Also On: Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Visceral Games
Battlefield Hardline might not be the best Battlefield title you?ve played, but it?s certainly one of the more unique entries into the franchise across both its single-player and multiplayer modes. If you haven?t followed much of the game to this point, Battlefield Hardline eschews the standard large-scale, military shooter formula that?s defined the series up to this point, in favor of a more street focused, cops vs. robbers aesthetic throughout the entire game. Yes, you?ll still have squads, grenades, helicopters, and other vehicles to pal around in. And yes, you can still snipe, knife, and dominate a variety of large multiplayer maps. But it doesn?t take long to see the number of changes and tweaks to the Battlefield formula while playing, and for the most part, these changes are pretty damn good.
Before diving into the multiplayer, I?ll start off by saying the campaign feels like a solid effort out of developer Visceral Games, marred by a story that strays too quickly from the cop show presentation set-up in early chapters. The inclusion of recognizable actors from various police procedurals is a nice touch, and these actors actually enhance their respective roles instead of becoming a game of ?hey, I recognize that guy!? throughout the campaign. But there?s an early game twist that occurs that all but ditches the police vs. drug smuggling plot set-up early on, in favor of something that allows your main character to get his hands dirty. It also seems like a flimsy excuse to let you play around with some unconventional toys, like a tank, in later chapters. And then there?s that end game sequence that sets up an annoying, to be continued style cliffhanger that sucks a considerable amount of enjoyment out of the last hour or so of the game.
But while the overall plot works against the campaign, the majority of the story is still fun to actually play. I was surprised by how much stealth took a role here, giving you the option on most levels to sneak around enemies, and take them down via non-lethal means. There?s a handful of forced shootouts that are unavoidable, but if you want to play this game like Solid Snake, you?re given the tools and opportunity to do so. It actually behooves you to play this way, as you?ll earn bonus points for every non-lethal takedown, and certain enemies provide even more bonus points if they?re marked with a warrant. This all ties into an expert level, which can dole out various unlockables, like new weapons, while playing the campaign.
I was also surprised by how challenging the game managed to be on its Normal difficulty. There?s two shootout sequences that gave me a fair bit of trouble, one inside of a car dealership, the other an exterior of a desert gas station. Both of these sequences also did a great job of highlighting the destructible environment tech, which feels largely organic and natural. Gunfire chips away at structures in a believable way, to the point that you?ll often think you?re hiding safely behind a wall, when out of nowhere a bullets start to whiz by, causing you to turn and find the structure you were behind is now in absolute shambles. Pretty much every gunfight in the campaign revolves around ducking behind cover for a second or two, and then quickly running to other nearby cover, keeping the gameplay fast and frenetic.
The only real issue with the campaign?s gameplay comes from the enemy A.I., which can often times be easy to goad into behaving in a predictable manner. For large open areas, I found that it was often easy to get behind the corner of something sturdy, and wait for enemies to round that corner one at a time, making them easy enough to pick off. They also have a tendency not to react quickly when you try to approach them as they?re ducking behind cover, not moving away from cover despite the fact that you?re openly walking towards them.
This also carries over to the stealth mechanic, which features of a cone of vision displayed on radar for all enemies nearby. Provided you?re not running up to enemies, and staying just outside of that vision cone, they?ll never see you coming, even if you?re pretty much standing right next to them. However, enemies will react to friends that are taken down close to them, and if they spot a body out in the open while patrolling, they?ll put all other guards on alert, which alters their patrol patterns quite a bit. And if you?re unlucky enough to get spotted in an area that carries an alarm system, you?ll have quite a big mess on your hands quickly, as the game will swarm in reinforcements, making for one hell of a fight.
But enough about the campaign, lets talk multiplayer. When I think of Battlefield, my mind fills with large maps of 64 players, dropping into the middle of firefights with squad mates, jumping into the gunner seat of a helicopter, and often times crashing spectacularly when the pilot decides to bail out for unknown reasons. Your experience may vary of course, but what I?m getting at here is that Battlefield has often offered an online multiplayer experience that is unlike any other shooter on the market. And that?s still the case with Battlefield Hardline, despite the introduction of new modes and other elements that change up the Battlefield formula to some degree.
