“Let’s Be Cops.”
When frisked, Battlefield Hardline isn’t packing anything revolutionary, but spending quality time in its campaign and multiplayer provided plenty of significant surprises. This time around, the multiplayer offers something noteworthy for everyone and the campaign is an improvement over Battlefield’s more recent single player iterations. Hardline branches off with new ideas that stray a bit from what hard-core Battlefield fans may be used to, yet all is done with the intention of improving what EA and DICE have done with the license thus far. As it stands right out of the box, Battlefield Hardline is a solid shooter and a worthy addition to the franchise.
Stepping away from the military side of things, Hardline drops players into a cops versus criminals premise, rather America versus anybody with a gun pointed in the wrong direction. Developer, Visceral Games has been fighting an uphill battle from ground zero to win-over both fans and newcomers to the series. Whether it be leaving the environment the series is known for, the reminder of Battlefield 4’s horrendous multiplayer launch, or the fact that on the surface Hardline isn’t offering anything radically different; Hardline hasn’t had the greatest word-of-mouth pre-launch. Yet, rock-solid server performance with the game’s first week at retail, a successfully reinforced change of climate and a premise that delivers on what its marketing promised, make changing the minds of opposing players a much less rigorous task than previously asserted.Battlefield’s more up-to-date predecessors have struggled tremendously with telling a compelling narrative in the campaign section of the game. Hardline’s campaign has some moments of greatness, but inevitably falls down the rabbit hole as it attempts to redefine logic. Set in Miami, Hardline follows Officer Nick Mendoza, a new detective entangled in the midst of a raging drug war. Accompanied by his veteran partner, detective Khai Minh Dao, Nick pursues the city’s drug dilemma from the streets to the point of supply. What the team finds, leads the two detectives to realize that corruption inhabits both sides of the law.
Hardline is simply a video game interpretation of your everyday crime show, with the only noticeable difference being a higher body count when things get out of hand. For the most part, law-enforcement versus criminals works with the story Visceral is trying to tell, and is pulled-off with a system that rewards players for ethically tackling situations. Launching in an a political environment stirring with controversy revolving around issues with police brutality, Hardline could have been the brunt of a lot of arguments if presented in a different context. Luckily, encouraging players to clear rooms filled with enemies via a non-lethal approach saves Hardline from becoming a cop/criminal killing glorification simulator. Yet, the unlocking system put in place to reward players for taking things stealthy doesn’t contextually match-up. Progressing through 15-level ranking system, unlocked stronger guns, better attachments and so forth, yet nothing reflected a stealthy, non-lethal approach. It didn’t make much sense to unlock a high-powered sniper rifle for lawfully arresting perps.
Hardline’s first major arrest is logic. Sure, we’re talking about a video game, but commitment to a consistent tone is still important to tell a coherent story. Layers of both a gritty cop drama and an off-the-rails, self-aware crime romp, reside in Hardline’s convoluted, yet slightly entertaining narrative. Its double standard for what should be taken seriously and what should be taken with a grain of salt is far too infrequent, making for a story that feels like two drastically different versions of a script. Spurts of humor, a few interesting characters and two spectacular missions made the seven hour, episodic-style campaign feel like it wasn’t a total waste. Unfortunately, foolish AI on both sides of the law, a poor story which failed to deliver meaningful character development, suspense and sense of reasoning, left a far more negative impression than positive. Despite recognizing the many problems, the single player portion of the game endures, it’s worth the play through; even if it stumbles to find grounded and enjoyable flexibility throughout its entirety.The Battlefield series has always been known for its chaotic multiplayer, and long-time fans will be pleased to hear Hardline keeps the positive track-record going. Hardline’s multiplayer is all about momentum. Launching with eight modes and nine maps may not seem like much, but various versions of different maps are tweaked to accompany the game mode. The five new modes Hardline introduces are; Heist, Blood Money, Hotwire, Rescue, and Crosshair; each having something every multiplayer shooter will enjoy. I’m amazed at how effectively Hardline works to cater an enjoyable multiplayer experience to such a wide and diverse audience.
Visceral gets a lot right, mainly with pace of gameplay, map design and unique mode premise, all of which encourage quick and satisfying firefights. Hardline is a far more contained and grounded multiplayer experience than large-scale warfare, yet it’s just as satisfying.
One of the highlights of the array of new modes is Hotwire. Hotwire is basically Conquest on the go. Capture points when playing Conquest are now vehicles that are taken by driving at high speeds throughout the map. It’s arguably the fastest mode Battlefield has ever seen. With the removal of jets, tanks and other military-grade artillery seen in previous installments, Hardline is a smaller, grittier take on ground warfare. The in-your-face action is quicker, maps are tighter, and weapons, gadgets and vehicles ensure you’re never too far from the fight. Hotwire is a smart mode that offers energetic activity everywhere it drifts.Surprisingly, some of Battlefield Hardline’s more memorable multiplayer moments came in the new round-based 5 vs. 5 modes. Playing tactical has always been a viable option in Battlefield’s large-scale warfare, but Rescue and Crosshair is the methodical mindset taken to the extreme. Thinking on your feet while taking into consideration various objectives, map design and enemy movement, is intense and a welcome addition.
Hardline handles its classes extremely well. Both sides of the law have separate loadout options, meaning each side you play on is equipped with a unique arsenal. This is a smart decision since it doesn’t reasonably make sense for a law enforcement official to run around with a gang-style oozie, or for a criminal to posses a police-class sniper setup. The game has four classes to choose from; Operator, Mechanic, Enforcer and last but certainly not least, Professional. After a match, players switch sides and are given the opportunity to purchase guns with an in-game currency system that blows away previous Battlefields.
Visceral has done a fantastic job getting the Frostbite engine in the best shape it can be. Yet even with all their hard work, it’s the engine that’s the biggest factor holding back Hardline’s extravagant multiplayer. Constant jitters, clunky car handling, bland and generally weak textures, all beat down on what is a mostly polished multiplayer shooter.
Summary: When stripped down, Battlefield Hardline is still a Battlefield game with a capital B. Visceral delivers upon an unique and daring premise, with multiplayer that offers something memorable for everyone and a campaign amusing enough to justify its existence. Battlefield Hardline packs the punches when it comes to multiplayer, yet multiplayer still remains the only compelling reason to own this game. For returning players, Hardline likely already resides on your hard drives and rightfully deserves a place on it. Fast-paced and eventful matches make multiplayer a viable reason for online shooter fans to own the game, even though the campaign tosses its hands up, willingly. Then again, it’s a Battlefield game, what did we expect?
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