Battlefield: Hardline took the Battlefield series to unfamiliar territory, immersing the player in the life and mindset of cops and criminals; the righteous and the evil. Hardline provides a sense of realism by removing the heavy array of weaponry seen in the earlier titles and obtains a fresh approach to the field of battle, accomplishing this thanks to Visceral Games, the development team behind the Dead Space series and Battlefield 3’s final DLC, “End Game.” Visceral Games’ pallet has since attained a taste of blood after dabbling into the Battlefield series (no pun intended), striking at the opportunity to devise a unique exhibition in the progression of the series, one with an entirely new basis.
Intrigued by the concept, yet slightly disturbed by the title, Battlefield: Hardline piqued my interest, as cops and robbers is an underused venue in the World of Gaming. Battlefield 4’s launch was a catastrophic failure, host to a vast amount of issues on the recently conceived PS4, whose community was sadly disappointed because it was a highly anticipated and sought after title. Mere months after launch these issues provoked many, as the Battlefield series’ name no longer carried its worth with degraded quality assurance, especially since it came at a high price. The GTA series emanates the appearance of refinement, yet it doesn’t quite arrive at the sense of satisfaction, and where Payday 2’s gameplay shines in every aspect, it lacks map size and a spirit of competition. While these games bring their own individual strengths to the table, Hardline is able to integrate both of these assets together and provide a competition based cops and robbers experience. Hardline may not seek perfection, but that sure as hell doesn’t mean it lacks a sense of entertainment.
The first honorable mention goes to bugs and glitches, which led to the downfall of Battlefield 4. Hardline seems to have squashed a majority of these issues though, this was the biggest concern for many walking into Hardline and I am happy to proclaim that with over 20 hours of gameplay, I have yet to experience a single issue; no crashes, lack of audio, and I haven’t even fallen through the terrain once! It’s a miracle, right? Perhaps DICE should jot down a few notes because Visceral Games has released the least buggy Battlefield game in years. While I can’t admit to studying every bug in each iteration of the series, I do know I had issues with Battlefield 4, 3, and 2.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten what is perhaps the biggest hot-topic out of the way, let’s continue on with Multiplayer, which is probably what you are seeking. The Multiplayer of Hardline takes a substantial amount from the series, but it also manages to add some interesting modes and features in to the mix. These features and modes, for the most part, are all fantastic additions to the series, here are a few of said additions in Hardline:
Mobile ammo/health- Where you can walk up to a Medic or Enforcer and simply press a button (Square for PlayStation and X for Xbox) to take health/ammo.
Zip Lines and Grappling Hooks – These nifty gadgets allow the player to get around more than one way. This specifically helps out on maps where your objectives are on the top of buildings, as you no longer need to funnel into a staircase where you and all your teammates line up single-file and march to your inevitable deaths.
Graffiti – While Battlefield has allowed players to customize their emblems, Hardline now allows you to spray your emblem throughout the level, which might end up as a train wreck, but we’ll see.
Along with a few other additions, Hardline introduces some alluring features that shape and change the way you will play. New modes are similar, as they change the pace and objective unlike games prior to Hardline in the series:
Hotwire – A mode where the cops and criminals fight for control over certain vehicles on the map. It took me a little bit to play this, it was stated as the fastest Battlefield mode and I was somewhat concerned by the claim. After having played Hotwire, I can say that this mode has vastly exceeded my expectations.
Heist – Where the criminals attempt to break into vaults and steal bags of money. Criminals need to extract 2 bags in order to win, while the cops must prevent them from doing so while also exhausting the criminal’s spawn tickets.
Blood Money – Cops and criminals must seize control of loot on the map, from there you must bring it back to your team’s vault. The loot is not safe there though, as the opposing forces may raid the vault in hopes to push their team’s cash flow ahead.
Rescue – Where cops have to rescue two hostages from the criminals. Once a cop grabs a hostage they must carry them to a nearby safe point, there are no respawns and it is best of 9. Rescue is one of the two competitive modes Hardline contains.
