You would think video game publishers would have a contingency plan for premature reveals of upcoming titles but apparently they still believe that if they take down leaked videos and drag their feet, they will be able to hold out until someone develops the neuralyzer pens from the Men in Black series or until the collective memory of the Internet forgets. Then again, this is Electronic Arts we’re talking about…
Hot on the heels of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s announcement and Battlefield 4’s failed launch, buzz was generated last week when screenshots and a video pitch clearly intended for EA executives began to surface. The pitch begins with a montage of gameplay from Battlefield 3, 4, and the latest Bad Company installment then cuts to what could easily be the first five minutes of a pilot episode for every police drama since the dawn of television. Yes, it appears someone on the Payday 2 forums is an EA executive that found the time to read all the “we want cops and robbers PvP” threads. Take the hint Overkill.
Jokes and jests aside, coming from someone that played Payday 2 and felt it was good if a little lacking in terms of content yet never was particularly interested in the “BF vs. CoD” debate, this might be a good thing. Or at least, it might be a good thing if they make it into a proper game instead of a quick cash-in on something Overkill is holding off on doing until Payday 3 if they get around to it at all. While on one hand, the plot summary for the single-player campaign reads like the synopsis for virtually every cop movie from the 80’s and 90’s; on the other, it is being handled by Visceral Games, the people responsible for the Dead Space games. Meaning barring acts of God or EA, the single-player portion should be in good hands.
Meanwhile, the multiplayer portion raises as many questions as it answers. While having the good fortune to have a gun savvy friend capable of explaining to me at length exactly why police can’t have tanks and fully automatic support weapons and criminals shouldn’t, there are other issues slightly more pressing then whether or not the majority of BF:H’s arsenal is cut and pasted from Battlefield 4 such as player count and whether or not the game will have enough diversity in its content. Confirmed multiplayer modes are Heist, Hostage Rescue, Hotwire, and Bloodmoney. The first two can be summarized as basic Attack and Defend scenarios, Heist is an average game of Payday except with player-controlled cops while Hostage Rescue sees the police go on the offense to rescue hostages from a team of defending criminals. Hotwire has police chase a band of car thieves across a large map and Bloodmoney has both teams fight over a shipping pallet with enough money to buy out Donald Trump neatly stacked on it, trying to get the goods back to their safehouse. Of course, it also wouldn’t be Battlefield if there weren’t multiplayer customization to go along with it.
Assault, Engineer, Support, and Sniper classes still exist, this time under the names of Operator, Mechanic, Enforcer, and Professional respectively, and have likely been modified to accommodate the greater emphasis on police gadgets and less then lethal weaponry, as well as a modified lethal arsenal based more on what’s in the police and civilian markets. And while grappling guns, ziplines, and magical cop PDAs add an interesting angle to what could otherwise be a paint-by-numbers multiplayer shooter; a question of scale remains unanswered. While Battlefield 3 had a very large number of players on a map at any given time (as would BF4 if it ever became stable enough for players holding off on it to give it a try,) the promise of more compact urban theaters feel like it would call for a smaller number of players on both teams. After all, 32 bank robbers descending upon a single bank all at once? Especially when the Payday series showed how it could be fun with just four players? If DICE is seriously considering making this a proper game instead of another Battlefield with a different coat of paint, expect the scale to be dialed back to something more to the tune of twelve players per team at maximum. Too many more players at once, and the fantasy of being a crack team of professional criminals or an elite SWAT unit fizzles.
Are these fears unfound? We’ll find out at E3 2014, where EA will “Officially Reveal” Battlefield: Hardline. Hopefully, gamers’ fears will be unfounded and we will have the first great “cops and robbers” video game since Payday made crime dramas cool again. Stranger things have happened.