides make runs on an enormous money pile and must bring said money back to their vaults. The first time to $5 million wins. You can also attack your enemy’s vault though, reducing their overall cash value in an attempt to slow their progress, but your vault is also open to ambush. It’s a game of strategy, tactics and decision-making. Do you have hang back and defend your vault, camp near the enemy vault and prevent them from gathering $5 mil or do you simply hit the skies and mow down everyone you can with an assault chopper?
The second mode is Heist. There are two armoured trucks, each with valuable loot. The crooks have to hit the trucks, bombing their doors and subsequently collecting the objectives before escaping to key points. Cops, on the other hand, must either prevent the trucks from being breached or gather the loot from the crooks and return it to their own key points, ultimately thwarting the criminals in the process.
While Blood Money still offers individual players their chance to shine, it’s Heist where players need to work together to succeed. The 16 vs. 16 matches encourage you to flank foes while your friends attack from the front or successfully make a getaway while your team-mates defend you. Heist is also grounds for outrageous experimentation. You can travel to a number of high rises in the map and simply lead the police on a wild chase before parachuting off and heading to the evacuation point.
Perhaps because the map is so much smaller than most levels in Battlefield 3 (or BF4 for that matter) but the overall flow of matches feels tighter. You won’t have to travel for long before encountering foes and in modes like Heist, it makes certain sequences more intense. Trawling up multiple staircases to catch a crook before eventually defending that point to claim the loot was heart-pounding in its own right.
Visceral has implemented some new mechanics in the process like grappling hooks to get you to higher places and rappel lines to quickly travel from higher to lower points. The former allows you to navigate to out of the way corners and pick off targets who come passing by while the latter is a good alternative to the parachute for getaways. Coupled with four different classes, various weaponry, tools like riot shields and breaching charges, and support abilities, the experience starts to feel more like Battlefield. It’s not as complicated though, which we suspect is done to make it more mainstream for FPS fans.
Despite the comparisons to Payday 2, Battlefield: Hardline is still very much its own game. However, it’s rooted firmly in the Battlefield camp. This isn’t like Titanfall where the fundamentals of the first person shooter genre were turned upside down. You’ll still be running, gunning and practicing tactical retreat when you’re not driving or flanking enemies. While many users had questioned the overall feel of Hardline, it’s safe to say that the game will grow on you if you’re a fan of Battlefield.
It’s to Visceral’s credit that it improved on many of the issues that besmirched Battlefield 4 at launch. While the beta had its fair share of bugs, there were no crashes or game breaking issues to be seen. Even with a ping of 192, matches are fluid and the controls are responsive.
There won’t be anything said about the graphics because let’s face it they’re not final but the overall aesthetic that Visceral opted for isn’t too bad. It’s noticeably less grimy than Battlefield 3 and 4 but infinitely more pulpy. Frostbite 3 still makes things blow up real good and though you can’t level a skyscraper right off that bat, there is a gigantic crane in the beta that can be collapsed to hinder enemy movement just by the sheer amount of dust it raises up.
Battlefield: Hardline still has a ways to go but the beta at least appears to be progressing smoothly. You may not find the most engaging chases or the most clever heists (for now, that is) but Hardline delivers rock solid competitive gunplay when it matters the most.