We normally don’t comment on rumours at MCP – by and large, it’s a great way to look incredibly silly for the sake of a few extra clicks. However, when the source of a leak is a publisher’s own website with assets to boot you can generally regard it as slightly more reliable than your usual rumblings.

SWATthievesFans have done some searching in the CSS file of the latest update of Battlelog (EA’s online stat tracking/social networking application for the Battlefield games) and found a ton of assets for Battlefield Hardline, a new installment in the venerable franchise that, as previous rumours have indicated, shifts away from the military focus of the series and adopts a law enforcement theme, featuring SWAT teams facing off against crims. The alleged discovery of a Visceral Games logo amongst the assets suggests that this may be the Battlefield game already known to be assigned to the Dead Space developer, with the help of Need for Speed: Rivals dev Ghost Games.

So what do these assets tell us?

  • Names included in the code point to game modes called Blood Money, Bomb Squad, Heist and Carrier Assault, as well as classes Enforcer, Mechanic, Operator and Professional;
  • References to a beta and a map called Downtown;
  • The cops and crooks will have access to military tech like RPGs, grenades and assault rifles, but criminal-friendly tools like blowtorches and grappling hooks will also be in the offing;
  • Vehicles will be available, though used purely for transportation rather than having any offensive capabilities. References to armoured cars, sports cars and utility helicopters have been seen in some of the assets;
  • Battlefield 4‘s Commander Mode looks set to return, though presumably in a more limited form in term of the ordnance you can call into action.

hardlinecheevosThis is all starting to sound less like a traditional Battlefield game and more like EA’s attempt at establishing their own Payday. Given how much fun the Payday games have been, that’s not a bad thing at all. What will be interesting is to see how the ‘cops v crims’ theme will translate to large multiplayer rounds, and indeed how large the battles will be; it would stretch credibility to have huge-scale cop warfare, though you can bet that they’ll want to have more players on the go at once than what the Payday games currently cater for.
Signs point to the game being announced fully at E3 for release this year, with logos found among the assets suggesting a cross-gen release. With Battlefield 4 still suffering from bugs and stability issues one suspects that EA will have a hard time winning over fans, but if this information is true this game could be a shot in the arm for the increasingly-stale online shooter genre.

The military setting has been stale for a long time, and we’re already seeing Activision trying to push things in a more speculative, sci-fi direction with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Law enforcement could work even better as a shakeup of subject matter, and the Payday games have proved that crime makes great fodder for team-based action. Provided that Visceral can avoid the technical potholes that seem to have trapped DICE, Battlefield: Hardline could prove a breath of fresh tear gas.

Christ knows EA can’t afford another Battlefield that takes months to get working. The franchise has worked hard and spent years swimming against the Call of Duty tide to reach the prominence it has, gaining a lot of good will that the relentless befuckery of BF4‘s online performance has in large part eroded. EA need this one to work. and if they’re smart they’ll be going for a smaller scale this time, with smaller player counts and less emphasis on big scripted events to create less strain on the servers. If we’re lucky, we might get a return to the more focused action of the Bad Company games but it’ll be interesting to see what eventuates when EA decide to tell us more.

UPDATE: Which will be at E3, as announced by EA to confirm the rumours, and give a launch window of this fall. A blog post by Visceral’s Steve Papoutsis confirms the dev’s involvement, making particular mention of their skills at crafting single-player content. It’s looking like a big deal is going to be made of Hardline‘s campaign, which would be bad news if it were DICE trying to do it again. Visceral, however, have a much better track record. It’s going to be interesting to hear what they have to say at E3, that’s for certain.