Battlefield Hardline Beta Impressions

The first beta that released for Hardline was such a deviation from what I knew to be Battlefield that it was not fun to play.  Gone was the squad-based, strategic shooter that I loved and what replaced it was some frenetic, fast paced and action-moment oriented game in what seemed like an attempt to cater to players of other shooters like Call of Duty.  It didn’t work.  At times it felt as if the guns were shooting airsoft pellets and other times like miniature comets; everything about the gameplay was there to service the car jumps, chases, wrecks and explosions.  I didn’t want to play.  I was dead set against buying it and was going to stubbornly continue playing Battlefield 4.  So, what about the latest beta?

The latest beta has fixed many of the issues that I had with the first and I am the purest of converts with regard to this game.  Here is a complete list of updates and improvements.  Several variations to speed, weapons and vehicles make the experience much tighter than the first beta and overall it feels like a more balanced game.  Many are suggesting that this feels like an expansion or a mod of Battlefield 4, and while I think that this is true in some ways, I think that Hardline will add enough spice to the Battlefield formula that it will have fans billy clubbing suspects for a long time.

I thought that the game was going to be solely urban based because the game was teased early on as a kind of cops and robbers gameplay, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see the addition of the map “Dust Bowl” in this latest iteration of Hardline, which put the players in small town located in the middle of the desert.There were three game modes that featured in the beta and only one of these was in Battlefield 4: Conquest Large.  They still haven’t figured out a way to make spawning without a vehicle suck any less: Wait for a vehicle, commit suicide or run across the entire map.

The two new modes were Heist and Hotwire.  In Hotwire, the goal of the game is to capture one of five cars spread throughout a level, get it moving and keep it moving.  While the car is in motion it remains captured and your team will chip away at the opposing teams tickets, however, halting continued motion of the vehicle will cause the capture to be broken.  This is a kind of mobile domination and the moving points constantly change the ways that levels play out.  This mode reflects the philosophy that was set forth in the first beta but it has been much more refined and players without vehicles certainly do not feel at a disadvantage.

Heist is the cops and robbers game type that Hardline promised early on.  Thieves bust open bank vaults and empty the contents, attempting to escape with the loot to various points on the map and the cops…stop them, or try.  This game mode felt like a kind of team deathmatch with a purpose.  The map felt slightly smaller than maps for other modes and engagements happened in whites-of-their-eyes kind of distances. Combine this with the fact that no vehicles feature in heist and it makes for very intense and intimate firefights and we see the kind of strategic and squad-based gameplay that I loved from previous Battlefield games.

The reward system for Transport/Executive helicopter pilots, perhaps drivers in general, needs to be dialed in a bit.  As a pilot, I put my gunners in positions on the battlefield to rain lead on vehicles and objective positions.  Yes, there are “Driver Assist” bonuses but when the pilot goes 0-2 and floats and the bottom of the leaderboard because he put the gunner in a position to go 17-3 and lead the team in points there is clearly something wrong.  I felt much of my time spent as a pilot was wasted because I couldn’t get enough XP to level up, however, nearly every time I spent considerable time in the pilot’s seat my team won handily.  I don’t want to have to decide between winning percentage and XP.  Balance this.

There were other clear issues with the beta and while cutting the footage for the video above I was constantly finding floating and breakdancing character models, wonky vehicle hits and generally inconsistent performance.  That is why they run these betas, however, and we can only hope that the game that launches on the 17th addresses some of the issues.

In an ideal world, the latest iteration of a game would replace the previous and while this game will not replace Battlefield 4, it is different enough that it will certainly get worked into regular rotation.  I would love to pay 40 or 50 bucks for this game as an expansion of BF4, but I won’t begrudge them the 60 for the full game.  I am not going to buy premium right away.  There is no penalty for purchasing at a later date and since the content is distributed over the course of a year, purchasing after the third or fourth content release always made the most sense to me.  March 17th wasn’t on my calendar before last week; now, I cannot wait for this game to drop.

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