Battlefield: Hardline Beta Impressions
It's 'cops and robbers' but without the humiliation of being picked last in the playground. DICE says that they've been knocking around the idea of doing a Battlefield game based on the concept for the last ten years and it looks like Dead Space devs Visceral have come to them with the perfect pitch.
This beta is a great idea for EA. It extends good will to a Battlefield commmunity that feels sorely short-changed on the state Battlefield 4 was released in. It also offers a fresh change to a formula that DICE has been polishing up since Battlefield 1942 was released on PC in 2002 taking the series off the, erm, battlefield and onto the streets of LA where the police and criminals are fighting a war of their own.
This beta gives a taste of two modes - Heist and Blood Money – that Visceral have designed for the finished game. Heist is fairly self-explanatory. The criminals begin having ambushed an armoured van filled with cash and they need to empty it to one of two escape zones before the cops stop them usually by killing them off until they run out of tickets.
Heist has the feel of a more frantic interactive version of the end of Heat. Once the first explosions hit the armoured van the criminals have precious few minutes to crack the van and extract the first of two massive bags of cash before the cops show up in squad cars and armoured vans and swarm all over the scene pouring automatic weapons fire and grenades onto the criminal team.
The two escape zones for the criminals are in very different places. One is down the street outside a police cordon while the other is the helipad on the top of a nearby skyscraper. Both have their tactical benefits but it's the skyscraper helipad that makes for the most cinematic finales as cops and criminals dash to the top of the building battling it out in the stairwell.
Blood Money is similar to Heist in the respect that it revolves around cash. Both criminals and police must converge on a mountain of cash and recover it to their respective vaults, both of which are vans in covered parking lots.
The team with the most cash at the end of the time limit wins.
This mode is even more frantic than Heist. All 32 players converge on the cash pile and chaos ensues. There will be some who decide to camp out at the opponent's vault hoping to catch players returning with the loot and pop two swift rounds in the back of the head.
There is a problem with the symmetry of Blood Money though. It doesn't feel quite right making a mad dash for the cash when playing as the cops. This whole dynamic doesn't quite work in the spirit of the whole 'cops and robbers' theme. It feels more like 'robbers and robbers' which isn't necessarily bad but not really in keeping with the spirit of Battlefield: Hardline the way I see it.
There's only one map on show in this beta. It's downtown LA and while it has plenty of the character you'd expect of the locale it feels a bit bland. It also seems to be suited better to Heist gameplay rather than Blood Money as the former mode makes better use of the maps verticality.
It does have that 'Levolution' factor to it as well with a tower crane that players can topple to block one of the roads that crosses straight across the map. It doesn't really add as much to the map as some of the dynamic features in Battlefield 4. It even feels a tad redundant in Blood Money as the design of the map and positioning of the vaults and the cash draws focus away from this side of the map almost altogether.
There's still a lot of promise in Battlefield: Hardline. Heist is a fairly well-crafted mode that does create some excellently cinematic moments. Blood Money does show promise as well although it will need more tweaking to bring it more in step with the 'cops and robbers' motif.
Visceral has managed to capture the spirit of the Battlefield series and warp it nicely to their own ends and they've bookended the games nicely with a TV news report-style loading screen warning pedestrians to stay away from downtown LA due to a large-scale gunfight between police and criminals. It's all very Michael Mann and gameplay throws up memories of watching Heat, Miami Vice and even Collateral at times which bodes well for the single-player campiagn.
At the end of the day it's a beta. It may not have the polish of the Destiny Alpha which we've also had the pleasure of playing this week but then Hardline has not been in development as long as Bungie's new title has. It'll need work but it's a really good sign that EA is running the beta this early instead of waiting till October. We could well be pleasantly surprised by this one when it arrives sirens blaring.
Battlefield: Hardline is in development for PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360 and will be released on October the 21st in North America and October the 24th in Europe and the UK.