Calling all cars, calling all cars – we’ve got an FPS emergency! The newest entry in the Battlefield series was shown off at E3 and made playable to both the press and public thanks to a beta. The beta situation is a bit bizarre, as it’s only for PC and PS4 users right now. Owners of the PS3 and all Microsoft consoles will have to wait until this fall when an open beta is released. The basic game on display so far is a cops vs. robbers FPS with a domination mode and a variation on capture the flag with fat stacks of cash instead of a flag. As with any Battlefield game, it’s a spectacle shooter first and foremost. There’s a lot of stuff to do, many things to make go boom, and if you’re looking for a game to test out how powerful your new PC is, this series is a good place to start. The Hardline beta, like the Battlefield 4 beta before it, is a fine way to check the game out at no cost and see if it’s to your liking.
Unfortunately, while I like the Battlefield series and enjoyed Battlefield 4‘s beta, I’m not digging this iteration at all. Unlike when you were a kid playing cops and robbers, there’s no imagination on display here. Each side is largely the same with only a change in window dressing to really mark a difference between them. Cops will drive cop cars while the robbers have reinforced vans and such. Visually, it all makes sense, but each side is also very samey despite the different facades. No matter what side you choose, you’ll have equal weapon options – meaning that criminals use billy clubs and the cops have access to RPGs and grenades. Sure, it’s a bank heist scenario, but wow is that ever extreme! The shooting action is about what I expected in some regards – aiming is easy with the right stick on the PS4 or using the mouse or Xbox 1′s right stick on the PC version. Unlike a lot of these pre-release betas, you only get one map to play in. The LA cityscape looks solid, but quite barren. There are a ton of vehicles around, but they’ve all been blown up a bit and can’t be driven – even though you think you can drive a car to haul ass to where you’re needed, you can’t. You have to actually walk (or run) the whole way there unless you respawn near a working car or motorcycle.
The plot is a basic TV movie with poor narration over a faux-TV broadcast. It’s good vs. evil in theory, but you’re not given much of a reason to care about anyone and unlike Payday, you never really feel like you’re pulling off a heist as a bad guy. The flawed presentation of an otherwise solid concept could just be due to this being a beta, and the full game should feature a lot more plot relative to the minute of setup we get here. The lone map featured here is a bit too open for my liking given how concentrated the action is, but I do love the wide variety of settings contained within it. You’ve got a parking garage with multiple levels, an office building with elevators that are perfect for placing trip mines and getting at least one awesome kill, and even a construction site full of perfect sniping spots. The key there is to just pay attention to your map and ensuring that no one is nearby or else you’ll wind up being vulnerable to attack while climbing up the massive rig to get to the spot.
The beta controls about how you would expect, with a logical console and PC-centric layout depending on your platform of choice. I prefer the PS4 version since my PC runs this at a low-to-mid level and the PS4 version looks a lot better. Compared to how poor the beta of Battlefield 4 looked, this definitely appears to be closer to the final product. Normally, these betas are used as a defacto demo – by changing the terminology, they make them seem more special while also limiting the time they can be played and completely eliminating the possibility of people just getting by on the demo instead of buying the full game. The problem with this beta is that it’s too limited to really show off what the full game is capable of. You get two modes that are a bit too similar on one map. While that map is expansive, it’s hard for the experience to feel fresh. Hardline‘s underwhelming beta saddens me because the E3 presentation for it had me so excited, and yet playing the game only serves to dull that. Hopefully, the fall beta will be a bit more robust. Even two more maps would be just fine – Titanfall‘s beta had three and that managed to sell me on the game despite first person shooters not being my forte.