Battlefield fans have had a lot to worry about since the announcement of Battlefield Hardline. The botched online servers for Battlefield 4, EA handing over the development duties to a team best known for working on 3rd-person horror games, and a strange new cops vs. robbers focus gave them ample reason to worry. After spending a hefty amount of time with this new take on the long-standing FPS series, I can firmly state that there is nothing to fear. Battlefield Hardline does right by its namesake and provides a new experience that’ll likely have you hooked.
Visceral Games knows a thing or two when it comes to crafting meaningful single-player stories. Their experience with that aspect of AAA-games is evident here. You’ll step into the boots of a respected police officer stationed in Miami, Florida. If you’ve watched any of the countless crime dramas floating on TV, you’ll encounter all the familiar elements in this campaign. The expected happens – crooked cops make their intentions known, dangerous drug dealers try to kill you, shady informants look to aid you and an eventual road to redemption for your clean protagonist follows. In a cool nod to the game’s TV inspirations, starting or leaving a chapter triggers a teaser for what will happen in the next section, making each segment feel like its one episode. The presence of recognizable stars adds to this effect, but it also lends more gravity to the game’s narrative. The fact that Hardline features amazing visuals only sweetens the pot, and helps this intense story shine even brighter.
What makes the main campaign such a great thrill ride is how you can approach it. Players have the option to go in guns blazing, which will usually end in a game over, but stealth-focused players will get to explore the open-ended sections of each episode. Examining enemies and evidence with your scanner lets you set up a proper game plan and discover secrets, and shutting off alarms and arresting thugs and higher profile criminals with warrants will give you a major sense of accomplishment. Tackling each episode this way unlocks more gear and armaments for the multiplayer mode, so there’s a lot to gain from playing smarter. It’s these elements that separate Battlefield Hardline from the typically shallow fare that has become commonplace in military shooters of late.
While the main campaign is miles better than Battlefield 4’s, there’s only one issue I have with it: it’s a bit too brief. You can run through all the episodes in just a few hours (four or less), which is a disappointment. There are so many awesome moments throughout, but it comes to an end before I’d had my fill. I had a good amount of fun participating in intense shootouts at a massive mansion and making a getaway in a sweet ride, but it felt like a punch in the gut to have that fun taken away from me so early.
Of course Battlefield is a series that made its name on its multiplayer. In that department Hardline gifts players with five new game modes: Hotwire, Heist, Blood Money, Crossfire and Rescue. Each of these new multiplayer options shines and does a great deal of work to immerse you in the war between brave cops and hard-nosed criminals. Hotwire is one of the best new modes in the game, thanks to its use of the new vehicles and a strong focus on teamwork. Just imagine conquest mode with tons of new cars and you’ll understand why diehard fans of the series will appreciate this new take.
The suite of multiplayer options is staggering. Nine new maps have been installed, 51 weapons are available and 27 new vehicles are ready to be taken for a spin. The progression system in this iteration rewards constant teamwork thanks to its Reputation System, plus the cash you earn during matches comes in abundance. The mayhem that erupts during each mode has the potential to keep players occupied for months on end. The fact that the online servers work so well gives us confidence that we won’t encounter the issues that plagued Battlefield 4.
Battlefield Hardline is tale of two halves – the single player mode is awesome but shorter than desired. But the multiplayer modes provide hours of replay value and offer the chance for some amazing emergent gameplay moments with your online buddies in tow. Once you speed through the single player campaign, the real meat of the game opens up. Only then will you truly experience the best of what this FPS has to offer.
Images: Electronic Arts, Visceral Games