Review: BattleField: Hardline

In this joint review Andrew and Tim compare their varying optinion on different aspects of Battlefield: Hardline. Andrew analyses the single player mode whilst Tim focuses on the online multiplayer.

 

 

Andrew – Single Player – 3.5/10

When the decision to introduce the world of cops and robbers to the Battlefield series it felt like a refreshing take on the shooter genre. Developed by the Visceral Games studio (the team behind the great Dead Space series), it felt like this could be a step in a new and exciting direction for the Battlefield series. Unfortunately, what it presented was a series of episodes that have been hobbled by real world ethical issues.

In an attempt to step away from the military shooter genre, Hardline sees players taking up the role of Nick Mendoza, a cop who has been tasked with tackling the rising drug problem in Miami. Through various different missions, Mendoza and his partner Detective Khai Minh Dao, are tasked with dealing with crooked cops and some very compliant criminals. In a bid to try and sidestep some ethical issues, the developers have implemented a system where you’re rewarded for arresting an enemy rather than just shooting them down in cold blood. It’s a novel idea that quickly unravels as you progress from a suburban environment to a remote swamp land.

To arrest someone, all it takes is to hold your badge up, keep your gun trained on them and then slap handcuffs on them from your seemingly infinite supply. You can lure enemies by throwing a bullet shell from behind cover which creates a sound to entice the enemy to investigate it. The arresting of enemies becomes problematic when other enemies stumble upon their incapacitated friends. Some levels have alarms equipped which can be sounded by an enemy when you are spotted, but enemies never sound an alarm when they spot their handcuffed friends. Instead of removing their handcuffs, they mostly just comment on their friend being arrested and continue on their scripted path.

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Enemies are mostly compliant when being arrested, regardless of where they are situated. In one chapter, Mendoza and Khai head off to find drug drops in a swamp. Part of this endeavour means progressing through areas and arresting enemies which get left for someone to collect. There are two main issues here; the first is that this is an “off the book” operation so who will come and collect these steadily increasing piles of arrested crooks? The fact that these are criminals protecting huge stockpiles of drugs complicates things further. Why would they not just shoot these two snooping cops and be done with them, rather than compliantly letting themselves get arrested in the middle of an alligator infested swamp?

In the second half of Hardline, Mendoza finds himself on the other side of the law battling the police at their own game. Yet, even though Mendoza has now become a criminal, he is still bizarrely able to arrest people. In one of the stupider moments on the game, Mendoza finds himself captured by some crazy gun running rednecks. Upon breaking out of his cell, he slips back into cop mode – even though at this stage he is well and truly not a cop – and once again manages to arrest some very compliant criminals. It’s moments like these that show that Hardline is a game that bends to its own mechanics rather than the mechanics bending for the story. I thought that at this point I would be challenged by some very difficult enemies, but instead they were overly compliant even though moments earlier they were quite happy to shoot you dead.

It’s this bizarre decision to have the police be the all respected people they should be, when you have criminals that seemingly would be quite happy to defend themselves in other situations just lay their weapons down and submit. But what of the other elements of the game? Points are rewarded for arresting enemies or gathering evidence, where if an enemy is killed no points are rewarded. This is another bizarre element as the game encourages non-lethal takedowns, yet rewards the player with more weapons. Unlike previous Battlefield campaigns, the weapons unlocked in single player aren’t unlocked in the multiplayer. Instead, you are rewarded with a battlepack, an item which plays heavily into the way that the multiplayer component of Battlefield has evolved over the years.

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There is a touchy issue surrounding the increasingly militarised police force in America at the moment and it feels like a subject the developers are tippy toeing around. I’m unsure why they simply didn’t change the police to be part of SWAT or a different arm of the law that would allow for the shooting of enemies. Possibly it’s the developers wanting to avoid creating further discussion regarding real world online bullies “SWAT-ing” people. Either way, it feels like Hardline is holding back from being what it truly is, and that’s a first person shooter. It tries to straddle being a safe police investigation story whilst also embracing its shooter origins, and it fails dismally.

Evidence can be collected through each level using a Batman style scanning device that allows for detection of enemies and evidence in the area. It’s Hardline’s version of the Battlefield series spotting device, and it fits in nicely here. The ludicrous plot is shown through unskippable cutscenes as well as the collected evidence which, when gathered, can be put together to complete a case file. It’s not a necessity to complete the case files so, logically, Mendoza is a pretty terrible police officer as he doesn’t even do half of what his job entails.

It’s not all bad though as there are some elements that work. As expected, the shooting works wonderfully and the weapons have great impact. It’s long been the case that the single player element of the Battlefield games have been the demo mode of multiplayer section, and Hardline is no different. The characters here appear well fleshed out but are disserviced by a ludicrous plot and illogical game elements. Khai is a great three dimensional female character and Mendoza is not an entirely terrible protagonist.

