As children, many of us have partaken in the classic playground games such as Cowboys and Indians or Cops and Robbers. It may come as a surprise then that Cop vs Robber conflicts have never really been explored in video game form, especially not from a first person perspective. Of course there are a few games that do, but nothing with the insanely large budget that a more mainstream developer can offer. I therefore welcome the interesting twist that the Battlefield series has taken in the latest instalment in their ever-growing family; Battlefield: Hardline.
The short 8 hour story takes the form of ‘Episodes’ instead of the more conventional missions/levels. It’s presented as a full-blown American style police drama; expect more Hawaii Five-0 than The Bill and it was a nice change from the usual over-patriotic military style warfare we’ve all become accustomed to.
You occupy the role of a budding detective in Miami, delving into a drug war that has brought the city to it’s knees. Its got everything you would expect from a run-of-the-mill US cop drama; you’ve got drugs, you’ve got murder, you’ve got guns, but above all; you’ve got corruption. Roll all of that up and you’ve got one hell of a thrill ride straight out of a Hollywood studio. The ride is relatively short-lived however, I never once felt compelled to push on with the campaign. Although the scripting and voice acting is rather good and humorous in places, i never felt any emotional attachment to any of the game’s key characters. I just plodded along throughout the whole campaign without much care for where the story was trying to take me or the moral dilemmas it attempted to address.
The gameplay is more or less what you would expect from the Battlefield series and the enemy AI isn’t too linear either. Almost every situation has the opportunity for you to tackle it stealthily, but this never feels forced or predictable. Sure, there is the odd hole in the fence or a well placed tunnel to crawl through but the introduction of new gadgets adds far more ways to do things. Why crawl through the mud; when you can grapple up on top of a building, and then zip-line in behind enemy lines whilst annihilating an unsuspecting victim with a silenced MAC-10 before you touch the ground? If that doesn’t scream “Hollywood” then i don’t know what will. Stealth is a huge new mechanic introduced in the game, it’s very reminiscent of what Ubisoft attempt in their Far Cry series. Enemies have cones of vision, they investigate player noises, you can throw bullet casings (instead of rocks) to cause distraction, a small bar fills to indicate being spotted, there are alarms you can disable. All very recognisable. The game even provides the ability to spot enemies from afar using your PDA. You can plan out your approaches and feel a deserved satisfaction once every enemy has been taken down without a single bullet being fired. Arresting people was a feature that i enjoyed, surprisingly. It turns out that criminals have a lot of respect for the badge, regardless of their proficiency with an automatic weapon are how thick their armour may be. Screaming ‘FREEZE!’ whist running into a room causes up to 3 enemies to surrender, any more than this and you’re more likely to get grenades entering the air than hands. Arresting enemies provides more points, points that collate to unlock new weapons and equipment. You seem to have a bottomless bag of handcuffs anyway, why not use them. If all that fails you, you still have your arsenal of authentic weaponry. The gun mechanics are, as we’ve come to expect from the Battlefield series, second to none. It gives you an awesome sense of realism, the sounds are authentic, the recoil feels right and all of the finer details are well explored. I had some awesome moments when things got heated. Unfortunately, these moments were few and far in-between. Instead of tackling coked up lunatics, i’m out in a swamp searching for supply drops, or crawling through a shot-up warehouse looking for a small piece of evidence that has absolutely no bearing on an investigation. Typically, i always complete a game’s campaign before jumping into the online multiplayer, its something I’ve always done. With Battlefield: Hardline, i couldn’t seem to help myself. The story was never gripping enough and the levels had agonisingly tedious parts to them. By the time i had completed the single player campaign, i had racked up around 16 hours of multiplayer. In comparison to previous games, the story is a vast improvement, but there’s still a long way to go.
Since the release of Battlefield 3 in 2011, I’ve been a real fan of series. Having been a huge lover of the Call of Duty games, this new large-scale warfare really opened my eyes to how flat Call Of Duty had become. I’ve never been able to go back. The sheer size and diversity of each map offered something id never truly experienced before. Battlefield: Hardline delivers exactly as i hoped, yet feels so different to what I’m used to. There is a whole new pace and sense to the game. Gone are the tanks, jets and military APCs and in are the speedy muscle cars and armoured pick-up trucks. Rank-related unlocks are a thing of the past now too. As well as XP, you earn cash ($). This cash can be spent on a number of loadout related items: weapons, gadgets, knives, batons, grenades, gun camos, attachments, vehicle enhancements and more. The items you really want are available from the word ‘go’. Not a fan of snipers? Save your money for something more useful. Of course you need to earn the cash before you can buy it, so the game still retains its challenges and sense of accomplishment when you do actually make a purchase.
