My first contact with the latest entry into the battlefield franchise with hardline this version is from the XboxOne one, coming to you early thanks to the joys of EA's vault, A good perk if some what limited taste of the single player game understandably so.
So after a 6 month or so delay what have Dead Space developers Visceral done with the Frostbite 3 engine? Well at first glance not a lot at all but I will cover that in a moment, lets first look at the 2 sections of the game, SP and MP. Having played the MP beta quite extensively on all 3 big formats it has not changed dramatically from this or even its BF3/4 roots. But game-play is the same flamboyant, destruction filled set-piece from 4 with most of the scenery being destructible a large collection of ground and air vehicles along with an arsenal that no self respecting Miami police dept should leave the house without. Battles take place over 32 or 64 player arenas that cover a sand thrashed motel complex, tight city streets with looming overhead cranes that can be used for sniper vantage points via the handy grapple gun a brand new weapon and system in the game, the Everglades and many more. With many maps having large outdoor areas with these high points this can be a worry in some games, as snipers can quickly get into position and slice through your squad, if you team up always split your styles up like all previous games with operator, enforcer, mechanic and professional used to segment the skills in your squad. Medic's are great if you are holding a room and you have someone who can drop health packs or revive you, mechanics are key for more combustion based attack plans keeping you on the right track, the enforcer class is you power house kicking down doors, chewing bubble gum and taking names. This leaves the professional or the sniper of the bunch that I mentioned earlier, and in the large open maps you need a few of these not only to thin the heard of troops on the ground but pick off the opposing dead-eyes before they do the same to your team and you.
And this is where it works well with the separate level structures and game types making play styles alter based on the layout, like bf game before running in COD style will only result in an early bath and frustration for your team, you have to work together as lone wolves aside the snipers will not be alive or successful for long.
- The different game types like heist where you have to rob a vault of cash and return to your 2 base points with the cops having to defend and stop this, like a capture the flag mode.
- Hot-wire is a car stealing 2 man team being chased or chasing the pilfered motor with aims to apprehend no matter the cost.
- Rescue is exactly that, hostage are hauled up in a warehouse and as the bad guys you have to keep the cops out and they have to storm in kill the group and rescue the hostage. This is not only the most tactical mode but is also no re spawn so bang and your dead adding more tension to the mode.
- Crosshair follows a similar path with it being a competitive mode with the witness in police protection Bang in the sights of his old crew, can you save him with only 1 chance for all.
You then get standard team death match and large conquest matches as per other multiplayer fps game with the most enjoyable mode blood money, this is where you have to steal from a couple of vans the loot inside and return it to your stash all the while the other team is doing the same. You can also steal from their base and return to yours with the winner decided on the most money at the end. This game type makes for frantic action and is the most fun as generally everyone is on the move and in battle. But even highlights like this cannot shake the fact it all feels like a new DLC mode for bF rather than a full game. Change the outfits and cop banter for army chatter and it does not feel a sufficient change from that if you have it in your collection.
And the visuals have suffered the same lack of change, with the x1 still sporting a 720p resolution as per the launch day BF4 with the engine itself not seeing any major changes now, aside screen space reflection being added into the mix of effects, better quality textures and animation along with some form of PBR in the reflectivity of materials being better than bf4 but I am not sure if this is within the better art work of the textures or implemented into the engine fully dynamically yet. But overall it really has not changed a great deal other than this and fixing some of the basic engine bugs from such an early original launch. It still has the amazing destruction of before with great post processing effects, rubble, particle sparks, screen shaking explosions, good use of motion blur all add to a game that looks and feels "next gen" so long as you have not played bf4. And for a full price game it could have done with at least a resolution increase of some sort as the low resolution is heavily affected by aliasing which can actually hinder some parts of the MP with pixel crawl so bad on distant and thin objects you can miss or mistake targets at times, rare but can happen. MP is where most of your time will be spent and performance on the smaller 32 man maps falls inline with bf4 being a reasonably solid 60 most of the time, but when you move up to 64 man games then the framerate can take a huge hit. Spending a lot of time below 60 around the mid 40's to low 50's even through this is not terribly low for such a low resolution game it is the one time I can say that with the engine being designed around much beefier CPU's than this and not being able to redesign this to a more multi-core centric code these drops are not from the visual side of the game but the CPU struggling to keep the action in check most likely. Hopefully with the next frostbite game - Star Wars battlefront Dice - will have spent much time tailoring the engine to better spread across multiple cores to alleviate these issues along with a higher base resolution.
