This is the time of year when the biggest games of the fall are announced — or, in the case of the next Battlefield game, leaked. On Tuesday, information leaked onto the Internet revealing that the game would be be based on cops and criminals rather than the series’ usual setting of (as the title implies) soldiers at war. Electronic Arts (NASDAQ:EA) responded graciously to the leak by announcing that the game is called Battlefield Hardline and promising more information at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 9.
Unfortunately for EA, on Wednesday a lengthy gameplay trailer leaked onto YouTube, giving us an in-depth look at what to expect from the game this fall. Based on how quickly most instances of the trailer are being taken down, it would seem that EA’s reaction to the leak has been to try to suppress it rather than to embrace it. The reason for this may be because this is the very video it had planned to show at E3 next month.
Anytime you mention a Battlefield game, you almost have to talk about Call of Duty, the other series of first-person shooters whose yearly installments usually come out within a couple weeks of each other. It’s a particularly apt comparison this year, based on how both games’ publishers have chosen to respond to leaks. While EA is apparently trying to squelch the leaked Battlefield Hardline trailer, Activision (NASDAQ:ATVI) embraced the leak of the trailer for its upcoming Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The same day the Advanced Warfare trailer leaked onto the Internet, Activision let loose a full battery of information about the game, including an HD version of the leaked trailer.
So what, exactly, is Battlefield Hardline? It looks pretty impressive and quite unlike previous Battlefield games — which may be a result of the company trying to distance itself from the Call of Duty comparison. Although the two franchises have historically vied for the same audience of war-based first-person shooter fans, this year’s installments are shaping up to be quite different from one another. The new Call of Duty takes place in the future with an emphasis on high-tech weaponry but the familiar wartime backdrop. The new Battlefield takes place in modern times and has dropped its war setting for a cops-and-robbers theme.
When you look at the sales numbers, EA bringing big changes to the series isn’t as big of a surprise as it might otherwise seem, as Call of Duty games continue to trounce Battlefield in sales each year. Last year, for instance, Battlefield 4 sold about 9.63 copies across platforms, while Call of Duty: Ghosts sold a hefty 21 million.
Unlike previous Battlefield games, the trailer says Hardline is being made by two EA-owned developers. EA DICE, the team that has worked on Battlefield games for years, will handle the game’s all-important multiplayer mode, while Visceral Games, the makers of the Dead Space franchise, will handle the single-player campaign.
The campaign will be told in episodic format, much like a TV show, with each level having its own story and climax but leaving players with a cliffhanger ending. You play as a cop in a world filled with high-level criminals, crooked police officers, and drugs galore. Each level can be played multiple times and approached in multiple ways.
On the multiplayer front, those maps will feature set pieces like S.W.A.T. team hostage rescues, elaborate bank heists, intense car chases, and a money-pile-themed version of capture the flag. Both modes promise to deliver more of an emphasis on vehicles than previous installments, with drivable boats, muscle cars, and armored trucks. This should give the game a fresh new feel, as the series has previously only featured military vehicles like jets, helicopters, and tanks.
Even with the new backdrop, though, many of Battlefield Hardline’s gameplay mechanics will remain the same. There will still be plenty of shooting, a variety of weapons, and an emphasis on teamwork. Whether it will come together nicely and get a bigger chunk of the first-person shooter pie from Call of Duty remains to be seen. But for shooter fans who have skipped over Battlefield games in the past, this new setting might make them look twice.