Battlefield Hardline, the latest instalment of the EA franchise, puts you in the boots of Miami Police Department’s Nick Mendoza in one of the most engaging ‘Cops and Robbers’ story out there.
I had the opportunity to chat with Visceral Games’ (the EA-owned studio behind Dead Space and Battlefield) Travis Hoffstetter (Senior Designer) and Forrest Tarleton (QA Analyst) in Hong Kong during the Battlefield Hardline launch. The pair gave a little insight into what went on behind the scenes during game development.
The Battlefield series is normally associated with military warfare, but Battlefield Hardline changes the setting to Cops and Robbers. Why the change?
Forrest: Well the story goes that the heads of both of our studios, Karl Magnus at DICE and Steve at our studio (Visceral), were both together at a conference. They got to discussing the ways our studios could work together. This lead to Visceral working on Battlefield 3’s expansion pack.
When everyone started brain storming what we could do, we went back to that game we all played in elementary school–Cops vs Robbers. It literally wrote itself from there. The post-it notes just started going on the wall, and now we’re here.
It’s been said that Battlefield Hardline draws inspiration from several Cop shows. Could you say which?
Travis: We took big inspiration from Justified. We had Wendy Calhoun and Bill Johnson from Justified come in. They wrote and directed our cut scenes and drew up our story. We also had writers in general come in and help out as well. We really just tried to go with this Justified set-up and extrapolate from it.
When we wanted to create a episodic experience. We want you to view each level of the game just like a TV episode. So when you leave and come back, you get a little summary of what happened. You’ll feel like you’re not just playing a game, but playing along as part of the cop show.
Forrest: It’s like “previously on Battlefield Hardline” or “coming up on Battlefield Hardline”. It’s made to feel like a TV show.
Travis: Hardline is not a cop simulator. It’s a crime and revenge story.
Right now Cops vs Robbers is quite a common theme. You have other big games that have been running this angle for a while now. What’s different with Battlefield Hardline?
Forrest: At it’s heart, Hardline is still Battlefield. It still plays like Battlefield. What the cops and robbers environment allowed us to do was to truly put a Visceral story into it. After all that’s our pedigree–Dead Space, Dante’s Inferno. We are known for turning great stories and that’s what we aimed to deliver with Hardline. And I think we succeeded.
When you developed Battlefield Hardline, where would say the emphasis was on. More on the Single-player or Multi-player mode?
Travis: I don’t think it would be one or the other. I think we knew we had to develop it together. The reason that Visceral was working on it was because our single-player is incredible. We came into it knowing that both had to be awesome.”
Speaking of the Multi-player, do you see this going competitive?
Forrest: We have developed two different modes which we like to call our competitive modes. I believe the official street names are ‘Rescue’ and ‘Crosshair’.
In Rescue, there are two hostages that are being defended by the criminals. When you’re playing as a cop, your objective is to breach their stronghold, rescue the hostages and get them to an evacuation point. In these modes, you have 1 life per round. Last time I checked, it was a best of 7, so first to 5 wins. However, there’s a half time where you then switch sides.
So if you were playing as a cop, you’re now playing as a criminal. It’s been really well received at the shows we’ve demo-ed it at. Actually at GamesCom last year, we had an area set up and all the major league gamers were like ‘this is really good’. There’s definite chances that it will be used in competitive gaming.
Does rescue mode allow you to play different maps? Are these maps available for other modes or do each have their own?
Forrest: Yes different maps. Rescue and Crosshair are available on all Multi-player maps. There are certain maps where certain modes aren’t available. For instance, one our maps ‘The Block’, one of our smallest maps in the game, is meant for close quarters combat. The destruction in that map is incredibly fun. However, the size of the map doesn’t allow you to play certain modes as its not big enough for it.”
What can we expect from vehicles this time as compared to Battlefield 4?
Forrest: I would say we paid as much emphasis on vehicles as Battlefield has in the past. We increased the movement speed of the vehicles. These are the fastest cars ever in Battlefield.
And then there’s the sofa… does that count as a vehicle?
Forrest: The American Dream, yes. It’s out there. There is a funny story about it. There was a show back in the States, in the 90’s known as the Robot Wars. One of the seniors in our studio was actually one of the contestants on Robot Wars and one of his buddies built a motorized remote controlled couch that could literally drive down the street at 30mph.
There was footage of him sitting on the couch and his buddy was off camera steering the couch. He’s waving as he’s going down the street. They used this as his intro for robot wars. This came back as news at the studio and since we love all our team members, we made ‘The American Dream’ a hidden Easter egg in one of the maps. As far as I’m aware, it’s only on one map.
I believe there’s a premium version of Hardline?
Travis: We’ve got 4 super features. We have masks that you can wear in the game, a gun bench that will let you customize your weapon and let you track the number players you’ve killed with each weapon. Then you have a challenge mode and 4 themed map packs that are going to come out with new modes and new vehicles.
One of our community groups posted a question: Could we see a DLC in a mafia setting… like old school Chicago?
Forrest: Everything’s possible!
Travis: Right now we would like to focus on making Hardline as good as it can be and then we would worry about the future further down the road. But I think that’s an awesome idea. But right now we are focused entirely, wholly as a studio on making sure that Hardline is the best it can be for the consumers and delivering awesome content for premium.
Battlefield Hardline has had me re-learning and orienting my controls over the last few days but I’ve had great fun on it since then. In short, it really IS a great story. We’ll have a full review up soon!