The Battlefield: Hardline Open Beta - First Impressions and Screenshots

[Editor's Note: Work on this article began just after the Battlefield: Hardline Open Beta]

Whew - time to take a breather, wipe the sweat from my brow and crack my knuckles a bit, after some hard gaming with Battlefield: Hardline's Open Beta for the past few days - great stuff! I didn't get into the Closed Beta for this one and didn't hear about the Open Beta until just a little while ago; but I purposely didn't read any press about this game beforehand [to avoid 'spoiling any surprises', or getting my perception of it influenced too much] and I was still able to jump in and have some great fun with this latest installment in EA/Dice's Battlefield series, thanks to the Open Beta from EA. Here then, is my First Impressions of The Battlefield: Hardline Beta - with screenshots!


At first, I didn't really know what to expect - and because I didn't read much about it, I didn't really know what to do at first. But I knew it was a 'Battlefield Game' at least, so as I always try to do in games [and suggest to others new to any game], I followed other players around for a while to start, until I could get my bearings. Battlefield: Hardline does a good job of being helpful to new players though, by letting you know the two teams and what they represent (their emblems and names pop up right away on the screen when you start or enter a match, reminding you what team you are on) and the game does a good job of constantly leading you towards what you are supposed to do (your Objectives of the map/gamemode currently being played).



The Heistening



For example, in the "Heist" level/map type, if you have been put on the Criminals side, it says right at the top "Criminals, Heist" and you are told to "Crack The Vault" as your first step. Floating HUD indicators constantly show you what and where your Objectives are, which in this game type (Heist) are two Packages for your band of rogues to acquire, which is this case are two large duffel bags of money from said vault. Once you "Steal The Package", you are told to take it to an "Escape" Point, where a comrade-in-arms will then fly in with a heli and let down a hook to attach the money bag to ...Sounds like an action-packed scene in a movie, doesn't it -  well, it plays that way too!



If you were put on the Cops team, it would show that right at the beginning ("Cops, Heist" displaying a golden shield/badge), then you are told to "Defend The Vault" and then "Stop The Carrier" (if the Criminals get in and grab the money) and then "Recover The Bag", which in the case of the Coppers, means standing near it long enough ['gathering it up' heh] until a "Loot Returned" comes up on the screen. This 'Loot Returned' message means they are returning it to the bank - right away - which gives the Crooks another chance (as long as there is some of the Time Limit remaining). All of this [for the Cops, in this example] is accented wonderfully, by the realistic-sounding 'narration' of a Police Dispatcher (the Criminals also have the same, in the form of handheld transceiver chatter/updates).



If you've played the Payday game series, you've played this level - but I'm not saying that as a bad thing here. This map has all the hallmarks of a good movie: The Bank, The Vault, The Cops, The Robbers, The Cameras, The Dynamite, The Bag of Money and The Drop Off. Getting to the vault is easy, cracking it is automatic (a drill or breaching charge merely needs to be set); but where Payday spends a lot of time on getting into the vault ("the drill is jammed again"), Battlefield: Hardline rushes past that element [but it's there - and the Cops can dismantle it!] and gets the crooks more quickly to the cash, where the majority of the level is then played with you pitted against the other team, with the Crims trying to get the bags of money to drop off points - or in this case 'pull-up' points, as you are attaching them to helicopter ropes for your comrades to whisk them away - and the Cops are constantly trying to stop them, retrieving the bags to be 'returned'.

Criminal with the bag of money ("the package") in the Bank Vault, with one escape route (through the wall on the right) showing. [Tip: another escape route is created in the ceiling, and a third is simply through the vault front door itself]. Ultra graphic settings! Click to see Full Size



Glancing at the MiniMap once in a while will help you locate The Package (the bag of money, the objective of the Heist game mode); however, if you can't spare the time because you are in a tough firefight (but are close to the location of The Package carrier) look for the 'trail of money' it leaves behind (bills flying slowly out of it into the air - just like Team Fortress 2 and the Intelligence Briefcase in TF2's Capture The Flag mode)


The rest of the level/map continues in this way (with the bags being returned over and over and the criminals attempting to steal them away) until either the Time Runs Out, or the Tickets for the Criminals fully deplete (the Cops get Unlimited Tickets). This game mode then, seems to resemble a 'Rush' mode map - but one where the capture points are no longer MCOMs from earlier Battlefield games, they are the bags of money that the Crims must obtain and relocate. A nice 'cops and robbers' take on the standard Rush formula, it feels fresh; and with the tight [read: small] map size, similar to a Call Of Duty and Counter Strike style level, the action is fast, and furious.



Hotwiring



Did I say 'fast and furious'? Did you like those movies? Do you like fast cars? Do you like hanging out a car window and shooting at the enemy chasing you at high speeds? Do you like explosions? Do you like nachos? Well, you'll find eighty-three-point-three-percent-repeating of all of those things in Battlefield: Hardline's "Hotwire" game mode!

