Battlefield Hardline is a new direction for the storied franchise. This is the first game developed outside of DICE. It delivers a single player experience that is not revolving around a military conflict, and the multiplayer finally fleshes out into new territory. All that said, this is still a Battlefield title. It looks and feels like the shooter fans have come to know, but the new direction it takes as far as content is concerned, create an experience that I enjoyed much more than the previous few outings.
The campaign always feels like an afterthought in these games. This is made more prominent by the fact that it isn’t even the first option on the main menu. Hardline’s campaign stands out thanks to its presentation, and change of dynamic for the series.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC, 360, PS3
Multiplayer: Up to 64 players
Price I’d Pay: $59.99
Players take on the role of Nicholas Mendoza, a young cop, naive to the way things work in the Miami PD. Each level is presented as an episode, not unlike a gritty TV cop drama. There is a “previously on” segment, and even a Netflix style counter between episodes. It is a nice touch, and I also loved that when I quit mid-mission, it would blast off a “next time on…” montage. The presentation is great.
The characters leave a little to be desired in terms of fleshing them out. They are all played by familiar faces such as Kelly Hu and Benito Martinez, and the acting is actually good. The story almost feels incomplete though as double-crosses and certain events seem to crop up out of nowhere, creating an incohesive experience at times.
The game play is where things really differ from previous entries. Visceral has added new dynamics to the normal run-and-gun mentality of the series. There is a larger focus on stealth, which again is optional. I could still go through levels guns blazing, at least most of the time. The new freeze mechanic allowed me to surprise enemies and take them down in non-lethal fashions It is a cool idea, but one that falls out of place thanks to invisible AI partners, and honestly what criminal gives up that easily.
I did like the structure of collectibles though. There are numerous targets in each level that, if taken down, offer up rewards such as XP, which is used to unlock new weapons and equipment. There is also evidence scattered around. When collected it slowly unlocks other cases that fill in some of the world with what is going on. It isn’t revolutionary, but I did find myself wanting to collect them all. I also enjoyed the gadget dynamic which allowed me several ways to approach situations. The level design encourages various methods, something most games in this genre fail miserably at.
Of course who comes to Battlefield games for the campaign? Well other than me of course. Hardline also takes some liberties with its multiplayer, branching it out past the usual bullet point list of modes players are used to seeing.
New to the fray are Hotwire and Blood Money modes that may seem familiar, but offer up a nice change of pace. Hotwire incorporates the vehicles in the game as a dynamic. Each vehicle is used as a hot spot that players must take over to win. The catch is that in order to earn points, players have to get the vehicles up to a certain speed. This leads to some interesting chase sequences.
Blood Money pits two teams against one another in a race to collect money from a central location, and return it to their vault. Once again vehicles play a large role here, as getting from the money to the vault is crucial. The teamwork required is intense, and the stakes raise when players realize they can also plan attacks on the opposing team’s vault. This mode is frantic and fun, even more so on maps that include choppers. This is the most fun I have had in Battlefield multiplayer in ages.
There are also smaller scale modes such as Rescue and Crossfire which pit smaller teams in objective-based situations. Of course the standard deathmatch and capture modes also make an appearance, and the less-than-serious motif can be felt abroad. Goofy reloading animations and a driveable couch rank among my favorites. This game is just fun to play online, regardless of how serious players take it.
The biggest concern coming in was of course stability. I wanted to wait until after launch to make sure servers managed to stay afloat when the game hit retail. I am happy to say outside of a DDOS attack on the XB1 servers, everything has been smooth since launch. I have been able to connect, get into squads, and generally just enjoy playing the game. I know it is a sad state we live in where these things are not common, but I can safely say, as of this writing, Hardline works as intended.
Hardline looks great on consoles. I played both the PS4 and XB1 versions, and the differences are minimal. I was really impressed with the facial animations, and the frame rate remained solid throughout. I also really enjoyed the variety of locations. From rain-drenched streets to a swamp filled with gators, the game never recycles its locales. Multiplayer takes some hits in certain places, likely to keep frame rate in check. I really enjoyed the slick look of this game, especially the destructible environments.
Battlefield: Hardline may seem like simply an expansion to the fourth entry in the game, but after diving in I enjoy it a lot more than the previous effort. The campaign is a breath of fresh air, and the multiplayer adds enough to make it stand out. I really hope they take their time with the next entry in the series and continue to build upon making the changes to the series that help it grow into a series I look forward to playing with each outing.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.