Battlefield Hardline feels like an impostor.
Now, hold on a minute here. Before you grab the pitchforks, let me explain.
When I think about the franchise ‘Battlefield’ and what it represents to me, I immediately think of massive maps, huge vehicles storming the playing field, and utilizing destruction to help me better get at my enemies. Hardline, oddly enough, has none of that. It’s maps are smaller in size, vehicles are reduced to more civilian types like cars, dirtbikes, and vans, and from what I’ve experienced, the destruction element that the series is known for is massively reduced. Sure you can break fences, but punching holes in the side of a building with a grenade launcher is just about a no-no with this one.
So why is this a Battlefield game if it’s missing some of the core elements that make other Battlefield games what they are? We can certainly speculate that EA tagged the game in order to help it sell and get noticed by first person shooter fans rather than try to market a completely new IP. That just makes sense.
While much of this may seem like a negative, surprisingly it’s not.
(More words after the jump…)
While I’ve written about this game before and even stated that it felt familiar, I still decided to give the game a chance on release day. I’m glad I did because I’m finding the experience to be a lot more fun than I anticipated.
Surprisingly, I’ve really gotten wrapped up in the campaign which, for a Battlefield game, is saying something. I haven’t found the past couple Battlefield games all that engaging at least from a story telling standpoint. With Hardline, instead of making you into a nameless super soldier, the game puts you in the shoes of Detective Nick Mendoza as you unravel a drug related conspiracy in Miami.
It’s not really the story that’s keeping me hooked even though it’s doing some interesting things like introducing compelling characters and wrapping the whole thing in a TV show like appearance (Next Time On Battlefield Hardline, etc). The gameplay is vastly different than what traditionalist may expect. Of course, like any good Battlefield game, players can go in guns blazing but considering you’re a police officer this time, you won’t have access to the type of gear that a soldier would. The better option is to use stealth and tactics to take down your enemies.
To help push police officers into not going for their gun as the first option, the game rewards you for non-lethal takedowns, subduing enemies, arresting special VIP characters, and using your scanner to tag enemies and objects in the environment. These earned points go towards leveling up your character which unlocks new gear and guns. Strangely enough, most of the guns I’ve unlocked I’ll never use as my play style aligns more with stealth and trying not to shoot up a room if possible. I do wish there were more non-lethal options outside of the taser.
With that said, you may need to suspend your disbelief a little when playing. You’re basically one man holding a pistol sneaking up on multiple heavily armed suspects and just by flashing your badge you’re able to stop them in their tracks and subdue them. It’s like each person waits while you handcuff each criminal. This fact may annoy some people but I just kind of find it humorous.
Another useful feature is Nick’s ability to throw a shell casing to draw the attention of a group of enemies. Here’s the odd part with doing that though. Throwing a shell casing will always pulls just one person towards the noise. The game even tells you this fact. When there’s a group of enemies together, only one person at a time will care about the noise. Sure, it makes things easier for the player but it’s fairly unrealistic from a common sense standpoint.
Sure, I could harp on some strange design choices, but honestly, using the stealth approach is a whole lot of fun and massive twist on the standard Battlefield formula. That’s really the only thing I care about.
On the multiplayer front, Visceral Games has managed not only to keep the gameplay fast and smooth, but they’ve also been able to keep server issues to a bare minimum. With as many launch issues as the past two Battlefield games had, Hardline has been stable and lightning fast each and every time. It’s a very welcomed change of pace. Their biggest achievement may be that they were able to freshen up some classic Battlefield modes, giving them a nice change of pace and a little twist to what players may expect.
Take Hotwire for example. This mode tasks players with capturing various points on a map which may sound a lot like the classic Battlefield mode, Conquest. You’d be right, but instead, Visceral turns the mode on it’s head by making each capture point a vehicle and requiring the driver to drive fast in order to capture and accumulate points for their team. With passengers that are also able to climb out the window and fire at enemies as the car is speeding down a road, Hotwire is fast and frenetic fun. (For more make sure to read my other Hardline post)
Other modes also feature a new twist on the classic formula. Heist tasks the criminal team with breaking into a vault, stealing money, and bringing it to an extraction point in order to win as the police try to shut them down. Blood Money sees both teams fighting over a huge pile of cash and bringing it back to their specific vaults. Opposing teams can also try and steal cash from the enemy team’s vault which forces both teams to stay vigilant as the tide of a match can turn in an instant.
Counter Strike players will find solace with a few modes as well that make use of the “One Life To Live” rule. Rescue tasks SWAT officers with infiltrating and eliminating the criminal team who have taken hostages. The police team wins by saving the hostages or taking out the criminal team. Crosshair reverses the roles with the police trying to escort and extract a VIP, while the criminal team works to take out that player controlled VIP. With respawns disabled, the stakes and tension are always high.
Traditionalists will also be happy to know that classic modes like Team Deathmatch and Conquest are available as well.
I’m not sure what gives Hardline the right to use the Battlefield name outside of it being a shooter but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Hardline is a well made and fun entry into the long running Battlefield franchise. While it may not have all of the flair of a traditional Battlefield title, Hardline manages to keep things exciting and fresh with new gameplay opportunities using a more urban conflict between cops and robbers along with a well developed campaign mode. If you’re looking for an interesting spin on a classic shooter formula, then Hardline has you covered.