E3 2014: Battlefield Hardline Beta Impressions

I was lucky enough to get into the Battlefield Hardline Beta on PS4 and after spending some hours, hunting down criminals and stealing money with the rozzers chasing me, I thought I’d give you my impressions of the game so far.

So, the first major surprise is that Battlefield Hardline actually works! After suffering through the sometimes unplayable Battlefield 4, I didn’t hold out much hope for this game running well. In actual fact, it runs pretty well, besides a bit of slowdown and frame rate drops here and there. I’ve seen no major signs of rubberbanding or dying before I went round a corner and there has been very little lag so good on the guys at Visceral Games and DICE for getting the beta to run so well. Whether Hardline will stand up so well when it is released is another story entirely. Hardline’s presentation is also a nice surprise, with it feeling very clean when compared to the sometimes cluttered interface of Battlefield 4. The loading screen, which is designed based on a breaking news screen, complete with news ticker at the bottom, works really well and building on the feeling being in a cop movie.

The core gameplay is still typical Battlefield but now with a police flavour on top. MCOM stations have been switched with Vaults to blow open, flags have been replaced with money packages to capture and the tanks and jeeps of previous games are now armoured vans and muscle cars to get around the city-based map. The vehicles all handle fairly well, with one of my favourites being the muscle car, with has great speed and is ideal from escaping from a pursuit. One great feature of the vehicles is the ability to lean out of the windows when you are a passenger, to perform a drive-by shooting or lay C4 in front of a pursuing police van. The chases you can get into feel straight out of a cop movie and add a great layer of excitement to the game. The only, slightly out of place vehicle is the patrol chopper which is equipped with a massive minigun to mow down enemies. Again, I get that the game has to have some heavy ordinance but it feels a bit weird when the police who are trying to apprehend the criminals or robbers who are trying to get away, breaking out a helicopter to spray the enemy with minigun fire.

The gunplay is the same as it was in Battlefield 4, you have your main weapon with various add on slots, a subweapon and then some slots for your two gadgets, your grenade and a melee weapon. The shooting itself feels good, if a bit clunky at this stage. There seems to be too much recoil on some weapons while hardly any on some others. The movement also feels a bit janky, with there being quite a noticeable jolt between running and moving normally, which can feel quite jarring in the heat of battle. While the guns are pretty much equal to those you’ll find in Battlefield 4, the gadgets are the things which have had the biggest change. While you’ll get some old favourites like a repair tool, RPGs, a med kit and C4, Battlefield Hardline has added some different gadgets more suited for inter-city combat and traversal.

BF Escape

The car chases you can get into in game feel straight out of a cop movie.

The main two are the zipline and the grappling hook, designed to help you get around the game’s more vertical environment and get quickly from building, to overpass to parking structure. While the grappling hook works great, allowing players to make a quick ladder up most walls for them and their squad to use to get in position for sniping or sneaking up on camping foes, the zipline does not work so well. The main problem is that it is way too finicky when you are trying to find a position to shoot a zipline. The game is incredibly particular in where you can shoot a zipline and at what height it needs to be in order for it to work. Unless they really fix the zipline and give you clearer parameters on where it can be used, I think it should be replaced as a context sensitive item which only works at certain highlighted occasions.

Other new gadgets include the laser tripmine, which works like a claymore and the taser, allowing you to stun foes before taking them down. In my opinion, the taser should be a subweapon especially for the cops, as it is designed for non-lethal takedowns which is what a cop should be ideally doing. Also, I think you deserve a higher point bonus for using a non-lethal takedown rather than a kill, seeing as a cop, you should be trying to arrest these criminals rather than filling them full of lead.

BF Taser

You’re nicked me old son.

As for the new gamemodes, the beta comes with two, Blood Money and Heist. Blood Money is a variant on Capture the Flag, with both the cops and criminals trying to take money from a central point and return it to their armoured van, with the first one to reach $5 million winning the round. However, the main change for this game mode is that you can steal from the enemy’s van and take the money back to yours, making you balance between trying to nick money from the enemy or defending your van from enemy attackers. This is my favourite of the two modes as the van position does not favour a certain side and there is a great ‘tug of war’ feeling as the game goes on, as money is constantly being taken from each enemy’s van.

Heist on the other hand, doesn’t feel like much off a Heist. It has the robbers start by trying to blow open two crashed vans filled with cash while the police try to stop them getting at the loot. This section of the game feels a hell of a lot like Rush from previous Battlefields and is over in a matter of seconds, which moves the game mode onto its second phase. The criminals then have to escape with the cash by taking it to one of two escape points, one at the end of a road filled with crashed cars (Point A) while the other is on top of a skyscraper (Point B). Point A is incredibly easy for the criminals to get to and is always taken about a minute after the loot has been accessed from the crashed vans while Point B is incredibly hard to get to if you are a criminal, as the police team can easily camp in front of the lift exits near the top of the skyscraper and kill you as soon as the doors open. This mode feels like it needs lots of balancing and a bit of a rework for it to feel like a proper Heist if I’m honest.

As for the map itself, it works well, having a mix of parking garages, skyscrapers, roads filled with roadworks and crashed cars, along with traffic tunnels and overpasses for people to dive into in the middle of a car chase or to hide from enemies. The main problem I foresee is how the team over at Visceral make each map feel suitably unique. I mean, this level does feel very reminiscent of Siege of Shanghai in Battlefield 4 and I wonder how they can make a whole series of urban-based maps without them feeling too similar. I would love to see one map set in a small village, similar to Sandford in Hot Fuzz but that may just be me. Actually, I would like some Hot Fuzz DLC when the game comes out, that’d be great. Also, this map does have some ‘Levolution’ in it by having a crane collapse during a game but due to the lack of real heavy ordinance to bring buildings and structures down when compared to Battlefield 4, it feels even more shoe-horned in than it was in Battlefield 4.

BF Levelolution

The ‘Levelution’ feels really out of place in this installment, I have to say.

Battlefield Hardline so far seems like it is shaping up to be a welcome addition to the Battlefield franchise. More work needs to be done on making some of the game modes and the maps feel unique and that you actually feel like you are playing a cop or criminal rather than just reskinned versions of soldiers but I imagine these details will be ironed out after getting fan feedback from the Beta. Look forward to either causing havoc as a robber or catching bad guys as a copper when Battlefield Hardline releases on October 21st.