Flashing a Police Badge before shouting freeze or throwing shells to distract criminals isn’t exactly something you’d expect from a Battlefield single player campaign, previous single player experiences would see you taking on a terrorist threat in a war-torn country with shrapnel flying in every direction like confetti at a wedding or swerving as a skyscraper crashes down around you in heartstopping fashion. Hardline takes a step to the side of world war chaos and the norm to deliver a storyline with a familiar threat that lies a little closer to home.
For many years now EA and Battlefield have been delivering some of the greatest multiplayer experiences a gamer could possibly ask for, with amazing vast open landscapes and an array of vehicles and weapons in which to do battle, however, with Visceral on board they decided to take a step in a very different direction. The game itself takes place across Miami and Los Angeles from the cities night lights to the beautiful beaches and then there’s the Alligator filled Everglades. Hardline covers a variety of conditions.
Battlefield Hardline: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Visceral Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 20 March 2015
Price £44.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
At a first glance, Hardline would appear to be a mixture of CIS Miami and Bad Boys, some would be forgiven for wondering why the sudden change in direction from the much-loved war based drama but with Hardline, Visceral attempted to construct a more compelling storyline. A previous trailer for the game claimed it was the fastest Battlefield yet and they delivered on that by dishing out a true take on cop life in America.
The Hardline campaign is presented in the form of episodes which blend together with a TV style theme including episode recaps and a brief look into the future, the game itself shines a light on Americas continued war against drugs and that’s where the games main protagonist Nick Mendoza comes in. Mendoza is a newly promoted straight-laced, incorruptible Miami Drug Detective who is stuffed full of morals and a desire to rid the streets of Miami from drugs.
The games real action begins with Mendoza and partner Carl Stoddard lined up either side of an apartment door ready to make a bust. The door is kicked in with the usual police style force and when confronted with a room full of potential drug felons you are quickly taught some of the games mechanics, most notably the point and arrest feature. A quick shine of your flashlight and enemies become like putty in your hand, they are practically cuffing themselves even if their pleas of innocence show otherwise, either way, their cries fall on deaf ears. Everything appears to be going to plan as you work the room cuffing perp after perp when suddenly in the blink of an eye what was a routine bust becomes utter chaos as a woman hiding in the bathroom decides to make a bullet packed entrance and a violent face-off begins.
The following scene shows exactly why Battlefield Hardline is ‘the fastest Battlefield ever’ as you race through the streets of Miami homing in on one of the evading suspects. It quickly becomes very apparent that you are a world away from what fans of the franchise are used to, long gone is the threat of a nuclear attack but instead of leaving the game exposed and vulnerable it makes the overall experience a better one.
Mendoza is soon given a new partner in the form of hard nosed Detective Khai Minh Dao and the two begin to work a lead on a cocaine broker by the name of Tyler Latchford and this is where the game really starts to strut its stuff. You are taught even more moves as you walk the streets with Khai and the game really comes to life with an almost Metal Gear Solid taught approach to play as opposed to the usual run and gun mayhem of previous titles. The game teaches you to be more subtle in the way you go about your objectives and that stealth and the shadows can be the key to a successful arrest. Never seen before in Battlefield, you learn how to distract enemies and manipulate them to your advantage much like you would do in stealth based games like Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. The enemies themselves appear all too willing to be arrested despite holding Assault Rifles and wearing bullet proof armour but in large groups they can turn on you very quickly if you don’t pay enough attention.
While in the vicinity of one or more enemies, the quick flick of a wrist will send a bullet shell hurtling in whatever direction you want the criminal to go, making a silent arrest or take-down all the more easier while at the same time nullifying the chances of other enemies clocking on to what’s happening. Of course when you have the target where you want them you have a few options of how to handle them. The first being to flash your badge and simply arrest them, the second is a quick zap of a taser gun which renders the enemy unconscious or lastly a take-down which again leaves them out cold. You can of course kill them but then what would be the point of a Solid Snake like approach only to leave yourself exposed and in the middle of a lot of angry, gun toting enemies.
