Backlog: Battlefield Hardline

Developer: Visceral Games (Additional work by EA Digital Illusions CE/Criterion Games)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform Played On: Xbox One

The episodic, TV nature of the single-player campaign provides a fresh take on modern first person shooters, though it’s still ‘run here’, ‘shoot them’ and ‘pick up this’.

The story of Nick Mendoza; full of clichés and terrible writing, but Battlefield Hardline’s single-player campaign provides enough set pieces and developments to keep you hooked until the end. Much like all previous Battlefield campaigns, it’s all style with little substance. There was a chance to make a profound statement on police brutality, blurring the line between justice and revenge. But instead, the focus is on a movie-style plot with ‘twists’ that everyone saw coming from a mile away.

You play as aforementioned Nick Mendoza, recently promoted detective who, working alongside Khai Minh Dao, follows the drug chain all the way to the top. The supply chain has infiltrated both sides of the law, and it’s up to Mendoza to dive between good and bad to put a stop to it.

As always, Battlefield’s gun play is sublime. The focus in Hardline is on smaller scale environments, resulting in closer, tighter shootouts. You don’t have large amounts of ammunition to waste, and a greater focus on handguns feels satisfying, as opposed to large machine guns and sniper rifles.

But there’s hardly a forfeit for being ‘bad cop’. Playing ‘good cop’ by flashing your police badge and arresting people rewards you with new guns and attachments, but the option to go in all guns blazing is always available, without repercussions. You don’t earn as many points as you would by arresting people, resulting in fewer guns to choose from if you want to customize your load out.

Stealth plays a large focus in the campaign, and bares much resemblance to tactics employed in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, which was released the year before. Level design is built around taking your time and arresting instead of shooting up the place, though you’re likely to end up finding yourself doing the latter at some point. You scan the area beforehand, tagging enemies and objects, and deciding on how to approach the situation. Using silenced weapons, a Taser and handcuffs, players have the choice of ghosting their way through each level. You’ll need to keep your eye on the field of vision for each enemy, the hardest difficulty available upon first starting the campaign, veteran, provided adequate challenge without feeling difficult for the sake of being difficult.

Up to three people can be held-up at a time, by flashing your police badge and acting all macho. But you’ll need to keep your gun up at all times, as enemies will try pull a fast one if you’re not concentrating on them. I had a couple of issues with this, mainly the ability to not shoot when you’ve held someone up. If you hold up a couple of enemies in front of you, and another starts creeping up on you from behind, you’re stuffed until someone other than you begins to shoot.

And while the police theme feels appropriate on the streets and running down dark alleyways, it seems out of place when you’re holding up people during stakeouts in warehouses and cabanas. These people are drug lords, are they really afraid of one, sometimes two, police officers?

Hardline provides plenty of location and mission variety, everything appears different, even if the core concepts of what you are doing stay the same. You’ll be running through a hurricane dodging debris and the next minute you’ll be staking out a skyscraper. It’s by no means the greatest single-player campaign to have been developed for a first-person shooter, but it’s enjoyable enough from start to finish, which is more than can be said for other triple-A FPS franchises. Mission variety in comparison to Call of Duty feels fresh and the scenarios you find yourself in are great. But at the end of the day it’s still a Battlefield game, and every now and then the cop skin peels back a little and you can see it. Hardline never really feels like it knows what it’s doing with the theme. It delivers on the first few episodes, but swiftly seems out of place when you’re taking down helicopters and tanks.

Anyone familiar with Battlefield 4 will grasp Hardline’s controls with ease, both built on the Frostbite 3 engine. So if you’re worried about the leap into online multiplayer, don’t be.

There are new modes to try out in multiplayer, catered to Hardline’s theme. New in this sense doesn’t mean new in gameplay, just new to Battlefield. Hotwire is one of the crazier situations, where cars replace the typical Conquest flags. Driving the cars will reduce the enemy team’s tickets, and you win when you manage to deplete the other team of all their tickets. It’s one of the game’s more frantic modes, and with a couple of good mates in a team, it can get seriously crazy. I hope to see variations of this mode in future instalments. The other modes, Heist, Blood Money, Rescue and Crosshair provide plenty of depth to the cops and robbers motif, but the standard Battlefield modes suffer from being less interesting, losing their military aspect. Conquest with police cruisers feels strange and the weapons choice feels restricted in comparison to Battlefield 4.

It’s all great fun though, as Battlefield multiplayer always is. Large, open terrains with destructible environments that clutter the ground always feel like a spectacle to watch, and a joy to be involved in. Speeding past enemies in a van as your friends shoot out of the windows to protect you, everyone diving out a helicopter and parachuting into objectives, or providing the front-lines with sniper assistance, it’s all there.

A couple of connection issues were present in a few of my games, but I can’t determine whether that’s on EA’s side or my own. Nevertheless, it only lasted roughly 10 seconds, and then everything was fine. That said, the game is over a year old at the time of writing, so there shouldn’t be any connection issues.

However, for the time being, I think I’ll stick to Battlefield 4’s multiplayer, which has been lovingly updated for two years. I think it’s an unfair comparison, Battlefield 4 is the result of development of several games in the series, focusing on huge military action, whereas Hardline is trying something new, despite it not always meeting the mark.

Battlefield Hardline attempts something new and it’s appreciated, and while it’s likely that 2016’s Battlefield title will revert back to the military setting, I hope the developers take cues from Hardline’s endeavours. While some will label it as a glorified expansion pack, Hardline has a graphically sound, professionally voice acted single player campaign coupled with an ambitious but flawed multiplayer.

5/10

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