As I thrash a modified cop cruiser up a flight of stairs, smash it off of a pedestrianised walkway, nail five seconds of airtime and land straight in the middle of a pitched gunfight, I can't help but grin from ear to ear. Battlefield and Medal Of Honor have been retreading the same old military ground for far too long, chasing Call Of Duty when they should be doing their own crazy thing. We're long overdue for something fresh and exciting... and Bad Boys II seems as good a place to start as any.
Over-the-top police action, massive heists and ridiculous car chases? Whooo-sah. Go for it!
Mind you, we now understand why EA called it "Battlefield Hardline" rather than just "Hardline." Despite the new studio and cops versus criminals premise, it's basically a reskinned version of Battlefield 4 on a functional level. They couldn't have called it anything else.
Expect big-team shenanigans as squads of infantry push objectives, helicopters hover menacingly overhead and MVPs type very hurtful things about everyone else on their team. Apparently everyone in Los Angeles wears a parachute at all times, too, because Battlefield 4 had parachutes and no we're not removing them so shut up. The classes and kits all feel identical, as does the gun handling, right down to the 'close-but-not-quite-right' hit detection we're used to from last year's shooter.
However, there are two major differences. First of all, even in beta, the netcode is actually pretty decent. I suffered from a little lag every now and again, but BattleLog is behaving itself and the game doesn't feel set to crash at any moment.
More importantly, though, Hardline's new gametypes are properly ridiculous in some very pleasing ways. Michael Bay would be proud, and in this specific instance that's actually what we want.
The High Tension map -- cheekily downtown L.A. where E3 is currently taking place -- hosts the proceedings and proves a truly expansive playground. The action often centres around the wide city streets packed (somewhat confusingly) with abandoned cars you can't drive, as cops and criminals collide in vehicular engagements while snipers rain down precision death from lofty rooftops. However, the level is thronged with interiors, subways, passageways and overpasses, all of which can give a fleeing criminal a bolt hole or act as a vehicular ramp. Wide and vertical, if light on levolution (sometimes a crane falls down... whoa), it's a breeze to navigate thanks to some of the cool new toys at our disposal.
Forget riot shields and ammo kits, because Grappling Hooks are the new Levolution. Reaching a rooftop or sniper perch has never been easier, perfect for setting up overwatch or ambushing a camper who smugly considers themselves invulnerable. Zip lines come into their own when playing objectives, giving your team new ways to assault or desperately retreat while making themselves intensely vulnerable in the process. They're well-considered and thoughtful additions to the Battlefield formula that, critically, are always thrilling and fun to use.
Hardline's two beta modes lend Battlefield unique flavour. Heist sees criminals race to crack open vaults, grab the contents and then extract two money bags to distant extraction points, while the Police have to respond to the situation as if the silent alarm just went off. Cops hustle to the break-in in ludicrous style, redlining bikes and cruisers across pavements and walkways with no regard for public safety, setting up mobile command posts and taking down the perpetrators with extreme prejudice.
Meanwhile crims coordinate escape routes and utilise the city's nooks and crannies (not to mention a fleet of heavily-modified civilian vehicles) to reach their extraction points, or just vaguely run around in a disorganised fashion. I favour Plan B.
Blood Money took some time to grow on me. It's outrageously chaotic as both teams seek to steal money from a single central stockpile and return it to base. As you'd expect the objective becomes a meat grinder, often locked down by snipers, riot-shielded defenders and constantly showered with grenades, meaning that reaching and securing any cash can be a nightmare before learning the ropes.
However, there's a twist in the tail. Money carriers can be killed in transit, dropping their cash which can then be stolen with ease. As such it's often fun to secure vantage points in enemy territory with grappling hooks, waiting to ambush loot-laden foes on their way home. Better yet, though, you're also capable of raiding your opponents' base and steal any money they've banked, meaning that one well-organised raid can undo an entire match. Alternating between attacking and defending your base and attacking and defending the central objective is key, but a wrong decision can blow the game. Skilled squad leaders will make a name for themselves here.
The full game will ship with many more modes, including the vehicle-centric Hotwire gametype and tense hostage rescues to test our tactical mettle. Hardline, then, is destined to be an enjoyable DLC pack that's more than worth its £15 entrance fee...
...oh. It's a full game that's set to release at EA's silly inflated £49.99 price point on PC. Erm.
Despite the new additions to the formula, I can't help but feel that Hardline will struggle to earn its keep on the strength of its multiplayer alone given how similar it feels to Battlefield 4. Luckily it won't have to, because Visceral Games also plan to flex their singleplayer muscles to deliver a quality solo campaign; a high-stakes OTT police drama packed with personality, humour and action. As such, this year, Battlefield might actually deliver the complete package rather than a great multiplayer suite that should have released at a lower price with no campaign whatsoever.
But given that DICE have only just fixed Battlefield 4, it could just as easily be a case of too little too soon.
I'll get back to you on that, right after I jump another police bike off a street sculpture. Stay tuned for our Game Night later today!