Played on PS4 (Also on PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC)
Shifting away from it’s military roots, Battlefield: Hardline brings some fresh new elements to the series.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of multiplayer shooters. Every year I pick up the latest iteration of Call of Duty, mostly for the singleplayer campaign. They’re typically balls out, well made, and last around a half dozen hours. After that I typically dive into the multiplayer for a few days to a week, log 10-20 hours in it, and then wait another 12 months. Titan fall’s hype, and admittedly fresh ideas, from last year brought me in for a longer stretch, but even that wore me out after a while. Because of my solo preferences, I’ve tended to steer clear of Battlefield for some time now – their campaigns have been super lackluster, and just tacked on.
All of that changed this year, with the release of Battlefield: Hardline. For the first time in Battlefield history, Hardline isn’t a military shooter. Instead it’s classic cops and robbers. With a story, and actors ripped straight from a television show, and feeding you each piece of the campaign as “Episodes”, Hardline’s campaign is truly the highlight of the game, and the best offered in the Battlefield family. You’ll recognize some familiar faces, such as Kelly Hu, Benito Martinez, and Alexandra Daddario, each of whom really add to the fun, campy nature of Hardline. That and the game opens with KRS One’s, “Sound of Da Police.”
While shooting mechanics are fairly standard in Hardline, the title (in story mode at least) heavily encourages the use of stealth and non-lethal apprehensions. Instead of killing criminals, you can flash your badge and arrest them. With some clever and swift tactics, you can cuff up to three enemies at once, making it possible to move through levels without having to worry about finishing off a shooting gallery of bad guys before moving on. It proves to be a really solid tactic as the difficulty ramps up, and is essential when playing on the highest “Hardline” difficulty.
Ignoring conflict is something we rarely see in first-person shooters, unless it’s the standard “stealth” level in each Call of Duty. It’s really refreshing. In fact, I finished the entire final level on Hardline, on the highest difficulty, without firing a shot or alerting an enemy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, multiplayer in Hardline doesn’t really offer anything we haven’t seen before. You still have large maps, with games going up to 64 players, and a variety of standard modes. New modes based around the Hardline theme include Heist, where criminals break into and rob vaults with cops stopping them, and Blood Money, where cops attempt to claim cash for evidence and criminals try to claim it for themselves. Both cops and criminals have the same weapons and vehicles at their disposal, so don’t expect something along the lines of Payday.
Even without anything new, multiplayer still manages to be fun, once you navigate it’s issues. First off, prepare to be frustrated early on. Hardline has some issues in balance not only matchmaking, but it’s unlock/progression system. Matchmaking exists, but I constantly found myself in heavily mismatched games. Rounds would end where the entire other team had a positive kill/death ratio, and not a single person on our team did. I also often found myself thrown into random games where it was two-thirds over, and my team was heavily losing. I was never dropped into a winning team. Servers often merge games I found, meaning that part way through a game, our team populations would jump from 10 to 20. Also, no private servers, so good luck gaming with just your friends.
In terms of unlocks and progression, I’m fairly certain that developer Visceral Games must’ve set all items, weapons, boosts, etc. on the floor, and then dropped a plate of spaghetti on them, using those lines as the path. It’s very unclear how to obtain certain items, or they have really extreme tasks involved. Guns can mostly be purchased for cash you earn as you play, but earning cash is odd. In about a dozen Heist rounds I managed to get around $10k. The first Blood Money game netted me $20k+, because you literally collect money in it. These would be nice things to know.
For trophy hunters, Hardline is almost a dream. Most of the trophies revolve around completing the game on different difficulties, and collecting items, of which the controller vibrates when you’re near. Once you get stealth down, it only takes around three hours to run through Hardline on it’s toughest difficulty. Multiplayer is another matter. There’s only three trophies there, but because of the matchmaking issues and progression issues, expect to spend several hours trying to win a handful of games, and looking for a boosting partner, unless you’re looking to invest 40+ hours into playing online.
I was pretty skeptical about Battlefield: Hardline, but I’m glad I took the leap. The campaign is a blast. I played it through twice, across only a few days, and enjoyed every element of it. Multiplayer isn’t my thing, but the servers are packed, it’s fast and frantic, but definitely needs to take a page from Call of Duty and Titanfall when it comes to providing incentives for it’s players. All that said, I really hope this cinematic and stealth-based combat makes another appearance in future years. It provided a much needed break from the mindless shooting we’ve gotten for so many years now.