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Battlefield Hardline is coming, but is it worthy of the name

by William Schwartz

battlefield-hardline

Battlefield: Hardline made its official debut at E3 2014. Despite being the worst kept secret in games leading up to the tradeshow, we now have a clearer picture of what to expect this fall from Visceral, DICE, and Electronic Arts. Hardline has enough similarities to the Battlefield series to don the name, but is it just clever marketing by EA? Or is Hardline a worthy extension to the Battlefield series.

It’s kind of confusing. Battlefield: Hardline looks like Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, it’s obviously using DICE’s Frostbite Engine and has the trademark destructible environments that Battlefield games have. It has a similar structure in its online multiplayer offering, but Visceral’s take on Battlefield has an entirely different feel, and premise.

Cops and Robbers

Battlefield: Hardline is a Cops & Robbers game. Instead of the familiar military outfits from previous Battlefield games, Hardline takes place on the streets. At least that’s what we’ve seen so far. The Cops & Robbers premise is actually a good one for two warring factions, it’s an entirely different direction for the Battlefield series. It isn’t the first time that Battlefield has deviated from the norm. It’s unclear why fans are getting upset, they must forgetting about that time when DICE took the franchise in a new direction with Battlefield: 2142.

I guess the main difference here is that Visceral is stepping out ahead of the release of this game, and making sure that everyone knows they are the lead developers on this Battlefield offshoot. We haven’t gotten a chance to see much of the story centric campaign, but with Visceral at the helm, fans of single player shooters might get a better Battlefield game than they’ve gotten from DICE in the past. Both Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 were panned by critics at review time for their weak single player offerings.

What is on display in the Battlefield: Hardline beta is a Heist Mode, and a mode called Blood Money. It’s all centered around crooks trying to steal cash, and police trying to stop them. It feels entirely more intimate than the massive modes of Battlefield 4, with just as much chaos.

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Only in Battlefield?

DICE showcased the interior destruction that the Frostbite Engine is capable of in Battlefield 3: Close Quarters. With so much fighting done on the interior of Hardline, there’s a lot of this interior destruction and debris. It’s absolutely chaotic, because it’s all taking place in very tight quarters, especially on the game’s Heist mode.

There’s a lot that’s different from previous Battlefield games. Military vehicles have been swapped out for police cars and bullet-proof sedans. Cops and Crooks can ride motorcycles, and joyride in armor cars and trucks. The weapon set is similar regards, and entirely different in others. Classes are structure similarly, but have a number of tweaks that are specifically for Hardline. We’ve added some gameplay below to give a look at the class system, the cash and currency system for unlocks, and gameplay of the Heist and Blood Money modes on PS4.

Heist PS4 Gameplay

Blood Money PS4 Gameplay

Is EA afraid of having another Medal of Honor on their hands?

EA has been trying to sneak an alternative to Battlefield in their yearly shooter rotation for a few years now. We got a Medal of Honor reboot in 2010 and a sequel in 2012, but they didn’t quite hit the mark when it came to both sales and review scores. It wouldn’t surprise me if EA is just unwilling to bet big on another shooter that’s a new IP. The Battlefield name brings some level of credibility to the table, and already has a massive fanbase, regardless of what these fans think of another game coming out so shortly behind Battlefield 4, and the problems that it launched with last year.

The similarities to the previous Battlefield games are evident. Hardline doesn’t feel quite like an expansion to Battlefield 4, it feels worthy of the name. Either way, EA is in a no-win situation. If they call it something else and make it a new IP, they’ve got to market it heavily to convince players to give it a try this fall. And then, it has so many similarities to Battlefield that fans would ultimately cry foul. In the case of the way they went, they’re solving at least one of these problems, as the Battlefield name will likely sell Hardline on its own.

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E3 Verdict: It’s too early to tell

It’s too early to tell if Battlefield: Hardline is going to be worthy of the Battlefield name. The good news for Visceral is that if they launch a working product they’ll be at least a step of DICE’s Battlefield 4. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s probably too early to write-off Hardline as a cash grab that should’ve been an expansion to Battlefield 4. The gameplay is extremely fun, chaotic, and the premise is appealing. The Hardline Beta is also a promising signal that EA and Visceral are trying to avoid any launch issues. Modes not included in the beta could change how we view this game as well, since it’s only a small slice. Furthermore, if the single player is solid, it would be a first for the series. With Visceral at the helm, and their proven track record on story-based games, this could be the most complete “Battlefield” yet.

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