New memorable moments are created with each play through, contemporary gadgets introduce new ways to play. Remember those great sniper spots you used to aim for whilst parachuting? Fire your grapple hook and climb up. Need to get to an area quickly? Latch on to a well placed zipline. Firefights and engagements feel brutal and terrifying. I’ve always loved Battlefield’s take on suppression, it creates a real sense of panic and immersion as you take cover behind a low wall. You have never felt pressure like that of a whistling sniper bullet flying past your head as you dart across an open street, that iconic sound continues to make me twitch and jump around like a fool.
Teams are split into Police and Criminals, both with different sets of loadouts and available weapons. There are new game modes too. The best of which are Heist, Blood Money and Hotwire. Heist is all about pulling off that big job or that perfect score and bares some similarities to the old ‘Rush’ game mode. The criminals are trying to infiltrate a cash-filled vault, whilst the cops must regulate them. Once the criminals break in, they have to nab two bags of cash and transport them back to each of the two base points. In Blood Money, a huge pile of loot has been intercepted in transit. The criminals are fighting to steal the money, while the cops are trying to secure it as evidence. Each team is trying to secure the money in their team’s vault – but it’s not entirely safe there. Enemy vaults can be raided to help your team score the most money, which always makes for interesting an interesting finale. In Hotwire, The criminals are trying to steal a list of marked cars while the cops are trying to repossess them. Use your driving skills to catch up with the enemy, and bring a friend riding shotgun to take them down, its king of the hill on steroids, jump in the vehicle and drive around the map, the longer you posses the car, the more points you’ll earn for your team. There are a couple of other new game modes, but quite frankly, they’re not worth a mention. They are poorly designed and aren’t a great deal of fun. You still have the bread-and-butter games modes, Conquest and Team Deathmatch. The two staple game modes that define the genre.
In this current title, the pace has been noticeably quickened. Maps are marginally smaller, but are designed incredibly well, which is an extensive improvement on Battlefield 4’s maps. There is a good balance of exterior and interior environments and you will find yourself using the entirety of the map. ‘Levolution’ has also been reintroduced after it’s intriguing unveiling in Battlefield 4; from vision and sound reducing dust storms, to a drilling rig erupting in the middle of a swamp. They all add personality to each map. Dying by having a railway bridge collapse on top of you is one hell of a way to go.
Although I’m having a great deal of fun playing Battlefield: Hardline’s multiplayer, i can’t help but feel that there is a severe lack of content. There are only 7 maps at the time of launch and when compared to previous titles; there are no where near as many guns to choose from. The series’ season pass ‘Premium’ makes an expected return, this offers all of the future content available in a bundled price. But £40 still seems too steep for simple, additional content. It effectively doubles the cost of the game if purchased at launch, even more if you jumped in and picked up a deluxe edition of the game. Lets not forget that this game is published by EA, the tyrant overlords of the video game world. Typical of EA and their boundless greed; rentable servers make a return to the series (although, not yet released on consoles at the time of writing), as do Battlepacks. Similar to Battlefield 4, these give players the chance to unlock random items such as camos, attachments, costumes, XP boosts, etc. You can open these with in game cash, micro-transactions or by levelling up. This doesn’t bother me as much as i originally thought, I’ve opened my fair share of Gold Battlepacks but never once put a penny into the game. I’ve unlocked them all simply by playing; which is more of a good thing.
Battlefield Hardline boasts a minimum of 60 Frames per Second, firefight engagements are smooth and feel crisp even on lower the resolutions on offer for consoles. 780p on Xbox One and 900p on PS4. It comes as no surprise that PC editions of the game will look better, especially on the more powerful setups. A fact console gamers have quickly come to accept. Despite the higher frame rate, it seems somewhat like a step backwards when compared to Battlefield 4, it’s not quite as vibrant and feels a little bland. The textures don’t give much life into the game and it feels more cartoon-like than what I’m used to.
Battlefield Hardline was always going to be a tentative step in a different direction for the series. This is the 12th game in the ever-growing catalog (not including DLC) and I believe it to be a successful venture. The developers have kept the core elements that make a Battlefield game so successful, yet have intricately infused new mechanics to make the game feel fresh yet familiar. The story is cringeworthy, but enjoyable. The multiplayer is fun and addictive.
I commend EA for identifying that the FPS genre has begun to reach it’s peak, growing evermore tedious and boring with each new release. But the lack of content has really got me thinking; will this game offer as much replay value as previous titles have done. Here’s hoping that the Premium cost is greatly reduced sooner rather than later, but i won’t hold my breath.
If you’re a diehard Battlefield fan, this fresh approach might take some adjustment. If you’re thinking of trying Battlefield for the first time, this could be the one to get. If you posses anti-social tendencies by preferring to play single-player, or if you always said to your friends that they had ‘missed’ you when playing Cops and Robbers in the garden. This is certainly not for you.