The Battlefield franchise has never entirely swayed away from its traditional roots. Most of the titles have been developed by Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE), and essentially have had a military focused theme – which goes along the lines of the world being on the brink of chaos and various military forces stepping in to diffuse the situation. Granted, the Battlefield franchise has moved from strength-to-strength, but unfortunately it was beginning to feel somewhat stale and stagnant… especially in the campaign department.
Fast forward to 2015, and developer Visceral Games has now taken the lead on the next Battlefield title, in conjunction with DICE, which has been titled Battlefield Hardline. With Visceral Games taking the lead, the Battlefield franchise has finally moved away from the world war theme and essentially focused the plot on cops versus criminals.
With the focus pulled away from worldwide conflict, Battlefield Hardline offers a more intimate experience. The single-player campaign literally plays out like a series of NCIS, or something similar, and is essentially split over a course of a number of episodes. Each episode primarily focuses on Detective Nicholas Mendoza, a cop who is insistent on doing things by the book. While Mendoza tries to stay on the straight and narrow, his world gets turned upside down when he discovers that various members of his department are involved in the same drug-ring that he is trying to shut down. While Mendoza sets his sights on those closest to him, he finds that crime and corruption go far deeper in his department that he would have ever thought.
When it comes to overall single-player campaign, Visceral Games has actually done a fine job with the storyline of Battlefield Hardline. Not only does the story unfold in an episodic format, but each time you come back to the single-player campaign it essentially recaps what happened in previous episodes. Additionally, if you quit an episode midway through, the game also gives you a sneak peek at what is going to happen next. This gives you more incentive to keep coming back to the campaign. Granted, once you have finished the campaign there is no real reason to return to it; however, its the little things like this that actually make you want to complete the single-player campaign, rather than just jump straight into the multiplayer modes.
To add to this, each character actually comes across as deep, well written, and interesting. At one point Mendoza sets out to take down a crooked cop; however, that very cop assists him in saving his partner. While Mendoza is intent on taking him down, he still trusts him to have his back in the field. The plot then twists over and over again, which often ends with Mendoza the short end of the baton.
While the storyline is pretty solid, the gameplay in the single-player campaign is where Battlefield Hardline seems to falter at times. Yes, you can essentially run and gun your way through the campaign; however, you gain more experience points and unlock more weapons and attachments by arresting criminals – rather than laying waste to them.
While the arrest mechanic starts off as a fantastic new element to the game, it soon becomes flat and repetitive. Mendoza uses the same take-down all the time, and single enemies don’t put up much of a fight once you flash your badge. You can essentially arrest up to three suspect in one go; however, this can be tricky as one may fire off a shot at you resulting in complete and utter chaos. While this is not a bad thing, I firmly feel that more could have gone into the arrest mechanic, including: multiple take-downs, criminals resisting arrest, or even adding in Quick Time Events. To add to this, you can literally sneak around an entire set-piece and arrest each criminal one by one, which is no challenge at all. Due to this, I eventually decided to arrest only a handful of enemies and then spice things up with a bit of gunfire here and there. While this did make unlocking new weapons and attachments a bit more time consuming, it did add a little more variety into the mix.
While the arrest mechanic ultimately became stale after a while, Visceral Games did however capture my attention with some of the nifty gadgets featured throughout the single-player campaign. Throughout the single-player campaign you get to utilise Mendoza’s police scanner, which ultimately allows you to to survey a scene, mark targets, alarms, and identify wanted suspects. Additionally it can be used to listen in on conversation as well as zoom in across a set-piece. The Brute was another great gadget to use, which essentially allows Mendoza to crack any vault in a relativity short amount of time.
Moving away from the single-player campaign… Battlefield Hardline would not be complete without multiplayer. Much like the single-player campaign, Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer modes stick to the theme of cops versus criminals… while I was a little skeptical at first, the theme works rather well. Additionally, EA and Visceral Games have added in a few new unique game modes into the mix in order to spice things up. These include:
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 safe there. Raid the enemy team’s vault to help your team score the most money.
Conquest: Conquest is based on the idea of controlling a base. Capture a base by standing near a flag on foot, in a vehicle or in the skies – if your team owns more flags than the enemy you’ll slowly reduce their tickets, which are their ability to respawn. The first team to run out of tickets loses.
Crosshair: In Crosshair, a former criminal turned state’s witness is on the run from his former crew. The criminals are trying to erase the VIP’s face from the world, while the cops are trying to get him out safely. Once again, there are no second chances – one death and you are out for the match.
Heist: Heist is all about pulling off that big job or that perfect score. The criminals are trying to infiltrate a cash-filled vault, and the cops must regulate them. Once the criminals break in, they have to nab two bags of cash and jam out with them back to each of the two base points.
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.
Rescue: This is a cop-centric mode that lets you step into the boots of a SWAT operative tasked with saving innocent lives from the hands of criminals. Lead your team carefully into dangerous environments and get the hostages back to safety. Be careful though, because there are no second chances in this mode.
Team Deathmatch: Team Deathmatch is infantry only and has the easiest objective to understand: shoot the enemy team more than they shoot you.
Overall, Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer counter-part is not as large and in charge as the previous titles in the franchise; however, it most definitely stands out from the rest. Even with smaller maps and less vehicles, Visceral Games has managed to pull off one of the best multiplayer experiences I have had in quite sometime. To add to this, you don’t entirely have to drill through a particular class in order to unlock everything… this time around player progression has been linked up with the cash you gain throughout each match, which ultimately means that you can purchase new weapons and kit without having to grind through each class.
With the maps being smaller, Battlefield Hardline essentially wants you to experience the action. There where times in Battlefield 4 where I would hang back and snipe from one side of the map to the other with little or no interruptions – well at least until the opposition spawned on me. This tends to be slightly more difficult to do in Battlefield Hardline. If you do find a cozy position it is often flooded with action more often than not.
This was great to experience, as in one instance I was tracking a target and then the next there was a helicopter in pursuit of multiple enemy vehicles. Enemy troops flooded into my position and so did my allies. This resulted in the start of what seemed to be a medium-sized war, happening right in front of me, in what seemed to be a rather unexciting position on the map. This pulls you out of your comfort zone and essentially throws you into the fight, which is what the Battlefield franchise needed.
Battlefield Hardline tries to do something different and succeeds in certain areas, but falls flat in others. The episodic format in which the single-player campaign plays out in is a breath of fresh air; however, the arrest mechanic tends to become stale after a while. Granted, Visceral Games added in an alternative to running and gunning, but the alternative arrest and sneaking mechanic felt repetitive and forced at times, which ultimately shows that it needed more work.
On a positive note, Battlefield Hardline’s single-player campaign is well scripted and honestly feels like a season of NCIS, or something similar. To add to this, Battlefield Hardline looks absolutely fantastic, which goes to show that the team at Visceral Games has what it takes to develop a rather visually stunning title.
The multiplayer is an absolute pleasure to experience and really pulls you out of your comfort zone, which is most certainly a plus. The new modes give the franchise new life and ultimately please a variety of play styles. Overall, Battlefield Hardline has a single-player campaign that can be hard to swallow at times, but it has a multiplayer counter-part that is extremely hard to put down.
Battlefield Hardline was reviewed by Darryl Linington on the PlayStation 4.