Are you a fan of police dramas and First-Person Shooter ? This time around, Battlefield Hardline won’t focus on the series’ trademark theme.
Instead, Visceral Studios, who took over DICE’s role for the development of this title, introduced a brand new concept, one strongly inspired by police dramas. This twist’s idea is to put under the same roof the thrill of an FPS and the depth of a police story where organized crime, good cops and corruption are key elements. Here’s how this new Battlefield installment fairs against other games.
Taking place in the gorgeous city of Miami, where the sun shines over the illustrious sea, you enter in the middle of a drug war caused by cocaine, a problem many cities nowadays must face delicately. You take on the role of Nick Mendoza, a young cop that has proven himself worthy next to his peers in the force. Alongside, you have two colleagues: Khai and Stoddard; all three answer to the likes of Dawes, a high graded police officer. While under Mendoza’s skin, you will quickly learn a lesson most have already learned in real life: never trust appearances, especially when you are in the middle of a corrupted city filled with organized crime, gangsters, bad cops and violence from left to right. Just like most police drama television shows, the script is filled with plot twists.
To start things off, there is a solo campaign that takes place over a total of 10 chapters plus a prologue, which really feels as though you are the star of your own T.V. series. Naturally, players have a choice when it comes to selecting the game’s difficulty level: Cadet, Officer, Veteran and Hardline. While the first three are easily accessible at all times as soon as you get a hold of the game, the Hardline difficulty will require you to finish the story at least once before being available.
As for the title’s new direction, Visceral did a great job bringing it on the table. However, for what it’s worth, during the whole seven hour campaign playthrough, the script fails to deliver depth and a compelling storyline – it isn’t as bad as most FPS titles out there, though. On the other hand, the way underground Miami is represented really paints the picture of modern drug wars currently ongoing in corrupted cities. All of the elements in the storyline are part of stereotypical Hollywood movie scripts, which can be easily figured out if you have a good knowledge of said movies.
Presentation wise, players will quickly feel deception settling in as countless issues of aliasing and frame rate drops can be spotted throughout the gameplay. This pulls down Hardline and takes quite a hit at its overall production quality, especially since the environment and other in-game elements end up affected. While these negative occurrences make the game less attractive, the Frostbite 3 engine does a great job to balance it all out by being responsible for making Miami and certain details look worthy of current-gen consoles. Unfortunately, a lot of work seems to be missing on characters expression, which look stale and completely neutral most of the time. It’s as though they have no emotions what so ever.
Compared to Battlefield 4, Hardline’s predecessor, the audio aspect has slightly improved. When listening to the track list, it fits the theme quite well, especially with the introduction of songs from famed artists such as Run the Jewels, KRS-One and Kendrick Lamar. As for dialogue, it sticks to the script well, but proposes quite a few annoying clichés. Thanks to the amazing voice actors, characters can be relatable. Eugene Byrd (Boomer), Kelly Hu, Benito Martinez and Alexandra Daddario did a particularly great job assisting into bringing to life the game. Fortunately, their job was on point and well executed.
Visuals and audio as a whole were ok, but what about gameplay, the most important element in any FPS?
When the game was designed to tell the story from a police drama perspective, it was important that the weapons used followed the present theme. For that reason, instead of featuring state of the art military-grade weapons and equipment, Hardline proposes accessory more in line with the police force. You have access to taser guns, sticks and relatively ordinary fire power – there isn’t much space in for rocket launchers and grade A explosives.
Accordingly, the game’s central encounter system turns less around killing and shooting brutally your opponent; you must act like a legitimate detective and figure out the best way to prevent them from harming others. Submission over killing in Hardline is key! Naturally, there will be some times when you will have no other choice but to engage offensively with killing intent. Thanks to the Scanner, an equipment you will become quickly accustomed to, you will be able to identify enemies and interactive elements (surveillance systems, propane tanks and more). Combined with the different weapons, you have everything you need in order to become the best cop in the force.
In Hardline, your role changes drastically, and so does the leveling up system. In order to reach higher grades, to a total of 15 levels, you must collect proofs, complete arrests and finish off your enemies with non-lethal attacks. That being said, killing others will grant you non experience whatsoever. You will have to play with finesse since bad guys will be on high alerts.
Speaking of high alerts and non-lethal take downs, there are many occurrences when a clean attack on a low-level alert bad guy ends up attracting a horde of enemies. This make you feel as though the system is broken, which at times, isn’t fair at all – you end up detected and forced to fight back. Additionally, melee moves take quite some time to execute, which can cause you to fail your maneuvers and mess up your entire infiltration plans. Points are also lost when it comes to realism, especially when taking a clean head shot – the damage and feedback aren’t representative of the damage at all.
The gameplay features great elements, but overall, they look like they were badly implemented.
The solo experience might not have been attractive enough to get you hooked on Hardline, but the multiplayer, set aside a few issues, is where the game shines brightest. Since Hardline’s theme resolves around cops and criminals, the various modes offered have been designed to take advantage of that important element. Classic modes such as Conquest and Team Deathmatch have been beautifully adapted; both the aforementioned modes and the other ones add an interesting dynamic and competitive layer to this title.
New modes such as Heist, Hotwire and Rescue are particularly interesting. Heist puts criminals in the middle of a map where they have to steal from a designated area two cash lots and bring them back to their bases without being countered by cops. Hotwire adds an explosive element to the multiplayer experience by testing your driving skills; criminals have a list of vehicles to steal while police officers have to chase them and put them out of harm’s way. Finally, Rescue features a hostage mission where players taking control of cops have to save both captives from the enemy. However, in Rescue, there is no respawn ruleset, so hold on to your life as long as you could. Additionally, there are two more modes to the game entitled Crosshair and Blood Money, but they don’t offer as much fun and dynamic engagement as the other ones.
Now if you remember Battlefield 4’s launch well, you might recall that there were countless server issues reported, many of which took up to ten patches before being fixed. Well, for Hardline, the servers are a lot more responsive, especially when it comes to matchmaking. However, and that was expected, there are few disconnections issues.
At the end of the day, Visceral Studios and DICE did a marvelous job introducing a brand new concept and adapting it to Battlefield so flawlessly, thus offering a refreshing gameplay and theme that differs from the typical military/war topic. The fact that the story take place in an urban environment, Miami in this case, give the title a lot more realism to support its design. However, it is difficult to fully enjoy Hardline due to the unsatisfactory presentation, the faint gameplay depth, and the simplistic and stereotypical script. The online multiplayer mode, however, does save it from disaster, but then again, it also features issues that messes up the player’s appreciation of the title. Having a state of the art game engine clearly isn’t enough to make a game as good as it should be!
Battlefield represent for me a ray of hope challenging the Call of Duty series. I’m not saying I don’t like COD, but over the past years, it has taken a direction that I am not particularly happy about. As for Battlefield Hardline, it has the same place in my heart the fourth iteration has, a dark and sad place! I was expecting highly from Visceral and DICE, but although they delivered an interesting and very compelling concept to the series, Hardline failed to impress me on a technical level. With Frostbite 3 backing it up, I believed that visuals would look outstanding, but set aside a few realistic-looking textures, it failed to catch my attention. What particularly ticked me off was how good character faces looked when they remained neutral and emotionless.
However, I must give it to Visceral for introducing a cops vs. criminal theme; a theme that fits the Miami setting like a glove. It’s during some online multiplayer matches that the theme in questions makes most sense, especially in modes like Rescue and Hotwire. Yeah servers have some issues! But when you can get in and out a clean game, it’s worth the pain.