EA is teasing gamers right now by giving players a multiplayer taste of the first-person shooter Battlefield Hardline but, come 8 February, it will be whisked away from scores of sweaty mitts, with the promise of a return some six weeks or so later (17 March, if you want to pop it in your diary).
It's time to make the most of the opportunity, then. This free preview is available as a monster 10GB download on the PS4, Xbox One and PC, with 3GB downloads available for the Xbox 360 and PS3. For your efforts, you get a great many features, three different modes and maps and more than a good taste of what the full release will hold.
At the same time, you will feel compelled to make the most of the little time available to you. While some will want to get stuck into the the tactics of the game, some of you will want to expend a great deal of effort uncovering the hidden reload easter eggs in this cops versus criminals caper.
According to Hardline's animation director Tony Gialdini, there is a one-in-10,000 chance of triggering an animation (plus it can only be achieved with an empty reload). “It's an animation gift to the fans of Battlefield,” he explained in a video filmed two days ago.
But while looking for treats such as this is fun, solely concentrating on them might mean you miss out on the fun elsewhere.
You can try competing in a huge battle for size in Conquest mode on the Dust Bowl map, against up to 64 others. You can also pick sides in Heist on the Bank Job map – do you want to stop the criminals or be one of them? And you will probably want to give the terribly exciting Hollywood-style Hotwire mode a good go as you chase villains at top speed and work with others to repossess the vehicles.
For only then do you realise just how much freedom this games gives you. As well as cool new tools such as grapple hooks and in-game cash to upgrade your stash, teamwork is crucial if you want to be a success.
Heist, for instance, is centered on a group of criminals smashing the vaults of a city bank and getting the lolly to a waiting helicopter. Whether you are using decoys, looking for new ways to get into the building or acting as a sniper, it's about working together and trying to outwit the other side.
In doing so, you begin to appreciate the cinematic, explosion-riddled Reservoir Dogs kind of feel of the game. The urban setting, close-quarter action and emphasis on cops rather than soldiers is a departure but it works well for what is usually an army-inspired franchise. The tight, obstacle strewn environment also poses its own challenges with a greater, tenser feeling of claustrophobia – try flying the chopper in such a setting.
We won't spoil the game for you, suffice to say that if you ever liked to hit the playground and play cops and robbers then this title takes it to a whole new level. After all, you weren't toppling cranes in your lunchbreak.