Battlefield is a long and storied franchise dating all the way back to almost 12 years ago. It’s been recognized by many as the king of multiplayer shooters throughout the franchise’s life, and although Battlefield 4’s terrible launch soured a lot of people on the series and its publisher, it still offers one of the richest, most diverse multiplayer experiences you can get inside the modern military-shooter bubble.
Having said that, and while confessing that I’m a bit of a self-confessed Battlefield purist, I’m concerned about Battlefield Hardline and what it means for the franchise. We first heard about Battlefield Hardline last year, and we immediately got to go hands on with it just after E3 thanks to the first of two betas. Many people, myself included, thought it felt more like an off-beat mod for Battlefield 4 than something that deserved its own game. It still handled pretty well, but the objectives just didn’t feel like something I should be doing in Battlefield, and the combat lacked the balance I’d come to expect from previous entries.
Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about the history of the franchise and some of the mechanics at work in Hardline, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this game might be better off called something other than Battlefield. This idea gained even more momentum after sitting through EA’s Gamescom conference and seeing some of the new campaign footage on display, as well as a few of the ideas they have for the direction of the multiplayer.
The ‘cops and robbers’ theme doesn’t feel like anything that’s even remotely related to Battlefield’s identity, nor does an episodic campaign that supposedly plays out like a television show. Then there was the bit during the conference where they noted that you could make it through a large portion of the game using stealth, without killing anyone. To top it off, there’s a 5 on 5 elimination mode in multiplayer that’s supposed to cater to the e-sports crowd.
On one hand, I get it, launching a new IP is risky and probably very difficult to successfully pull off. On the other, I feel like if you’re confident enough in your product and the leap it’s taking from other shooters currently on the market, you should feel assured that it can survive with its own identity, rather than being thrown under the Battlefield header with hopes that fans of the franchise will play whatever is under that umbrella.
This isn’t the first time someone has questioned the path of the Battlefield franchise. I remember hearing people mutter negative opinions of Battlefield: Bad Company when it was first revealed. Battlefield never had a campaign up to that point, and it looked kind of silly compared to the realistic theme the previous multiplayer-only games had. As it turns out, Bad Company was great, and people continue to clamour for a third entry.
Having said that, it was still Battlefield. The multiplayer was still brilliant and retained the vast majority of what made Battlefield 2 such a success, even with the smaller player count. And even though it was the first campaign in the Battlefield franchise, DICE didn’t go over the top with objectives or take an odd gameplay direction. Instead, it was a rather standard mix of gunning down AI with the rock-solid Battlefield mechanics, just with a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse, and with characters that had a bit of charisma.
With everything we’ve seen, I just can’t help but think that Battlefield Hardline should be called something else entirely. If they really feel they need a familiar heading, throw it under the Medal of Honor name since that franchise is now thoroughly soiled. Or maybe just call it Hardline.
It might end up being a great game in its own respects, but cops and robbers isn’t Battlefield. Catering to e-sports isn’t Battlefield. And stealthy sections of an episodic campaign damn sure isn’t Battlefield. Visceral’s approach to the game is certainly interesting, and it’s something I’ll likely play when it comes out regardless of the name on the box, but calling it Battlefield feels like a disservice to both what Hardline really is, and the history of the franchise.