Title: Battlefield: Hardline
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS4 and Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Visceral Games/Dice
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: Out Now
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Moving away from the military setting, and focusing more on the “battles at home” (I don’t mean altercations with the mother-in-law), instead presenting itself as a high-octane version of your kid’s “cops and robbers”.
It’s quite a drastic change for the Battlefield series, as it has always focused on military forces, even when it ventured into the future, but something need to be done to bring a little life into the old series.
There are a large number of Battlefield players who don’t even acknowledge the existence of the single-player campaign unless they are getting some multiplayer unlocks out of it. Furthermore, whilst I admit the single player experiences in previous Battlefield titles have been a little lack-lustre, the one in Hardline is actually something that at least brings some variety, warranting a single play through.
It feels like playing through a cheesy police action drama from the late 80s/early 90s. The characters are bold, with a surprisingly high quality in voice acting; the story has dramatic set pieces as well as entertaining, if not fully surprising plot twists, and the whole affair revolves around drug cartels and corruption. A staple for any thrilling Miami cop movie, even if it does have the classic clichés of the genre.
Thankfully the voice acting is of a much higher quality to the way the AI acts. Your partner in missions is as dumb as a stump, they’d have never made it past the academy, or even been smart enough to be cast in one of the Police Academy movies, and the enemies follow suit. Nothing is dynamic, it feels closer to shooting targets.
By far the most interesting mechanic that has been added to the setting is being able to hold up and arrest criminals for a non-lethal takedown, allowing you to use some stealth to your advantage. The mechanic does however become somewhat predictable and amusable. The confusing aspect of this is that going “non-lethal” grants you points to unlock new weapons, weapons that you won’t use much if you are going the non-lethal route.
Doing any “police work” such as scanning the scene for evidence feels clunky, and the only rewards are more weapons,that you won’t be able to use much later in the game At that point, I didn’t want to re-play the campaign. It doesn’t warrant an extra 6 hours.
The way the story even plays is exactly like a TV show. Missions are now episodes, and starting or ending a chapter has a “previously on/next time on” segment, truly pushing the feeling of a “cop drama” as hard as they can.
The story follows Nick Mendoza after a violent drug bust, after being tested to his limits you will find yourself on the wrong side of the law, and without any spoilers, must fight the corrupt that took away your life and position. Some moments leave the whole “cop setting” behind, and go for the over-the-top ridiculous, which kind of breaks the theme. Tanks and AC130s wasn’t something I expected in the game.
The main draw of the Battlefield games this generation however, has been the multiplayer, however the classic modes like “Team Deathmatch” and “Conquest” feel like an after-thought in this instance. They just don’t have the same staying power as the same modes in Battlefield 3 and 4. Blood Money and Hotwire are much more exciting, and fit into the cops and robbers setting much more than the other game modes. Blood Money revolves around two teams fighting over a central stash of cash and delivering it to their vault until it’s full, this creates strategies on the fly. If the central point has the entire enemy team defending it, then their vault is unprotected, raid that instead. Hotwire is conquest on wheels; you capture a vehicle and defend it whilst the other team tries to ram you off the road, an interesting play on something that feels familiar to Battlefield players.
One thing EA and Dice always does well is their sound design. Everything sounds great, the weapons are meaty, explosions are loud and realistic, ambient sounds of the battlefield really lend themselves to the over-all experience. One of my favourite things in Battlefield is still the sound of your entire team running to an objective after a match starts.
I’m disappointed how Hardline turned out, because it had so much potential. If they fully explored the law enforcement theme without feeling the need to make huge set-pieces and trying to ramp up the octane to ridiculous levels, instead focusing on atmosphere, immersion and new and interesting gameplay, this could have been something wonderful.
Hardline just doesn’t have enough to warrant the price-tag. The level of content is half of what Battlefield 4 was on release, yet it is priced the same. The number of weapons, vehicles and maps leaves you with repetitive gameplay after only a few hours. This should have been DLC. This should have been to Battlefield 4 what Bad Company Vietnam was to Bad Company 2. Something new, different, exciting, but with a familiar flavour, not something that feels fleshed more than it has any right to be.
They player-base must agree with me, because shortly after release the number of players compared between BF4 and BFH were drastically in BF4’s favour after a harsh drop in Hardline players.
This wasn’t the Battlefield experience I was aching for. After BF4’s shaky release, I was put off the game, but gave Hardline a chance, but it wasn’t worth it. IF you are after a Battlefield experience, I would suggest playing Battlefield 4 and its expansions, now that it has time to gestate, it is the game it’s supposed to be, but I don’t think Hardline ever will be.
- Some new ideas in the campaign
- Sound design and voice acting is great
- Graphically impressive, at least on PC
- Not enough content or variety
- AI is awful
- Servers are now ghost towns, with some modes that aren’t even played
- A missed opportunity with little value for money
Drugs, violence, and naughty language. Refer to the age rating on the box, and then go play something else anyway.