In an effort to distance itself from its popular, more athletic older brother — the “Call of Duty” franchise — “Battlefield Hardline” will try its luck at cops and robbers next month.
And it could work.
I got my first taste of “Battlefield Hardline” this week during its multiplayer beta test. It offered a sampling of three multiplayer modes – heist, hotwire and conquest large – in Visceral Games’ upcoming shooter.
It’s too early to make any final judgments on the game, but I am fairly confident that two main factors will determine if “Battlefield Hardline” lives or dies: the presence of bugs, and heist mode.
“Battlefield Hardline” must restore faith in the franchise by delivering a clean, relatively bug-free game.
“Battlefield 4” had enough technical issues to make it the target of a class-action lawsuit shortly after release. “Battlefield 4” may have been unfairly dragged through the mud by the gaming press; we made it seem like it was totally unplayable, when it was actually a decent game. Whether that’s fair or not is irrelevant; the fact is that the Battlefield franchise is now synonymous with technical issues, and it won’t survive another buggy game.
I encountered a few server and network issues in this week’s PS4 beta. The home screen kept telling me I wasn’t logged into PlayStation Network and couldn’t access the multiplayer option even though my PSN was working just fine. I didn’t run into any problems in the actual game, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. The public only got to play a tiny sliver of “Battlefield Hardline.”
I immediately gravitated toward heist mode. This simple, objective-based mission tasks a team of criminals with robbing a vault, while the police team must stop them. It’s the only one of the three modes available in the beta that actually makes conceptual sense. Thieves like robbing banks, police like stopping them.
Each mode only came with one playable map, but heist’s bank map was wonderful. Both sides were balanced. It was perfectly sized and contained enough layers and choke points to allow for short-range, medium-range or long-distance combat.
Shooters can’t exist on a global scale without some sort of competitive element. Strong multiplayer titles need viewer-friendly options for live tournaments, and heist mode could offer a fun counterpoint to the traditional kill ’em all format of most shooter events.
The other two modes available in the beta were not as good.
Hotwire mode was ridiculous. The object is for your team to capture neutral vans and drive them around for longer than the other team. Players can choose from an arsenal of team vehicles to travel to and from the center area, a spot I call the killing fields.
The handful of hotwire games that I played all degraded into me driving a van full of teammates and screaming via in-game chat that if this van goes under 50 mph, we’re all dead. I’m ashamed to say that no one got the joke. What are they teaching today’s kids in school?
The driving controls suck. Honestly, I hate everything about them. Even getting out of a car or off a bike has a needlessly complicated button assignment. I had to hold square instead of pressing triangle once, which has been the chosen “leave vehicle” button for every PlayStation game since the dawn of civilized man.
The popular conquest large mode is a Battlefield franchise mainstay, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. The large modes are far too chaotic and focus too heavily on who can sprint to the good vehicles first. Fans of the franchise will be glad that “Battlefield Hardline” didn’t ditch the old game modes, but I’m only interested in the new ones.
A great single-player campaign could make waves for “Battlefield Hardline.” The creators have said that making a worthwhile story mode was a top priority, but I’ll believe it when I see it. The first-person shooter franchises that release games annually typically have horrible storylines. I’ve played every “Call of Duty” game in the last decade, and I can’t name a single main character in any of them. The exception to this rule is the Halo franchise, which usually delivers great single-player campaigns.
The “Battlefield Hardline” graphics are not comparable to “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” The game looks like a PS4 launch title, not a new release a year and a half after launch. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but some gamers will be outraged.
The final verdict?
“Battlefield Hardline” is flawed, but I see a spark of potential.
The future of the 13-year-old “Battlefield” franchise rests heavily on this game getting cleaned up before it launches March 17. I hope the developers can pull it off.