Battlefield Hardline Open Beta Impressions: Arrested Development

battlefield-hardline-bannerIt’s been about seven months since we last seen Battlefield Hardline. Back in June, EA tried to capitalize on the post-E3 hype of the BFH reveal by almost immediately launching an early beta of two game modes and one map for the upcoming game. At that point in time, the game was due for an October 2014 release.

In the time following that beta, EA, DICE and Visceral announced that the game would be pushed back five months to March 2015. As February began, EA took Hardline back to beta one more time in order to get a last big batch of feedback before it is launched in March. It looks like some lessons from the first beta were learned by Visceral has many more to take into account over the next month.

While the first beta only had a couple of game modes on the same map, the second beta had two new game modes and two new maps. The Heist mode came back on the “Bank Job” map. The new Hotwire mode was playable of the last beta’s Downtown LA map and the Dust Bowl map. There was also the return of Battlefield’s traditional 32-v-32 Conquest Large mode on the new Dust Bowl map.

battlefield-hardline-beta-screenshot-05I’ll get Conquest out of the way since everyone who has played Battlefield knows what it is. There are various points of control on the map that your team has to hold. Battlelog says that there are three control points on the map but Dust Bowl had five. The point of Conquest is to run the opposing team out of tickets. These can be drained when the other team’s players respawn and by holding more control points than the opposition. Run the other team to zero tickets to win.

The problem with Conquest is that while it’s a tried and true Battlefield multiplayer game mode, it makes absolutely no sense in the context of a cops and robbers game. High-speed car chases and back robberies and hostage rescues all make sense in the context of a cops and robbers game. The idea of a giant cops versus crims gang war to control territory doesn’t really make sense. Okay, I’m definitely overthinking this because it won’t be a part of the campaign. That being said, all of the other multiplayer game modes fit the game’s theme. Conquest absolutely does not.

Heist didn’t change from the last go in beta. There are two packages which must be recovered by the criminals, taken to an extraction point and helicoptered away. It’s quite an elaborate scheme to steal some money but the good news is that the target in the Bank Job map is a bank. The crims have to break into the vault and extract the money while the cops just have to stop the thieves by running them out of respawn tickets.

battlefield-hardline-beta-screenshot-06The problem I found with this game mode is that the outcome of the game was based entirely on the coordination of the criminal team. If they did their extraction work together, the police never had a chance. If the criminals aren’t coordinated in their efforts, it’s kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. I wish there was a happy medium but that could be down to the map design and the people running on the same servers that I was on. Balance is important and while luck will always be a factor, skill should win out and one skilled player doesn’t seem to be able to swing a game back in their team’s favours.

The final mode in the beta was Hotwire. This is basically Hardline’s take on the high-speed police car chases that dominate American news. Similar to Conquest, there are five points to control but rather than buildings, Hotwire has five cars to control. Hop in and drive around really fast to capture the point. The longer you drive the car, the more points you accumulate until you run the opposing team out of tickets. Basically, it’s Conquest on wheels.

It’s an interesting idea but I think that the execution is a bit lacking. Hotwire ends up being a race to the cars and that’s it. It never feels like conventional firearms can disable or destroy the vehicles so you’re hoping that your team’s helicopters can save the day. Where are the spike strips or damage bonuses for ramming a car or road block options? I see where Visceral was going with Hotwire but the execution was lacking.

Also, while I’m going on about Hotwire, the driving is pretty hard to get used to. It feels like Ridge Racer on ice. The cars can turn on a dime but it also feels like there’s no grip. I know Battlefield isn’t a driving game but if they’re using the same engine for BFH as the latest Need for Speed, couldn’t they have at least borrowed some of the driving physics programming?

battlefield-hardline-promo-01Outside of those three game modes, there are three more game modes confirmed for the game. I documented Blood Money in the last beta post and I still like that more than the other modes I’ve seen so far. What we haven’t seen Rescue but it involves a team of police attempting to rescue hostages from a team of criminals. The final mode is Crosshair which you could also call Counter-Strike. It’s a 5-v-5, 3-minute competitive mode in which the criminal team has to kill a VIP being protected by the police. It seems as though EA wants to go after that eSports money that Valve and Activision have with CS:GO and CoD.

