The Battlefield series has consistently been one of the better multiplayer shooters out there in terms of gameplay, rivalled only by Killzone which has a more sci-fi tilt. Battlefield games are all about spectacle and while Battlefield 4’s ‘levolution‘ is hideous marketing-speak, the concept of having huge set piece moments erupt around you is a sound one. With Hardline’s setting changing to the police rather than the military, will it lose any of the identity Battlefield has worked so hard to cultivate?
Let’s start with the online. Hardline is just as bombastic as its predecessors at times, with cop cars, motorcycles and helicopters all thrown into the mix for bigger maps. As well as the returning Conquest and Deathmatch modes you have a host of new ideas to play with. Heist sees you trying to break into the opposition vault, and is very reminiscent of Rush from previous titles. Blood Money is more fun, a pile of cash in the middle of the map that both teams fight over and return to their getaway vans… the twist being that each team can also rob the opposition van! This leads to some great back and forth gameplay, a hallmark of the series. Another new mode is Hotwire, which I also greatly enjoyed. Like Conquest you have to capture and hold points on the map, the difference being that each control point is a vehicle you’ll need to keep on the move to accrue points. It leads to some frantic car chases and putting in a few ramshackle ramps lends the mode a Smokey and The Bandit/Dukes Of Hazzard feel.
Gameplay wise this is the best the shooting has felt for a while (for veterans as well as noobs – there is a generous auto aim function for new players) and there is a pretty good variety of weapons, which you now buy with Heist money rather than unlocking by rank. Vehicle control is fun and the addition of radios in the car makes a huge difference to the immersion – jumping in the car as a criminal to the strains of KRS-One’s ‘Sound Of Da Police’ still hasn’t gotten old! The music selection is fairly good, although I hope if they return to this for future games they increase the track count so you get less repeats.
Moving on to the single player campaign, which is set around a cop called Nick Mendoza. In true cop show fashion, the game opens with you on your way to federal prison and a guard on the bus berating you for being corrupt. Then we jump back in time and you’re back with a badge and a gun. The most intriguing thing for me about Hardline is that you almost always have options. Some levels have multiple paths through and even those that don’t at least offer the choice of stealth or all out attack.
One of my gripes with the game is that the stealth is a little clunky at times and there were occasions when I felt I had been unfairly spotted. The game works with a Far Cry style awareness meter, so at least you know when you’re about to be spotted! I also felt sometimes that the AI was quite poor, often just filing into a room one by one for me to shoot rather than doing anything tactical to flush me out.
The campaign plays in episodic format so it feels like a TV show, and even lends the ‘Previously On…’ trope that Alone In The Dark used to keep you update on what happened in the last few episodes. I liked that this doesn’t play if you go straight into another episode so it wouldn’t get annoying for people ploughing through the game in one sitting. Personally I played it an episode at a time almost exclusively, it was well paced and I had fun with each episode. The game might have become slightly repetitive if you were playing it in longer sessions.
Graphically for the most part the game looks good, especially in single player, but in multiplayer sometimes the distant skylines seem quite sparse compared to other Battlefield games. There are exceptions of course, the burning town in the background of Hollywood Heights is a real highlight. Facial animation and motion capture for the campaign is great and while I never fully believed I was watching real people, it came close on occasion.
Overall then it’s a pretty good package, but with regards to multiplayer that’s on the basis that you’re done with Battlefield 4 and want more of that Battlefield experience. There are some new modes and the gameplay is improved, so if you’re looking for more then this is the game for you. The campaign is easily the best since Bad Company 2 and while it does have some shortcomings I really enjoyed the way Visceral lent into the cop show vibe.