Battlefield: Hardline's new beta is a huge improvement over the multiplayer test from E3. A big reason for that is the new mode Hotwire.
Hotwire, like the signature Battlefield mode Conquest, is all about capturing points and holding them. However, in Hotwire, you're capturing cars rather than territories. You earn points for the team by grabbing one of five vehicles spread throughout the map and driving it around. To stop you from earning points, the opposing team needs to either kill you or blow up your car to stop.
"So one team grabs all the cars and sits in one corner of the map, right?" Well, that's the great part - you don't get points for sitting still in your car or slowly driving in a circle. You need to get up to full speed and stay there to contribute points to your team. The need to stay at cruising speed means you'll need to take care to avoid obstacles, too.
These rules result in five drivers in hotwired vehicles doing circuits throughout the map while infantry pepper them with bullets or explosives. A helicopter or two above chases the vehicles and rains down fire from machine gun turrets. Players in cars, motorcycles or trucks that don't give points pursue the objective cars and either ram them to slow them down.
Hotwire mode was surprisingly infantry-friendly in both beta maps that supported it. The maps are compact enough that there's always a car within reasonable distance at any given time. Even if they race off in the opposite direction from you, they'll have to double back eventually to maintain their speed. There are also plenty of good ambush spots: tight turns and obstacles that slow down the vehicles just enough to give you a window to take shots at the vehicle or its passengers.
When cars are blown up, they'll respawn shortly afterward. The spawns are limited to a few locations so you may be walking into an trap when you head for a vehicle. You get a healthy amount of points for destroying a hotwired enemy vehicle so there's strong incentive to let them grab a vehicle and then pounce.
Visceral Games' decisions to make rocket launchers a battle pickup in Hardline and not include heavy vehicles like tanks or jets help this mode shine. Mechanics (this game's Engineer equivalent) can still use grenade launchers but they're far less potent and accurate. Players are far more likely to use their guns to try and pick off the driver as a result. The fewer number of one-shot vehicle kills available in Hardline means that the cars actually have a fighting chance. The passenger riding shotgun is far more likely to get kills than they would in Battlefield 4. The combat has shifted from vehicles with mounted weapons versus players with anti-vehicle weapons to players in vehicles with guns versus players on the ground with guns.
I'm still not sure whether Hardline will win over every Battlefield fan. For many long-time players, the series means tank battles and dogfights. However, I think the Hotwire mode as well as last beta's Blood Money type make a convincing case for Visceral's particular take on Battlefield. These modes - two of several new match types - make the most of the game's focus on light vehicles and infantry. It makes Hardline feel less like an unnecessary filler game and more like an off-center spin-off, keeping us occupied until the heavy armor rumbles back in Battlefield 5.