E3 2014: Battlefield: Hardline – Now Containing Actual Fun!

Though its announcement contained absolutely zero mystique due to it leaking onto the web last week, Battlefield: Hardline might just be EA’s strongest offering in 2014. After Electronic Arts and Visceral announced that a private Beta was launching immediately after its announcement, the gaming community found itself in a frenzy. The Battlefield website appeared to be getting more traffic than TMZ after a Miley Cyrus wardrobe malfunction or an antisemitic Mel Gibson rant. After spending numerous hours with the Battlefield: Hardline Beta, I am extremely pleased to announce that the newest iteration of the long-standing first-person shooter seemingly solve’s the series’ biggest issue.

One of the largest complaints about the Battlefield series is that players often find themselves wandering around doing nothing. Unless you know the choke-points and hot-spots of every map, it’s difficult to know exactly where to go at any given time. The larger 32 and 64-player modes often require a heavy emphasis on teamwork in order to experience the game’s true insanity. Battlefield: Hardline takes all of the strategic aspects of the Battlefield series, adds the constant action of a Call of Duty title, and sprinkles a bit of absurdity on top. Granted, this feeling could simply be a result of the one map and two game modes present in the Beta, but Battlefield: Hardline does a spectacular job of feeling deep without taking itself too seriously. It is instantly accessible, as players can thrive entirely on their own. There is no waiting for weaponry here; every action taken by the player earns them money that can be used to purchase any gun at any time.  It’s a game, even in its limited state, that feels distinctly more fun than its predecessors.

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Containing both of Battlefield: Hardline‘s newly revealed multiplayer modes, Heist and Blood Money, the Beta puts a heavy emphasis on the game’s “cops and robbers” theme. Every match takes place in High Tension, an urban map complete with a collapsible crane, and good Lord are the games action-packed. Heist tasks robbers with stealing money from various armored trucks while the cops try and recover the cash and eliminate the robbers using the respawn ticket system from past Battlefield games. Blood Money places a massive pile of money in the center of the map, forcing both sides to fight over its contents. Because Battlefield: Hardline is wonderfully contextualized, Blood Money gives an explanation as to why both sides are fighting over the massive loot pile: the robbers want the cash, and the cops want to recover evidence. Players are able to take money to their respective bases which can then be stolen by the other team; the result is a chaotic, strategic blend of risk-taking, defense, and action. If these modes are a hint of what is to come in the future, Battlefield: Hardline will have some of the best multiplayer modes in the series’ history.

The gameplay and overall performance feel just as polished as that of Battlefield 4, which says something about the quality of both the Beta and its predecessor. It’s clear that Visceral wants to make this experience as close to perfect as it possibly can, as the embarrassment of the Battlefield 4 launch will unfairly taint the expectations of casual gamers. The only noticeable hiccups come during High Tension’s aforementioned major Levolution event (a collapsing crane), which is something that should be ironed out over the coming months. Though this event doesn’t run absolutely perfectly, it speaks to Visceral’s commitment to providing a quality experience, as a major level-change didn’t really have to be added to the Beta at all. The hit detection is just as good, if not better than Battlefield 4‘s, meaning that its gameplay quality can only get better from here. The Battlefield: Hardline Beta indicates that this is a title that, although obviously limited in scale and slightly visually flawed, is basically of release quality at this moment.

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The biggest issue with the Battlefield: Hardline Beta is that it simply needs a bit of a spit shine. The textures are nowhere near the quality of those in Battlefield 4, as the environments have a distinctly last-generation feel to them. Though there is some moisture reflection on certain sidewalks, the game could use, say, four more months of polishing (oh, what a coincidence, it comes out in four months). The only other noticeable feature that clearly shows one is playing a Beta is a bizarre null-space glitch at the beginning of some Heist matches. Happening mostly when playing as a robber, this bug causes the world to disappear for a split second before the game’s countdown begins. It does nothing to affect the gameplay in any way, but it makes it clear to players that this game is still in development. Given that it has a massive budget behind it, it is easy to see a solid crunch turning Battlefield: Hardline into one of 2014’s best shooters.

What first appeared to be a silly spin-off of one of gaming’s most popular series could actually turn out to be the shot in the arm it needs after Battlefield 4‘s disastrous launch. Visceral clearly wants to enter the Battlefield realm with a bang, as Battlefield: Hardline is a thrilling, fast-paced, absurd take on the series’ classic formula. Its cops and robbers theme seems to indicate that Visceral understands that a multiplayer shooter is primarily meant to be fun. Mark October 21st on your calendars folks, it looks like Battlefield is back.