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