Crosshair – The criminals must prevent a snitch from escaping, while the cops have to ensure the safety and escape of the witness. This is the final competitive mode in Hardline.
Hardline still has 2 modes you should be familiar with though, as Conquest and Team Deathmatch make an appearance. The new modes are rather pleasant and specifically Hotwire gives an experience unlike any other in the Battlefield series. The biggest issue with Hotwire though is the driving, as people in Hardline seem to have thrown common sense out the window. During one of my matches I was in a car helping defend it, the driver was doing fine until there was a jump. So, the driver had a choice, go forward or stop and back up, they chose the latter. The issue with that? Well, there were about 5 enemies behind us all armed to teeth, so we were decimated swiftly. This isn’t the first or last terrible decision made by a driver I was helping, but I digress. Hotwire isn’t the only fantastic new mode either, I am actually rather fond of Heist, which I have played the most. Hardline’s Heist mode is a rather unique and sometimes challenging mode, there isn’t quite anything like it in other games, especially in the Battlefield series. While it may feel like a combination of other games/modes, Heist takes certain aspects of previous games and combines them to make something completely different, sort of like chocolate milk, except my stomach doesn’t hurt after I play Hardline. The biggest issue with the Heist mode is that some of the maps are extremely one-sided and I will go further into that subject next paragraph. The new modes in Hardline are well made and thoroughly enjoyable and while you may be reminded of previous modes in the series, the new ones manage to stand tall. That isn’t to say Hardline doesn’t make a few rookie mistakes though, sadly the quality of driving has somewhat hit a speed bump and the takedown animations lack fluency. Apparently the reason behind the takedown animations is actually a result of complaints during Hardline’s first beta. Asides from that, I do not like how Hardline has no way to prevent a takedown like Battlefield 4 introduced. I will say that I enjoy playing Hacker though, as it gives your team a distinct advantage and not many people choose the role, so basically you are unopposed. Hardline’s Hacker is somewhat like a downgraded version of Battlefield 4’s Commander position though the stage Hardline sets somewhat forces this to occur. Instead of ammo drops, missile strikes, and gunships, Hardline’s Hacker takes over cameras on the map, sets up GPS spotting and jamming, upgrades certain squads, give squads faster deployment, sets up traps at certain positions, and may direct squads to points of interests. In terms of what you can do on Hardline, Hacker is beefed up with more options, but in terms of firepower, Battlefield 4 wins.
Maps are possibly the second most important feature for an online game. Battlefield 4 managed to launch with 10 maps and dropped 20 maps from DLC, while Hardline launched with 9. The maps may appear to be the weakest link to the online portion of the game at first glance and while Hardline manages to feature the Levolution mechanic on every map, its maps have seemingly suffered partially due to restriction. This comes into play rather often in Hotwire, as you are constantly turning to avoid leaving the battle zone. I believe Hotwire’s maps should have been bigger and less restrictive, the way to balance out the distance would be to placemultiple spawn points, but this is due to the fact that the mode is almost entirely about driving. The problem also appears to exist in Heists, as some of the maps find themselves constrained due to these restrictions. For a restrictive one-sided map, The Block pops into my mind instantly, as it is not wide enough and while the map is interesting, it basically caters to the cops. One that has quite the opposite issue is Hardline’s version of The Everglades, while it doesn’t have an issue with size, there sadly isn’t much going on and you won’t find many hot destinations for the gang. The loot is in a relatively small gas station for some odd reason and with little to nothing in-between the cop and criminal spawns, it comes off as a dull map. I mean, I guess the map is somewhat realistic though, living in Florida and having traveled to see them, there just isn’t much to see. I’m not too sure why they chose the Everglades, I do know that some of the game takes place in Florida, specifically Miami, but really? The Everglades. The Everglades are a decent little ways from Miami and while it is teeming with wildlife, it isn’t exactly the perfect location for a heist, especially if the only thing you can rob is an abandoned gas station. I actually think The Everglades is my least favorite map in Hardline, that’s mostly because the area is home to hundreds of thousands of creatures I don’t like. The weird part is that Hardline doesn’t do much to represent those creatures on the map, I do believe I’ve heard alligators hissing, but few are actually on the map and I have only seen one during the 10+ times I’ve played the map. Basically The Everglades in real life are teeming with life (Seriously Floridians, quit throwing your Pythons there) while Hardline’s map is somewhat dead. Now, that was a rant and while I could go on I feel it is best that we move along. I mentioned one of the one-sided maps, the other map is called Riptide. 2/9 maps makes for 22% of them are one-sided, I also throw in The Everglades as it is a map I am not particularity fond of, as seen above. So, I don’t enjoy playing on 33% of the maps given to us at launch, I do fancy the others luckily. The issue with Riptide and The Block are somewhat similar, in Riptide the Cops spawn right outside of the building, giving Criminals little to no time to set up. Riptide also features a lovely dock where you can take your loot to, sadly this is practically right outside of the Cop spawn. Just about every base point for the criminals on Hardline’s Riptide is outside of the Cop spawn, the worst base is easily the bridge though, as it is the choke point from their spawn to the building. While The Block is something much more doable for the Criminals, it still places the base points almost directly outside of the Cop’s main base.
