On Visceral's "Battlefield Hardline"
Welcome to the Darkside
I’m having difficulty putting into words my overall feeling of this game. On the one hand, the game itself is fun. The Cops vs. Robbers theme was an exciting change. Blood Money is one of the best game modes of I’ve ever played for any game ever. I enjoy it so much so that I’ve still hardly touched any other game mode and I have over 300 hours in Hardline so far. The concept, this change, was enough to warrant my 60 dollars.
However, there is the other side. The dark side. The side that tells me this concept would have been better in anyone else’s hands other than Visceral’s. In fact, the only credit I give to Visceral is for having the courage to attempt something new in an industry where taking the easy road of rehashing experiences has become common place. That’s it. That’s all I give them. In every other objective way they have failed. Not only have they failed, they have continued to fail and still continue to fail to this day. My experience with Hardline has been the worst treatment I have ever seen.
Stealing Market Share
Let’s not mince words here and just lay it all out on the table. This game was EA’s response to the failing franchise that is Call of Duty. It’s no secret that the last two years have not been kind to Call of Duty, in fact the last two games have been absolutely terrible. Beyond that though Call of Duty has shown decline in it’s sales numbers since at least Modern Warfare 3. Every year it’s sales number are a little less. EA smelled blood in the water with the release of Advanced Warfare and responded to the demand for boots on the ground again. The result is a game that is more twitch than any other previous Battlefield title and more niche than any Call of Duty game in recent memory. It has a higher skill gap than any Call of Duty I can remember, but it’s very fast paced and still boosts a smaller skill gap than other Battlefield titles. EA wanted some of Activision’s market share, and that’s fine. That’s how business is done. The majority of the time competition is good, a win for the consumer. The problem here wasn’t the concept, the idea, or the attempt. The problem roots itself in Visceral who should stick to single player space based Zombie games.
The first and second Derps
The first bungle was naming this a Battlefield game at all. I’m not sure who made this decision, whether it was Visceral or EA (my instincts tell me EA though), but this was an absolutely terrible idea. It should have simply been titled Hardline and marketed as a new franchise. The second big mistake was it’s marketing. Hardline is at its core a tongue in cheek shooter that does not take itself as seriously as Battlefield 4 does. Because of these two problems the game was doomed to fail. What they were attempting to do was convince Battlefield lovers that this was a new release to their beloved franchise, but Battlefield lovers hated it due to it’s casual and tongue in cheek nature. They marketed as being serious, so serious players purchased it expecting something serious. It would be like purchasing a movie ticket to see Transformers and instead winding up in Dumb and Dumberer. The consumers felt duped.
However there was an opportunity here to bounce back. Myself and many others still enjoyed the game enough to keep playing it and keep telling our friends about it. The game still has a loyal (albeit small) group of fans. It had the opportunity to be a sleeper hit in the way Evil Dead was. It may not have been appreciated upon release but could have built upon that initial fan base and kept going into Hardline 2. But then Visceral happened, and Visceral keeps happening over and over again.
The "Super Features"
Let’s talk about the “Super Features” for a moment. When advertised, premium was priced at 50 dollars. For that 50 dollars you would have access to the Super Features including the Gun Bench, Legendary Mode (which is just Prestige mode from COD) and Skill based matchmaking. You also get the 4 DLC map packs and an assortment of patches and Emblem parts. This is how it was advertised. With that information. There was no mention at all that the “Super Features” wouldn’t be available until whenever Visceral deemed it appropriate. We’re 7 months in from when the game was initially released and the only “Super Feature” released so far is Legendary Mode. This is false advertising at its worst because Visceral played on already established norms in the industry. Purchase any COD and prestige mode is not only free but available at launch. Black Ops 3 is going to come with all three of these “Super Features” at launch and in the base game. This is normal. This is the way things are supposed to be done. I can live with the fact that those “features” didn’t come with the game standard, I can live with the fact that the only people who get access to them are those that spend the 50 dollars on premium, what’s not acceptable is not releasing them at launch and not at the very least telling us when they’re coming. This is like purchasing a Smart phone and paying an extra ten dollars to have a neat feature that voice dials for you, but then not getting that feature when you get the phone and not having any idea when that feature will be updated to your phone. It’s absolutely terrible and I personally will never purchase a Season Pass of any sort ever again when Visceral’s name is attached to the game. Ever.