The single player campaign is seriously lacking adding another step backwards for the campaign element of the series.There was hope that Hardline could deliver a worthwhile combined multiplayer and single player package, but instead this sits comfortably alongside the lacklustre Battlefield 3 & 4 campaigns. EA need to deliver another Battlefield: Bad Company style campaign or do away with the campaign in the Battlefield series completely. Avoid and skip directly to the multiplayer.

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Tim – Multiplayer – 5/10

I’ve been a huge fan of the  Battlefield series multiplayer for a long time. I enjoyed the game changing features that the Bad Company franchise introduced and even got used to the dulled down destruction in 3 and 4. I even pushed through the rubber banding and slew of other issues that were present for the best part of a year in Battlefield 4. Despite all this, I just can’t bring myself to play large amounts of Hardline’s multiplayer. I’ve tried many times but there just doesn’t seem to be that sense of progression that kept me coming back for more in the other Battlefield games. But before I digress, let me explain some of the features of Hardline.

Battlefield: Hardline sticks to the series’ tried and true formulas in some ways. It’s still a class based shooter, with some slight changes to the series’ “norm”. One of the main changes I noticed was that the Mechanic (Engineer) class has no rocket launcher. Instead you get stuck with a poor grenade launcher that barely damages vehicles meaning you must locate proper rocket launchers throughout the map. The Enforcer (Support) class is one that I feel has been tinkered a little too far. Gone is the ability to lay suppressing fire as you’re stuck with either a shotgun or a battle rifle that kicks like a Donkey. While I appreciate that they are trying to set themselves apart I feel like the classes aren’t well balanced and I found myself sticking with one class This is different to Battlefield 4 where I was more than happy to play them all when the situation called for it.

The progression system is probably the biggest thing they’ve tweaked, and also the worst change they made. All weapons are unlocked from the start and it’s just a matter of earning cash to buy them. To make matters worse  each team (Cop or Crooks) has weapon variants specific to them. So, if you want to replace the stock sniper rifle with something better, be prepared to fork out twice – once for cops and again for crooks. That’s not even the worst thing; the battlepacks seem considerably worse in Hardline. I’ve had a decent amount of gold, silver and bronze packs and it feels like the drop rates for Battlelog emblems has massively increased. This means the only half decent items are camo and tokens to unlock attachments for guns. Boosts are now activated per class and there are now a range to choose from. From boosts to your kill points to boosts for your assist points be prepared to find an overwhelming amount of boosts in your battlepacks.

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There are some good points to the multiplayer aspect. Hardline comes with a decent amount of game modes and, at this stage, you can still find servers hosting most game types. Rush has been revamped as Heist, where the criminals must break into an area and deliver the loot to drop points. If they get killed while the getaway chopper is waiting the drop zone can change, which keeps the game moving and prevents camping fairly nicely. Rescue sees two teams of 5 fight over a few hostages with no respawns. This sounds cool but the few matches I was able to find played more like a team deathmatch than a squad based strategic game mode. Crossfire is another 5v5 matchup with one team trying to escort a player controlled VIP to one of two safe zones. The games I played were actually pretty fun, but it can be hard to find a match. Hotwire is probably the most promoted and it sounded cool – but ended up being one of the more boring game modes. It’s like a match of conquest but instead of taking and holding points on a map, you steal marked cars and drive them around to earn capture points. While this may sound like fun, it pretty much boils down to you spending most of your time being a passenger with nothing to do.

I think the best addition is Blood Money. In Blood Money there’s a stash of cash in the middle of the map and both teams initially rush to steal and deliver as much as they can back to their base. Once the match has progressed a little you find your vault being raided by the other team so you have to manage defence while still aquiring new cash. This has been the best of the new game modes as I found, if you’re not careful and protecting your vault, you can go from a big lead to losingfairly quickly.

While the glitches that plagued Battlefield 4 seem to have been worked out of Hardline, it takes too many steps in the wrong direction for it to be an enjoyable experience. The lag seems minimal and the hit boxes seem pretty good, but it’s the lack of progression and unlocks that prevent me from really giving Hardline any longevity. With each class having around 5 main guns to choose from and only a handful of gadgets to unlock, there’s no underlying reason to keep going back.

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Good

  • Some creative new game modes (Tim)
  • Improved core mechanics (Tim)
  • Good "arrest system" idea (Andrew)
  • Good female lead (Andrew)
  • Good shooting mechanics (Andrew)

Bad

  • Severe lack of unlocks (Tim)
  • Unbalanced classes (Tim)
  • Illogical and ludicrous plot (Andrew)
  • Tiptoes too much around ethical issues
5.3

Average

Andrew is a bearded film loving idiot who runs The A & B Film Podcast with his wife as well as talks about games every so often. Sometimes he knows stuff, most of the time he’s an idiot. Tim is a huge FPS and RPG fan so that’s where his reviewing biases lie. He plays a bit of competitive online shooters but also really enjoys playing co op.

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