It’s easy to imagine that Battlefield: Hardline‘s multiplayer won’t be much different from all of the other Battlefield games that came before. And Visceral Games, the Electronic Arts studio that made the game, was very aware of that impression. So it worked on its design so that the combat shooter game was adapted to the storyline of cops and robbers.
While seasoned Battlefield fans will like it because it has their favorite modes like Team Deathmatch, Visceral Games has a chance to hook some new players because it designed the multiplayer to appeal to those who are familiar with modern e-sports and multiplayer battle arena (MOBA) games — such as League of Legends — where five players square off against five players.
I played a few hours of Battlefield: Hardline multiplayer yesterday. EA is releasing Battlefield: Hardline multiplayer and some of the single-player missions on its online site, EA Access, before the launch on March 17.
“We created modes specifically for e-sports players, with five-on-five modes that play fast,” said Steve Papoutsis, executive producer of Battlefield: Hardline and general manager of Visceral Games. “You have the idea of a half-time, and it plays into the idea of the ultimate competitive mode.”
The focus is on strategy, speed, and story, Papoutsis said. The game has 27 vehicles lend themselves to big car chases. The cops and robbers move faster than soldiers in Battlefield, and you can log into matches more quickly. And you won’t have to wait forever to find where the action is. If that sounds a little more like Call of Duty, then you get the point. Players are impatient, and they want spectacular characters, not realism.
Visceral, which is known for story-based games like Dead Space, put more emphasis on “people over plot.” It’s not a game about saving the world. It’s about specific characters that you see in the game, with a lot borrowed from TV and film.
“If you look at great TV series like Justified or The Wire, games are more like TV seasons,” Papoutsis said. “Levels are more like episodes. We aspire to make games as good as a great film, with a lot of story.” The single-player game has writers and directors from the shows The Shield and Justified.
There are actually four different sides, with two criminal teams and two police teams.
The maps include Bank Job (a medium-size map with a big stone building that houses a bank); The Block, a downtrodden neighborhood map with a lot of destructible objects; Dust Bowl (a battle where dust storm blows through a town); Downtown (which came from visiting downtown Los Angeles during the E3 trade show); Derailed (a large map set in the Los Angeles River); Everglades (with fan boats that are great for hot wire and conquest); Growhouse (a marijuana warehouse that is good for Team Deathmatch and rescue); Hollywood Heights (with a lot of destruction where you can shatter big bay windows and take down a big building). There’s a wildfire in the hills as a backdrop; and Riptide, a map set in the beautiful beach houses of the Florida Keys.
Hardline has 51 weapons for both criminals and cops. Both have different arsenals that suit their side. In a nod to realism, all of the players won’t have access to rocket launchers and other military-scale weaponry. But they will be able to find special weapons in the battlefield as prizes to fight over. You could find a rocket launcher in a car trunk, sort of like a “micro objective” that both sides will fight to control. Players have to strategize about how to control that battle pickup point.
There are also non-lethal ways to take down enemies in both single-player and multiplayer. With multiplayer, you can take down an enemy from behind, cuff them, interrogate them, and find out where the other enemies are on the map.
The game also has gadgets like a zipline with a grappling hook. You can deploy the zipline so your team can cross from one building to another quickly.
Like other Battlefield games, the game features “Levolution,” or levels where players can do something that triggers a change in the map. A dust storm might swirl through the map, or a melee weapon could be used to punch a hole in a wall, creating new ways through the map.
Battlefield Hardline multiplayer still has its classic modes, such as Team Deathmatch and Conquest. It has the usual “rock, paper, scissors” gameplay, where snipers square off against shotgun wielders or assault rifle shooters.
In multiplayer sessions, we played a bunch of the new modes: Hotwire, Heist, Rescue, and Crosshair.
Hotwire is a speed mode. It’s about getting to cars and stealing them if you’re the criminal, or keeping them out of the crooks’ hands if you’re the copy. I found that death could come from anywhere in this map. You had to watch out for enemies on foot. But if you kept looking through your scope, a car was bound to drive by at a high speed and run you over. And a helicopter would hover overhead and rain death from above too. If you control a car and drive it at a high speed, you can drive down the score, or tickets, of your enemy. If the enemy’s tickets drop to zero, your team wins the multiplayer match. It’s the ultimate car chase multiplayer game.
In Heist mode, criminal players have to rob a bank or an armored car. The cops have to stop them before they take the heist to a getaway spot where a helicopter takes it away.
Crosshair is an e-sports mode where five players challenge five players. One of the players is a VIP target, an informant, that a gang is trying to take out and the police are trying to protect. If you are shot in this match, you’re out of the game and you have to watch it as a spectator. I enjoyed playing this map, and it reminded me that you really have to aim carefully or pick your shots wisely because you really only get one shot to take out an enemy. There’s nothing worse than getting in a gun duel with the last surviving player on the other team and then losing.
Rescue is another e-sports mode. With Rescue, the cops have to break into a criminal location and rescue hostages. They then have to carry the hostage out without getting shot. It’s a “permadeath” match, where you only get one life during each round. It’s fast and it goes through four rounds. Destruction carries over from one round to the next. At half time, players switch sides and the destruction is reset.
I didn’t play Blood Money, but this mode scattered cash throughout the map. You can gather it and bring it back to your vault.
More details about the single-player campaign will come out shortly. Papoutsis said that the game levels are more like episodes in a TV show, with a lot of storytelling trying to make the same impression as a crime show episode. Papoutsis said he played through the whole campaign with only two kills.
“We wanted people to feel like they had choice as they played,” Papoutsis said.