Battlefield Hardline: Can Visceral pull off the impossible?

“I’d hope the appeal for Battlefield fans with Hardline is that Visceral is bringing its approach to single player and bringing an all new setting to the rock paper scissors foundation that is Battlefield.” Steve Papoutsis uses an interesting choice of words to describe Battlefield Hardline.

As our time with the executive producer went on, he would often make the roshambo comparison a game that is largely considered to be equal parts skill and luck. Battlefield, in our minds at least, has always been fully geared towards skill. How the player navigates the environment, how they utilise weapons and how, integrally, quickly they can pull the trigger. Obtaining the Major General rank in Battlefield 4? Luck had nothing to do with it.

It concerned us to think Battlefield Hardline might be heading down the Call Of Duty corridor, that the move from military action to all out criminal warfare might lose the ‘something special’ edge that DICE has always done so well to maintain. But for the first time in a very long time we are genuinely looking forward to both components of  a Battlefield experience: the single and the multiplayer. Admittedly, we never thought we would say such a thing after the thoroughly disheartening campaigns found in Battlefield 3 and 4. But Visceral knows how to make a good single player
game look at the Dead Space series as evidence but a multiplayer FPS? Now here’s where we start to worry.

“I think the core rock paper scissors has to be there for it to be a Battlefield game, there’s no other game out there that allows for that mix of play styles. If you like driving things, flying things, being infantry that is what makes Battlefield unique and so rich,” continues Papoutsis, who’s going out of his way to assure us that Visceral understands the franchise and holds the multiplayer in high esteem.
“I like the idea of specialisation. I can play as assault-type characters and, even if I’m not a great pilot, I can still play Battlefield whether I want to play assault or I want to play a support role, and score well, and still have fun. Those are things that we absolutely have in our game and are critical for it.”

It should come as no surprise to learn that DICE is heavily involved in the multiplayer, and a direct result of that is that Hardline can feel largely like an urban reskin of Battlefield 4. How you’ll receive that news largely depends on how pissed off you are with DICE over the launch of Battlefield 4 still. Either way, the two studios have come together to put Hardline together, and the result is a fresh,
fun albeit familiar take on the world’s most hectic shooter.

“But when you ask about what the changes are, the biggest difference I think is the theming and the setting. Our engagement distances tend to be a bit closer, since you look at TV shows and movies where cops and criminals are in them… In a war, a player can have a really powerful sight and be shooting at an unknown enemy really far away. But the cops and criminals theme is more personal so those are some of the changes that we’ve made to make it feel more immersive in terms of our theme.”

You’ll be able to sample the multiplayer for yourselves later this year when a beta goes live on Xbox One. While we’re excited about the action being taken to a more personal level, we’re still eager for a game to bring the multiplayer chaos into a narrative driven environment. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is still the title that came closest, but with no future in sight for the spin off we’ve got to hope Visceral can finally pull off the seemingly impossible:a campaign that doesn't make us want to
claw our eyes out due to boredom.
“From a multiplayer level, DICE are top of the class, so we're aspiring to get to a level where we can be as good as them”
“I think DICE makes phenomenal games and from a multiplayer perspective they're top of the class, so we're aspiring to get to a level where we can be as good as them,” admits Papoutsis. “I think we’ve had a pedigree and history of single player, so clearly that storytelling, the types of mechanics, the player choice, the things we’re trying to do, the camera cuts, the way that our cutscenes are constructed, the performances, the investigation mechanic, things that we’re layering in there to create a deeper type of single player experience. I'm really hopeful that that’s what we can bring to the franchise.”

The campaign is moving away from the traditional Battlefield model: bombastic explosions, QTE-driven cinematic action and lacklustre military fan fiction stories are out. Intense narrative driven action is on the cards instead as Visceral focuses on crime, corruption and dirty cops just
another day in Seventies inspired America. Hardline’s single player is being designed to mimic the cop shows you’d typically find on classic TV rerun channels. The influence of Starsky & Hutch and Miami Vice are running deeply through Hardline, as is the style and swagger of Michael Mann’s Heat.

“We definitely thought it was going to be a fun setting to try to create a story for. I was talking a bit about engagement distances one of the things with war, you don’t really talk to the other side. They’re people, stakes are high, it’s a serious thing, but it’s not personal. You’re just shooting a dot you see on a radar,” says Papoutsis.

“But when you think about cops and criminal settings and crime dramas, it’s more about the characters and the unique interactions and the things that they say, the personalities that they have and the activities that they’re doing and the quirks that sort of thing. It’s pretty cool for us to get to play around with those ideas and really take the game from more of a plot driven place to more of a people-driven place. It really was something we thought we could investigate and do something
special with.”

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