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Battlefield: Hardline [First Impressions]

If you happened to be following along with this year’s E3 presentations and EA in specific, then you know this year was offering an unprecedented early-look at some of the industries soon-to-be-released titles. Two major titles: Battlefield: Hardline and Bungie’s Destiny got a very early hands-on from the public as the first went into a closed beta (open to anyone that signed up through the site after the announcement) and the latter being something available to Playstation 4 owners this weekend in its Alpha state.

I was lucky enough to be able to get into the beta for Hardline, after about 2 or 3 hours of hammering the site to allow me to enter my name into the hat for the draw for beta, get Origin to recognize my existing game list (not to mention the shiny new Beta), and hurdle over a known tech issue with the service that was redirecting (some) gamers to the wrong page… leading them to sign up for the Beta over and over and over again when, in fact, they were already in.

But it’s a Beta, and it’s free, and we’re already well familiar of the foibles of dealing with EA’s Origin interface, are we not? So why waste time on that non-sense when we could be talking about the one map and two game-modes that EA unleashed on the general public starting Monday after their conference.

battlefield_hardline_announcement_trailer_eaHopefully by now everyone is well aware of the concepts of Battlefield. The franchise has been around, in some form or another, since the release of Battlefield 1942 in 2002.

Just in case you’re not – probably because you’re not familiar/into shooters in general, or just a Call of Duty fan boy – the basic principles of the franchise have always been two-fold: Cooperative play team-based play, and vehicles.

The franchise, to date, has generally focused on one particular “theater of war” showcasing a certain slice of our history (or in some instances a glimpse into our near future), and offering us the titular “Battlefield” for us to play in to our multiplayer-loving hearts content.

With the Hardline off-shoot though, the concepts that have been a staple of the franchise since the 2002 inauguration have been shifted slightly to bring us something altogether new, and at once very familiar to us all: Cops and Robbers.

Battlefield: Hardline brings those staples of team-work and vehicular warfare and brings them into something that’s a little less traditional for a ‘war game’. Instead of splitting the 32 players into opposites sides of some geopolitical war theme, the game breaks down the concepts into something a whole lot more traditional and familiar to (most of) our childhoods. The idea of good and evil personified in the greedy and villainous thieves that seek to line their pockets with the hard-earned money of others, and the virtuous ‘boys in blue’ who go all out to try and protect and serve the public interest through thwarting said attempts at plundering.

If you’ve played a Battlefield game before, then you’re likely to know how this one plays too. It’s generally a little more ‘loose’ feeling than say the Call of Duty franchise games, and somewhat ‘arcade-y’ from my point of view. That being said, there is a depth to them that is offered by a figurative army of researchers that makes sure all the guns look and sound authentic.

In Hardline however, it feels a little more natural to me. Call of Duty has done a great job of blending the realism of warfare with the competitive nature of shooter games, such as Counter Strike, and that’s something that continues to sell millions of units and smash sales records year over year.

But the pace in Battlefield is somewhat less frantic. It’s more strategy, and making sure everyone on the team plays a role. If you’re not working together, you’re not doing it right… and that goes beyond just watching each other’s backs.

In Hardline specifically that concept is ramped up, not only with the staple of ‘class based warfare’ where it’s in your best interests to have team-mates filling out specific roles (Medics, Assault, Engineers, etc.) but indeed playing rolls in the heist.

Sure, you can probably barrel your way through a heist missions by just throwing a bunch of people at the objective and hoping that someone comes through with a cash-grab on behalf of your team while you’re out there trying to rack up kills… but in Heist mode specifically it’s all rendered rather moot as the only people with limited spawns are the crooks.

BFH_PoliceLoungeThe game challenges players to think a little more strategically, seeing as they do have a limited number of ‘tickets’ that they can exhaust (from the criminal side) before they fail at their objective of walking away very rich men.

If you want to be a successful career-criminal in Hardline, then you want to make sure people are playing their roles, and completing multiple parts of a formulated plan. A concept which is, again, pushed by the resources available: The kits.

Recent additions to the franchise include grappling hooks and zip-lines, which will aid in the mobility of your team to get from point A to point B, or perhaps out of a fire-fight when the need arises. Again, as a crook your goal is both to stay alive (saving those all-important revive ‘tickets’) AND get the cash.

I’ve been playing it quite a bit over the last couple of days, and thoroughly enjoy the coming in from either angle. Right now things are a little hap-hazard as the game is in closed beta, and no real groups have formed yet (that I’ve seen) so it’s a whole lot more lone-wolfing then you’d like to see… but you get that the game is pushing for a specific kind of play style through the way it operates, and it’s exciting to think of the possibilities down the road.

Now, I did mention before there are two game-modes, didn’t I? Well, if you’re concerned I haven’t talked about the second mode “Blood Money” you needn’t be. Blood Money is far more traditional feeling version of Battlefield. Both teams are provided with a timed game length, and equal amounts of lives to play with. You don’t have to worry about just winding down the other team if you’re a cop… because now you’re dirty yourself.

Both teams compete to try to get the most money out of a single cash location, and bring it back to their individual ‘vaults’. This change of perspective makes this game-type feel more like King-of-the-Hill and less like a unique game of cops vs. robbers from my point of view.

Battlefield-Hardline-3Overall Battlefield: Hardline is seeming like a pretty awesome off-shoot for the Battlefield franchise, bringing something unique enough to the table to make it feel like you’ve got something completely different, while letting you hold on to the brand-power of an established franchise. When the game launches in its entirety it will also provide a full single-player campaign, and here’s the best part: It won’t be made in the multiplayer-focused DICE team. For as fantastic as DICE is at creating competitive multiplayer venues for us, their single-player campaigns in the past have left gamers wanting.

EA has instead opted to partner DICE with Visceral this time around, the brains behind the Dead Space franchise, who is a little more attuned with the concept of crafting a compelling single-player story-line for gamers to envelope themselves in.

Honestly I think this is one of those titles that might have gone over-looked during this year’s E3 showing, considering it was offered up publicly, and might be a real contender for some legitimate new gameplay from our next generation hardware in the near future, take my advice and keep at least one eye on this one!

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