The debate about whether Hardline is a “real” Battlefield game is over. The beta proves it is, say Matt Martin.
“This is much closer to the Battlefield vision that Visceral struggled to articulate the first time around.”
Sometimes you’ve just got to throw yourself into a game. Give me a gun, point me in the direction of the bad guys and I’ll work the rest out myself.
Games like Battlefield Hardline can be overwhelming. It’s throwing tutorial boxes at me while I wait to respawn, badges are popping up on screen, there’s icons and arrows and shouting and gunfire and someone’s trying to land a goddamn helicopter on my face.
You go into something like the Battlefield Hardline beta knowing you’ll spend a good couple of hours learning the basics and getting obliterated by those that have played it longer than you. Or the Battlefield veterans who are there to suss out Visceral Games’ latest in the series. They have suspicion in their eyes and can smell a noob a mile off.
I didn’t play the last beta for Battlefield Hardline, released last June, because it dropped the same week as E3. By all accounts it wasn’t great, and it put a lot of Battlefield fans’ noses out of joint. What the hell is this cops and robbers stuff? Policemen armed with rocket launchers? Like the idea of a militarised police force was so outlandish in 2014.
Scrap that and start again. This is much closer to the Battlefield vision that Visceral struggled to articulate the first time around. It’s been banging on about it at every opportunity since: The Battlefield community has helped shape this game, they just haven’t gone as far as to paint camo on the character models and turn them into soldiers. I’ve only dabbled over the years, but multiplayer Hardline sure feels like Battlefield to me.
At least that’s how the Conquest map feels in this beta. I found it more accessible than ever. That might be because of the vehicles, or the decent loadout selections early on, or the fact I was into the action quickly, even if that meant dying before everyone else. I got some good kills too. I never used to like the Conquest mode in multiplayer games, but Titanfall got me hooked with its Hardpoint variant last year and now it’s one of my favourites.
So if Conquest feels like the Battlefield of old, with all its chaos and killing, then Heist is where you’ll detect Pay Day and GTA influences. You’re either protecting a vault full of cash or robbing it, and getting the money out to the extraction point. It’s a simple idea of a heist, but when the game is built around speed it makes sense to keep it minimal.
I’m not particularly great at either but I felt like part of a team. It’s a real buzz as you count down the seconds to the vault opening. Escorting a teammate as dollar bills spew from his bag all the way to the extraction helicopter feels like a real achievement. Getting the drop on a crook and putting his escape to a nasty end is a real cop fantasy. Heist mode is initially panicky but if you stick to the objectives and support your team you’ll have a lot more fun than worrying about your K/D ratio.
When random players revive you or spawn on your hard fought turf you know you’re doing something right. And playing with a community like that, it helps convince me people care about the game. They’re playing it because they’re enjoying it, not because it’s free, or because they’re suspiciously poking around trying to find things wrong with it. I heard other players laughing whether they were winning or not.
“The community is playing Hardline because they’re enjoying it, not because it’s free, or because they’re suspiciously poking around trying to find things wrong with it.”
Heist is all about tight spaces, so Hotwire is where you get to run a little more free. In this mode you’re stealing vehicles acting as control points. Being able to spawn in a vehicle riding shotgun brings you directly into the action no matter how large the map. It’s also here I started to use spotting to keep track of enemies as it becomes crucial. Hanging out a car window with my finger on the trigger while Run The Jewels blasts out of the speakers is a great escape from my sad little life.
Spending more time with Hardline you’ll notice some of the subtleties, like smashing doors off hinges to make a quicker getaway from the vault, or simply running up to an Enforcer class to grab free ammo. But this beta isn’t really about the small changes, it’s about convincing you this is a Battlefield game regardless of prejudices.
If that’s the intention then I’m convinced. I’m not precious about what a Battlefield game should or shouldn’t be, I’m just here for the fun times. I’m pretty sure people freaked out when Bad Company was initially announced, and now Bad Company 2 is considered one of the best in the franchise.
Although a beta is there to test out the multiplayer tech behind the scenes it’s also clearly a selling exercise. This is the demo that not only stress tests the backend, but has been deployed to convince you to pay for the game. On that basis I’m in. Have I recommended this to my friends? I’m already playing it with them. Am I excited about Battlefield Hardline? Yep.
Is this a true Battlefield game? Absolutely.