Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper EA (Vis­ceral, DICE) For­mat 360, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One Re­lease Oc­to­ber 24

De­spite all the prob­lems that the Hard­line beta caused for Ori­gin users, per­haps the big­gest dis­con­nect high­lighted by the ver­sion of the game EA rolled out in the mid­dle of its E3 con­fer­ence is that real-world play­ers don’t play quite as the de­sign­ers at Vis­ceral might like them to. Hard­line wants to be a co­or­di­nated as­sault and well-timed escapes – al­beit as seen through Michael Bay’s viewfinder – with thieves on the ground steal­ing mil­lions while their backs are cov­ered by snipers who zi­pline from rooftop to rooftop, and then ex­tracted by pro­fes­sional wheel­men be­fore the cops can shut their oper­a­tion down. In re­al­ity, Hard­line is pure chaos. It’s ev­ery man for him­self in a world col­laps­ing around your ears and ev­ery­one run­ning in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions.

A heist game on a grander scale than Pay­day, Hard­line’s fan­tasy is only spoiled by that in­fla­tion. While DICE’s re­cent

Bat­tle­fields have tried to care­fully guide play­ers’ be­hav­iour to­wards some­thing that ben­e­fits the whole team, the first Bat­tle­field by Vis­ceral of­fers less in­cen­tive to work as a unit and an even larger strate­gic tool­box.

Over time, play­ers will find their roles and learn the tricks be­hind a suc­cess­ful heist, but

Hard­line’s de­sign choices still break the fan­tasy. Pay­day’s small-squad bat­tles were movie heists made playable, but

Hard­line’s 64-player war be­tween cops and rob­bers are spec­ta­cles of such lu­nacy as to defy cred­i­bil­ity, even in a game where play­ers have a his­tory of wing-walk­ing and open­ing para­chutes me­tres from the ground. Call it ludo-nar­ra­tive dis­so­nance or call it silli­ness, but

Hard­line can look ridicu­lous in ac­tion with­out the guid­ing hands of 32 EA thieves un­der­tak­ing a planned rob­bery and 32 EA cops ex­e­cut­ing a re­hearsed con­tain­ment strat­egy.

Still, the theme is re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent, even if the game doesn’t play ex­actly as in­tended. Vis­ceral’s strength and DICE’s weak­ness, af­ter all, has al­ways been in sin­gle­player cam­paigns, and cops and rob­bers makes for a fresher path to fol­low than yet an­other globe-trot­ting mil­i­tary es­capade. Vis­ceral prom­ises

Far Cry- style stealth and wildly the­atri­cal heists, where the scripted NPCs will be­have ex­actly as in­tended with­out pesky real people mess­ing it all up.

Play­ers will get to ex­pe­ri­ence life on both sides of the law: tak­ing down crim­i­nals, and go­ing un­der­cover with a gang of ca­reer bank rob­bers en route to the big­gest heist of their lives. It’s tes­ta­ment to EA’s will­ing­ness to try some­thing new, and it’s pos­si­ble that Rain­bow Six: Siege and Hard­line are the be­gin­ning of a new trend. As mod­ern mil­i­tary war­fare falls out of fash­ion, the in­dus­try is turn­ing to­wards sci­ence fic­tion as a saviour, and Ti­tan­fall and Des­tiny are ev­i­dence that play­ers are will­ing to em­brace the fan­tas­tic once again. But Hard­line and

Rain­bow: Six Siege are proof there’s still room in the 21st century for charged gun­play and the SWAT fan­tasy, even a decade af­ter SWAT 4 and Rain­bow Six 3: Black Ar­row.

Zi­plines are a gamechanger, but the real shift might be map size, which in the beta build feels more

COD than BF in scale

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