EA’s latest addition to the Battlefield franchise takes a slightly different angle from the war-torn environments we’re used to – this time we take to the streets in a war of cops and robbers. Developed by Visceral Games in collaboration with DICE, it uses the same gameplay from the Battlefield games, with large teams of players using a wide range of military-grade weaponry and various vehicles at their disposal.
I played the PC beta this weekend, which has been running from 9 June and finishes on 26 June. The two factions in the game are the Police (resembling a SWAT unit) and the Criminals. Each faction has access to various weapons as you’d expect, such as assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles etc. Each weapon can be modified with scope, barrel, and under-barrell attachments, all bought using money you earn from playing matches. Various other pieces of equipment are at your disposal too, such as first aid kits, stun guns and the new grappling hook and zipline.
Two game modes were available to play in the beta; Blood Money, where both factions must take money from a crate in the middle of the map, and bring it back to their team’s vault – each team can steal money from their enemies’ vault too, with the first team to reach $5 million, or the team with the most money when the time is up, winning. The second game mode was Heist, this was my favourite, kind of like capture the flag, except packages are used. The criminals must break the packages out of armoured trucks by blowing the doors off, then take those packages to extraction points. The Police have to stop the criminals doing this, of course.
I entered my first match in Heist mode, 32 players, 16 per team in downtown LA. I’m a criminal, I go with a standard loadout as an operator armed with an assault rifle, handgun, grenades and first aid kit. The match was already halfway through and there was carnage everywhere – burnt out police cars, a huge crane had been destroyed in the middle of the map causing dust to fog my view, and gun fire was coming from every direction. I was pretty much lost in what was going on. I soldiered on though, got a few kills and tried to stay alive.
This is pretty much what the streets look like after a few mins in a match.
By the next match I was more prepared - another Heist mode, but this time I’m a cop. My team and I roll up to the location of the vaults in our police cars with the sirens sounding, and jump out to lay down fire on the criminals. This, I must admit, felt awesome - with all the sounds of gunfire and the police sirens, it felt like I was in a movie, ready to take down some perps and save the day.
The game delivered plenty more cool moments, like when I travelled to the top a huge building in the middle of the map via an elevator to get away from the cops, but for them only to find me there whilst flying their chopper. So, I did what any other unhinged criminal would do, I jumped; free-falling to the streets below and opening my parachute at the very last moment to join some of my criminal team mates, then heading for the extraction point in our muscle car. Awesome.
I mentioned the grappling hook and zipline earlier; these are some new additions to the Battlefield series, and they’re ever so welcome. I found the grappling hook handy when looking for ways to flank the enemy, as I often found myself attacking a well-defended group in one of the many buidlings. I’d use it to get the jump on them via rooftops and ledges, picking them off with my favoured sniper rifle. The zipline is fun too, firing it off the top of a building to give you and your team a fast-entry option to the streets below, to attack or flee.
After a couple of hours playing I got into the flow of the matches, and it all felt very familiar. Battlefield Hardline is a must try, even if it’s just a new skin on an already established franchise. If you’re a fan of the Battlefield games you’ll no doubt get plenty of enjoyment out of it. It’s not ground-breaking, and felt much simpler than the other games from what I’ve seen so far, but it’s bloody good fun and delivers fast-paced FPS action with a slightly different spin on the series.
Battlefield Hardline is due for release on 21 October 2014, and I’d have been happy if only the multiplayer was being shipped as DLC for BF4, because this is exactly what the game feels like. It's not a bad thing, it’s just that it’s being released as a fully-fledged, standalone, full-price title. There is of course a single player campaign, which I guess warrants its standalone status as a game in its own right, but is that what people want to play? We’ll have to wait and see when Battlefield Hardline is released if the single player is good enough to give the game its asking price.