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Battlefield Hardline Open Beta: Impressions of a Longtime Fan

"We Go Back To War & Discover Some Small Changes & Radios"
I have always been a fan of the Battlefield series since the first game was released, Battlefield 1942. Since that game I have played every game and spent countless hours online with friends blowing up tanks, taking over control points and getting picked off by hidden snipers. I have had a lot of fun with the series and even had fun with Battlefield 4. Well, once it actually started working.
So I was excited to try out the newest Battlefield game and see what it's all about. Last year, around E3, I played the closed beta that EA released and was left with some mixed feelings. I wasn't surprised to hear that Battlefield Hardline was delayed last year. It seemed like the game needed more time. It also started it's marketing push right around the time the country was talking about police and violence and not in a good way. It made this slightly wonky game seem a bit offensive and I think it was a smart choice for EA to delay. Hardline needed more time and people didn't want to play or talk about a game like that so soon after so much tragedy.
But now here we are, it's a new year and EA has a new Battlefield Hardline beta for everyone to get their hands on. It's an open beta, you can download it right now actually, and the beta contains three game modes and what I believe is the complete progression system. So, is it any good?
BF Hardline beta screen

War Never Changes

Playing Hardline I was immeditaly struck with a sense of deja vu. It reminded me of the first time I played Battlefield 4. Like 4, Hardline is not a huge shake up for the franchise. It uses similar animations, menus, gameplay and more. Unlike previous Battlefield games in the series this game is being primarily developed by Visceral Games, the same folks who made the Dead Space games.
Battlefield series creator DICE is involved in some capacity but Visceral is doing the majority of the work. So when I first heard this I hoped that Visceral would bring a different feel to the series. Sadly, that isn't the case. Though Visceral has put a lot of Dead Space Easter eggs and references into the game. Like patches and posters, etc. So that's... something.
Regardless, the game plays and feels like Battlefield 4, which itself felt a lot like 3. So if you've put a lot of time in to those games, you will probably have a good grasp on what to do in Hardline. You might also find yourself asking "What is new? What is different?" Both of these are fair questions and to be honest most of the changes and additions are minor. Though there are a few changes and things added to the formula that I'm enjoying.
BF Hardline cop chase

I Fought The Law...

The biggest change is that you no longer are playing as military soldiers in warzones around the world. Instead you play as either the police or a organized group of criminals. At first I was curious as to what changes this would bring to the gameplay of Battlefield. The reality is disappointing. The cops and criminals all have access to powerful weapons and vehicles. They all have helicopters and both groups can shoot and kill any enemy on sight. Pretty quickly I forgot I was even playing as a police officer or a criminal. After a few hours of driving large and armed trucks, dropping health kits and even parachuting out of large attack helicopters it's pretty easy to forget you are technically playing as cops or criminals. (Crims if you will, but please don't.)
Really the only major change the cops vs. robbers theme adds is you can drive around in police cars and have sirens on when you do. Oh and you can use a police baton or tazer.
BF Hardline Beta screen building
There is a game mode where you try and rob a bank or if you are the cops, you try and stop the robbery from happening. It's an interesting idea, but it doesn't feel like a bank robbery. Granted I've never been in a bank robbery, but watching 20 criminals sprint around a vault and then get killed by a cop with a grenade launcher just doesn't feel like robbing a bank. Instead, it felt like a slightly modified version of the rush game mode from previous Battlefield games. There is another new game mode which is more exciting.

The Fast and The Furious

Of the three game modes available in the beta two are new to Battlefield. The third is Conquest, which plays just like it has for a long time now in all the other Battlefield games. (It also allows for 64 players, which means that I ended up having more fun playing the old mode more than any of the new modes. But maybe I'm just a grumpy old guy who likes things to stay the same.)
BF Hardline screen cars
The other new game mode is Hotwire. This mode is about capturing points, like the classic Conquest game mode. But unlike classic Conquest the points are cars and you have to drive them around really fast to take control of them. Slow down too much and you will start to lose control. The enemy can shoot you and take the car OR they can blow your ass up and a new control point car will spawn. These rules mean that Hotwire moves fast and feels different from anything I've played in a Battlefield game before.
On foot you run around trying to either find a car or motorcycle to get into or you can try and shoot at passing enemy vehicles trying to stop them. I ended up really like this game mode a lot. This game mode is made even better by a small addition to the Battlefield franchise. Hardline lets you stand up and lean out of a window while a car is moving. Hanging outside a fast moving car while shooting another car behind you is a blast and I have to admit I have never done that in a Battlefield game before. Hardline has a lot of these little changes, many of which I like.
BF Hardline Beta screen dustbowl

Rule #32: Enjoy The Little Things

The moment I started playing Battlefield Hardline I noticed little changes here and there. Some were fairly subtle. They all seemed like smart changes that I hope get used in future games. For example, Conquest capture zones have a outline on the minimap/radar. This shows you where you need to be to capture a point. Other small additions include the ability to grab a small amount of health off assault medics or some ammo off support teammates. They can still drop ammo packs and health packs, but if you have a teammate who isn't paying attention you can just grab some health or ammo off them in a pinch.
Many doors in the levels I played can be opened or closed. Closing doors in a room is a smart way to know when an enemy is trying to sneak in or slow down an enemy long enough to shoot them first. There are also more items spread around maps. And not just weapons. One map I was on had some defibrillators on the wall. Another area had some grapple hooks available to any player who wanted it. These are balanced by limited what you can do with them. Try to shoot and you will drop them. Similarly with the guns if you try and switch after picking up a power weapon, like a rocket, you will drop it.
BF hardline zipline wide
Also you might of noticed I mentioned grappling hooks, which if you are a big Battlefield player might of made you go "Wait..what?". But yes, Grappling hooks are in Hardline. But I'll be honest, I didn't enjoy them at all. They never felt super useful and felt a bit buggy. You can also get a zipline, which is bit more useful but only is specific parts of some maps. Maybe some tuning and practice will help, but for now I'm not sold on using grappling hooks or zipline launchers.
Battlefield Hardline has tons of these small additions and most of them are actually things I enjoy, even if they are not the most amazing additions. Like the radio in cars and trucks. It's a dumb little thing, but for game modes like Hotwire it made driving around a bit more fun and not as dull. But are all these little changes enough reason to buy and play Hardline?

Gameplay I recorded from the Beta

Hardline Might Be Good, But Don't Pre-order It

Is Hardline worth buying? We won't know for sure until the game launches, but I enjoyed my time with the open beta. I also ran into bugs, crashes and disconnects. Now granted this is a beta, but these things remind me of the first few months of the Battlefield 4 launch. Will Hardline have a messy and broken launch? I don't know. You would like to think that EA is serious about making sure these games work and the servers work, but again we won't know until the game actually goes live. So please don't pre-order this game. (OR any games if we're being honest here.)
There is no reason to give EA any money for this game right now. None. It won't sellout and if you wait a bit it will probably get a few patches and be an even better game than it was at launch. I understand the desire to play games as soon as possible, but show EA that you want working games not early games.
As for Battlefield Hardline, I leave this beta enjoying the game more than I did last beta. It felt better, looked better and I'm happy to see Conquest is back. I don't know if the small changes will be enough to bring in new players or keep old players interested, but I think Hardline is on a better path now than it was the last time I played it. Let's hope for a smooth launch and hopefully a fun game.
Battlefield Hardline is coming to PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC March 17th.  


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