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Battlefield: Hardline Beta (PS4) Hands-On: Same Battle, New Field

To me, one of the highlights in a sub-par EA press conferences was the ending demo of Battlefield: Hardline. The fact that the beta was available right after the conference only sweetened the deal just that much more. The demo displayed an incredibly, if a bit ridiculous heist that encapsulated the excitement of Battlefield but with elements of something like Payday to really shake it up. It showed how destruction can actually affect the way a whole match plays out; using destruction to your advantage by creating new paths or blocking shortcuts. It also featured an in depth, intense car chase that came to the very last second before the criminals had been caught.

Now sure, I am well aware that these things are incredibly scripted to show the best possible outcome of a game. Sadly, the unique experience that I thought would exist within Hardline has all but dissipated into simply another Battlefield game. There is nothing wrong with this; in fact the game feels great, maybe even a bit better than Battlefield 4 itself in a few spots. The problems start to arise when it becomes exceptionally apparent that this is simply just another Battlefield game.

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The aesthetic is the difference along with the weapons and gadgets, but the beta so far feels more like a DLC add-on rather than a whole new game. I don’t want to be too cynical about it, like I said it seems well made and this is of course a beta and there is a limited amount of content available at this time.

There are currently two game modes and one new map, all unique to Battlefield: Hardline. Heist has one team breaking into two separate armored trucks filled with cash. Once the cash is free the criminals are tasked with taking each one to a unique drop off point. Once you get both bags of cash in their designated spots, the game is over. As you may have guessed, the cops are tasked with stopping any of this from happening. The other game mode, Blood Money, has both teams going after a huge palette of cash, each aiming to collect five million dollars before the opposing side. What makes this kinda cool is the tug-a-war aspect of things. Your collected cash is never safe as you can sneak into the other teams stockpile and take directly from their total, damping their advance.

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I have had a good amount of fun with blood money, but the heist mode has been a slight letdown so far. This isn’t necessarily due to the fact that it isn’t a good mode but more because of the map design. Heist is just way too easy on the map and does not carry the crazy car chases I was hoping for. Points are too close together and can yield matches that barely last over three minutes long. This is due to the map just being too small. Battlefield is notorious for having huge expanding maps and stripping that away is really felt while you’re playing it. The current beta map is probably smaller than any map in Battlefield 4 and maybe even 3, which certainly had more close quarters combat. Hopefully the other maps include a much bigger network to drive around along with some variations in the heists (which I believe has already been shown).

The fact remains however that this is still a Battlefield game and it feels like a good one. Some really cool things have been implemented into the game such as gadgets and the ability to unlock guns has seen some tweaks. As you play the game you earn cash and with that you can purchase things like new guns or gadgets such as grappling hooks and shields. I haven’t been too attached to the few gadgets in the game but when you need them and you have them its pretty satisfying. Grappling right up to an overpass for a quick kill or zip lining from building to the extraction point can be extremely rewarding.

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The attachments for your weapons have also seen a bit of tuning. While you are still leveling up your weapons to unlock weapons you are now collecting stars at the same time. Some attachments require one start to use while another may take three. Once you gather the appropriate amount of stars you then unlock the ability to purchase any attachment at your whim. A lot of the attachments only required one to three stars so you’ll see these unlock en mass and will have a brand new arsenal to choose from.

Some of the biggest improvements come from the basic shooting and driving. It is hard to put in words but the guns in Hardline feel a bit more solid and powerful when you fire them. The recoil feels excellent and you get great feedback as each shot leaves the barrel. Along with that comes the driving which feels sooo much better than Battlefield 4. No more pushing the stick up to accelerate; now it feels actually like a decent driving game by using the triggers to drive. Letting passengers actually stick their entire bodies out so they have a 360 view while driving was also a nice touch that I noticed. This action gave the few car chases I was in some real fuel as I shot behind my car this with three police vehicles closing in quickly behind. These things are certainly due to the fact that the sound design in the game is absolutely phenomenal. From the guns to the cars and explosions, everything sounds perfect, which isn’t surprising considering Battlefield is known for their sound design.

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While the game has shown to strive for a new take on Battlefield with the war on crime, sadly it just doesn’t seem to separate itself enough. I have said it a ton and I will say it again, this is Battlefield and it is fun to play. The issue really lies in the fact that what I have seen so far seems like a big mod for the game rather than its own title. I hope the other game modes and maps show better than what I have seen so far, hell I will even take a solid campaign that leans on a cop procedural format. For now, I am cautiously optimistic for the future of Hardline but I can’t help but feel a swell of disappointed because Battlefield: Hardline feels too much like its predecessor in a new skin rather than a whole new product.

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