I played the Battlefield: Hardline beta last night for a few hours with some friends, and I had the most fun I’ve had playing a DICE game since the original Battlefield 1942 thanks to some fresh mechanics and fantastic network performance courtesy of locally-hosted Hardline servers.
But did it impress enough to make me excited for the full-priced release later this year? Read on to find out.
I jumped right into a Hotwire match, a new mode that has cops and criminals fighting over a handful of specially-designated vehicles. The aim is to capture the vehicles and drive them around the map as fast as possible, which qualifies as “Hotwiring” them, causing the opposing team’s “tickets” to drop in the same way that capturing objectives in Battlefield’s Conquest mode does.
As you can imagine, it leads to spectacular high-speed car chases, crashes, insane stunts and of course, a lot of laughs and crazy “Battlefield moments”, the one below courtesy of Nick Soper.
I loved jumping into a car being driven by someone else, hanging out the window and shooting at anyone who got close enough. That’s partly because it’s fun in and of itself, but also because I earned “Hotwire coins” (similar to BF’s “ribbons” and worth 200 points apiece) for every 15 seconds or so that the car survived, something that greatly helped my score at the end of each round. Even just driving the car earns them, so I didn’t have to be particularly good with a gun to do well, just at driving.
The other awesome new mode is Heists, where gangs of criminals rob a bank and then attempt to make a getaway with the loot while cops actively try to stop them. Because the loot is a bag full of cash and it drops when the carrier is killed, Heist matches become a case of “Capture the bag”, with criminals trying to get it to the extraction point, while the cops attempt to recover it and carry it back to the bank.
Conquest is a more traditional Battlefield mode that has teams capturing and holding points, and is easily the least exciting of the modes available in the beta. Fight for point, capture point, defend point, rinse and repeat, just with cops and criminals. It’s still pretty fun, of course but it doesn’t offer a significantly new experience like Heists and Hotwire do.
Hardline’s character progress is slightly different in that instead of earning XP only, you also earn money with which to upgrade your character’s equipment. Progress is persistent, so money accumulates over time allowing you to “save up” for that one particular equipment upgrade you have your eye on.
Levolution, EA’s awfully-named technology for the way levels change during the course of a match is present and accounted for in Hardline. A huge dust storm sweeps in when playing the Dust Bowl map, dropping visibility dramatically, and a huge crane collapses in the Downtown map, obstructing roads and forcing some defensive driving.
The weapons also deserve a special mention. There’s a huge variety to unlock with earned cash, but there are also some pretty cool new additions. My favourite was the guided rocket launcher; you shoot an enemy to “tag” them with a special gun, and that tag guides the rocket to its target automatically when fired. It’s a fun, funny and very satisfying way to get kills.
Explosions, too, are utterly spectacular, but then this is built on EA’s Frostbite 3 engine game so that’s hardly surprising.
Impressions from the group
After a few hours with the beta, I and some of my buddies were of the opinion that Hardline feels more like a Battlefield 4 mod than a full game. That’s because how it looks, how the weapons fire and how the vehicles handle is near-identical to Battlefield 4; even the HUD is very similar. There are also four very Battlefield-y classes to play, each with their own equipment loadout.
So even though there are new game modes, initial impressions are that they feel more like tweaked Battlefield rules with a handful of new art assets than a whole new game, and the worry I heard from my mates was whether or not that is enough to justify the “new game” price tag that Hardline will command. Especially as Battlefield 4’s appeal has not yet worn off for them.
On the other side of the fence, I also saw many a player proclaiming they were having a lot of fun in the chat, particularly in Hotwire, so clearly EA is doing something right.
If this has piqued your interest and you’d like to see for yourself how Hardline’s multiplayer plays, the beta is running until the 8th of February on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, and is open to absolutely everyone.
Get it on your respective marketplaces for console, and via Origin for PC.