Following a new yearly release schedule with Battlefield 4, EA/DICE have announced a new Battlefield game set for launch in Fall 2014. Developed by Visceral Games in collaboration with DICE, Battlefield Hardline takes the military focus of the existing Battlefield franchise and moves it to a new law enforcement setting. Now cops and robbers face off in various American cities. The criminals try to steal as much as possible and the cops try to stop them.
I first heard about Hardline when an internal gameplay trailer was leaked. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, as details were scarce. The premise sounded interesting, a Battlefield-style game applied to a new cops and crooks framework. Would it be a free 2 play FPS like Ghost Recon Phantoms, or a tactical shooter like Insurgency or Counter-Strike? Turns out Hardline is a Battlefield game through and through, for better or worse.
I’ll get my main concern out of the way immediately. Applying a military-style shooter to a law enforcement setting is problematic at best and troubling at worst. There’s something unsettling about seeing cops and criminals repeatedly killing each other. Yes, it’s a video game and yes, you need to suspend your disbelief, but opposing military sides in a war is one thing. Militarising cops and criminals in the United States is something different.
I saw a crook in a cop car barrel into me, running me over. I saw a cop hit me with a taser and then shoot me in the head. There are rocket launchers you can use against armed transport choppers. You can set laser trip mines. These are quasi-military rules of engagement copied and pasted onto law enforcement and it just doesn’t sit right with me. I haven’t played the Payday series but I suspect I’d feel the same way if I did. Killing wave after wave of cops feels wrong, as well it should.
That said, I’ll look past the potentially troubling political ramifications to the gameplay itself. After watching extensive gameplay footage from Jack Frags and playing the beta, I’ve realised that Hardline is almost literally copied and pasted from Battlefield 4, at least when it comes to multiplayer. While there are many visible differences to the UI and HUD, the core gameplay feels almost identical to DICE’s earlier release.
For Battlefield fans, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I had a lot of fun playing Battlefield 4 when it was first released. Over time, however, I got burned out due to the gameplay and player base. If you’re a regular Battlefield 4 player and still have fun playing, you’ll probably find a lot to like about Hardline. For me, I kept feeling like I was playing a new map in Battlefield 4. Both sides still rush in, the combat mechanics feel nearly identical, and the classes are the same, only renamed. If I didn’t look too close I’d assume I was playing Battlefield 4.
Hardline isn’t identical, however, and some of the changes are interesting. There are some cool gadgets, like a zip-line and grappling hook. Visceral’s redesigned the way cars handle and driving feels a lot more fun. My favourite change is the way weapon unlocks work. Rather than unlocking items in a progression, you earn money in missions and spend that money on new weapons. Want to use the sawed-off shotgun before the 870? Go ahead. This method gives you a lot more freedom to unlock what you want.
Ultimately, the question becomes whether or not you’re willing to spend £49.99 for something that feels like an expansion pack for Battlefield 4. Compare Hardline to the Vietnam expansion for Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Vietnam brought new weapons, new maps in a new setting, new vehicles, and slight tweaks to gameplay. This required the core game but was sold at £9.99. Hardline offers a similar set of changes and improvements but doesn’t require Battlefield 4. Are the new gameplay features worth the extra $40?
To be fair, this is still a beta release. The full game could be significantly different and have brand new features that haven’t yet been announced. There are still five months until release and a lot can change, especially since Visceral and DICE are actively working with the Battlefield community to improve gameplay. I think for me, however, that this is the last time I’ll try Hardline.
If you’re a die-hard Battlefield fan and still actively play Battlefield 4, you’ll find loads of fun with new weapons, game modes, maps, and vehicles. If you’re not a fan of the franchise or if you’ve grown tired of Battlefield 4, like me, you probably won’t find a lot to like about Hardline.
Don’t take my word for it, though. I’ll add a link to the closed beta signup in the description below. Try it for yourself and let me know if you think it feels like Battlefield 4.5 or a new addition to the Battlefield family.Colin Le Sueur