A reader gives a very mixed review of the Battlefield Hardline beta, and wonders whether the cops ‘n’ robbers theme really makes sense.

This week a little slice of E3 has come to our green and pleasant land, in the form of the beta test for Battlefield Hardline. I was one of the fortunate few who not only owned a PlayStation 4 but was lucky enough to be invited to the beta, so I thought I would share my opinions with the GC community.

Upon loading up the game for the first time, I was immediately struck by the graphics. There is an obvious downgrade here, and whether this is due to the game being in a relatively early stage or whether it was necessary for the smoother running of the game (more on that later) remains to be seen. While the textures do appear to be relatively low resolution, the models appear to be quite nice, though again, not quite as nice as its predecessor.

One place where the graphics truly do shine however is the colour scheme. Gone are the greens and browns that the serious military series is known for, and instead we find a much softer, almost pastel palette. This, whether intentionally or not, gives the game a much less serious feel. It almost feels cartoony. This is a nice touch, as often the bombastic gameplay style of Battlefield jars uncomfortably with the civilian setting.

Without getting into the political side of things too heavily, the cops and robbers approach does seem a bit odd. There is, in fact, very little that suggests you are a policeman or a criminal, other than the fact that you are told you are. Police have no regard for saving lives, mowing criminals down just as a battle-trained soldier would. The fact that, as a police officer, you have access to incredibly potent military equipment like RPGs and grenade launchers also seems at odds with the police setting.

The sense of pulling off a well-planned heist is also absent as a criminal, feeling rather more like a prolonged firefight with little direction. But it is Battlefield, after all, and surely its the gameplay that counts the most, right? Sadly, Hardline is a bit of a mixed bag in this respect.

At the beginning of each round players are divided into two teams, with the criminals tasked with various nefarious activities and the police tasked to stop them. Again, the two sides are indistinguishable from each other apart from the uniform, again breaking immersion. In heist mode, criminals are tasked with stealing money and successfully escaping the scene. This game mode plays similarly to Rush mode, with the police team always on the defensive. It’s not a revolutionary new game mode by far. In fact it often leads to one team camping the objective so effectively that the other has no chance of success.

The other mode, Blood Money, tasks both teams with stealing from a cache of cash. It plays a little like capture the flag, but with multiple flags on the go at once. It is hectic, and a lot of fun. Adding to the drama is the fact that as both a criminal and a cop the opposing team can sneak into your base and rob you blind. It leaves the sandbox open for many memorable moments and daring escapades, and is heavily action-oriented.

Its a good thing, then, that the game runs so well. The fast-paced action, much more so than previous entries into the series, is a beautiful thing to behold. The guns feel much more potent, and appear to have a lot more recoil, resulting in huge firefights with hundreds of rounds fired. It truly is a sight to behold. The engine manages to handle this all relatively well too, with much less (but still occasional) slowdown than Battlefield 4. And that isn’t the only improvement. Hit detection seems marginally better, and there are certainly less rage inducing instances of game-breaking bugs and glitches.

But, to be honest, that’s about it as far as praise goes. The only level available in the beta, set in L.A., is an incredibly familiar and rather plain cityscape. Several buildings have interiors, although there isn’t really any incentive to do so, as streets often provide just as much cover. The map is very large too, a trademark of the series, but ninety percent of it seems barren, and players have no need to venture outside of the relatively small area where the action is centred.

This often leads to mass camping, and certainly is no where near as dynamic as previous entries. Epic GTA style police chases don’t really happen, either, and even if it did you only ever have a few hundred yards to go before you reach your destination. Add to this the fact that helicopters seem to unbalance the game greatly, as they are armed to the teeth and can easily wreak havoc upon players and vehicles alike, and there is very little incentive to hop in a vehicle other than getting to the action a bit quicker.

If EA are aiming at the Call Of Duty crowd, which I suspect they are, then they may find some success. The emphasis on infantry battles is clear, and the gunplay tight enough to accommodate it. But I can’t help but feel that there isn’t a lot here for the hardened Battlefield fan. Many of the mechanics that make Battlefield what it is are absent, replaced with a much less nuanced, more frenetic pace, while at the same time managing to feel very familiar and tired despite the new gameplay. In fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that it wasn’t just the next expansion for Battlefield 4.

Add to that the rather unenviable position that Visceral find themselves in, of following up one of the most broken games ever released. Many will find it insulting that we have another full-priced

Battlefield game when the last one still doesn’t work properly. It smacks of a lack of respect from EA towards their customers, and is sure to put many off of buying it. But regardless, I can’t deny that I had fun playing Gardline. A different kind of fun, but still very amusing.

I look forward to seeing how the final game turns out, but personally? Well, personally, I think EA and Visceral will have to do a lot to shake the nagging feeling within the community that this, with its familiarity and lack of any real innovation, would be more suited to a downloadable expansion than a full price retail game.

I think that this game will rely heavily on the single-player portion to sell it, and in that respect, I think if Visceral apply their storytelling prowess then we could be seeing the most interesting single-player Battlefield experience in years.