Into Single player and the team at visceral show that they still know how to make a good romp, the game is set-up like an American cop series with it not taking itself seriously. With only having access to the prologue and first mission my impressions on the SP are limited but it is fun and over the top as you expect from this style of game with a very much Michael Bay feel to it. Playing a coveted ex cop on his way to serve hard time sentence for a crime we do not know of yet, cue a flashback and we pick up with our Supposed crooked cop Gonzalez as he is about to make a bust with Delsin's brother from second son. This obviously goes pear-shaped and a chase ensues, again showing off the engine effects with great motion blur, particles it all looks and feels as epic as any high budget action show would. Performance is more solid in SP with a locked 60 being nearly achieved aside some dips when loading levels or saving but these are minor, but cinematic's in the game are a mixture of videos that run at 30fps as they did in BF4 but seem a little better quality here and they can load back into real time pretty seamlessly, but this jump from a perfectly paced 30 to 60 can feel a little odd when it happens so it is not that the game is juddering, just that the half pace frame-rate change is the issue. They also have used a alternating update method in the engine with alpha effects and geometry taking it in turn to update, every 33ms each but interleaved so that the screen does update every 16ms a nice cheeky change that most will probably not notice but if you do it can feel like a judder in the game or drop to 30 but it is not, see in the video as the background and car update every second frame.
Aside these quirks and small changes the game is fun and the Single player was good enough for me to be left wanting to play more with much better dialogue, and scenes than BF4 which should be an enjoyable romp to prep you for the much bigger MP section of the game, if not anything new. They have mixed up the game well with genuine stealth and non-lethal approach in the game not only feeling correct with you being a law enforcement officer but a true viable and preferred option, when shoot outs do happen they feel accurate as you made a mistake and are left with no other option. Being able to arrest multiple enemies with a flash of your badge not sure if a further enemy has seen you or one changes his mind as you cuff em. Again early signs of tension with a injured partner necessitating you trying to stop her bleeding out as you hold of the insurgent forces, it all feels like it could be a very enjoyable single player game. Much more so than BF4 but if that and the MP is enough to warrant the full price purchase is another issue and one at this point I feel depends on if you have BF4 in your current collection on PC or now gen machines and if not did you enjoy it if you have played it, nothing here changes the feel of the game to any degree that makes it feel anymore than a mod pack as I said in my E3 beta video last year. It is fun, enjoyable with a much better made and solid single player element that improves the most on the battlefield formula, but the price of entry is just slightly too high to justify it with maybe an upgrade of £20/$40 dollars if you own bf4 making far more sense and most likely far more sales for EA as I and many would snap up at this cost with little hesitation.
I will do a review and head to head when the game comes out if requested enough but right now it looks to be of equal performance as per the launch editions of this engine so PS4 stays at the 900p 60 with most likely the same as before slightly better performance than the X1 version but if you have a decent spec pc like my AMD 8350/7870 machine then a full 1080 at high settings with near locked 60 is still the best place to play it as very minimal work has been made on the core engine from 2 years ago. Still enjoyable on all 3 machines but a shame - but and understandable one - that EA most likely cut the budget for the game to concentrate on content rather than any coding or other expensive engine changes that The frostbite team would have been working on themselves in prep for the big Xmas launch of battlefront.