Late last week, I got a chance to go hands-on with Battlefield Hardline at Sydney’s Justice and Police museum. After signing in, declining the rather vain faux mugshot (the third time I’ve evaded their mugshots!) and navigating through the stone and metal cellblock at the museum’s entrance, we reached the Battlefield battle station. Two rows of large screens, Turtle Beach headsets, and hidden PS4s for us to play on, with a large projector and sound setup for the inevitable trailerpocalypse. We were “treated” to a single player story trailer, and then a brief outline of the game and modes we were going to play by various members of the dev and PR teams. Uncommonly, the introduction period was short, and we managed to get into our first game session in short order.
Unfortunately, only the multiplayer portion of Hardline was playable at the preview session, so I can’t bring you any details of how the single player campaign holds together. I can say that the core shooting mechanics feel like Battlefield 4’s with some new gadgets. What was on offer was a preview build of the upcoming beta, opening on the 3rd.
First up was the eclectic Hotwire game mode. As either cops or crims, you must enter and drive target vehicles to gain points for the team. From slick sports cars to heavy petrol tankers, the aim is to gain and keep possession for as long as possible. To get points, you have to maintain a certain speed, meaning you can’t camp in a car and rack up a high score, which balances attacking and defending teams and gives opportunity to take back cars for your team. I quite liked this mode, even though I’m not traditionally a fan of driving in shooters. So I tended to follow a friend as they captured a car, then rode shotgun – literally. Hanging out the window, taking pot-shots at enemy vehicles and the unlucky solo attackers – it was liberating.
Next we booted up Heist mode. It’s essentially a form of asymmetrical capture the flag, where one team attacks a bank vault and the other defends. The criminals have to either storm the vault, or breach a series of walls or ceilings using timed charges. Once in the vault, you have to steal briefcases and then take them to a pick-up point, where a helicopter snags the loot for your team. On the map we played there were multiple points of ingress, including blasting into the vault from above via the ceiling – which was my favourite. Inside, choke points and close quarters combat created spats of sporadic intense firefights. Smoke bombs and the new gas grenades control space and, used tactically, made or broke a match. Escaping to the helicopter rendezvous was always a frantic chase down a long external kill corridor, feeling exhilarating.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the event before the Conquest mode was set up, or the open Q and A session with the devs, although Conquest is a staple returning mode for the Battlefield series.
What was on offer was hardly revolutionary for either the Battlefield series or the FPS genre, but so far Hardline’s multiplayer feels very refined – slicker, faster, and more mobile than Battlefield 4. This is helped by some of the new gadgets that make the best of tactical map design. New mobility options like the grappling hook or zipline gadgets give much needed verticality, allowing new sightlines and ways to enter and escape buildings. The teargas and gasmask combo require forethought and planning to use, and take up a grenade and gadget slot, but, when used tactically, can be devastating to an unprepared team.
So what we have is a multiplayer game that performs identically to Battlefield 4 in many ways – team setup, spawning, squads, character customisation, classes, and even graphically. It feels slick, it feels polished, and it’s a new focus for Battlefield. New gadgets that promote mobility and the apparent lack of armoured vehicles or attack choppers favour hit and run tactics and intense “infantry” battle. It’s a different way of thinking for Battlefield, and one that I don’t dislike. It’s intense and intimate, and slightly more tactical, and doesn’t devolve into tank attrition. It might be a nice jumping-on point for those alienated by the past reliance on vehicles.
Of course, I have no idea whether the campaign will hold up, but I’m sure we’ll see closer to launch.
You too can find out if Battlefield Hardline will interest you when the beta opens up between February 3 and 8 for all platforms.