Preview: Battlefield Hardline

A couple of days ago, I got a summons to attend court. Only, it was really an invitation from EA Games to preview Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer beta before it opened to the public.

To quickly summarise, the game’s premise moves away from the Battlefield franchise’s focus on military-driven conflicts, and instead focuses on the ongoing war between police and criminals.

Before we got right into it, Scott Probst, the game’s senior producer, delivered a quick briefing about the game. Here, he outlined the three core pillars that they had focused on during development:

    Story – Campaign-wise, a greater emphasis was spent on developing the main characters so that they would be much easier for players to relate to and understand.

    Strategy – Applying largely to the multiplayer side of the game, teams would really need to coordinate and work with one another to prevent their opponents from achieving their own objectives.
    Speed – Provided you don’t just stand around, pure action is guaranteed from the start of each match through to the end, the fast pace mirroring the race between cops and criminals in reality.

So for the next couple of hours, we were then able to preview the multiplayer beta. This featured the introduction of two new game modes: Hotwire and Heist, as well as the return of Conquest.

At the same time, we were also introduced to three maps:

Downtown (Hotwire) – Originally named High Tension, this map is modelled on the business district of Los Angeles. To that end, you can expect high-speed vehicle pursuits around skyscrapers. Overpasses and other raised vantage points allow for teams to strategically intercept oncoming vehicles.

    Dustbowl (Hotwire and Conquest) – Out in the middle of nowhere, this desert town provides the perfect setting for an all-out shootout between cops and robbers. A very flat map, but made up for with the freedom to cut through buildings and houses to quickly traverse the map. The open nature of the map also allows plenty of room for off-road pursuits.

    Bank Job (Heist) – At the heart of the map is a bank, the target of a daylight robbery, with the surrounding blocks cordoned off. Multi-level parking lots, shops and underground train stations offer both teams plenty of options for going about achieving their objective.

As with previous instalments, Hardline’s maps are dynamic and feature Levolution, or the ability for a player to manipulate the battlefield. For example, a falling crane in Downtown can scatter debris and block entire roads, while Dustbowl’s dust storm can make for some interesting situations.

Note: For those unfamiliar with the Battlefield series, I’ll be making reference to reinforcement tickets from here on. These tickets are spent by respawning into the game, or by being “bled out” by opponents, as I’ll explain later.

BFConquestThe classic mode returns, where teams fight for control of points scattered throughout the map. By controlling more points, one team can bleed their opponents of tickets, until victory is imminent.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend sticking around to defend controlled points. From what I experienced, it was better to be mobile and returning to respond to an attack, rather than getting overwhelmed by a larger force.

BFhotwireSimilar to Conquest, Hotwire instead has robbers racing to take control of marked cars acting as moving points. Once a player successfully hotwires a car, it’s on them to stay out of the enemy’s crosshairs in order to drain their tickets. The more cars controlled, the faster the drain. But be warned, you can’t just sit in one place, as cars have to keep moving in order to remain under your team’s control.

BF2Once under a team’s control, other players can choose to spawn within the same vehicle. They can then just lean out and fire at pursuers, though I found this somewhat difficult when both vehicles were swerving fast. Furthermore, on more than one occasion, I found myself in a tough situation when the driver would unexpectedly bail out mid-pursuit.

As I mentioned before, there is some room for players who prefer good old-fashioned footwork. With the limited size of maps, players can try to anticipate a vehicle’s path and quickly manoeuvre through buildings to intercept.

BFHeightIn essence, a team of tactical police officers have to stop an armed group of robbers from getting away with the cash.

Robbers have three objectives: snatching both bags of money, fighting their way to the extraction point, and making sure the money gets away. It should be noted that both bags cannot be brought to the same extraction point. Barring the obvious risk of doing that, once a bag touches the rope lowered from the extraction helicopter, the rope is gone. For that reason, robbers can either split the team, or focus on one bag at a time.

BF4The objective of the police is simply to intercept the bags of cash and recover them. To do this, your team will have to drop the bag handler and move closer to the bag, with recovery speed increased by having more teammates present. Not being able to recover the bag immediately was somewhat challenging, particularly even more so if the bag was dropped in the middle of a street.

In order to win the match, robbers must successfully get both bags away, while the cops win by preventing just that. To that end, robbers can keep returning to the vault if a bag was recovered, and just try again, up until the timer hits zero.

I must say that of the three, Heist very quickly became my favourite mode, as it was such a rush the whole way through. Despite no vehicles being present on the Bank Job map, its small size meant players could easily move about on foot. Furthermore, I also saw players making use of the zipline, adding a fast and easy way of moving from rooftop to street level.

Over the course of my time previewing the beta, I found little moment for respite as there was always something happening. Whether it be the cars screeching around the corner or the desperate sprint to catch the fleeing robbers, there was rarely a dull moment in the game.

But on the rare occasion I did get to take in my surroundings, I noticed that the developers from Visceral had certainly put a lot of effort into every map, from extensive map interiors, right down to including little details like a box of donuts near a police truck.

I must also say that there was some opportunity for funny moments. Coming across an actual working elevator, I decided to ride it, only for my team to start spawning in the lift with me. As we were headed to an enemy-controlled rooftop, well… you can guess what happened.

Battlefield Hardline’s beta opens on February 3 and will run across all platforms until February 8. The game will officially be released on March 17.