"Ridin' around, listenin' ta' sum tunes", in a Criminal Van (interior view) during Hotwire game mode in the Dust Bowl map.
Click to see Full Size

In the Hotwire game mode, the map was larger than it was in the Heist game mode - it felt more like the 'good ol' Battlefield' maps - it was somewhat larger and with more room to run and places to hide (there was an old Diner and Motel and there are houses literally everywhere, as this map is set in a small, isolated town). There is also plenty of room to fly overhead in helicopters, spotting the enemy and mowing them down with the mounted guns on the sides, or driving around in your muscle cars and dirt bikes, acting as a moving spawn point for your team.

Capturing and then Defending some of the moving control points in the Hotwire game mode (Dust Bowl map).
Click to see Full Size

Speaking of moving spawn points, that's what this game mode is all about... If I wanted to try explain the Hotwire game mode, I would start by saying; think of a typical Battlefield 'Conquest' mode, with flags. Now, picture those flags mounted on the tops of moving vehicles... Since this is a Conquest map/mode, when your allies have captured a flag, your team can spawn from it - and while you have ownership of the Control Point and have more in total than your enemy - your team is slowly depleting the other team's tickets, right? Well now, take away the flags and leave the idea that the cars themselves are the ControlPoints/SpawnPoints - and now you have the Hotwire game mode in Battlefield: Hardline.

Differing from the traditional Conquest game mode type (shown above), the Hotwire game mode in Battlefield: Hardline can be envisioned by imagining the flags to be captured being attached to the tops of cars, which you must 'Hotwire' and then speed around the map in, keeping them away from your enemies and slowly depleting their Tickets.
Click to see Full Size


A chance to use the words 'fresh' and 'approach' to the standard Conquest game type, the Hotwire mode isn't just driving around fast (although it may seem like that at times). The cars speeding around the level are only the Spawn Points (the Capture Points) - "only" in the sense that, if you aren't directly driving or riding in and defending a captured point, gaining score [points] that way, you are free to roam the rest of the map and find and take out the enemy in any way you can - just like in any of Battlefield's Conquest maps.

View from a Water Tower, playing the Professional class (the "Sniper/Recon" class) on the Criminal team, in the Dust Bowl map.
Click to see Full Size

For example, while some of your teammates speed around, avoiding explosions and gadget traps from within vehicles - on foot, the Enforcer classes can roam the area with their powerful shotguns, mowing down the enemy and locating the powerful 'hidden' items like the RPGs and M60s scattered throughout the map. Professional classes can hide in the multitude of houses and spot and snipe out of the many windows, killing from the shadows. Mechanics are a good ride-along partner, defending the roving Spawn Points from within, "foomp-ing" their grenade launchers at enemy-captured Points/vehicles speeding by (and also at other enemies on foot), pulling out their blow torch to Repair after taking some damage, all while hanging out the window of the moving vehicle. All of these things and more, are happening all at once in the tighter-than-previous-Battlefield-games-but-still-mostly-large-enough maps in the Hotwire game modes I have seen so far.

View from above the town of Joad (used for the Dust Bowl map). Click to see Full Size

Points or Experience, by the way, are collected in the form of Cash (money), as you are rewarded for the actions you take, both offensive (capturing points and killing the enemy, etc) and supportive (healing, reviving, repairing, etc) and it not only contributes to Class progression, Cash is the main method of 'unlocking' the gear, gadgets and weapons in the game, as you purchase them over time.

Deployment Screen, showing the Loadouts for the selected Class (in this case, the Operator class [the 'Medic' from earlier Battlefield games]). Cash is earned as the "experience points" used to unlock chosen weapons and upgrades over time (the Loadout above is showing the Criminal "Adrenaline Shot" [the 'Defibrillator' from earlier BF games]). Click to see Full Size


I personally enjoyed playing as the Enforcer class, laying down Breacher Charges (the 'C4' from previous Battlefield games, shown here) on the ground, then hiding in nearby bushes, waiting for the enemy to drive by... then: BOOM! Fiery explosions, sound, smoke and sparks, with the empty body of a charred car flying through the air or even over your head... it was a glorious sight to behold up close - look for a Breacher Charge Explosion Montage here in the future!





The Anticipation



Although it was only a teaspoon-taste of the variety of new game modes, maps, gear and gadgets coming out in the new Battlefield 'side-step' (it's not meant to be Battlefield 5) - the Beta served it's purpose: to get me enticed and excited for the release of Battlefield: Hardline. Sure, some of the old Battlefield problems are there ('rubber-banding' and/or getting killed after going around a corner sometimes, textures not loading properly (or loading blurry) once in a while, etc); but many of these types of problems can still be fixed by release - and if you don't mind looking past those little issues, there is a fantastic game to be had here and movie-like memories to be made...


