Oh goodie - another Battlefield game. But wait... because Battlefield: Hardline is not your usual BF title.
Introduced during Sony’s E3 2014 PlayStation Press Conference, it eschews traditional combat zones for another kind of war - namely the war on crime.
It's being produced by Visceral Games - the studio that brought us Dead Space - and we got the chance to go hands on with it at E3.
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COPS AND ROBBERS
The game takes place across a series of downtown Los Angeles streets. You play as either the cops or the robbers, attempting to carry out heists or stop them accordingly.
EA has so far revealed four new game modes unique to the title: Heist, Blood Money, Hotwire Mode and Rescue. All feature various twists on the usual multiplayer fare - capturing packages before the opposing faction, eliminating specific targets, rescuing hostages etc etc.
We can understand why Visceral decided to go in this direction. Between Battlefield and Call Of Duty, ideas for military scenarios must be thin on the (battle)ground by now. At least taking it to the streets feels relatively refreshing. Nor is it entirely unrealistic given the number of guns floating around America's criminal underworld.
My time with the game was spent playing multiplayer, the mode which will no doubt gain most interest among Battlefield fans; there is also a single-player quest, if that's your kind of thing.
Playing as a policeman in the Blood Money challenge, my team was charged with grabbing bags of cash from the middle of the map and bringing it back to our base. To complicate matters, the crooks were attempting the same thing. Yes, it’s essentially capture-the-flag, but in the context of a bank robbery. However, there’s a twist - you can steal money back from your opponent’s base.
That should mean that individual games will last longer than they do in some multiplayer titles, but I was too busy exploring the sandbox version of downtown LA to actually try and win. The rest of my team seemingly had the same idea, so it's hardly surprising that we lost.
Though not very large geographically, the map does feature tons of nooks and crannies you can hide in, such as carparks and back alleys. It's an engaging environment to spend time in.
I elected to zip around the city on a motorbike, which was great fun until I got run over and crushed by an armoured vehicle. This prompted me to give the actual combat a try. As with most such games, you spawn, kit yourself out with some firepower, then run off to try and shoot your opponents in the face. You can also customise your weapons with accessories to suit your playing style, much like previous Battlefields.
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More after the break...
A worthwhile campaign?
Battlefield single-player campaigns have largely felt like token additions. Sure, they’re glossy and feature big, cinematic moments, but the characters and storytelling are often rough, and it tends to feel like an obligatory part of the package so the series can compete with Call of Duty on value.
With a new developer driving the action, can Battlefield finally compel on the solo side? Quite possibly. The revenge tale spotlights a police officer who was framed for a crime and goes underground to clear his name, delivering on both sides of the cops and robbers showdown at play.
Moreover, actors and writers from shows like Justified and Sons of Anarchy will be lending their talents. While not convinced just yet that EA will pull it all together, we’re at least intrigued.
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The big delay
Battlefield: Hardline was originally expected to launch in October, but after the multiplayer beta test raged on for a few weeks this summer, EA opted to push the game out of the busy holiday season and into 2015. Why such a high-profile delay so quickly following the announcement?
Developers Visceral Games and DICE claim that the beta test invigorated them with fresh ideas on how to improve and expand the experience, but they wouldn’t have enough time to make them all happen. “We decided that the right thing to do was to take more time to ensure Hardline is the best, most innovative Battlefield experience we can give to you, our fans,” explained Karl Magnus Troedsson, vice president and group GM at DICE.
He notes that multiplayer ideas pulled from the community will be implemented, plus the team can focus more on building a compelling single-player campaign - rarely the norm with Battlefield. And finally, the team aims to create a more stable launch multiplayer experience than Battlefield 4 players dealt with last year. No doubt, that last one weighs pretty heavily on all involved.
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Hardline might not be what hardcore Battlefield fans are looking for, but it does represent a break from the past in terms of premise, and playing it gave us plenty of thrills. We haven't had a chance to play the single-player campaign action, but it sounds like EA is aiming to do a bit more in that department than in the past.
However, as with all Battlefield games, multiplayer is where the real action is at, and Hardline seems to deliver on that front. With the game not due out now until 2015, we'll hopefully get some more time with it and will update this preview when we do.
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