Battlefield Hardline: Hands-on preview
In a time when E3 audiences are growing larger and considerably more remote, EA shook things up on Monday by announcing closed PC and PS4 betas for Battlefield:Hardline which opened immediately and with extremely limited available places. The internet predictably shit itself at that point as the hordes piled onto Battlelog, Origin and PSN hoping to be one of the lucky first-come, first-served few.
After a night of staying up until the young hours to watch the PlayStation presentation through to it’s conclusion, I took in some much needed caffeine and fired up a copy of the PC version. By all accounts the PS4 and PC ports are as similar as you could fairly expect at the moment, aside from some added shine and speed on the PC if you’re fortunate enough to own the required hardware.
For the PC owners among you I can confirm that performance seems a lot smoother on that platform compared with Battlefield 4 and added AMD Mantle support in the final product is only likely to improve the situation. Running on one 4GB R9 290 card, I was able to achieve a steady 60 FPS on Ultra settings at 2560×1440 resolution and reducing the performance preset to High increased the framerate to almost a steady 100 FPS.
Pitched as a massive game of cops and robbers set in the Battlefield universe, Battlefield: Hardline is really just more of the same. As soon as the game was given it’s first official live demo during the Microsoft E3 presentation, comparisons with the PayDay series started to emerge but those comparisons are misguided at best. Hardline is a Battlefield game pure and simple, almost like a BF4.5 in a way, and if you really didn’t like BF4 then you’re unlikely to like this one.
The beta takes place in a near future Los Angeles and you assume the role of either a cop or a robber dependant upon team assignment. In the main Blood Money mode, the robbers need to extract cash from a large pile in the middle of the map and return it to their safe which takes the form of an armoured van. Subsequently it is the job of the cops to prevent this by also seizing the money and returning it to their own armoured vehicle for evidence which just conveniently happens to be on the opposite side of the map. Sound familiar? that’s because it will be unless you’ve never played any modern online shooter before. This is Capture the Flag in it’s truest form but it remains fun and is definitely my favourite option at the moment.
The second mode in the beta is called Heist and involves a bit more strategy as the robbers need to pursue cash delivery vans that have crashed in the middle of the road. The goal is for the robbers to protect, breach and then extract the cash from each truck before the cops have a chance to stop them. Cue a lot of sniping, group warfare and subsequent random throwing of grenades. It’s a domination-style mode first and foremost but it does seem to offer more of a thinking man’s option compared with the all-out assault of Blood Money. Even though Blood Money is currently winning in terms of number of concurrent online players, Heist is winning in an official EA poll to determine which mode beta testers prefer.
It wouldn’t be Battlefield without vehicles and all of BF4’s favourites are there including helicopters but with the added bonus of motorbikes (which incidentally are near-impossible to control in first-person mode). It’s in the vehicles that Hardline starts to look a little weak though as not all vehicles can be accessed at the moment and that includes even some police cars that remain inexplicably locked. Whether this will change by the time the final game launches is unclear but hopefully it will as it only seems to detract from the experience at the moment and can prove slightly irritating when you’re surrounded by enemy forces but blocked from hijacking the nearest car.
Without a doubt the clear winning new feature at the moment though is the addition of a grappling hook perk. This adds a real additional dimension to the game, enabling new ways to strategise and escape after using it for a couple of sessions, online BF4 may start to feel slightly empty without it. There’s also a zip line accessory that allows you to manoeuvre between the roofs of skyscrapers with ease and cops can earn additional bonuses by opting to use a taser and handcuff combo rather than lethal weapons.
The use of BF4’s trademarks is the last feature worthy of note and EA’s flagship Frostbite 3 engine is put to good use. As with BF4, structures now topple and collide but in doing so they create additional road blockades and shortcuts across the map that make them seem like more than just a visual spectacle to impress newcomers. In fact, playing as the robbers against the right team of cops can be almost impossible without bringing down a gigantic steel crane that then enables you to sprint from the cash pile to your base in half of the usual time.
In short, so far Hardline feels like a game that a company like EA would release during a ‘year off’. Some might argue that it’s a cash-in however many of the most fun and entertaining games emerge in the years when developers can just focus on creating an enjoyable experience without the need to gnash teeth and demonstrate pure technical superiority over the competition. It’s a simple idea and a refreshing change in direction for a franchise that often seems to take itself just a little bit too seriously. EA and Dice may have to go further than last year to prove that this game is worthy of a top tier AAA price tag however fans of Battlefield are sure to find something that they like in Hardline when it launches later this year.
Battlefield: Hardline will be released for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 on 21st October 2014.