The criminals themselves are armed with a detection system meaning, if they hear or feel that you’re in the area you’ll be quickly notified by an arched shaped detection bar that flashes red upon full detection and white while it slowly builds up, detection can be avoided by moving away from the area or hiding but like many Splinter Cell games enemies will investigate noises and can get spooked fairly easily. There is also a points system to Hardline that helps you unlock weapons and Battlepacks along your journey much like the previous titles Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, these points can be gained with silent arrests,not being spotted, completing objectives and finding evidence with your scanner. It’s based on a levelling system and there are fifteen ranks to move through but with a silent assassin style approach can be easily obtained a long way before the final episode.
Another standout feature for Hardline involves the ability to scan and mark enemies and evidence found in each episode, upon finding yourself in the same area as a lot of bad guys you can quickly pull out your scanner and mark everything in sight from the alarm boxes that are triggered by enemies after you have made way too much noise to explosive barrels. There are certain criminals found throughout Hardline that have outstanding warrants against them and these can be arrested for big points but this can only be done once you have scanned their faces. These arrests will help push you up the ranks and will see you reach level fifteen a lot quicker.
An added bonus to the Hardline campaign is the option to equip either a Health pack or an Ammo box using the many weapon caches found in each episode, these make life a little easier if you find yourself low on health or running out of bullets, just approaching a cache will also instantly fill up your ammo. You also have the ability to use other gadgets in the game such as a the Grappling hook and Zipline which help to ascend your way up buildings or mountains and then descend in stunning style, these gadgets can also be used in Multiplayer. The weapon cache can also be used to change both the primary and secondary weapons with new weapons unlocked while solving cases during the game, you can also add attachments to weapons to make the fight that little bit easier.
The use of motion capture in Hardline is pretty flawless and helps to make the cast very believable, they become characters you can relate to and it makes the story even more interesting. The cast reads like a who’s who of TV and Film with some familiar faces making appearances throughout the story. Nick Mendoza is played by former O.C and The Purge Anarchy actor Nicholas Gonzales, Benito Martinez of The Shield fame stars as Captain Julian Dawes with fellow Shield cast member Mark Rolston playing the part of Neil Roark.
When it comes to Hardlines Online system there is a wealth of new modes and features to explore and master, though the type of action might have changed the draw of taking to Battlefield online hasn’t. The famous large landscaped Multiplayer maps still exist as does fan favourites Conquest and Team Deathmatch. Hardline is equipped with an array of brand new objective based modes and some smaller maps to accommodate them.
There are four classes to choose from when entering an online match. Operator which is a new take on Medic, Mechanic’s have the ability to fix and destroy vehicles, Enforcer which is the new Support with ammo and light machine guns and then finally you have Professional which is the Recon class of the game. Online play sees players earn cash as well as rank up, with the cash earned every match you are able to accumulate money to buy new weapons and attachments but even cash isn’t always enough as some attachments require certain objectives to be fulfilled before a purchase can be made.
Of the brand new modes, the main highlights include Hotwire, a high-speed mode where criminals and cops are pitted against each other with the Criminals attempting to capture a list of cars and the cops attempting to stop them. Hotwire is Fast And The Furious meets Conquest and it works very well. Another popular new online mode is Heist where Criminals attempt a series of objectives that lead to looting vaults and escaping with the stolen money while the Cops attempt to stop them at all costs. Finally, we have Rescue where two hostages are up for grabs, the Cops must rescue and safely escort the Hostages while the Criminals need to also protect the hostage for their own reasons but can also win the game by eliminating all of the Cops. There are no respawns in Rescue and it makes for a compelling game mode where tactics and teamwork are key.
Overall, Hardline proves that Battlefield can be a success even when stepping away from the comfort zone of a war based theme. The Storyline is well constructed and the new features make for a more stealth based approach to the game, which is a massive highlight for me. The characters are very likeable and the motion capture makes the game seem very real and authentic, for me this is one of the best campaigns the series has to offer. The newly introduced scanner ability is an excellent feature and allows you to scout an area out rather than run in blind and there are various ways to approach each episode.
Online is like a brand new experience with the new modes made available it makes for a great team game and the cash building system definitely makes the modes more exciting to play with more at stake. Map-wise, the landscapes, and surroundings are as beautiful as ever before. Battlefield Hardline does exactly what it set out to do and that was to introdfaster-paced paced version of what we’ve all come to love, only this time it comes with cuffs and a badge.