My time with the Battlefield: Hardline beta has left me with two thoughts–grapple hooks are awesome in basically every video game, and the beta does not have what I want from a cops and robbers Battlefield title.
I want that first gameplay trailer. I want an ongoing high-speed chase between police and criminals down the streets of Los Angeles. I want varied heists that require finesse to even reach the loot. I want to deliver millions of dollars for my team and actually win the match, not only inch toward a victory.
I want Hardline to give me an experience I can't find in other shooters of its type, especially other BF titles. But unfortunately, the recently-extended Hardline beta does none of this. So much in the beta, from the maps to the game modes, feels like Battlefield 4 with a altered coat of paint.
The two game modes included in the beta, Blood Money and Heist, both use bags of money as a point of contention between and law enforcement and robbers. Blood Money has both teams fighting over one huge stockpile of cash (or "evidence" in the case of the law enforcement), taking duffle bags upon duffle bags back and forth to your teams vault, and the team with the most money at the end is the winner. Heist feels a bit more like what trailers of Hardline have promised, pitting the robbers versus the law enforcement as the former attempts to blow open crashed armored cars, retrieve duffle bags upon duffle bags of loot, and take them back to their base. They're both essentially capture the flag, which is a real bummer.
It's not as if the modes don't work, because they do just fine, but they don't accurately simulate what an actual cops vs robber situation is like. If we've already brought back $700k worth of cash from these armored trucks, shouldn't we be able to call it quits and get away without losing more teammates? The PayDay series has been really good about this sort of realistic scenario, placing actual value on the individual teammate and allowing robbers to sacrifice loot in the name of not getting killed.
In this way, Hardline's multiplayer feels like a glorified mod for Battlefield 4. It looks like cops n' robbers, but feels like a match of BF4. Replace the cash with a flag and you've got some good 0′l Capture The Flag. In practice, Hardline feels like a smaller scale version of what it could be. It's got fast get-away cars and helicopters, but the maps are too small to drive them for more than 45 seconds. The game feels like it wants to fulfill the potential of a true heisting experience, but is held back by its need to be a traditional Battlefield experience. I want to be narrowly escaping the cops as we're barreling down a freeway, but instead I'm doing laps around the same three square-blocks–hauling money from one location to another for the entirety of the match.
But Blood Money and Heist aren't the only modes to be featured in the full game. The mode Hotwire, which isn't available in the beta, is described as cops chasing down the criminals through expansive environments. This is presumed to be what has been dominantly shown in the game's trailers. And from this description, we can presume that the mode only encompasses the "chase" part of the classic heist. I obviously can't speak to the quality for fun of the mode without playing it, but going off the pitch, I begin to wonder why Hardline must separate police chases into their own mode.
This is not to say that Hardline will be a bad game. There's quite a few things that I enjoy about it that shake up traditional BF pretty well. Instead of unlocking weapons via experience, weapons are bought mid-game using money earned during the match. This cash is also used for buying equipment, like cameras that alert to enemy proximity, a grapple hook gun to climb specific heights, or a zipline gun to get down from those heights. I also appreciate the presentation of the game, framing the situations as a news report or television drama. These are cool ideas that work well enough. And it's too bad that my previous concerns detract heavily from my enjoyment of the beta as a whole, and undercut these great tweaks.
Hardline is a great idea for a Battlefield spin-off, if not clearly inspired. Visceral has the chance to do something special with a familiar formula, but from what we've seen of the beta, they seem dedicated to being a re-skinned version of existing shooter modes that don't accurately capture the feel of cops n' robbers. It doesn't help that the final package will have fewer maps than other BF titles, and only four modes (along with a scarcely detailed single-player campaign)–all while being priced as a full $60 entry. Hardline's beta doesn't make me excited for the final game, but rather disappointed at how similar it is to the game I bought last year.
Morgan Park is an Associate Editor at Front Towards Gamer from Bakersfield, Ca. Destroyer of evil, watcher of Chuck, craftsman of sandwiches. That dude with the deep voice.