Battlefield: Hardline Beta impressions

When I first saw the leaked Battlefield: Hardline trailer, I viewed the title with caution. The game looked technically impressive but the explosive fighting sequences looked staged and very little seemed to have changed with regards to previous Battlefield titles. The graphical style seemed the same, the destructibility of the maps looked about as impressive as Battlefield 4 and with the exception of grappling hooks and zip lines, the gameplay seemed only slightly altered.

After playing the Battlefield: Hardline closed Beta, I am sad to report that it disappoints on all these accounts and then some.

Lets start with the graphical style. Graphically, Battlefield: Hardline looks identical to Battlefield 4. Muzzleflashes are the same, textures contain similar amounts of detail and the single map available, ‘High Tension’, is very similar to Battlefield 4’s iconic ‘Siege of Shanghai’ map. Don’t get me wrong, Battlefield 4 still looks great and consequently, so does Battlefield: Hardline. However, the title definitely has a far goofier tone. The developers had an opportunity to go with a more interesting graphical style to match with the theme but they clearly decided to play it safe; which is disappointing to say the very least. Since most modern millitary shooters seem to be ‘gunning’ for realism, their graphical styles seem to be blending together to create games that look very similar and boring. Hardline does nothing to buck this trend.

bf hardline screenshot 1
In a heated car chase

In terms of gameplay, Battlefield: Hardline fails to introduce any interesting new mechanics that change up the standard Battlefield formula. The core gameplay revolves around the war on crime.  Engineers are now called ‘Mechanics’, Recon units are ‘Profesionals’, Assault are ‘Operators’ and Support are ‘Enforcers’. The role these classes play has not changed much with the exception of the addition of grappling hooks and ziplines which, mechanically, are far less interesting and game changing than you would expect. The ziplines do provide some interesting ways to get to places quickly; a notable example being ‘zipping’ from skyscraper to skyscraper. However, don’t be suprised if you aim your zipline at a ledge (lower than your current position) and disappointingly find yourself unable to ‘zip’ to it. Only time will tell if they will prove useful for tactical players but for the time being they are a relatively tame addition to Battlefield‘s standard mechanics.

The new zipline mechanic
The new zipline mechanic

Gamemode’s wise, Battlefield: Hardline does change things up a little bit with the addition of two new gamemodes; ‘Heist’ and ‘Bloodmoney’.

‘Heist’ is definitely interesting in concept. The criminals are required to steal a large quantity of cash from some immobilized trucks and then transport it to a safe point on the map. It is the job of the police to cunningly set booby traps along their path while chasing them down with an assortment of vehicles. However, the problem with this gamemode is that it relies far too heavily on the organization of the police to delay the criminals. While playing in a public server, I found that on several occasions, the round would be over with a couple of minutes because of the lack of organization of the cops. Classic Battlefield game modes like ‘Rush’ are great because of how they don’t rely too heavily on people playing the objective. Three or four dedicated players can take the objective while the rest can just play a standard game of ‘kill all the bad guys’. In ‘Heist’, players not committed to the objective can bring their whole team down in a matter of minutes.

In a dire situation
In a dire situation

‘Bloodmoney’ is a more functionally reliable gamemode than heist. The Cops and Crooks need to take cash from a location on the map back to their truck until enough money is accumulated to win the round. Both teams can also steal from each other’s truck, providing a high-risk, high-reward method to win the round faster. The gamemode’s novelty wore off quite quickly, however, as the new grappling hook and zip line play a far less central role and rounds boiled down to standard Battlefield shoot ’em up fare; without jets, tanks or a destructibility to keep the game separate from other shooters.

On the topic of destructibility, the hateful levolution events from Battlefield 4 are back in full force, offering minor alterations to the map every round in order to secure more pre order’s from unsuspecting consumers, unaware of their staged and repetitive nature. The map is also far less destructible than the famously static ‘Siege of Shanghai’ map which represented a big step in the wrong direction for the organic and constantly changing maps of Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Battlefield: Hardline, disappointingly, doesn’t feel next gen in the slightest.

I realize that this is only a Beta and I have only consumed a small vertical slice of the game, which will surely be more feature complete and bug free than what I experienced over the past few days. Yet I can’t help but feel that the game is far too similar to Battlefield 4. If Battlefield 4 represents the refinement and realization of Dice’s vision for Battlefield 3,  Battlefield: Hardline is an overpriced DLC for Battlefield 4. My instinct says that Battlefield: Hardline will be quickly forgotten and fleetingly be referred to as ‘that game’  in the franchise between Battlefield 4 and Star Wars: Battlefront 3.

Columnist at York Vision and Chat Politics.