Now let’s talk about the DLC’s. Never mind for a moment that the game is practically dead, so there is literally no opportunity for me to play on the Map Packs that I already spent money on. They’re just sitting there, unplayed and unplayable. We’ll leave that alone and instead talk about the absolute ineptitude that each DLC has been carried out. The first DLC, Criminal Activity was supposed to launch at 9am. It wasn’t finally released until around 1 or 2 am the next day. There was absolutely no communication as to when the DLC would actually be available. Worse than this, a specific gadget was released along with that DLC which essentially turned this into a “Pay to Win game.” The gadget I’m referring to is the Tactical Tool Kit. Don’t get me wrong, I love this gadget. I use this gadget (I payed for this gadget), but it ABSOLUTELY gives me an unfair advantage over people who were not dumb enough to have purchased the DLC. With the tactical tool kit I can play Blood Money and get upwards of 17 or 18000 points in one game, and that’s not using any boosts and not on a double XP weekend. The majority of the time when I’m using the tactical tool kit the nearest person to me MIGHT have 10 to 12 thousand, maybe. And if there is another person on my team who also has the gadget, the other team has virtually no chance of winning. Hence “Pay to Win.” The gadget was a great addition, but it should have been given to everyone, for free. I almost never lose now, while this makes me happy I’m sure the 16 people on the enemy team are not happy about it.
Then we move into the latest DLC titled “Robbery.” Again, we’ll leave alone the fact that I can’t play the maps because the couple of hundred people who are playing the game are not playing the maps, and instead we’ll focus on the ridiculous decisions and ineptitude that is Visceral. We’ll do that by talking about the load out bug and the nerfing of the Spawn Beacon. The Spawn Beacon is a gadget that a Mechanic can place down that allows them and other people in their squad spawn in a specific place. So if a person is capable of getting behind enemy lines, they can slap down the spawn beacon and continue to flank the enemies. They’ve made this basically unusuable so that now it has a cool down timer of something like 5 seconds. There’s absolutely no point in using this gadget now, with 5 members on your squad if all 5 people wanted to use it the last person would be waiting 25 seconds to spawn in. Nobody wants to wait that long. And if you’re the one who put the Beacon down and you have to wait it quickly induces rage. In short they took a wonderful gadget that gave the game some depth and increased the skill gap a little, and nerfed it to the point that it’s useless.
Now the Load Out Bug. Since the game released it has featured a bug that constantly reset’s your player’s uniforms. If you put on a Stealth Uniform, a couple of games later you would have to put that uniform on again because it would reset. This was annoying, but manageable. After all it was just a uniform if I forget to check and change it it doesn’t have a huge impact. With this latest DLC however they took what was a minor annoying bug and pushed it into overdrive, so now almost every match my entire class is reset. I’ll go running into a fire fight thinking I have frag grenades ready and throw them at the enemy only to realize that it’s just a smoke bomb because my class reset. That gun I’ve been working on getting my stats up on, replaced with a gun I haven’t used in about 50 hours of gameplay, or ever. Every other game I’m reminded just how inept Visceral is at Multi-player, and to make matters worse they’re not planning to fix it until the next DLC. Such a ridiculously annoying bug, on a game that’s already basically dead, most companies would try and keep their small player base happy and fix the bug. But nope, you have to wait until the next DLC drop.
Which brings us into the final point, the last two DLC’s, you know the one’s containing the last two pieces of Super Features and the bug fix for a bug that makes me want never buy a Visceral game again, those DLC’s, have been delayed until early next year. One of the forum administrators named “Fixnow” had this to say about it:
“The release date windows have been delayed in order to give Visceral more time to develop each expansion pack, providing you with the best experience possible at high quality that you would expect from a AAA developer. We thank you for your patience and will be sharing specific release dates for each pack as we get closer to their actual release dates.”
Which basically translates too “this game is practically dead and we don’t want what little money we could possibly make off of the DLC’s to have to compete with the likes of COD, Fallout 4 and Battlefront because we know we’ll lose. So instead we’re going to kick our very small community in the crotch again and make them wait.”
Visceral is terrible. The game is fine, could be better, but was at least fun. Visceral has crushed the fun. They are fun crushers with they're absolutely terrible treatment of the small bit of fan base that they do have. If you purchase this game (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), don’t bother purchasing premium unless you like getting kicked in the crotch.