Battlefield: Hardline Beta Hands-on Preview

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The Battlefield series is a staple of the gaming scene with the original Battlefield 1942 coming out well over a decade ago. The series has been a mainstay of multiplayer FPS action with players fighting across various historical such as the battles of World War 2 and Vietnam to the not-so historical settings of a near-future Earth. The latest instalment developed by Visceral Games and published by EA takes a very different turn in the series with the players taking on the roles of heavily armed criminals fighting heavily armed police. At a press event in Sydney, I was able to get some hands-on time with Battlefield: Hardline. Read on to find out what I thought about the game in the short couple of hours I was given to mess around in the Beta build (which will be coming out shortly) on a PS4.

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Firstly, you might be happy to know that the old Battlefield formula is most certainly present. Players still play as one of two teams in a match (Insert joke about ‘cops and robbers’) and old familiar games modes like ‘conquest’ are still available for fans of the series. In this mode, players attempt to capture points around the map which causes the enemy ‘tickets’ to count down until they lose. The new setting doesn’t particularly come into play as the teams of law breakers and enforcers largely play mechanically identical. It’s not surprising that the dev team hasn’t messed around with these mechanics too much as it’s a design which works and has proven popular in the past. I had some concerns about this formula becoming stale but from what I’ve been able to experience so far, the game has certainly shaken things up in a noticeable way.

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In a presentation given to us before we jumped into the game, Scott Probst (Senior Producer), highlighted three key aspects which Visceral was aiming to overhaul in this title: Story, Strategy, and Speed. As this was a multiplayer only Beta, I was not able to see much of the Story. From the trailer, it appears to be drawing upon the style of police action movies such as Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II. The strategy aspect largely revolves around the specialist equipment you can use to alter your traversal of the map… sometimes through wanton destruction. The last aspect, speed, was certainly on display in the build we were playing and altered the gameplay in a fairly significant way from the standard Battlefield formula.

One of the game modes, ‘Hotwired’, exemplified this new focus as the objective of mode was similar to conquest in that we would be capturing points and forcing the enemy tickets to countdown. The main difference in this mode is that the points are themselves various vehicles which the players have to capture and drive around in. This creates a very interesting dynamic as the action follows the vehicles as they drive around the map due to the fact that the vehicles do not count as ‘hotwired’ unless the player driving it is maintaining a minimum speed. The action ends up moving quickly through the urban and suburban environments as players speed through the streets trying to hold on their mobile victory point or on the flipside; trying to blow up the oppositions captured vehicles.

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Both sides get a number of vehicles to play with as they speed towards and around the city. They include: sports cars, muscle cars, squad cars, helicopters, motorbikes, and unmarked vans. For players with a more suicidal/happy-go-lucky streak, there is also the option to drive around in a tank truck (which also happens to be one of the objective vehicles). To quote Jeff Zaring (Lead Multiplayer Map Designer) when asked to explain what the thinking was behind the tanker vehicle was: “Here’s a bomb, get in and drive”. During play, the tanker did prove to be popular amongst the assembled press in spite of its volatile nature sub-par handling.

Another fun aspect of this mode was the opportunity for players to lean out the windows of speeding vehicles and fire wildly at each other. This gameplay felt very much like being in a scene in an over-the-top action movie like Hot Fuzz or the aforementioned Bad Boys II. I very much enjoyed this aspect of the game due to its fast pace and the relative ease with which a player can join this action by directly spawning into a vehicle at the scene.

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One quandary I encountered from others on my team was that the vehicles handled in a strange way and I agreed with that sentiment to some extent as the controls reacted in an unusual manner (compared to racing games on the PS4). I personally felt that this gripe would largely be overcome with more time to get used to the controls and handling of vehicles in the game. Overall, however, I found this new aspect of the game to be a refreshing change in this instalment and I enjoyed this mode the most out of the three I was able to play.

The last mode I was able to play was a ‘Bank Heist’ mode. This was an interesting twist upon a standard ‘capture the flag’ mode with each team taking on the role defender and attacker in a fairly dynamic and fluid way. The criminal team starts out attacking a vault filled with loot, which they then have to carry to a drop off point, and then defend the point for 5 seconds before successfully delivering the loot to a dangling rope from a helicopter. The map is significantly smaller and more intimate (compared to the other modes) which helps to keep the players close to the action from spawn to imminent/pointless death.

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Overall, I enjoyed the time I was able to play around in Battlefield: Hardline. As a fan of earlier instalments in the series, it was good to step back into familiar territory. There are significant parts of the game which have remained the same (classes, gameplay modes, etc) but the aspects which have been added in with this instalment do provide an interesting twist on the old formats. I would recommend curious parties to check the game out themselves when the Beta is available.

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