Battlefield: Hardline Review

battlefield-hardline-box-art-001Battlefield: Hardline is the latest game in the Battlefield franchise. The spin-off sees players take on the role of a cop turned criminal in the games included campaign mode, or as a cop or robber in the games included multiplayer component. Hardline was developed by Visceral Games, alongside the series’ veterans DICE, and still retains the hallmark Battlefield experience.

Battlefield: Hardlines singleplayer campaign tells the story of a police detective named Nick Mendoza as he goes from an honourable police officer into a wanted escaped convict after an investigation against corruption and drug trafficking goes wrong. The story itself has a kind of Law & Order vibe to it, but with a more badass look and feel. It also has an interesting supporting cast that help to push the game story by keeping the player engaged enough to care about whats happening in the story.

The game has 12 storyline missions and spends the first few dealing with Nick Mendoza’s life as a police officer in LA, alongside his partner Khai Minh Dao, as they take on a criminal investigation into certain drug dealers and cartels. However, the game starts to hint at possible corruption from within the force itself, with the hints getting more and more interesting as they come up. It is eventually revealed that key officers are definitely corrupt and participating in drug trafficking themselves. After getting in too deep, Mendoza is soon framed and gets arrested.

The second half of the game focuses on Mendozas new life as a prison escapee. In this new life, he teams up with his old partner, Khai, as well as some rather interesting criminals in order to get back at his squad for setting him up to take the fall for their own illegal actions. Since his time in lockup, the world has changed and LA is pretty much run by his old police chief. The story from this point takes a rather interesting turn, and the new direction in Mendozas life brings a new and engaging feel to the game. It changes from a police drama, to something that feels more like a heist movie.

What I really enjoyed about the Battlefield: Hardline story was that it felt like a legit police drama TV series that had been repackaged as a video game. The majority of the story was told through pre-rendered cutscenes, which is normally something that irks me to no end, but the storytelling was actually pretty good this time so it was kind of okay. Luckily the story does progress into in-engine storytelling while the player is playing, which feels much better. However, there are a couple of missions where the story does drag along and gets incredibly tedious, like in the mission where Khai and Mendoza are sweeping a swamp for drugs. That really big swamp.

Visually speaking, the city of LA in Battlefield: Hardline looks amazing on Ultra detail. This is especially true at night, but the game is still amazing to look at even in the day. What kind of ruins this great attention to detail is that some of the settings are a bit generic for some missions. For example, an entire level is spent in a swamp. Another is spent in a couple of warehouses. Fortunately, there are a bunch of levels with some interesting set-pieces, like when you go to a privately owned airbase filled with military level equipment. Another interesting level is the one where you break into a corporate building to reach the top floor to break into a safe.

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I quite enjoyed the attention to detail on character models in the game. However, during the story, the models seemed to have that uncanny valley effect which was a bit uncomfortable for a short while. I did manage to get over the effect by noticing the imperfections in the models, but until then it was very strange. I don’t know if you can say the developers did a good job on the models to have produced the effect, or if they did a poor job by producing the effect, but it was enjoyable that the models were reaching a level of realism that is infrequently seen in video games.

On the multiplayer side of the horizon, Battlefield: Hardline is an interesting mix of regular Battlefield and Cops & Robbers. The game has taken away the military aesthetic of the standard Battlefield games and has replaced them with a team of cops and a team of criminals. Hardline has also replaced military vehicles with equipment more readily available to police forces, such as cars, helicopters and armoured vehicles. However, outside of the skin change, it’s still a Battlefield game.

The biggest difference between Hardline and, say, Battlefield 4, is that the gamemodes outside of Conquest are pretty different. Battlefield: Hardline comes with a few new game modes, such as Heist, Hotwire, Blood Money, Crosshair, and Rescue. Returning from previous Battlefield games are: Conquest (Large, Small) and Team Deathmatch. The new gamemodes are pretty in-theme with the games scenario, with each gametype setup for players to battle over sums of cash, or stealing cars and the like.