I already saw in chat many times people excitedly describing something that happened to them: being chased through house after house by a cop and eventually 'losing him' in a tense runaway, a huge explosion as two cars collided (killing everyone within the area), sniping people off of a Zipline as they tried to escape and watching them bounce off the building and vehicles below as they fell... yes, all of these little moments and more experiences await, in the refreshing cops-and-robbers take on 'The Battlefield Formula', in Battlefield: Hardline.


Whether you have already Pre-Ordered, are picking it up on Day One, or are waiting to get it in the future on Sale - I'll definitely See You In The Game!


This GIF is presented in 'slomo'... (50% speed). Make your own Drum and Bass action movie soundtrack backing-track-style noises to it with your mouth, like I do, if you want.



Personal Short Version/Opinion:  

I want to make sure to express two things in this Personal Opinion section - one, the game still has some technical problems. I mention them a bit in the main article, but these are only the little issues I personally encountered (some rubber-banding, getting killed after going around a corner, and some textures not loading properly at times); there seems to be a large number of people who couldn't even get the game to run. From the Battlelog not working right, to the game itself not running properly (choppy, etc), there seems to be big issues with this game for many people. 

While this does not completely cancel out the greatness that is in this game for me, it does for many, and so I want to mention it here. A lot of people are disappointed and upset with EA/DICE and Visceral. To speak on their behalf [the developers] however, I understand the technical hurdles that must be overcome, to make a game/program run properly on thousands, even millions of systems.  

Also, many people have stated how they feel this game is less of a "Battlefield game" than it is a "Call of Duty" or "Counter Strike" game. I do agree that there is a feeling of trying to cater to and attract the COD and CS market, and I can see how the maps have been made somewhat smaller and there has been an attempt to emulate much of the COD/CS tempo of gameplay - but I understand why: they are just trying to make some money. As a business, I can't blame them. As developers (Visceral and EA/DICE), I understand many things are going to be 'simplified' and 'streamlined' for compatibility with Consoles and again; gameplay changes to attract the COD and CS crowd. I get that.  
It is just unfortunate that, for one thing, there seems to be no 'enhancements' for the PC crowd [thus far]. Rockstar attempts this, they try to 'tweak' a game and improve the code and features, to take advantage of the extra power and capabilities that the PC can perform, before releasing to PC owners. That would have been nice here, EA/DICE/Viscreral. But I understand, you have to code for the Lowest Common Denominator [no insult to consoles intended] as you try to make everything compatible on ...everything.  

It's difficult, trying to find a common ground of graphic level, map complexity, and so many other aspects, with so many manufacturers and hardware and architectures and Drivers, etc. it's a very hard job. I am just saddened by the amount of people having trouble with this game, is all. Even people that don't have 'old' systems can't run the game. Battlelog problems block many from experiencing the game from the start. People are crashing left and right.. I want to help so much, I will 'officially' state here, that if there is anyone out there that is having problems after the game is released next month (March 17th, 2015 is the Scheduled Release Date so far), feel free to return here and ask for advice/TechnicalSupport below. I would be happy to try help out (: 

The second thing I wanted to make sure and express in this Personal Opinion section was the sheer delight in many aspects of this game. Yes, it plays more like Call Of Duty and Counter Strike (as mentioned above), but if you played those games - and especially if you were such a fan of those games that you previously stayed away from what you thought were "the slower Battlefield games" of the past - then you might want to try Hardline.. If you liked All Points Bulletin and its 'reboot' as APB Reloaded (with their 'cops-and-robbers' themes), then you will also want to try Hardline.

While teams are usually played against each other as Countries [in previous Battlefield games], it was a nice change to take on the roles of smaller-in-scope-but-easier-to-identify-with "cops" or "robbers" and be pitted against not only the enemy, but also the [heightened importance of] specific objectives (as in the Heist game mode). While I am still looking forward to a less "arcade-y" style, larger maps and 'slower' [more realistic?] pace of a future BF5, I have to say I enjoyed the slightly more hectic gameplay - and Hardline definitely added something to the 'typical Battlefield game' here, with the overall choice to become either the "straight-laced cop, cleansing the city of thieving scum" or "the cop-killing anarchist, freeing the town from the oppressors", as it were. 

Whether you like the faster pace of Call Of Duty and Counter Strike, or you like APB Reloaded - and even if you are just a tried and true fan of the Battlefield series of games; I think you'll find something you'll like in Battlefield: Hardline - I hope they are allowing a Time Demo in the future for it, so that everyone can have a taste of this Battlefield dish. I'm actually excited about the release of this game now, and I hope it turns out to be a source of great moments in gaming for all of you. I also hope that none of you have technical problems with the game at all, so that you can enjoy it in full.  


The Screenshots



And Now - and somewhat as a reward for wading through a slightly lengthy Personal Version/Opinion Section - More Screenshots!






















 

See You In The Game!

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