As Battlefield Hardline is the focus of my weekend—and the whole week—it feels like a good time to get into how we'll be covering its launch. There are already tidbits coming out about it: Hardline multiplayer was playable as of Thursday via EA Access, which is exclusive to Xbox One, so we've seen some footage from that popping up. You may also see footage from the PS4 version, because on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, EA held a multiplayer review event and allowed critics to publish previews prior to Hardline's release this Tuesday.
We don't review multiplayer games solely based on events, because they never truly reflect the live experience, but we do sometimes attend them to clock a few hours of playtime. In this case, the event was PS4-only, and I wasn't interested in fumbling with a DualShock 4 or publishing PS4 footage here. So, I'll just be playing the live multiplayer all week, with the intention of publishing a final review by Friday. I know there's a desire to know immediately whether or not a game is worth buying, so I'll do my best to cover the launch—and any issues that arise—all week.
I do have early access to the single-player campaign, though I can't publish any significant thoughts on that until Hardline is out on Tuesday. But because EA Access also gives subscribers access to the first episode of Hardline's campaign, I think it's fair to discuss that episode prior to release. My first thought is that it's surprisingly good-looking. Load times are very long, but once in, it's one of the better-looking games of the year—silly, floating particles in every room aside. The voice acting is also excellent, and Kelly Hu is especially great.
Mainly, I'm happy to see a good deal of freedom, at least in the first episode. After the mostly on-rails prologue is through, I'm given a choice of how to play: I can go in guns blazing, or sneak around, separating and arresting criminals. I'm playing on the hardest mode, and I don't have a lot of health—screwing up an arrest and getting shot seems just as likely as screwing up a shootout and getting shot. It is a bit odd that if someone sees me arresting someone else, they'll immediately open fire. So don't think you can go through non-lethally easily—maybe you can, but I'm not nearly patient enough.
So far, I'm happily enjoying it—more than any CoD campaign of late—but I'm not far into it yet. I'm still worried that 'cops shoot bad guys' is presently a difficult subject to do with any frivolity, but so far, it's tasteful enough. It's not trying to be The Wire. We've got more on what to expect in Shaun's hands-on preview from late last year.
As for the multiplayer, well, we know you can drive a couch. Beyond that, there's my recent preview, in which I enjoyed the Hotwire mode (embedded above). I also know that there will be five new game modes: Heist, Blood Money, Hotwire, Crossfire, and Rescue. During the last preview event, we were told that the last two of those will be 5v5 modes meant for competitive play. Hotwire is what I've enjoyed the most so far, where control points become moving cars that must be driven around the map, and blown up.
There are also nine new maps, four factions with different looks (SWAT, Street Cops, Thieves, and Criminals), 51 weapons, 28 new gadgets, and 27 new vehicles. With all that stuff, it's hard to keep levying the 'BF4 reskin' criticism against Hardline, which was definitely what it looked like to me last year when it was first revealed. We'll just have to see how good this new stuff is. Come Tuesday, I'll be playing as much as I can. I'll dissect the guns and take apart the maps and drive a couch, and let you know what I think as I go.