In both Heist and Blood Money, players are required to steal money from a pile of cash usually around the middle of the map. For Heist, players will be required to drop bags of cash into designated zones for pickup as either evidence if they’re a cop, or to steal if they’re a criminal. Being killed will get the player carrying the bag to drop it, and the cop team can return it by camping within a zone surrounding the bag as a recovery mechanic. I found that in Heist, the opening moments were the most critical to the game, as controlling the criminals movements to the drop points was more crucial than camping the cash room where players could simply be grenaded to death.

Blood Money is a bit different in that players will be stealing cash from a pile by slowly loading it up into a bag and then they will have to run it back to their bases. What makes Blood Money interesting is that players can also steal money from the opposing teams base, as well as by killing enemy players carrying the cash. One effective strategy that I worked out in Blood Money was to steal the opposing teams cash and then suicide by running out of the map for too long. This would forever remove the cash from the game, hindering the opposing team.

Crosshair is probably the gametype that I played the least out of all the gametypes in Battlefield: Hardline. It’s a game that has two teams of active players with one life each that have to hunt down and kill the opposing teams VIP player. In general, not many players play this gametype so getting into a match is hard, but when you do get into a match, they’re generally short as one life each doesn’t last too long. The rounds last even less time when you have a VIP on your team and they run out in front of the group and get killed at about 10 seconds into the match. What makes this particular gametype not as fun is that the game often starts before you’ve completely loaded in, which means you’re sitting on the bench until the match is over (and if you load the next map in time).

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In my experience, the best gametype that isn’t Conquest is Hotwire. In Hotwire, players are tasked with controlling marked cars to increase a timer to signify the end of the match. The more marked cars your team controls while driving, the faster your teams timer will travel. What makes this gametype fun is that it is essentially high-speed chases the video game. More often than not, you’ll see players jumping into cars to try and run the marked cars off the map, or destroy them with gunfire. I found the best strategy in Hotwire was to forgo the driving and to simply jump in a helicopter and shoot at anything not on your team. With a decent pilot, you can grab a crap-tonne of points and level up your soldier really fast.

One of the things that is interesting about Hardline is in its player advancement system. In previous Battlefield games players would receive new gear just for simply leveling up their chosen class. In Hardline it’s a bit different because players also require a certain amount of cash to buy weapons, as well as useable items. Players can even buy new cars for their cops and criminal loadouts. These cars are actually pretty cool because you can use some of them as portable inventories for weapons like RPG’s and the like for a bit more flexibility on the battlefield.

I actually liked this cash system, and I also really liked that some gametypes affect the totals that players receive directly by playing the objectives. For example, in Blood Money, players get cash added directly to their player cash accounts for collecting money from the pile. It’s pretty cool. The only downside to the system is that you actually need to save up money for the items that you want. However, it’s flexible in that you can also buy items that you need to win on a particular match. For example, I was playing a small Conquest on the map The Block and we were pushed back into our base while the cops held the entire map. I came up with a strategy to use ziplines to push through the enemies. Unfortunately for some reason you cant climb onto the roof of the house in the criminal spawn point via grappling hook for some strange and nonexistent reason, but the point is that I had a plan and I could pay for it to happen.

One of the things that bugged me about the entire Battlefield: Hardline package is that it’s a game with a great soundtrack hidden away inside of itself. The majority of the game you’ll be spending listening to the quietness of the air around the player which is odd considering there are some pretty good songs hiding in the games files. These bits of music can only be listened to whilst the player is driving a car in the game, and considering that the single player campaign has very little driving in it, this means that the multiplayer is where you’ll be listening to the great soundtrack. Unfortunately, in multiplayer, being in a car makes you a target to be blown up every thirty seconds. Goodluck listening to that radio. The loading screens have some pretty cool music though, as does the storyline cutscenes.

Overall, Battlefield: Hardline is a pretty solid Battlefield spin-off that does more right than wrong. Unfortunately the wrong it gets wrong is pretty wrong, like that swamp level. That was a terrible idea. However, the storyline itself was incredibly gripping and had me hooked the entire time while the Multiplayer is a pretty good take on the cops vs. robbers theme. It’s looking like the spin-off Battlefield games are the ones to look forward to.

Rating: 10-2 /10

Battlefield: Hardline is published by EA and developed by Visceral Games and DICE. This review is based on the PC version of the game and was supplied by EA Australia for the purposes of review. You can buy Battlefield: Hardline on the Origin store for $89.99 for the Deluxe Edition.

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