Do you need a preview?
Electronic Arts surprised its press conference audience and gamers watching at home when it announced that the beta play test period for Battlefield Hardline, the new cops and robbers variant to DICE’s large-scale war franchise, was available on PlayStation 4 and PC right that second. The publisher took great pleasure in pulling curtains back and opening servers to eager gamers at home but without my own PS4 console here at E3, I headed to the EA booth to get hands on with the cash-focused combat on High Tension.
High Tension sets one team of cops and one team of robbers against each other in a multi-tiered downtown jungle with underground passages, parking garages, and a few towers for eagle-eyed snipers. Players can jump into cop cars, muscle cars, a few helicopters, and some heavily armored vehicles for the same kind of rampant destruction and bloodshed they’ve come to know and love in Battlefield, but I didn’t find much different between Hardline and Battlefield 4 or even Battlefield 3.
It’s up to you to decide whether that’s good news or not. While I waited in EA’s Disneyland-esque line, complete with separate chambers, decorations, and even a moving, talking interrogation sequence behind frosted glass, I wondered how much the two new modes available in the beta would change staples of the franchise. Outfitting weapons, diving to prone, driving a motorcycle through an explosive combat scenario probably should feel the same especially since Hardline uses the same engine as Battlefield 4, but Heist and Blood Money modes only slightly change the kind of encounters fans have enjoyed in the past.
I got a chance to play one match in Blood Money. Heist sets one team up against cops defending a huge score of cash, but Heist allows both teams to steal money from each other (or kill to keep their own funds in an armored car). I racked up several kills with a submachine gun and even ran over one cop foolish enough to wander across the road, confirming that mechanically Hardline is still a Battlefield game. How much more can I say about all that shooting, killing, exploding, driving, fighting, destruct-ing, and so on?
When you get to the enemy armored car, you hold the square button on the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller to steal cash. You can carry that cash back to your base, but the large duffel bag does signal to the enemy team that you’ve become a high-value target, pun intended.
If I’m being totally honest, I’m concerned that this fracturing of the Battlefield franchise could go south like any number of Hollywood heists where the antiheroes become silver screen martyrs. With Battlefield 4 DLC still on the way, will Battlefield Hardline take away from the creativity the developers at DICE might have in store? Battlefield Hardline modes, weapons, and maps can’t possibly become Battlefield 4 downloadable content and the reverse holds true too, right? Will Battlefield Hardline, developed at Visceral Games and totally outside of Battlefield 4’s development cycle have its own season pass? Have you become totally saturated with competing shooter franchises at this point?
I have, but it didn’t change that Hardline was mechanically satisfying and solid just like past Battlefield games. I’m a fan of the franchise, but I won’t be able to keep up with Hardline’s hard-boiled action if it feels too similar to last year’s entry. We’ll keep an eye on Hardline’s beta and what’s revealed in the lead up to release. After I thoroughly enjoyed Battlefield 4’s campaign, I might get more out of Hardline’s legal-limbo single-player. We’ll have more on the game in the coming months and even more from E3 2014 over the next few days.