Another year, another Battlefield. This time, DICE decided to hand over the open-warfare reigns to developer Visceral, which could go one of two ways. One: A fresh, new take on the popular franchise which brings in new fans and pleases veterans alike, or two: A game which appeals to nobody and is so far from what is considered ‘correct’ for Battlefield that it alienates its entire fanbase. Despite the internet currently wanting you to believe the latter, I’m firmly in the former’s camp.
Surprisingly, Hardine includes a thought-out, enjoyable campaign. Gone are the nameless soldiers trying to eliminate a caricature terrorist threat; this time you’ll be playing as Officer Nick Mendoza amidst a Miami drug war, in a story rife with treachery, corruption, and car chases. Kind of like the plot for every American police TV show, right? Well, that was the intention, as this time Visceral have decided to present the story in a 10-episode format, with each mission filling a single episode slot. It’s a bold departure from the middle-eastern combat of previous titles, but one which feels fresh and, most importantly, hugely enjoyable.
Because of your new ‘Police Officer’ title, you’ll no longer be using the heavy calibre weapons which are usually the norm for Battlefield games (at least, not in the early chapters). Instead, most of the game can be played as an action-stealth experience. Press L1 to flash your police badge and criminals will raise their hands, ready to be arrested on the spot. This tactic is viable for up to three enemies at once, though you need to keep your weapons trained on each criminal in order to maintain a position of authority. In order to reach this point, however, you’ll need to evade the enemies sight-lines on the minimap à la Metal Gear Solid. Being seen doesn’t end the mission, but you’ll need some hefty firepower to take on the vast rooms of enemies, so come prepared. Thankfully, like in Battlefield 4, all of the campaign’s levels are littered with supply crates which allow you to outfit your character on the fly; with new weapons becoming available as you progress.
Alongside this focus on policing comes some neat new systems which are implemented very well into the single player experience. Using your police scanner, you’ll be able to scout out an area before entering, kind of like assaulting an outpost in Far Cry 4. The scanner also allows you to mark key “warrant” targets, which not only function as collectibles, but bringing them in non-lethally also nets you a hefty amount of points – all of which count towards unlocking more gear and armaments. Collectables also come in the form of evidence which is divided into several case files, and the scanner informs you how far away and in which direction each piece of evidence is. If you’re a completionist, then Hardline should quite pleasantly cater to your needs.
In fact, the main area in which the single player falters is in the story it’s trying to tell. The characters involved are far more interesting than those from previous instalments, but their motives sometimes become twisted, which results in decisions being made which seem totally out of character. I won’t spoil anything, but this is especially significant at the very conclusion of the story, which will have you scratching your head rather than holding your jaw open in shock. Also, it may just be a wholly subjective issue, but I honestly didn’t find any of the game all that challenging. I’m yet to try the newly-unlocked ‘Hardline’ difficulty, but I played through every chapter on Veteran and rarely found myself dying repeatedly. It seems that as long as you exploit the overwhelming power of your police badge against enemies, you’ll rarely come into much trouble.
But let’s be honest, most people completely disregard the single player when picking up a Battlefield title. So how’s the multiplayer? Well, in my opinion, this is quite possibly the best multiplayer experience since Bad Company 2.
I was a huge fan of the colossal fights that Battlefield 3 and 4 allowed you to partake in, but Hardline’s omission of vehicles like tanks and jets means that fighting is far more infantry focused. This is apparent in the map designs as well, due to many maps containing intimate, tight spaces which will have you engaging in a lot of close-quarters-combat. For some, this stark variation from the typical Battlefield formula will prove too much to bear, but I honestly think it was needed. If you’re starving for some vehicular warfare, then Battlefield 4 will almost certainly have you covered. But if you’re interested in trying something new, then Hardline is well worth your time.
All of this fighting would be pointless without some suitable modes to try out, and thankfully, Hardline delivers here also. A popular game type which was available in the numerous betas was ‘Heist’, which pits one team as the criminals and the other as the cops, trying to prevent the bad guys from stealing loot. Though not every map is perfectly designed around this mode, it’s still a blast to try out.
One of my surprise favourites, however, is a new mode called ‘Blood Money’. It’s a relatively simple spin on Capture the Flag: Both teams have stacks of cash back at their base, and they must steal from a central point in order to bolster their stacks until victory. There’s some great features of this that make it an absolute joy to play, though. For example, if you’re feeling daring, you can infiltrate the enemies’ base and steal from their cash rather than the central pile, which lowers their total and raises yours. It’s a great risk/reward system, as you can either stock-up 10 piles of cash to take back, or stick to a smaller number and guarantee your safety.
The weapons which you’ll be using this time around also pack a considerable punch. There’s considerably less choice this time – you only have 3 main choices of primary weapon per class, usually – but this means that you’ll try and master a specific weapon rather than feel swamped by the number of options at your disposal. There’s also some nifty new gear which will give you the upper hand, such as a grappling hook to scale the tall buildings of certain maps, or a zipline to fly back down. The four main classes remain, although weapons such as LMGs and rocket launchers now need to be found within each map rather than equipped beforehand. This amounts to a much more level playing field, and one which ups the pace considerably.
There’s so much more I could say about Hardline, but you’ll have to play it yourself to really understand why it’s such a great game. It just feels so much faster than previous titles in the series, but this is no bad thing. If you absolutely detest a change in the formula, then I can understand why you might not want to pick up this title. If you’re in the mood for a fresh new experience which maintains its Cops vs Crooks theme throughout, then Hardline is definitely the title for you. See you on the battlefield!
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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