When you drop into Battlefield Hardline?s MP mode, you?ll have a few things to toy around with up front. Your player profile can be outfitted with badges earned on both the single-player and multiplayer sides. You can unlock packs of goodies with varying degrees of rarity, giving access to random skins, profile avatars for the Battlefield website, and a whole host of experience/point boosts for different classes and modes. These packs are earnable by hitting different milestones (you?ll get a lot just from finishing the campaign) and can also be purchased by using in-game currency.
Currency is also used to buy up weapon attachments, different grenade types, weapons, and so on. There?s four classes to choose from at the beginning, which will automatically slot you into different roles. But you can also create custom classes to fit your playstyle, just like what you?d expect out of any modern day online shooter. Switching between classes in-between respawns is easy enough, and you?re given enough slots to fit the average player?s need. There?s also different equipment items you can purchase, like grappling hooks and ziplines, which can alter the playing field quite a bit, adding more movement options than what you?d typically see on any given map.
Map variety in Battlefield Hardline is actually pretty great too. The destructible environments from the campaign make their way over to the multiplayer side as well, and a map can look drastically different at the end of a match than it did at the beginning. And there?s a decent amount of interactivity too, with little touches like working elevators in Downtown, or the occasional blinding dust storm in Dustbowl. Riding up to the higher floors of a skyscraper in Downtown, just to bust out the windows, jump, and parachute your way back down doesn?t mean much from a skill/strategy perspective, but it?s just a lot of dumb fun that?ll be guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Likewise, a lot of the new modes introduced with Battlefield Hardline are remarkably fun, and do a pretty solid job of capitalizing on the cops vs. robbers theme in a way the single-player mode doesn?t quite do. For instance, Heist features both sides defending or attacking a vault, with multiple paths and ways to break into the vault, along with multiple exit points. Blood Money features a single cash drop location that both sides rush to, trying to grab a bag full of money and run it back to their respective team vault. Crossfire revolves around escorting a VIP to an exit point, while Hotwire features tons of high-speed chases with fast cars, motorcycles, and helicopters to jump between.
Of all the new modes, I think I like Hotwire the most. It?s basically tailor made for ridiculous .gifs and videos, which I think we?ll see plenty of in the coming weeks. Rolling around with your friend in a hopped up supercar, as you hang precariously from the passenger window shooting at opposing tanker trucks, vans and pursuit helicopters, is exhilarating 100% of the time. Seriously, if you?re not sure what to jump into right off the bat, hunt down the first Hotwire game you can find, and never look back.
Of course, knowing that the multiplayer side of Battlefield Hardline is fun is one thing, but knowing how well it will work come launch is another. I did hesitate a bit in putting up this full review at launch, as opposed to waiting a few days to get a feel for online stability when Hardline launches. But I felt pretty good about posting this after spending the weekend online with official servers that were well populated by various players, which seemed to consist of not only reviewers and devs, but other people that I assume got their hands on early copies of the game.
I never had issues joining a server, never got booted out of a game, didn?t encounter any technical hiccups like freezes or crashes (across both single player and multiplayer), and I feel pretty confident that things will hold up come Tuesday. Will there be some launch issues? Probably. But there?s nothing in my early experience with the game that suggests we?ll see anything on par with the absolute mess that was Battlefield 4. I?d still urge those of you on the fence to wait and see, if only for a couple of days, how the online side of things shakes out. But based on my experiences so far, and in full 64 player matches, I think Battlefield Hardline should be a pretty stable game online, at least on PS4, which is the version I played through.
All in all, I came away from Battlefield Hardline feeling pretty impressed. The campaign side isn?t perfect, but still felt substantial and fun to play. And the new online modes, player customization, map interactivity, and the ridiculous action presented throughout the entire game makes this a shooter I don?t think you should miss. While Hardline certainly isn?t your standard Battlefield experience, the changes and tweaks present here are welcome additions, breathing new life into the franchise that?ll entice both veteran and new players alike.