Stealing cars is always the best bit.
I spent half a day playing the multiplayer maps and modes available in this week's Battlefield Hardline beta and, definitely, I liked Hotwire the best. It's basically the same as Conquest, in the sense that you are required to take and hold a strategic target. The only difference is that the target is mobile, and you score points by keeping it on the move.
I say "stealing" cars, but if you are playing as a copper, you're requisitioning it, or reposessing it or reallocating it or whatever. It doesn't really matter. Shoot people. Get in the car. Drive. Try to stay alive.
The thing about Battlefield Hardline is that it seeks to create a cop TV drama vibe. Its developers have packed in all the elements in order to hit the right notes. Cars, mean streets, uniforms, all that. But, honestly, I couldn't have really cared less. It's a shooter. There's your guys and there's the other guys and there's the mission.
In a way, this is something of a relief. With police brutality a hot topic right now, I am not sure I feel right about donning a blue uniform and gunning down dudes in the street. This game, certainly in multiplayer mode, makes sure all the combatants are basic cut-outs: uniforms on legs. The cops are all in their most fancy riot gear, while the robbers are dressed like they decided to rob a bank on the way to the annual Villains Fancy Dress Party.
A lot of work has been done by developer Visceral to keep the cop show thing going via audio, and it does a good job of keeping the setting in the back of your mind, while allowing you to stay appraised of who is screaming in the agony of death-throes, and where.
Now, back to Hotwire. My favored strategy is to run down the middle of the road, firing off all manner of weapons at the targeted vehicle, in the hope that I'll hit the driver. But I noticed that this got me killed a lot, and that other people were adopting more thoughtful strategies, like camping out by abandoned cars, and killing morons who ambled by in the hope of some easy scores.
The modes being offered in EA's beta this week call for a good deal of teamwork, whether you are playing in the densely built-up urban map (Downtown) or the more open hick-town map (Dust Bowl).
This is especially true in Heist, which takes place around and inside a bank. Robbers go for the loot and try to get it away to a randomly generated escape spot. Cops chase after them, and seek to stop the getaway.
There are lots of sharp corners and interesting little overview positions to explore in this map, and I enjoyed being pinned down (as a cop) by some smart thieves who were covering their comrades' escape route. It's this sort of quasi-story that makes you think, huh, yeah, this is more than a dumb shooter, if I want it to be.
Visceral said that the multiplayer aspect of the game is all about speed, strategies and stories, and it's hard to argue with this appraisal. As with all things Battlefield, vehicles and gadgets and persistent destruction play a big role. I like to run around and shoot stuff, but the game is at its best when vehicles are involved.
There's nothing quite like hanging out of the side of a stolen car, blazing enemies with a shotgun.
Battlefield Hardline's beta is due to run from tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb. 3) to Feb. 8 on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The game itself is due for release on March 17 in North America and March 19 in Europe.