Battlefield Hardline has been out across all platforms for almost a month now and a lot has been said about it online. Dawnbreaker community members have spent some time in the servers and, being passionate people about games, have more to add to the conversation. I took to the forums and asked people what they felt about the game and a couple of trends were apparent when people were expressing their opinions. I’ll be tying them all together here as we get to the heart of the issues around Hardline and how our community feels about them.
A Time To Kill
The “time to kill” that the game focuses on seems to be one of the biggest issues for many community members. Knusadin describes what he sees as a reward for “spray and pray” rather than considered engagements and gunfights, a sentiment echoed by other community members. What Hardline does is provide large player count PvP and the open maps and complex lines of sight that have made the Battlefield series such a success. In combination, it is very easy to end up in the sights of multiple enemies at once at a variety of engagement distances and the short time to kill means there is not a lot of time to react, reposition and find new cover and then re-engage on terms that are more beneficial to you. For me personally this is one of the biggest differences between Hardline and other Battlefield titles: that lack of reaction time when someone gets the drop on you. It can often boil down to whoever shoots first, wins and this often doesn’t work in games where you can be terribly exposed to enemies without even realising it.
A Friend In Need
Another issue that several community members shared is a difficulty, or a lack of some unnamed element on the games part, to inspire solo play. Whilst time spent playing solo in Battlefield 3 and 4 is a fond memory for many members Hardline just doesn’t seem to offer them the same experience. MikeDGaming describes the need for friends to be playing with him in order to really enjoy the game, the ability to crack jokes and laugh at the little things giving a good cathartic response to elements of the game he finds annoying, or issues the game has that can be aggravating. CheckPleaseTY echoes that sentiment, saying “Preach. Not many things changed from 3/4 to Hardline other than the weapons, but for some reason that I can’t explain, I rage more. Being able to joke about it makes it easier to play through.”
With little feeling of reward or enjoyment for the individual player people seem loath to log in and play without others, meaning these sporadic but naturally occurring group sessions may not be fostered, and this could be a reason why Hardlines player counts are seemingly so low.
This can be an important issues with multiplayer games that both the player base and the developers can often overlook. While a focus on teamwork, teamplay and working hard for the objective is vital to fostering a good online experience the importance of the individual players ability to log on and feel like they can have an enjoyable sessions on their own with a good feeling of reward cannot be understated. Many gamers play with people from all over the world and gaming communities tend to span timezones. Organising group play can be hard to do and large group sessions often grow out of one person being online at the right time, someone else logs in and joins them and so it grows from there. With little feeling of reward or enjoyment for the individual player people seem loath to log in and play without others, meaning these sporadic but naturally occurring group sessions may not be fostered, and this could be a reason why Hardlines player counts are seemingly so low. Right now Hardline has struggled to surpass Battlefield 4’s player base, despite being a brand new title, and it’s failing to beat even Battlefield 3 for a player base on PC. Whilst hardly a massive sample size there may be something to the idea that the difficulty to enjoy the game while playing solo is costing it some natural group sessions that would be adding to the player counts at any given time.
Battlefield Will Eat Itself
One of the most common issues seems to be that the changes across the last 3 Battlefield titles have been slight at best, despite Hardline’s newly minted “cops and robbers” theme. “There is also something about this game that is so…uninspiring. BF3 was such a huge change from BF2, I could play it for hours on end. With BF4 and Hardline it just seems like Call Of Duty, not much changes from one to the other. Hardline just seems stale.” – CheckPleaseTY
With Battlefield 4 only recently seeming to overcome its launch issues, and with the CTE still going strong and promising further improvements to the game and new maps and weapons on the way people seem to be sticking with it for their FPS game time. “All in all, it’s fun, but I still prefer BF4, which is getting community maps, new weapons(I adore shitloads of weapons) and the best netcode a BF game ever had according to some testers!” – Knusadin
As such, Hardline seems to find itself in a strange place. For any new entry to a series, especially one that changes things thematically as Hardline does, it can be very important to give veterans a solid reason to spend time in game while also attracting new players and growing the community. The Battlefield 4 launch issues and subsequent year spent trying to repair the damage it did in the player base’s minds may have backfired against Hardline. With people finally seeing Battlefield 4 turn into the game they hoped for at launch it can be a difficult prospect to invest in a new title that seems to be showing similar launch problems that the Battlefield series is all too used to in the form of weapon balance issues, netcode and hit detection problems and a general lack of that “just one more game” factor that seems to define the best of FPS gaming experiences. As such, Hardline finds itself in the tough position of not just trying to wrestle players away from other franchises, but also from the games that preceded it, games that many members of the player base just seem to be enjoying more than Visceral’s new iteration. While it is a shame that this is the case, it’s a bad combination of issues that Visceral find themselves facing, and one which people seem to hope they overcome.
It’s Not All Bad
Community member Arnold165 is having a lot of fun Hardline enjoying the new theme, the new modes and the new infantry focus. The reduction in available in game weapons doesn’t bother him as he expects the game to get more over the course it’s lifetime. He also has positive experiences of how the games runs on PS4, experiencing minor lag from time to time but reporting few other issues that annoy him about the game. He also has some wise advice for people who may not see the appeal in Hardline, “Battlefield Hardline is not for everyone and it’s ok to SKIP it and wait for the next Battlefield game. For me, till then I’ll mostly be playing Hardline and BF4 here and there.” MisledPenguin also agrees, enjoying the faster pace of Hardline and that shorter time to kill, but also understanding that the infantry focus may not be for everybody in a series that has featured armour, jets and helicopters so predominantly in the past, “I am more of a PTFOer and rusher, so gun on gun gameplay is what I like. But if you like the open vehicle orientated gameplay, I suggest sticking with Battlefield 4.”
Mostly what has stood out to me from the forums is a complete lack of hatred or vitriol for the game or the people who made it. The so called “hate” that the games more ardent fans claim is thrown at the title seems to be completely lacking, instead there is only reasoned discussion and occasional frustration at once again seeing a Battlefield title with such potential for fun being bogged down by launch issues that are so similar to the ones that afflicted the titles that came before it. Dawnbreaker Gaming Clan’s own BillyTheKid specifically highlights his enjoyment of the new theme the games brings in the form of police versus criminal factions, and new game modes like Hotwire and Blood Money are mentioned by many as strong points. For MikeD, the infantry focus on Hardline has great appeal, and he is very happy to enjoy that aspect despite not wanting similar focus for other Battlefield titles that would traditionally focus on a more combined arms style of gameplay. For the most part people seem very content to just sit and wait, giving Visceral the time they need to tidy up the netcode, get the weapons balanced properly and to nail down Hardlines killer aspect, the nameless “WOW!” factor that seems to be missing from the game right now.
A huge thanks to MikeDGaming, Knusadin, CheckPleaseTY, ChalkOne,Arnold165,MisledPenguin and BillyTheKid whose opinions and insights helped to inform this article.
All images in this article are by the wonderfully talented and rather handsome Berdu. Follow him on Twitter here, or his Flickr account here to keep up to date with this talent taker of screenshots and teller of tales.