The next exciting instalment in the Battlefield series has just landed and it’s a brave new take on the beloved FPS blockbuster series - have you ordered yours yet?
This is a very exciting week to be a gamer! On March 19, Battlefield Hardline will launch into shops across Australia and it should quickly leap to the top of the chats. A new take on the legendary first-person shooter Battlefield, it twists the tense, destructive multiplayer combat we know and love out of no man’s land and drives it onto our city streets. The basic premise is a high budget take on cops and robbers, with the police and the crims doing battle in bustling CBDs. There’s a range of game modes that harness the idea of ruthless urban gunfights (think the movie Heat) and epic car chases (think the movie Ronin), as well as classics from previous games like Conquest.
The game utilises the famous Frostbite game engine, which has powered a number of fantastic titles over the years, including the Battlefield series (of course!) and experiences as disparate as racer Need for Speed: Rivals and RPG Dragon Age: Inquisition. The benefits of a multi-genre engine for a title like this are vast, as the game can capitalise on the handling physics of a Need for Speed, the epic world destruction of a Battlefield, and the broader multiplayer networking capabilities to help blow your mind.
Yet Battlefield Hardline has the chance to be decisive. The series’ usual developer, DICE, has left this spin-off with the guys and girls of Visceral Games, a developer best known for the (brilliant) Dead Space series. As well as the usual high octane multiplayer thrills, the studio has included a stealth focused, story heavy single player campaign. It’s not, traditionally, what we want in an experience tiered towards 64 people shooting, driving and flying around sprawling maps at the same time. So how will fans respond?
As a starting point, our resident game guru Chris Stead caught up with Ian Milham, the creative director behind Battlefield Hardline, to find out a little bit more on what gamers can expect from his new title.
- Creative Director at Electronic Arts (EA)
- 20 years experience in the gaming industry
- Ian specialises in Environment Art, Concept, Animation, Characters, User Interface, VFX and Lighting
- Creative Director on Battlefield Hardline at Visceral Games
On the surface it feels like Battlefield Hardline marries the tech from various Frostbite games (Battlefield 4, Need for Speed: Rivals) with Hollywood heist films like Heat. Can you talk about the origins of the title and how it came to be?
After spending years on the Dead Space franchise, it felt like it would be fun to let it rest and try something completely different. Around the same time, our general manager, Steve Papoutsis, was at an event with Karl Magnus Troedsson [former CEO of DICE and now vice-president of group strategy at Electronic Arts]. Over a long talk in a basement bar, it came out that we were all big Battlefield fans. (I've played every iteration of the game for hours!) He asked whether they’d ever consider letting us take a shot at a Battlefield game, but hardly thought they’d go for it. However, DICE had liked our work on Dead Space and so we got on a plane to Sweden!
That said, I don’t think anyone thought making another modern military iteration was the right move. We had an idea about taking it in a different direction; something that would let the awesome Battlefield mechanics shine in a new type of world.
What advantages does utilising the Battlefield brand give the game and how do you hope existing fans will view the shift in style?
First off, the game and “Battlefield” are not separate entities. It was conceived from the beginning as a Battlefield game. What made us so excited about the possibilities is that the Battlefield toolkit (vehicles, teamwork, epic maps, variety) is so deep, but also flexible. We think it translates beautifully to a cops and criminals world. And those amazing “battlefield moments,” which can happen when these different gameplay elements come together, dovetailed perfectly with the spirit of fun and the “did you see that?!” energy that the best car chases and cop shows have.
Then, starting from this amazing base of solid gameplay and this compelling world, we went for it on new features that would pay off on this fantasy. So more new game modes than any Battlefield title before, stacks of new gadgets that enable great heist and pursuit moments, and an entire new set of vehicles for the urban jungle.
What made us so excited about the possibilities is that the Battlefield toolkit (vehicles, teamwork, epic maps, variety) is so deep, but also flexible.
Visceral Games mastered tense, atmospheric storytelling with the Dead Space series; how have you approached the single player narrative for Battlefield: Hardline?
Single player has been a passion of ours from the beginning and an area we thought we could really innovate with in Battlefield Hardline. Firstly, we wanted to provide a lot more to the experience than just constant shooting. Great games regularly change their pace and provide interesting choices. So that was an area of great focus for us. Plus our cops and criminals world is rich with opportunities for character that we wanted to take advantage of.
Battlefield 4 had some significant teething issues with its multiplayer that upset a lot of fans: what have you learned from that experience that you are taking into the launch of Battlefield Hardline.
Alongside the DICE team, we’ve been working on the core technologies of BF4 since the day it came out, and everyone can see the massive improvement in the experience that has resulted. All of that work, plus much more, will be in Hardline when it launches. Although it’s a hard lesson to live through, you only get one launch, and we’ve taken extreme measures to make the launch of Battlefield Hardline as smooth as possible. We play test every day and we had betas on every platform. Visceral has a history of polished games - it’s something we’re proud of and intend to continue.
Battlefield Hardline was delayed significantly before landing on its 2015 release date; what was the driving force behind that decision and has that allowed you to add to the game experience?
There was only one driving force: quality. Now more than ever, games live long lives after release. Releasing something only when it’s ready, so it can be all that it can be once it’s out, is good for everyone. When I think back to my favourite games, I don’t care when they were released, only how good they were.
The difference already is incredible. Through the beta we launched at E3 to hands-on play at Gamescom and other events worldwide, we’ve been talking with and listening to player feedback and that has been tremendous. Our lead multiplayer designer, Thad Sasser, has even been outlining some of the changes being implemented due to player feedback in a blog series on the Battlefield Hardline website entitled “Community’s Most Wanted.” In addition to player feedback, we’ve also added some cutting edge rendering features, improved every map, added moments to the single player, and made sure we reserved a lot of time just to polish the good things that were there already to make them great.
Finally, do you have any quick tips for new players?
The zipline isn’t only great for getting places quickly: you can actually score excellent humiliating kills with it, too.