With Battlefield: Hardline, mega-publisher Electronic Arts has made a serious departure from the formula of its sandbox military franchise Battlefield. To shake things up, EA turned to Dead Space developer Visceral Games. Hardline marks a departure from the military theme by putting players into a cops and robbers role, and for the first time, this Battlefield game actually features a notable single-player campaign.
While the change might seem a bit strange, EA’s signature military shooter franchise has been unable to topple Activision’s firm grasp on the top spot. The real question is, does Hardline really make the Battlefield franchise better?
Battlefield: Hardline’s single player campaign isn’t terribly long and it’s completely linear. It should take about seven hours before most players see the credits roll. What’s in those seven hours is a pretty standard tale about a young rookie cop full of idealism and getting framed for other cops’ corruption. Having played more than my share of first-person shooters, I was more than a little impressed by the quality of the delivery of Hardline’s narrative. But while the delivery is top notch, the actual plot is fairly familiar, and relies heavily on tropes.
Considering the current political and social environment, and media focus on police brutality, Hardline’s plot might be a little tone-deaf. That being said, I don’t think every video game needs to take the high road with social issues. Films and television certainly don’t. Shooters’ primary gameplay mechanics are particularly prone to narrative exaggeration, and compared to real life they have wholly unrealistic level design. Hardline’s narrative does lean toward caricature, but its delivery is earnest, and the environments are immersive.
As in a summer blockbuster movie, Battlefield: Hardline’s narrative does fall apart once you give some thought to what you’re doing. The strangest paradox is that the game rewards a player’s less-violent stealth prowess with gun upgrades. With all of the other urban warfare gadgets, I guess, they couldn’t think of anything else to offer up as a reward.
Speaking of the gadgets, while the movement and shooting controls are fairly standard, trying to figure out and remember what button I needed to press to flick bullet casings and other Hardline-specific actions was difficult while using a gamepad (Xbox One controller and Logitech gamepad.)
With so much attention given to the development of its single-player campaign, is Battlefield: Hardline really what fans expect from a Battlefield game? Yes and no. Like other Battlefield games, Hardline’s multiplayer is robust, and its 64-player matchmaking is impressive. Besides the new subject matter, some longtime fans will likely be disappointed with the lack of environmental destructibility. There are a handful of set pieces that can be destroyed, changing the map, but you can’t really destroy entire buildings this time. The highlight of Hardline’s multiplayer is easily the bank robbing “Heist” option, but “Hotwire,” “Rescue,” and “Crosshair” are entertaining new multiplayer takes as well.
Battlefield: Hardline borrows a lot from games from other franchises, none more than Grand Theft Auto V. What it doesn’t borrow from GTA is the open world. With a couple of exceptions, everything feels a little constricted. It is also worth noting that I did experience some significant technical issues, including some multiplayer spawning issues, getting permanently stuck between set pieces, and game crashing. While frustrating, none these were deal breakers for me. Overall, more than the next great game in the series, Hardline seems almost like a redeployment that tries to target an entirely new audience.
Battlefield: Hardline is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00KME8JBQ]