Hands on preview with Battlefield Hardline
I had the chance this week to have a hands-on preview of the upcoming Battlefield: Hardline, the newest instalment of the Battlefield franchise being developed by Visceral Games. It’s a significant departure from the military theme that’s been so endemic to the previous games, harkening back to the old playground favourite, Cops and Robbers; a relic from a time when kids could point their fingers at another and shout BANG! without being brought before the vice-principal. Ah, but the game.
The set-up was 3v3 Rescue mode over seven rounds, though the final game will have a 5v5. Rescue mode will be familiar to anyone that’s played Counter-Strike, in that the cops are there to rescue hostages, while the crims are there to put bullets in the cops. The initial impression after class selection and loadout is that it captures the same tone, though with a slight battlefield edge. The map played on was Growhouse, which feels like a more realistic take on the old cs_assault map, where you’re trying to breach (or defend) a warehouse.
However, an impression is just a starting point, and it’s in the subsequent rounds that hardline puts in a decent claim to being its own thing. The pace is fast, everything happens in close quarters, and you barrel down hallways and ram open doors as you make your way around the map, then bang, you’re down. Another round, you grab a hostage, head up to the catwalks at the top of the warehouse, out a window, and then zipline to safety. Another round, and this time you notice the roller-door at the front of the warehouse is open, or the crops that were set alight the previous round sit their burnt.
Yes, the environment persists between rounds.
While that may seem a minor, even cosmetic detail, given that the Rescue mode is being positioned as one of Hardline’s two eSports modes, the persistence could also be used strategically for the sake of future rounds. The change doesn’t persist beyond the team changeover, meaning that once the cops and crims swap over, the map starts from untouched again. While there are clear comparisons to be made with Rainbow Six: Siege given the overlapping subject matter, it’ll take more than a preview of Hardline to see how it’ll compare to the tactical shooter, or how the other modes compare to PayDay 2 or Counter-Strike.
There were no extra details on the single player mode itself, but it was suggested that progress on the campaign would add to loadout funds (and obviously, so would multiplayer). What’s been shown of the single player at Gamescom invokes a presence that sits somewhere between GTA and Breaking Bad, though there’s a clear undercurrent of ambiguity that could place it on the same spectrum as Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3. A blog post by one of the Hardline writers, Tom Bissell, suggests that Visceral are being ambitious in regards to how they tell the story in Hardline. Nothing concrete, but enough to make one take notice.
It’ll take a more in-depth preview to look at how the game measures up against its competition, whether the story is solid, if it’ll be a player in the eSports arena and more seriously, how well-balanced it is in its portrayal of the militarisation of police given the prevalence of it happening in society at large. A few hours of multiplayer with a game that feels spiritually in-tune with games that have come before is no yardstick for whether it does its due process with these ideas, and gives no indication of where it might sit amongst other media as a normalising factor of such militarisation.
So far it does feel as though it does justice to the Battlefield name, and was a fun way to spend an evening.
Battlefield Hardline is due for release in early 2015, and will be coming to the PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. For more info on the title, check out the game’s official website.