Battlefield: Hardline’s Horrible Timing

He and Lorenzo are rolling in a Benzo.

There's an elephant in the room when talking about Battlefield Hardline — a giant, armored elephant that looks like this:



EA and Visceral couldn't have done anything about the current social climate, of course, but the fact still remains that the relationship between citizens and police has been tense, to put it lightly.

I don't need to tell you that there's a big debate about the use of force and militarization of police in the United States, but there's a big debate about the use of force and militarization of police in the United States.

I don't need to remind you of last year's shooting deaths and protests in Missouri, an NYPD officer choking someone to death, dudes being shot when they reach for their wallets, an especially unjustified tasing in Minnesota, and however many other incidents. But last year alone and off the top of my head, we had shooting deaths and protests in Missouri, an NYPD officer on video choking someone to death, dudes being shot when they reach for their wallets, an especially unjustified tasing in Minnesota, and however many other incidents.



On the other end, cops are getting shot while in their cars as criminals take advantage of the chaos. The background music during all of this is a debate about how militarized the police force should or shouldn't be. And also Rage Against the Machine, because, of course.

The topic comes up periodically and isn't necessarily brand new, but it came to the forefront of news coverage and discussion in August, when Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. While the case has been controversial and argued to death, what we do know for sure is that Mike Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.

It brought forward discussions and arguments about police procedure and race relations in the US.

The following months were filled with protests which occasionally turned violent. Police blamed rowdy protestors, while protestors blamed aggressive police abusing their force. Whether Han shot first or not, this was one of the results:

Even members of America's biggest church, the NFL, weighed in on the controversy:



And that's where Battlefield Hardline finds itself in an odd place.

In this game of "cops and robbers," both the cops and the robbers have access to a shitload of high-tech, high-power, high-social-awkwardness weapons of war.

When I played it last fall, EA's demo team told me and other members of the press that we were divided into two teams, one was the police and the other was thieves trying to steal cars. My job as a police officer was to find the guys trying to steal cars and shoot them in the head. This struck me as a bit much for theft, but it was a video game and I was there to do a job, so I went along.

 

(The story mode reportedly has ways to talk criminals down and end conflicts without firing shots, but I wasn't shown that and can't comment on it.)

What I'm wondering is: how will this be received as a current release? News crews have shoved the police brutality and procedure debates aside for the sake of a new flavor of the season, but we're still only six months removed from tear gas, automatic rifles, and basically fucking Sherman tanks rolling down the streets of St. Louis. Games have been canned due to social sensitivities before.

Remember Propeller Arena for Dreamcast? Of course you don't, because it never came out. It was a game about airplanes with angry teeth, which could fly around different cities. If things went wrong, you could end up crashing a plane into a building. This coming so soon after September 11, 2001, the publishers never went to market with the game.

Similarly, the Japan-developed Disaster Report 4 never went to market, because it was scheduled for a 2011 release. In March of that year, a devastating earthquake/tsunami combo did damage to Japan, from which the country has still not yet completely recovered. The game put players into a survival scenario in Tokyo, where an earthquake has destroyed much of the city. It was deemed a little too much for the times and scrapped.



Those bothered by Hardline's themes will point out how the game glorifies the idea of the police bringing the biggest guns to a fight, being able to kill alleged bad guys without asking questions, and making a city into a war zone.

The opposition will say that it's a video game, that police firing on criminals who are shooting back is expected, and that doing something in a fantasy world doesn't mean you would want to in reality. It's a distraction — a manufactured, electronic scenario in which there are teams and you have objectives to win a game. Kids have played "cops and robbers" without supporting police brutality and played "cowboys and Indians" without promoting the near eradication of an entire race.

Or have they? It seems innocent enough, kids having their fun, but do the ideas of those games carry on into adulthood, on a subconscious level? Statistics do show that minorities are stopped, questioned, and imprisoned more often than whites. Do little things like video games plant seeds in the unconscious mind? I'm just asking questions here, don't shoot me.

The saddest part of all of this is that Battlefield: Hardline is a fun game.

…Well, wait, no, the saddest part is people getting shot when they reach for wallets and a civil war between police and regular citizens. But the second saddest part is that Battlefield: Hardline is a fun game. If only it could have swapped release dates with Battlefield 4 and been the PS4/XB1 launch title instead, it might have landed in a better social climate (though it also might have been a buggy mess like BF4 was).

I don't really have a strong opinion either way of Hardline's content, but I can't help but note the timing is a little strange. I wonder if it will affect the game's mass reception or sales.

What do you think? Is this a fine game releasing at the wrong time? Does it completely lack self awareness, making the game worthy of any scrutiny? Should Battlefield take controversial settings a step further and make set the next game inside elementary schools where one team is righteous, armed teachers/guards and the other players are trying to shoot up the students? I promise I'll read the comments and not just blow you off this time, probably.

Hands Where I Can See Them, My *BANG*