It's a well-known fact that EA have wanted to combat Activision's Call of Duty
for some time, and whilst their flagship franchise does a good job of that, the constraints of DICE being Battlefield
’s sole developer has resulted in a bi-annual release schedule compared their competitor's annual offering.
With the reboot of the Medal of Honor
franchise falling short of the mark, and Battlefield 4
highlighting just how problematic rushing a game to market can be, EA have made a bold decision to allow Visceral Games the chance to establish themselves in the crowded first-person shooter market with the release of Battlefield Hardline
Rather than trying to copy DICE's award-winning formula by creating another military shooter, Visceral have moved the action closer to home as you play out the age old battle of cops vs. robbers, and the result is a very different Battlefield
, but also familiar experience.
The game's campaign sees you play as Nick Mendoza, a recently promoted Miami vice detective who is your standard hard-working, straight-laced cop, as he attempts to end a local drug war and bring the bad guys to justice. Through the first half of the game's ten episodes, he discovers that not all (if any) of his colleagues share his morals, and without spoiling the game's multiple (yet glaringly obvious) plot twists, he winds up on the wrong side of the law himself and is forced to take action into his own hands.
Presented in the form of an episodic TV show - complete with recaps and teasers that frame each mission, and a countdown to the next episode similar to those found on Netflix - the story plays on just about every cop show cliche imaginable, and whilst it won't win any awards for its narrative, the well-voiced and interesting cast of characters and set pieces keep your attention throughout.
Nick Mendoza and his partner.
Early in the campaign you are introduced to two new additions to the Battlefield
series in the form of stealth and non-violent takedowns, which are both are a refreshing change to the tired formula that made both Battlefield 3
and Battlefield 4
’s campaigns so forgettable.
Unlike most games where the bad guys have no respect for the law, Hardline
allows you to creep up on up to three enemies at once, before ordering them to freeze with a flash of your police badge. As they drop their weapons and raise their arms in surrender, you can then arrest them… or shoot them if you wish. If you take too long to put them in handcuffs, move your gaze from one of them, or get spotted whilst making the arrest, the perps will reach back for their guns and shoot you just as quickly as they gave up.
Generally speaking, staying in stealth and arresting the bad guys is the better option, as it will earn you more points which will in turn unlock new weapons and gadgets. This is one of the game’s stranger aspects as mastering stealth will award you with bigger and noisier guns to play with, whilst playing the game as a straight shooter will mean you won’t get the better weapons as quickly.
The stealth system works well, although it certainly has its flaws, and works by allowing you to scan enemy positions before entering the action. Once scanned, enemies will appear on your HUD's mini-map and will indicate their area of vision that you need to avoid in order to remain undetected.
To say that the AI are stupid is an understatement, and once you get the hang of things, you’ll find it easy to systematically work your way from enemy to enemy as they fail to notice you take someone down within two feet of them, or see you walk directly in front of them but just out of their vision indicator, even on the hardest difficulties.
Generally speaking staying in stealth and arresting the bad guys is the better option
The advantage of the new stealth approach is a much less linear feel to the game’s missions than are found in your standard first-person shooter. Sure, you’re still basically being forced to go from point A to B, but there are now multiple points of entry to buildings and enemy positions. On occasion you can completely bypass confrontation or spend a whole mission without firing a single shot, as you have a genuine choice of going in guns blazing or taking the less noticeable approach.
When you are required to make use of your weapons, the gunplay has that familiar Battlefield
feel, although the types of weapons available are more akin to what you’d expect the police or street gangs to carry than a soldier.
As with most games, Hardline
’s episodes come complete with various collectibles that need to be found, but thankfully they actually make sense to the context of the story, and are easy enough to find with the help of your scanner. These collectibles come in the form of evidence which when scanned will help to piece together cases, and also warrants which label bad guys you can scan and identify. If you make an arrest rather than killing them, they will reward you will a nice amount of points towards new unlocks.