There are definitely some problems with the game. First, loading times are abysmal. I don’t think they were any better in Battlefield 4 but that doesn’t mean that we have to be happy with long loading times. In between matches, things go quickly. However, getting into the game the first time is the big problem. There are some noticeable lag-spikes while playing which lead to a few deaths. At the very least, there aren’t the frequent and repeated crashes that plagued (and still do plague) Battlefield 4.

The biggest problem I noticed was that one game had a quite blatant hacker in it. In a game of Heist, someone went something like 74/2 with all his kills coming via “ammo box.” Well, there’s no way that’s legit. He claimed, in chat, that he was using a hack that has been around since Battlefield 3 and is known to people in the dark reaches of the gaming internet. While other people were getting kicked from games for hacking, this guy managed to get away with it to the point where the server cleared out from 25+ players to about a dozen between games.

Oh, and the chat is pretty toxic. Including voice chat doesn’t help. They can just call you every name in the book rather than type it in chat. At least it expedites the crap that makes me hate online gaming.

Just from a gameplay feel perspective, Hardline seems like it’s Battlefield 4 in a different skin. Maybe it’s just the multiplayer but apart from a lack of missile launchers, I can’t feel a difference between playing BF4 and Hardline. You’re going from ace military man to police officer and there’s no difference in the gun play or firearms or movement from the military shooter to the police shooter.

Conclusion

battlefield-hardline-promo-02So where has seven months of development time gotten Battlefield Hardline? Near as I can tell… Nowhere that would make me want to immediately plunk down $60 for this game. I think that I saw more out of Evolve’s beta that would make me want to spend $60 on that than Hardline. In seven months, there is one new game mode, an old one imported into a new game and two maps. I’m sure there is more coming in a month’s time but EA didn’t exactly have anyone put their best foot forward.

The most damning indictment still might be that Hardline still feels like an expansion to Battlefield 4 rather than a brand new game. When you look at how much money was put into Hardline and how much money it’s likely to make as a full release, I can’t help but wonder if making it a $30 expansion to BF4 (or something like $60 when paired with the full game) wouldn’t make EA more money.

The Battlefield Hardline open beta was reviewed on PC but was also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game will be available on each of those platforms as well as PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 107h. The impressions of the game as written do not necessarily represent the state of the game at final release. Your impression of the game may differ based on platform played on, PC specs, your fondness for Battlefield 4 and whether a cop game should play like a cop game instead of a military shooter.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on February 17, 2015, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Maybe it won’t matter to the vast majority of Battlefield players, but I can’t rely get past the super bad optics of this game coming out at the same time that awareness of the militarizing of local police forces is at an all time high. Is there any sense that the creators thought about this? (admittedly, this probably has more to do with the single-player than with multiplayer, but still.)

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    • You know, I hadn’t thought of that but that’s probably because police militarization isn’t really an issue here in Canada.

      But your interpretation is pretty on point. Without seeing the single-player campaign, I can’t say for sure if this will be an issue in that but I can’t see a Battlefield game sending you in with only a pistol and tazer but I feel anything more would be excessive if you’re not on the SWAT team. At the same time, if a SWAT team came out with full military hardware, it wouldn’t surprise me anymore so the game might inadvertently lead to commentaries on the current state of policing in America. I guess I sort of fell into that too.

      So to answer your question, I somehow doubt that Visceral considered the current state of policing and the politics surrounding it in making Hardline. I think they were probably focused on making a Battlefield game and the police theme will end up being an afterthought in the gameplay. Based on the multiplayer, that certainly seems to be the case.

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      • I was not expecting that level of response, so thank you very much! I doubt that we’ll see any kind of sophistication in the single player campaign, but oh well. It came to mind last year because the first trailers coincided almost exactly with the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. It gets a little hard for me to cheer on “warrior cops who bend the rules” after that.

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