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Battlefield Hardline: First hands-on impressions

3:00 PM on 06.09.2014 // Dale North
  @DaleNorth

Details on how Hardline came to be

I was pretty excited to be able to be the first to tell you about Battlefield Hardline, the new team up cops-and-robbers title from Visceral (Dead Space) and DICE. But trailer leaks, detail leaks, and even gameplay video leaks ruined the fun. I played the game several weeks ago and did my job to keep the secret! Too bad no one else did.

So you probably already know the idea behind Hardline: a sandbox that takes the mayhem of a Battlefield game but puts a crime revenge twist to it. It's a multiplayer cops and robbers game, two factions going at each other like a playable heist movie. It's as cool as it sounds.

The idea started as a dream when DICE and Visceral studio heads met in Barcelona a couple of years ago. Big fans of each others' games, they started talking about games they'd like to make. A crazy idea snowballed into a full-on plan. But Visceral, the team behind the Dead Space games, knew third-person shooting better than first-person. So as a way of learning the ropes, Visceral did a Battlefield expansion pack, End Game

After that, they started on the concept work for what would eventually be Hardline.

In a pre-E3 reveal, Ian Milham, Creative Director on Hardline, explained that his team at Visceral had been working on a new IP following the last Dead Space. He put his presentation together for executives after working on it for a few months, but it got a mixed reaction. The execs brought up making a Battlefield game instead. Milham says he has been a franchise fan for a long time, but he did not want to do another military shooter.

Milham talked about how modern military shooters were going science fiction lately. He wanted to do something different, fun, and relatable -- no grizzle-voiced heroes or private armies. His dream was to make something that played off backyard fantasies. Robbing banks, relatable places, real weapons -- no fancy equipment or high-end squad tactics. 

We had a chance to spend some time with Battlefield: Hardlline's multiplayer a few weeks back. playing a couple of short matches in two newly revealed game modes. The game does have a full single-player component, but Visceral wanted to show multiplayer first to show the direction they're going with this project. Milham noted that they've done a lot of single-player games in the past, so we know they have that side covered.

The cops in Hardline are pretty militarized, so armored cars and helicopters are the norm in battle. On the criminals side, these guys are pros, so they have a bunch of handy technologies and automated gear like grappling hooks and ziplines. Cops have ballistic shields, gas masks, flash bombs and more.

For vehicles, my hands-on time felt like anything goes in Hardline. Cops have fast interceptors that can zip around town while a partner hangs out the passenger side window, shooting. Criminals have muscle cars as a parallel, but they also have their own armored transports. I was suddenly dropped into just about every vehicular situation you could imagine in one match that had both factions fighting over control points in a city. I went from being on the ground, to manning a turret on top of a transport, to shooting a machine gun from an open helicopter door, all in a scramble.

I played in a large group multiplayer session to try out the Heist mode. This has the criminals trying to break into a defended area,  gathering loot, and then working to escape safely. They have to get to vaults, arm charges, and defend them until the charges explode. From there, they'll take their loot to a drop-off point. Meanwhile, the cops are working to intercept these transports and halt escapes. In this mode I had fun as a cop, running down criminals with cars, or picking them off after they've worked so hard to crack a vault.

Another mode, called Blood Money, has cops and robbers fighting over stolen loot. A transport was stopped mid-route, and the cops have to try to secure the transport while the criminals try to steal from it. The criminals have to take the stolen money, bag by bag, to their vault and protect it. But the cops can raid this vault and steal it back. Nothing is safe, and the line, measured in money, is constantly shifting. 

This mode was even more fun than Heist. The map, a large city with plenty of damaged buildings and roadways, has plenty of hiding places and alternative paths to sneak away in as a criminal. Despite the large number of cops running, I was able to steal loads of cash for my team by keeping low and taking underground passageways. Above ground, gun fights, helicopter patrols, and crazy setpiece events, like crashing buildings, kept the tension up. 

From my short time with it, Hardline feels more relaxed and approachable than the multiplayer in past Battlefield games. There's quite a bit more character and personality as well, which had these matches feeling less competitive and more enjoyable. 

Battlefield is a huge franchise, but Hardline feels like a departure from the big budget, super serious games of late. Hats off to Visceral and DICE for taking the opportunity to try something different. We hope to see more of Hardline in the coming weeks.


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Dale North, Former Dtoid EIC
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