Battlefield Freeze! Police!
is mostly known for its well-established multiplayer formula, and whilst it would have been easy for Visceral to simply reskin and churn out what everyone knows works, they have taken the bold step to make their own stamp on the game, and thankfully the majority of it works very well.
The first obvious alteration is the removal of jets and tanks, and whilst this may have put off some of the more hardcore Battlefield
fans, for the majority of us they’ll quickly be forgotten. In their place are standard, everyday vehicles that help tie the overall concept together nicely.
The overall experience feels faster and more lighthearted than other Battlefield
’s, and there are some comedy moments to be found as you flip the bird to an enemy before shooting them in the face, or hearing the sound of “Woop! Woop! That’s the sound of da police” gradually approaching before a car full of enemies hanging out of the window mows you down.
For those of you looking for a more traditional Battlefield
experience, Conquest and Team Deathmatch return from previous versions of the game, but the remaining modes are completely new to Hardline
Woop! Woop! That’s the sound of da police
The signature multiplayer mode is Hotwire, which replaces the standard capture points found in Conquest with vehicles that need to be driven at speed in order to earn points for you team. It’s a frantically paced mode which will see you having to both attack and defend at the same time as the game world changes by the second around you. One minute you can be securing a vehicle with your teammates hanging out of the window shooting pursuers, and then next you can be on the tail of another vehicle trying to destroy it.
Other game modes seem to take what Battlefield
is known for and do exactly the opposite. Small 5 v 5 game modes such as Rescue and Crosshair which give you one life to get the job done. Matches can quite literally be over in seconds if you don’t work as a team.
Aside from the big changes that Visceral have added, other less noticeable changes also help to keep the pace of the game. You can now take ammo and med kits directly from allies who are carry them by simply hitting X when nearby, interrogations allow you to take down an enemy from behind and reveal the location of other enemies on the map. Furthermore, unlocking new weapons and attachments has been simplified to allow you to purchase them with in-game money that is rewarded for playing.
The nine maps that shipped with the game may not sound like a lot, but the locations vary considerably from streets with lots of close quarters combat, to large open swamps with sniping positions in every bush.
Most importantly, the issues that seem to hamper each Battlefield
release, especially those found in Battlefield 4
, have thankfully not returned. I didn’t experience any issues with matchmaking, and regularly found a game within a few seconds of searching.
Multiplayer is fast-paced and frantic!
The game's achievements for the main part shouldn't take too long to earn, with the majority found in the game's single player campaign. A single playthrough of the story can easily gain you around 700G in seven or so hours, although to unlock all of the single player achievements you will be forced to play through the story twice, with Hardline difficulty
only becoming unlocked once you complete the game on at least Officer difficulty.
Two of the three available multiplayer achievements are quite quick to unlock, but the final one
will require some serious online play in order to unlock the guns required for the achievement.
is easily the most complete game in the franchise since Battlefield: Bad Company 2
's release five years ago. The story makes you actually care about the characters and introduces some much-needed new gameplay with the addition of stealth and non-violent takedowns. It’s not the strongest story you’ll see, but the positives far outweigh any negatives that the stupid AI and cliched story provides.
The multiplayer is genuinely refreshing, and whilst veterans of the franchise may notice the missing game modes and vehicular combat that they are used to, the majority of gamers will find the fast-paced and amusing action to be fun-filled.
Visceral’s first attempt at taking control of the Battlefield
series can only be seen as a success, and whilst it maintains the unique feel of the series, they’ve added a fresh and new twist to every aspect. Just as Forza Horizon
’s differences perfectly compliment Forza Motorsport
, EA may have finally found a winning combination to compete with Call of Duty
- Best Battlefield campaign since Bad Company 2
- Fun new multiplayer game modes
- Fast-paced multiplayer mayhem
- Stupid AI
- Smaller multiplayer maps
The review spent approx. 25 hours playing through the game's single player campaign once and all of the available multiplayer game modes, earning 31 of the available 40 achievements. This Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher.