Game - Battlefield Hardine
Release Date - March 17th, 2015
Developer - Visceral Games
Publisher - EA
Genre - FPS
Platforms - Xbox One, 360, PS3, PS4 and PC
Battlefield Hardline has been marking new ground in the Battlefield franchise since its announcement early last year. Moving from the classic military installment to a law enforcement based one, Hardline is based around a cop drama tv show with its episodic structure in the single player campaign. Headlined by Nick Mendoza, a detective fresh off a drug bust that went bad and his new found partner Detective Dao, a cop who's rogue like structure and complete lack of any organization shows why she shouldn't be a cop after all, Hardline's campaign takes us from Miami to L.A. and back again over the course of a three year time frame. The Police Captain, played by Benito Martinez (The Shield's Captain Aceveda) puts the two together in an effort to take down a new drug ring as both detectives have experience with the potential suspects from their previous investigations.
This is where it starts. After a brief prologue that shows off the new mechanics, the campaign structure begins. If you've ever seen a cop tv drama, and who hasn't?, you'll notice that a big part of the show is the back and forth banter and dialogue between the partners while driving in their vehicle. Some of this can be boring and out of touch for the most part being that the conversations being had are completely unrealistic and would never occur in a real life police car between partners (who knows better than us, after all?). Battlefield Hardline takes precaution to ensure this does not occur in its campaign structure. Its dialogue strikes a proper balance between everyday life and law enforcement conversation regarding their actual cases that keeps the player realistically involved in the story's progression. The onset of each level, aptly titled episodes, commences with a cinematic scene that dictates how the remainder of the episode will progress. Being law enforcement-centric, we were pleased to see the top level on the scoring hierarchy resulted in arresting criminals rather than seeing the become victims of lead poisoning, especially with the ridiculously misguided attempts at demeaning police officers that is currently ongoing in this country.
In previous Battlefield campaigns, the storyline was linear and "straight ahead" with few tangents to enhance your immersiveness. Of course, being military-centric titles, this was entirely acceptable. Fortunately for Hardline, this has completely changed. Each episode replaces the prerequisite intel that needs to be located throughout the levels ala Call of Duty, for Evidence (makes sense, right?). This evidence displays further information about the ongoing story arc as well as case files on criminals located throughout the levels. Some of these criminals have outstanding warrants that score you more points should they be arrested as opposed to killed. For example, a kill in Hardline earns you 100 points toward your "Expert" level progression system while an arrest is 250. Should you happen to locate evidence and arrest a criminal, you'll be fortunate enough to receive points in the thousands. It's important to note that these are not side quests, but do provide valuable information and enhance the story line present within the campaign itself. Arresting criminals is of course easier than it should be, and for good reason. This is, after all, a game and not a simulator. And since every single encounter in law enforcement is a separate entity in and of itself, there is good reason why there haven't been any "real" police simulators developed. While traversing the landscape in Hardline, you can activate your scanner with the RB or R1 buttons and tag your enemies in order to track their location in real time. As they walk around, your HUD shows their vision arc with a cone displaying their field of view. Simply by staying out of this field of view, however, doesn't prohibit your detection by the criminals and truly capitulates the stealth factor in Battlefield Hardline. Any rapid movement attracts the attention of the criminals with the telltale "?" over their head as they are attracted to your LKP (last known position).
Arresting criminals can be done by up to groups of three criminals. Should a single group encompass additional criminals, you'll need to resort to the old adage of divide and conquer in order to emerge successful. The LB or L1 button flashes your badge and the criminals immediately drop their weapons and surrender. Yes, there is some amusing factors contained within the fact of surrendering even though you vastly out number, outgun and out armor your enemy. The strategy of Battlefield Hardline, however, is that these are time sensitive maneuvers. Arrests must be made without being observed by another, nearby criminal. You also must make haste and arrest them forthwith with your weapon trained on them as they'll turn on you should too much time elapse. An indicator over the criminals' head increases as they become more enraged with the fact that they are being arrested and appears when you are not focusing on them individually. This means when approaching a group of three or fewer criminals, you must switch your focus back and forth between them so as not have a gunfight ensue and attract reinforcements. Separating the criminals is an engaging and recommended task for strategy in Hardline. In order to do so, you'll toss ammo shells in order to attract the attention of a single criminal at a time. This will allow you to further sneak up on them to effect an arrest. Of course, arrests aren't the only less than lethal takedown option in Hardline. You come fully equipped with a Tazer that is capable of incapacitating the criminals in order for you to progress forward. Criminals taken down in the open attract the attention of additional nearby criminals when detected as well, which you can use to your advantage. There is something in strategically taking down a criminal in order to have their unconscious body attract another criminal, only to have them meet the same fate, that is strangely rewarding. Of course, one does may also use this to their advantage and merely advance past the criminals without detection or arrest as well, which is what Hardline brilliantly captures in its gameplay mechanics.
The main reason for the success of cop show dramas and video games is the intrigue factor. The flashy cars with lights and sirens, the guns, uniforms and let's not forget handcuffs. The reason why people slow down on the highway and clog up traffic for miles just because a cop has a vehicle pulled over. Cops are cool. It's the authority factor, it's psychological. Visceral encompasses this into the gameplay of Battlefield Hardline seamlessly that forces players to attempt multiple attempts at levels. Where is the fun in a Run and Gun attempt through a cop game? The intrigue factor of cops in Hardline keeps the "What happens if I do this?" factor in its single player campaign. At nearly every point in the playthrough, I found myself debating on whether or not to arrest or Taze, sneak past or take down, divide and conquer or approach as a group - and I'm a Cop. As amusing as it may seem, Cops are the most vulnerable to the Cops intrigue factor. Criminals have to be taken down and we get pissed if we only get 99 out of 100 because "How'd we screw up and let that last guy go?" In Hardline, the multiple options present at our disposal in the campaign allows for both strategic and fun factor optimization that allows for multiple playthroughs because of the interactive occurrences that result from your actions. Upon completing an episode, you'll be presented with a menu screen displaying your overall progress and gradel. A Netflix like countdown timer will illustrate how much time remains until the start of the next episode. Should you need to stop your gameplay experience at this time, a neat little treat will await you when you return. Once you turn Hardline back on and load up the next episode, you'll be greeted with a "Last time on Hardline...." recap of the last episode just like when watching your favorite cop drama on tv. Of course, if you play straight through you will not see this scenes as they were removed for the sake of redundancy.
Different gadgets, which have been routintely deligated to multiplayer only, are present in the campaign as well. Ziplines and grappling hooks (some of which bring trophies/achievements with them) are located throughout the campaign of Hardline as well. All of these added to the aforementioned information truly change the Battlefield campaign for the better. It's a welcome addition that Visceral obviously took their time in focusing on. From the new mechanics and gameplay additions to the simple fact that 37 of the 40 trophies/achievements in the game are for the single player portion of the game, Hardline takes a step forward and adds to a franchise that has, for the most part, been multiplayer-centric for the main part of its existence.
Multiplayer isn't absent from Hardline, however. Quite the contrary. Nine maps and seven multiplayer game modes are included with the launch of Battlefield Hardline. Two of the modes; Crosshair and Rescue, are competitive modes. Crosshair is nitty gritty, right down to business action. A three minute time limit ticks down as five criminals square off against five cops and one VIP which is also human controlled. Both teams begin at opposite ends of the map and the cops need to escort the VIP to one of two extraction zones in order to escape. The VIP is free to move on their own but separating from the group almost always means insta-death. Should the VIP reach an extraction zone, the game immediately ends. Similarly, should the VIP be eliminated or the three minute time limit elapse, the game ends. Rescue also pits two teams of cops vs criminals against each other in an effort to have one of two hostages rescued by police. Only one needs to be rescued and fortunately, both are located far enough away from each other in order to avoid the criminals just camping out nearby and wiping out the cops in their rescue attempts. Of course, your standard Team Deathmatch and Conquest modes are back as they are essential to the Battlefield franchise. The Hotwire mode is Hardline's flagship non competitive mode and features cops attempting to repossess vehicles that the criminals are stealing. Kills are not the focal point in this mode, but they do count. In order to earn the most points, you need to remain in a vehicle AND BE MOVING. That last part is key for those who will attempt to just camp in a car at the edge of the map. Most cars, even motorcycles, allow for multiple occupants and a simple click of the right stick allows your player to lean out of the window for a good ole' fashioned car chase fire fight. Of course, teamwork comes into play here more than most game modes especially in slower vehicles. Cargo and police vans are slower by nature, but they are more durable and a knowledgeable team will see a driver, two gunners and a mechanic that continues to repair the van possibly be able to last for a majority of the match, if not all of it and earn massive points. One match I personally went 1 and 5 but took first place with over 8K points.
The remaining modes are Heist and Blood Money. In Heist, each team has to protect or lay siege to a vault in order to secure the bag of cash contained therein. The criminals must run to one of the pre determined extraction zones while the police must strategically surround the vaults in order to box in the criminals and prevent their escape. Blood Money sees each team with their own "vault" on opposites ends of the map with money piles that emerge throughout the game. You must choose whether to protect your own vault, take our the opposing team's vault, or go for a money pile. These piles emerge as enemies or teammates are taken out and drop money in their possession. In this mode, the winner is also determined by the amount of money secured in your vault as opposed to kills. During my playthrough, I found many players confused as to why they were being dominated in the match although the overall kill count was similar for both teams.
This is the beauty of Hardline's multiplayer aspect. It maintains many of the same mechanics while deploying new strategic options that need to be learned in order to properly advance and progress. These strategies differ not just for each map, which is normal, but for each individual game mode. The entire map is up for grabs, and I mean the entire map. Older games even as recent as Battlefield 4 were bound by restrictions of equipment available to the player. In Hardline, there are ziplines and grappling hooks that the player can utilize which open up sections of the map previously unaccessible. For example, in Battlefield 4 if you saw a tractor trailer you may just run right by it most likely. In Hardline, however, you'll need to be aware of its roof as a fellow player may have utilized the grappling hook in order to prone out on top and take you out as you run past. All these pieces of equipment are also unlocked via in game cash earned through play and not by leveling up individual weapons as in past titles. This means that should you choose the Operator loadout with an assault rifle and standard AED gadget, you may change it with in game cash and choose which one of the weapons/gadgets to upgrade as you progress. Weapons, items, patches, etc can all also be sold back for cash as well, although the price you receive isn't entirely that much. It does help, however, when you amass many items and need to make room or discard items no longer in use as you atleast get something for them.
In all, I spent approximately 15 hours in Battlefield Hardline evenly split between the single player campaign and multiplayer portions. Visceral blends both into one game in a way which is surprising considering how different both aspects of the game are. The campaign is entirely single player oriented with options to unlock items for multiplayer and allows for both casual and hardcore fans of the game to emerge enthused by this new take on the franchise due to its multi-faceted gameplay choices you can make. In multiplayer, you're forced to rethink your strategy with each game mode and map you play that you're constantly learning and improving. This is something that players have shown they respect in games as it challenges them intellectually to keep altering their approach to improve. Of course, it isn't necessary to do so. But if you don't, someone else will and overtake you. It's the beauty of the Battlefield franchise which has set it apart from other, similar games in the genre. All of this along with how the light fluctuates on screen is also brillaint. With the destructible environments in Battlefield Hardline, it's easy to forget how the background comes into play. You'll notice that sunlight will emerge with sun rays popping through a newly found bullet hole through a wall. In the single player campaing, the street lights reflect that cloudy glow off of the water puddles in the street. It's minute details like this that can be lost in the action all the while listening to "Woo Woo Thats the sound of the police!" by KRS 1 back from 93'.
What Visceral has added with the cop-centric take in its campaign and newly focused multiplayer aspect, sets Hardline up as a must play game of 2015 and beyond and we strongly implore you to purchase Battlefield Hardline on any system of your choice.