Thursday 26 March 2015

Battlefield: Hardline

I can't really sit here and pretend I'm some kind of fan of Battlefield. I know reviewers out there will tell you they played every game, expansion and DLC, but just being honest here- I haven't. It's not because I think it's a crap series, it isn't, but beyond Battlefield: Bad Company and Battlefield 4, I just haven't played any other entries in the series. For me (along with 99% of the population of the Earth) Battlefield kind of goes side-by-side with Modern Warfare, as both play and come across as franchises being milked to death, with each entry largely looking and playing incredibly similar to the previous one. However, with this latest Battlefield title taking the action out of a war locale and placing it in a modern cops and robbers setting, does it shake up the series enough? Simply put, yes and no.

Developed by Visceral Games and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC comes Battlefield Hardline, a game that plays out as if Visceral Games grabbed both Payday: The Heist, and Battlefield 4, chucked them into a blender and whizzed them into an unusual yet familiar mix. The first noticeable thing about Hardline is the fact that the main campaign doesn't seem like some afterthought, as was certainly the case in Battlefield 4. The series takes the action far away from large scale warfare, and instead places focus on the modern day streets of Miami, and depicts a city that is being swamped by drugs. You take the role of Nick Mendoza, a cop who, alongside his kickass partner Khai Minh Dao, get their hands dirty on the streets during missions that aren't exactly by-the-book. Hardline's story and characters are like something you've seen a thousand times before in episodes of Miami Vice, NYPD Blue and general cop shows. It's got crooks with big guns and bad attitudes, a badass side kick, a police chief that's a real hot head, chase scenes that look like they're right out of a Michael Mann film, and enough plot twists to keep you hooked. It's nothing you won't see in one of the countless cop shows out there, but hey, I thought the 7-8 hour campaign was pretty decent in terms of story.

What I enjoyed most about Hardline was how Visceral Games gives the player the choice of how to approach and take down enemies. As you'd expect, you can just go running in with guns blazing, and though these moments are truly electrifying, I especially loved going down the route of stealth. We're not talking Deus Ex or Thief stealth here, but in Hardline you can sneak up on unsuspecting enemies and either take them down silently, or chance flashing your badge and arresting them. This makes sure that the game isn't just a mindless shooter, though you can certainly go down that route if you want. Regardless, there's no wrong way to play the game, as each of these play-styles have their own rewards in terms of EXP for mastering that particular take on taking out foes. However, the only downside is that every single bad guy instantly turns into a scared puppy at the sight of the player raising their badge. I'm glad these hardened Miami drug lords respect the law, but I kind wanted a bit of a struggle in order to arrest some guys. This kind of leads to some arrests feeling like a hollow victory.

Another great addition to gameplay is the use of vehicles here. Sure, Battlefield has always gone out of its way to utilize vehicles during combat in the series, but with Hardline's modern day setting and its use of regular cars, cop cars and vans during chases feels realer, more exciting and far more dangerous than any Battlefield vehicular altercation I've ever been in. From speeding after a bunch of heavily armed bad guys in a van, trying to take out its tires, ramming it off the road to the brutal Heat-like visceral shoot-out that ultimately follows, these segments had me glued to the screen. This level of intensity also goes hand-in-hand with the weapons used throughout Hardline. Though it's always an expectation of the series, Hardline is filled with a shit load of delicious fire power. From your trusty pistol that you'll always have on you for smaller situations, a shotgun you'll whip out when storming a room full of drug dealers, to heavy rifles like the HCAR when completely outnumbered, Hardline's weapons are a pure joy to unleash, often leading to you completely throwing out the stealth approach. The only downside to the game for me was the fact that, behind the shiny new coat of paint that is its setting, in terms of gunplay it remains very much the same as Battlefield 4. It's not a carbon copy, but it's not exactly a revolution either.

I've never been a huge fan of Battlefield online, but Hardline pretty much takes the basis for the single-player experience and  transplants it into the realm of online gaming. Playing as the cops or the bad guys, multiplayer lets the player play in 5 different game modes. Personally, the two best modes were Crosshair; a mode in which an entire team of criminals must seek out and kill one protected VIP member of the opposition, and Hotwire Mode; a mode which is essentially Capture the Flag, but with cars and vans instead of, well, flags. Needless to say, if you're a fan of previous Battlefield games' multiplayer modes, you'll absolutely love Hardline. If like me you're mostly looking for a single-player experience, I'm surprised to be saying this about a Battlefield game, but yeah, the campaign here isn't an afterthought. It's awesome.

Battlefield Hardline is a nice change up in the series and gets a 4/5.


Denis Murphy

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