What Battlefield: Hardline Could Have Been

Recently there has been some hubbub over Battlefield: Hardline (henceforth referred to as Hardline), with various leaks taking place. At E3 today (this post will go up on Wednesday in theory) we saw a good bit more of it. EA had a big presentation about it, with the news that a closed beta was open now, and people could go register for it. I didn’t bother, partly because I don’t think I have the time to get properly into it, partly because I don’t feel like messing with Origin which I assume it will require, and partly because it just doesn’t look like much.

I joked in a YouTube comment that it was no wonder they closed off modding in Battlefield 3 or 4, if this was the level of content they were planning on supplying. However it does look like a mod, a sentiment shared by the folks at PC Gamer, as seen below:

It is also rather reinforced by this straight gameplay footage, also from PC Gamer:

Other than voice acting, there is one aspect that this doesn’t share with mods: creativity. Mods usually shake up an existing game, rather than simply decorating it. The game appears to be symmetrical, with military grade everything. Really, it looks like Battlefield playing dress up, along with a wooden stock shotgun, taser, and what essentially seems to be one-flag CTF, but the flag is broken into smaller pieces. So with that said, let me put on my armchair designer hat, and take you on a wondrous tour/bulleted improvised list of what I would do with this theme:

Asymmetry. Cops and robbers are not mirrored forces. A game that recreates any facet of this experience needs to start with the idea of the police being more evenly and consistently funded, and the robbers being more ragtag relatively, and using surprise and lethal force at a greater degree.

Everything we know of cops and robbers as entertainment comes from film, and embracing that, in a way not unlike Action Quake 2, gives a lot to work with. Thus in keeping with film, the gameplay can be imagined in three acts. By having acts, we can also have a cast of characters, or player classes. Every movie with police as a substantial aspect have the beat cops, people out on patrol, doing the daily thing. Then there is the strong response to a threat, the SWAT team, and the detectives. As the situation escalates, the cops gain stronger resources, putting a squeeze on the increasingly outnumbered robbers. Conversely the robbers have the element of surprise, and arrive ready to fight. Each act is governed by a couple of metrics to move them along. Physical progress toward a goal, the lethality of the scenario (number of cops and civilians killed), and as a catch all, a timer to move things along.

If all of the robbers are dead at the same time, the match concludes. Respawn timers are determined by alignment and Act, largely to mimic the concept of the police responding, and ramping up. Act I would have the police at a slightly longer respawn time than the robbers, but Act II would change that dramatically, with Act III evening out to parity. Arresting a robber is functionally a kill, but it doubles the respawn timer for them. There are civilians, which will gradually empty out over time, but never 100%. A robber killing a civilian pushes things toward the next Act, but a cop killing a civilian is adding time to their next respawn timer, and too many civilian deaths results in an arrest by their fellow cops and a much longer respawn timer.

Everyone is armed with comparatively normal weapons, not assault rifles, grenades, rocket launchers, and miniguns on choppers. Robbers start out with pistols, revolvers, sawn-off shotguns, melee weapons, uzis, and similar. As they are initiating the heist, they have body armor. Near the end of Act II they can acquire from resource locations “big guns”, such as black market sub-machine guns, assault rifles, RPGs, and grenades. The police stick with at first standard issue handguns, batons, and tasers, but they can acquire shotguns from squad cars. They later gain access to scoped bolt action rifles, and the SWAT kits which involve tactical grenades and sub-machine guns.

The Detectives are the end-game x factor. Plain clothes cops, perhaps a cigar, they have a literal Detection ability. They have a medium range indicator down to a 90 degree angle of where robbers are, and a close range indicator at the same angle. In short, they become the hunters as the game goes on.

Act I

  • Robbers vote on the target for their heist, and the getaway region
  • Cops are spawned as routine police doing their rounds
  • As the robbers initiate their crime, cops respond
  • Gun fights ensue around the location of the heist
  • Cops gain access to shotguns and kevlar in the backs of squad cars

Act II

  • Robbers are establishing a route to their getaway location, this is the bulk of a session
  • Cops gain access to spawn in as SWAT or Marksmen
  • As the violence escalates the cops may get a chopper to spot robbers, a marksman may ride in the chopper
  • Robbers may pull out “the big guns”, military grade or near, in an act of desperation

Act III

  • Robbers are close to their getaway location, or the cops have them pinned down, probably to a building
  • Cops gain access to spawn in as Detectives

Act transitions could involve shifts in weather and time, events in the level, and even hue shifts for the environment to give a different mood. Other ideas involve Insider classes, for either side, which can reveal locations or objectives early on.

Note that I didn’t talk about the money being stolen. I wanted to change the focus from running base to base, to one of the robbers escaping with their lives, and the police preventing the theft while protecting all involved, with a greater win from arrests over kills. The weaponry is intentionally dialed down to make it play more like its own game, rather than Yet Another Battlefield.

It could be boring, it could be imbalanced, but I do feel it would be more distinct and involving. This is a game I would be interested in trying, and one I could see a lot of stories coming out of, with teamwork paying off particularly well.