Battlefield has historically always been about fighting wars. While the main series focused on large scale battles and multiplayer, other games like Battlefield Bad Company 2 added an excellent story and humor to the serious franchise. Battlefield Hardline takes a similar approach to Bad Company.
Hardline uses the Battlefield name and Frostbite engine, but it puts more focus on the single player campaign than other games in the series. Multiplayer also changed by shrinking the 64 versus 64 battles of Battlefield 4 into smaller, objective-based matches.
A better, broader campaign with plot problems
Battlefield never had an amazing single player campaign. BF 4 took a Michael Bay approach by shoving huge fire fights anywhere possible. Hardline is very different with Visceral Games taking the lead and DICE assisting. It’s obvious that one of the main goals was to make the single player campaign compelling.
You play the entire game as Nicholas Mendoza, a Miami drug detective. Giving the main character a name, face, and spoken lines adds a lot of depth to previously silent protagonist of BF 4. The supporting cast is also fleshed out really well. Hardline’s cast consists of actors like Nicholas Gonzalez as Mendoza and Kelly Hu as Khai Minh Dao, his partner.
Instead of just using their voices, the cast had facial scans and what looks like motion capture to add realism to cutscenes. It makes Hardlines’ fictional Miami a lot more believable. There are some issues with audio and video sync later in the campaign, but the actors’ performances really help to sell the plot.
The campaign is broken down into ten episodes. It plays exactly like a mini-series with previews and recaps of episodes. While the overall story is interesting, there are a lot of missteps. Important characters in the beginning are set to the side and relationships between characters don’t make sense. There is also a lot story not even explained other than a couple lines. The single player campaign is fun, but there’s a lot of time spent listening to conversations. The length of individual episodes varies and what Electronic Arts considers gameplay could be simply driving toward a location.
You’re given a phone scanner early and can locate evidence hidden in levels. Collecting evidence unlocks new weapons, which are extremely necessary towards the end of the campaign. Picking up weapons also unlocks them, but the selection is small. You gain experience for completing levels and finding evidence.
Since Mendoza is a cop, Visceral added the ability to arrest criminals. You can arrest any criminal, but there are more valuable criminals with warrants that you find by scanning enemies in different areas. If you can arrest them, you earn a huge experience point boost.
One problem with arresting criminals is the takedown animation is long and gets repetitive. Another annoying aspect is finding all the evidence. You can skip it if you want, but unlocking new weapons and attachments is related to how difficult the end of the campaign will be. New gadgets like the grappling hook and zipline are introduced, but after a couple levels, you don’t need them again. It’s like Battlefield Hardline wanted to include all these little things in the campaign but never found a way to keep them relevant.
In the end, I liked the single player campaign. It did get frustrating at times, especially considering you can’t throw grenades but enemies can. The plot is kind of stupid, but cop drama stupid so it’s forgivable. The episode format fits the story well, but it’s clear that the plot needed another five episodes to fully explain the holes it created.
I loved playing Battlefield 4’s multiplayer in the 64 versus 64 matches. Hardline doesn’t have anything close but for the different modes, it makes sense. The maps are smaller and condensed, but there’s a lot more room for exploration and strategy. Again, not everything is a hit and there are some misses.
There are four classes: Operator, Mechanic, Enforcer, and Professional. Operator is the assault class, Enforcer is the support, and Professional is the sniper and recon. There are two upgrade paths: one is earning experience points and the other for earning money. Experience points don’t really do much and money is used to buy new class-specific weapons and gadgets. So even though you earn levels, you only need money to unlock the better weapons. Attachments are unlocked based off kill numbers, so to get new sights or grips, you need to kill a specific number of enemies. Once these unlock, then you need to buy the attachment.
I mainly play big map matches like Heist, Blood Money, or Hotwire with conquest and team deathmatch as breaks. Heist a is cops versus criminals mode where cops have to protect two packages and criminals need to steal and transport them to different drop off points. It’s the main multiplayer mode. Depending on the map you might be in the desert or inside a downtown city. Heist is a frantic back-and-forth battle that requires a lot of teamwork on both sides. Cops can win if they deplete all of the criminals respawn points.
Blood Money requires both sides to collect money from a central point and deposit it in their own vault. You can also steal money from the opposing sides’ vault to lower their amount too. Blood Money is a lot of fun, but has a problem with campers who simply sit and wait for pickups.
Hotwire is probably the weakest of the big map modes. You have to get different vehicles on the map and drive them at full speed to gain points. You can ride motorcycles, muscle cars, and even a semi dragging a fuel tank. The problem is that if you die and respawn, the objectives are always moving. Getting back into a vehicle might require you to camp at a specific location. It’s fun if you’re in a car, but kind of boring otherwise.
There are smaller modes like Rescue, a five-on-five hostage rescue game featuring a three minute timer and only one life for each player. Teamwork is the only way to really succeed because the wrong plan of attack can wipe out everyone quickly. Crosshair is another five-on-five mode where cops have to escort a VIP witness to an extraction point and criminals have to kill them. This mode also only gives you one life.
Battlefield Hardline includes conquest and team deathmatch, but in smaller forms. There are small and large conquest modes, but they don’t have the feel of BF4’s huge maps and this can lead to a lot of frustration. Since a lot of maps take place in houses, you may only get a couple steps before dying because there are six other directions people can fire from. There definitely needs to be a balance patch for multiplayer because there are definitely some hit detection issues and some weapons are overpowered.
But considering the chances EA took with Hardline, the game’s different modes give players more choices. The different modes cater to different play styles and the upgrade system leaves everything to the player.
You still earn Battlepacks by leveling up. Different prizes are boosts which can add different percentage boosts for experience, weapon paint jobs, or patches to customize your avatar. It’s not as good as weapon unlocks, but does give you a way to create your own personal multiplayer appearance.
Successful in trying something new
Battlefield Hardline shrank the massive scale of Battlefield 4 into two things: a concise story driven single player campaign and an intense multiplayer experience. Visceral definitely created an interesting plot for the campaign, even with its plot holes. It feels like a cop drama, but needed more polish.
The multiplayer works. The new cash upgrade system works a lot better for customization, but some of the modes need tweaks to make them more fun. Shrinking the number of players was smart, but I miss the massive scale fights that Battlefield 4 had.
Although Hardline is a tangent from the main series, Electronic Arts and Visceral Games experiment was a success in releasing a different Battlefield experience.
Review copy purchased for PlayStation 4
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