The bad guys have the cash. They’re on the run. You equip an assault rifle, jump in a car. You’re speeding through the city, avoid the debris of a fallen crane, powerslide around a turn and avoid someone firing an RPG at you. Hit the sirens. They’re nearly escaping and have gone into a car park. Hit the radio, “Woop woop that’s the sound of da police” aptly blasts out echoing around the walls of the structure till you get to the top and catapult over the edge on a huge jump as the chase continues. This is Battlefield Hardline, and Battlefield’s back.
First thing to note – Battlefield Hardline is excellent. But as is always the case it’s really split into two between single player and multiplayer. Some likely won’t bother with single player, but you should give it some attention as it does try to do things a little different. You play as Nick Mendoza, a by-the-books Cuban American cop. The plot is classic TV cop show nonsense dealing with good-hearted criminals and bent cops but the pull of Hardline is more the mechanics at play than the story.
Typically, Battlefield campaigns require you to rush in guns blazing and shoot everything in the face. Hardline requires stealth. Yep, it’s a Battlefield stealth game – baddies have cones of vision and you’re rewarded for approaching quietly and arresting them (up to three at a time will yield to your badge). You can distract them by throwing shell casings and use a variety of gadgets to help. Gone are rocket launchers and C4, replaced by slightly more civil grappling hooks, ziplines and taser guns. This puts the focus on a more cautiously paced game than some will be used to which is actually a nice change to the norm from testosterone filled FPSs these days. I really enjoyed sneaking around and distracting bad guys to end up putting them in cuffs. This will likely not be to everyone’s tastes but should you want to go full John McClane as your go to cop of choice then you can definitely do that as well. Sadly, there’s no penalty for doing this, and after my initial play through I found running and gunning to be just as – if not more – effective for cleaning the mean streets up.
This lack of reward hurts the credibility a bit really. You do get more points for arresting folk which contribute toward an ‘expert level’. This essentially is single player ranking, topping out at 15 that you will achieve easily by the end of the game. This gives you more access to weapon stock and modifiers essentially. I did find myself getting slightly bored of arresting people by the end of the game (especially when narrative logic leaves the game after level five) and I felt it a bit of a shame that at a few times the classic Battlefield pull is a little too much to resist some set pieces, and there is a woeful full stealth insta-fail level. A few other options add longevity (or rather pad your experience out) – scanning for evidence serve the hunt for your collectables here although your phone buzzes when one is nearby so that’s fairly easy (and a direction and distance arrow points to them!) and certain suspects have to be identified and arrested rather than killed (or you can taser them – top tip). Visually, the game is pretty good although much has been made over facial animation – the animation is very good, the facial rendering is a fairly disgusting botoxy glowy nightmare. Still, it’s nice to see Acevada from The Shield back in the po po.
If you still haven’t had enough of single player, you can replay on Hardline difficulty (if you play on Officer or above you unlock this, annoyingly I played my first time on cadet so am now halfway through my second of three playthoughs) – but you must prepare to endure a lot of unskippable cutscenes and dialog walks. These make me want to hurt myself in every game and the volume here really brings the pacing down.
Multiplayer has always been the meat and potatoes of the BF series and it’s no different here. The lack of heavy ordnance from the cops v criminals theme in single player carries over here which helps provide a distinction from full blown Battlefield. Four classes are back with a slight twist on previous Battlefields but a medic class, a support class, sniper etc are all here in some guise. 9 maps are available out of the box across a variety of gametypes and the most immediate point to make is that it works. It’s a shame that this needs to be clarified in today’s day and age but off the back of a number of high profile releases being utterly broken (notwithstanding Battlefield 4 as the trendsetter of this latest theme) the copious Beta testing seems to have paid off as in my multiplayer time yet I’ve got into games quickly and not encountered any bugs, crashes or network issues.
The maps are a mixed bag. Everglades is a vast, flat landscape which seems to have totally uninspired the community. Myself, I’m not a huge fan but I have had some good matches on it. Other highlights include a mansion in Hollywood Hills, a train yard, and a downtown bank. It’s been interesting reading message boards on map feedback – I’ve had some horrible matches but many more good ones and my conclusion is that the maps are more gametype specific than they have been before in Battlefield. The aforementioned Everglades for example can be a borefest, but on Hotwire the landscape becomes the best possible environment.
So the gametypes are the star and similar to the maps, they appear to have the community divided. Conquest returns and is fairly decent on all maps. In big and small flavours it’s Battlefield at its most classic and best. Team Deathmatch also returns and honestly it’s a love it or hate it staple in the Battlefield repertoire. Hotwire though is where it gets interesting. The premise behind Hotwire is similar to Conquest – capture and control the zones to win. Turn those zones in vehicles and make sure you have to drive the vehicles at high speed to start earning the points and you have instant car chases and changing strategy. You can’t simply park up and earn the points as you must stay in motion, and a variety of objective vehicles also change things up – a muscle car sits two, a van can have your cronies hanging out of the back with machine guns, and an oil tanker can plough through most things but is a bit explosive. I personally find it rather boring, either you’re driving around trying to avoid everything or you’re running around trying to find a vehicle. When you’re chasing down an objective vehicle you really feel the adrenaline here, as the driver or a passenger having a high-speed shoot out but it doesn’t seem to be for me. My regular gaming squad absolutely love this however – the thing about Battlefield (and the same with Hardline) is that there is something for everyone.
Heist and Blood Money are more my thing. Heist is a take on capture the flag – the crooks have to hack a vault, get the money and then to an extraction (which changes on a rotation to keep the strategy flexible). Blood Money is a similar thing; both teams must take money from a central point and return it to their vault. You can also steal it from the opposing team’s vault. I think this is really good and allows for a nice mix of ground combat and vehicular assault.
Finally, Rescue and Crosshair both have multiple rounds and one life per round. With Rescue the cops have to rescue one of two hostages from the criminals. If a team dies first then they automatically lose. Crosshair has the cops escorting one player marked as the VIP to an exit point. The VIP is randomly nominated and has only a pistol for defence. These aren’t really my cup of tea but add another change of pace and variety for players.
All in all there’s something for everyone. The single player might not be quite what folks are after but the multiplayer is what will keep folks playing. A four-pack expansion program available to Premium members is difficult to work out in terms of whether it’s worth the £40 subscription at the moment but there’s a solid foundation here to build on. Is it a stopgap until the next major Battlefield release or will it hold up on its own over time – I guess we have to wait to find out but it is worth exploring nonetheless.
Reviewed on PS4