Earlier this week, the folks at Visceral Games/Electronic Arts announced that Battlefield: Hardline had been delayed (we’ve seen this before) from a October 2014 release date to a March 2015 release date. As a huge fan of the Battlefield franchise, I am quite excited by this news. Yes, you read that correctly. Allow me to explain.
THE FRANCHISE IS NOT READY FOR AN ANNUAL RELEASE
Without going off on a tangent here, Battlefield 4 was one of the worst launches of any title I’ve played in recent memory. Random crashes, bugs, and the like plagued the title easily for the first five months, and maybe more depending on your platform of choice (mine was the PC). When a game is released with that many issues, it screams one thing to me: we are not ready for an annual release schedule. Considering the game has been stable now for less than a year does not give me any comfort that the folks on the development side have truly ironed out the bugs. When I played the beta, I felt I was experiencing the same issues all over again: unexplained frame rate drops, unnecessary lag, poor clipping, and broken hit detection. Basically, all of the “fixes” from Battlefield 4 did not make their way into the Battlefield: Hardline developmental baseline.
BATTLEFIELD 4 HAS UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Although I’ve shied away from the Premium edition of Battlefield 4, I would be nothing short of livid if I knew that my guaranteed DLC releases came after the launch of the sequel. Besides just being plain bad business, what does that say about the treatment of fans who are willing to buy Premium on launch? Again, going back to what I stated above, DICE took some time off of the DLC business in order to fix core mechanics of the game itself, which is what ultimately resulted in final DLC drops being delayed deep into 2014. But to launch a new game without the first one being completely implemented, stable, and available is just wrong.
THE BETA RECEIVED A LOT OF NEGATIVE PRESS
In my opinion, by far the biggest reason for the delay in Hardline was in the negative press it received. Don’t get me wrong, showing off the title at E3 2013 while simultaneously announcing a live open beta was a bold, awe inspiring move, but once the initial shock factor wore off, the game had to stand on its own merits. And ultimately, it failed on numerous levels. The most common complaint, one that I personally shared, was that the game felt like DLC as opposed to a fresh, new experience. Many assets were reutilized, including weapon load outs, character selection, and overall presentation (all things you’d expect from a DLC). Considering that the game is using the same engine as in Battlefield 4 (Frostbite 3), it’s understandable that both games would look similar. But copying and pasting the interface is just a lazy move on the development team’s part.
Aside from that, the premise just felt off. A game focused on war, with heavy armor including tanks, attack helicopters and jets is what Battlefield has always been about at its core. The single player story was brief, but did encapsulate the sense of a global confrontation. Cops versus robbers equipped with rocket launchers and heavy weapons just feels out of place. Small arms fire should take more precedence in this title, but it doesn’t. It feels tacked on for no apparent reason, and one could easily replace the money in the game with intelligence or some other form of data and the mechanics wouldn’t change. Having an entire city absolutely destroyed and shredded to pieces by members of the police seems odd too. And the “you’re under arrest!” way to end a thirty minute, multi-million dollar wrecking spree feels entirely out of place.
In addition, the utilization of the grappling hook never really took form. Besides my time with the beta, I’ve watched numerous “Let’s Play!” videos online, and to my surprise, the grappling hook is absent from their tool set. It’s because Battlefield has never been a run-and-gun game and rather a methodical, tactical battle. Call of Duty this game is most certainly not; by the introduction of the grappling hook, Battlefield is losing its identity. Besides, to follow up with my point previously, grappling hooks are not synonymous with cops or robbers. It’s an out of place gadget that doesn’t belong.
I do have to give credit to the folks at Visceral Games/Electronic Arts for actually recognizing criticisms and going back to rework aspects of the game. Far too often companies are so embedded in release dates and company quotas that games are released before they are ready (cough cough Battlefield 4). Maybe some of the lessons learned from previous efforts have finally shaped the company’s philosophy. Actually using feedback from a beta into the launch of a game and not treating a beta simply as a stress test is unfortunately in the minority, but is greatly appreciated from the developers. Here’s hoping they can right the ship and make Hardline a must have game. For many of the franchise faithful, such as myself, this game in its current state is a pass.
What do you think? Sound off below!