By Gerard Campbell @gamejunkieNZ
Battlefield games have never been played for their campaigns and the same can be said of the latest edition to the series, Hardline, which is entertaining but isn’t highly memorable.
Under the new stewardship of Visceral, the studio behind the game Dead Space, Hardline takes a dramatic departure from the previous entrants in the series by having players control young Miami police detective Nick Mendoza, who finds himself unwittingly caught up in departmental corruption involving drug smuggling. After being framed by those he thought were his colleagues, he embarks on a mission to put things right.
Hardline has a real TV crime series feel to it with each episode having a “Previously on Battlefield Hardline” sequence. It’s a nice touch but the campaign itself is a pretty formulaic affair where you’ll move from sequence to sequence uncovering the conspiracies.
Strangely, while each environment in the campaign seems open for exploration it’s not really: You’ll find a bizarre “Return to the crime scene” message will pop-up on the screen if you step outside the perimeters of the game play area. Nowhere was this more evident in a mission where Mendoza had to escape a prison bus (he’d been jailed for three years after being framed by his cop buddies) and reach a rendezvous point while avoiding torch-holding cops. The on-screen mini-map clearly showed the defined game play area: Step outside those invisible boundaries and the screen fills with static and you receive the message that you have 10 seconds to return to the crime scene. It really broke the immersion for me.
Hardline also seems to want players to play more stealthy too, by encouraging you to flash your police badge at bad guys, arresting them, then running-and-gunning because you’ll earn more Expert points, the game’s currency, which can be used to upgrade equipment and the like. It makes for slower game play which is nice – and the enemies comically display floating “ZZZZs” above their head – but frankly, it gets a little tiresome after a while as so many of the enemies are so dim that they don’t even notice you arresting their friend who is just a few feet away from them. You can toss empty shell casings (Mendoza clearly has those in abundance) to attract an enemies attention but I found I rarely had to do it.
Campaign-wise, Hardline is functional without being stunning but it is a nice tangent from the traditional military-based Battlefield story lines and perhaps the most interesting aspect of the campaign are the ‘warrants’, which plops at least one enemy who is wanted for other crimes. Arrest him and you earn a hefty amount of Expert points, which but if I had one request to EA, though, it would be to green light a sequel to the outstanding Battlefield Bad Company 2. Now that was a Battlefield single-player campaign done right. What’s the likelihood, EA?
In terms of multiplayer, which is why most gamers play Battlefield, it’s again the cops vs robbers theme but in more confined arenas than you found in BF4 and with modes like ‘Hotwire’, where you have to steal opponents vehicles then drive them around the map as fast as you can earning tickets, which in turn gives you more cash to spend on upgrades.
Hardline’s ‘MP’ mode is going for a more fast-paced experience, hence the more confined and smaller maps. Another game mode is called ‘Rescue’ where a team of five SWAT members must rescue hostages from five bad guys (Rescue is a competitive 5 vs 5 mode). There’s a twist, though: There are no respawns so once you’re dead, that’s it until the next round.
Don’t think of Battlefield Hardline as Battlefield 5- because it isn’t. This feels like a game to fill in the time until that one arrives but Visceral have done an OK job here without it being spectacular: The MP is entertaining enough and the single player campaign is OK but not memorable.
Whether that’s enough to satisfy hardcore BF4 fans, though, I’m not sure.
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