Two new competitive modes create real tension and drama in Battlefield Hardline, says Matt Martin.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play around 11 hours of Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer, and of the new modes and maps I already have my favourites.
While Conquest and Deathmatch are as familiar as ever, it’s the new modes playing on the cops-versus-crooks theme that stand out as something special for the franchise and for competitive multiplayer gaming. Heist and Hotwire are interesting, but it’s Rescue and Crosshair that left me wanting more.
The objective here is simple enough. The cops need to escort a VIP to one of two extraction points and get him out alive. The crooks need to take him out to win. It’s 5 versus 5, with 3 minutes on the clock and one life each. If you get popped you stay down. The first team to win five rounds walks away with victory.
Coordination and communication is key, and your loadout here is vital. Suppressors won’t give away your position but the VIP is only armed with a gold Bald Eagle pistol. It has real stopping power in a firefight, but once the trigger is pulled everyone knows where you are, unless you have the Fast Unspot perk.
Rotation means that everyone gets the chance to be the VIP. You may be a snitchin’, cardigan-wearing lowlife, but you’re the most important person on the map. I felt a real responsibility to not die (at least, to not die stupidly) and stick close to heavily armed colleagues. The maps for this mode are reduced in size but there’s usually a few different clear routes to take.
With a couple of cops moving slowly protecting you with riot shields, you shuffle through the map with the back of your hairs standing up. All that gung-ho, macho bullshit goes out the window for cop players as you constantly check every corner, keep an eye on the clock, and sprint from cover to cover. If you’re the last cop standing charged with getting the VIP to safety, you’ll feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.
On The Block map Crosshair works really well. It’s a location full of dilapidated buildings, where you can blast through plasterboard walls and really feel the structure and layout change. There’s plenty of hiding places to peek from, and you’ll find yourself firing through a couple of windows or into the dark corners for really satisfying kills. The mode also works well on Bank Job, where you have to make a panicky mad dash out of cover onto the main street to the extraction point. If criminals have gotten to the roof you risk sniper fire, but again it’s fantastically tense with a dramatic ending.
Where I had problems with this mode was on the Everglades map, which is reduced down to a worksite with a tall crane and steel crates. Here it was easy to go lone wolf as the VIP and sprint to the extraction point. I spent more time in the loading screens for this map than playing it, with one round over after only 8 seconds. There needs to be more balancing, but then in every multiplayer mode I found Everglades to be the least enjoyable map of all, so maybe it’s a bigger problem than the mode.
Rescue is also a last man standing, three minute job, but you have two options as the cops. You can either grab the hostages and get them to the extraction point, or eliminate all the criminals entirely. As events can be unpredictable, I found myself switching my plans on the fly, which makes for great gameplay as you spot and take split second opportunities.
Criminals can either defend their hostages or hunt down the cops and both are valid starting points. But again, plans will not unfold as you expect them to, so having a back-up and a back-up for your back-up is always a good idea.
This mode worked really well on Growhouse, a dark factory with a weed operation in the basement. It sounds a small thing but the use of doors really makes a difference here. Closing them behind you slows down a pursuer, or they’re great for hiding tripmines. If you’re a cop it’s easy to blow them off the hinges and open the corridors up a little. You can also torch the weed and set off the sprinklers for some controlled chaos in Growhouse. Rescue also works well on The Block (I reckon it’s my favourite map so far) and Bank Job, where you can make a big difference as you change the building with destruction over multiple rounds. It didn’t seem as effective on Riptide as it’s a more open map with little cover but I might get to know it better with time.
My main problem with Rescue is a big one but it still didn’t detract from the fun; you can’t kill the hostages. When a cop is making a break with the hostage over their shoulder the criminal doesn’t need to worry about accuracy. I was aiming for the legs to being with rather than blazing automatic gunfire at my target, but soon realised spray-and-pay was the way to go. Maybe making the hostage vulnerable would make it too delicate, but there are two of them and you only need to rescue one to win the match so could afford a little collateral damage.
I need to give Blood Money a special shout out because it’s hilarious. There’s one pile of cash in the middle of the map and you have to grab bundles of it and get it back to your vault. You can only carry so much, so once you get to the loot pile there’s tense moments as you fill your boots. Do you risk carrying the maximum amount or just snatching a little before hoofing it back?
The money pile becomes a target point, as does the other team’s vault. If you kill someone carrying cash you have the opportunity to pick it up, so Blood Money becomes a back and forth race where looting and running is as important as gunning down your enemies. It’s a very immediate game mode where coordination helps but isn’t essential and it’s a great starting point for new players.
I found Hotwire the least enjoyable multiplayer mode and I already feel like I don’t want to give it more of my time. It’s down to the cars – they’re horrible to drive. I know Hardline isn’t a driving game but the vehicles here are so basic it’s quite shocking how little attention has been given to them. With just stop and go controls and no real weight to the vehicles, muscle cars don’t drift or slide around corners as you would expect. The tanker is the only vehicle that can really get away with being so stiff to control. The motorbike seems indestructible when it crashes into any scenery, meaning you can just aim in a general direction and hit go: it’s like riding a rocket and requires no skill.
It’s a shame because there’s fun to be had as you hang out of a cop car firing on a pursuing bike, or swing a chopper down over a muscle car pumping the minigun. But if you’re the one doing the driving it’s like steering a brick around sharp edges that can bring you to an unexpected and abrupt stop. For me, it’s probably the clunkiest mode in Battlefield Hardline.
I came away from Battlefield Hardline multiplayer wanting to play more. I haven’t yet played enough of the Heist mode to feel comfortable with it, and I’ve already made my mind up about Hotwire. But for me, Rescue and Crosshair are where it’s most interesting and dramatic, and next week I’ll be jumping back online with some solid tactics in mind.
It’s important to note that I spent my time playing BF Hardline at a review event hosted by EA, and that was no real simulation of how stable the online game will be when it goes live. We’ll all be watching on Tuesday when the servers go up to see how performance affects gameplay, but I reckon if it runs smoothly enough, players will be coming back to the new modes months after the game has released, and Visceral was right to introduce competitive modes to Hardline.