So let’s continue with the small complaint, the maps are rather compacted sadly. The worst part about them in Heist mode specifically is that due to the compact nature of the maps, the loot is in the same place. You can break down multiple doors and/or safes, but they are all in the same building on every map. I don’t like the idea of having all the loot in a single building though, I just simply can’t wrap my head around this decision. While your drop points change, they tend to stick in the same general location. As a carrier of the loot it may seem like a drastic increase though, but playing as a Hacker it doesn’t seem like much at all. Maps like Derailed, Bank Job, Dust Bowl, and Downtown are almost perfect examples of what Hardline should follow in terms of size, while they are somewhat compact, they still manage to work fairly well. I believe if Hardline followed Battlefield 4’s map direction it would drastically increase the enjoyability of the game. While I believe the Criminals should spawn a wee bit closer to the loot areas at first, I think the distance for the base points should be about the same for both sides. The compact nature of the maps sometimes plays in favor for them though, as Conquest Large is extremely intense on the maps, it is also laggy at times unfortunately. During these modes the fighting is intense and there’s almost no downtime between them, I love that aspect of it and it truly makes the game feel like a nonstop call to arms, but I can’t help but imagine how incredible a Conquest sized Heist map would be. With all of that said though, Hardline does not have a severe map issue, while the maps are not to the scale of previous iterations in the series, they decrease the size to increase the intensity, which I see as a somewhat fair trade off. At first glance, I truly believed Hardline had a map problem, but Visceral Games has simply taken a path less traveled in the series. While I fear many will avoid Hardline due to the compact like nature of its maps, I do not believe it is something that truly plays against the game.
Moving forward to the weaponry of Hardline now, Hardline’s weaponry is somewhat gimped compared to previous games in the series, this is due to the nature of Hardline’s battlefield, you won’t find many cops and robbers with laser guided rocket launchers in the real world and you may even be lucky to find 32 police officers armed to the teeth with fully automatic assault rifles like the officers in Hardline. The gimp in Hardline seems logical mostly due do its setting, while you can find random rocket launchers around the map, you won’t be able to spawn with anything stronger than a grenade launcher. Luckily Hardline doesn’t have too many overpowered weapons either and while helicopters can be a pain, you can search for a rocket launcher on the map and hope for the best. Hardline also introduces a system where you must purchase your weapons instead of unlocking them, both sides have specific weapons for their factions. One I generally use is the Hcar for the police, but when I am a criminal I am out luck, as I have to buy a completely new gun for that side, however once you kill 1,000 enemies with that weapon you are permitted to use it on both sides. The choice for this in Hardline makes sense, but it also frustrating when you have to buy two weapons for one class, luckily though money is not insanely challenging to get in Hardline, as you get it for doing various things during matches. I have noticed that the fastest way to get money is by playing Hardline’s Hotwire mode, where you need to either drive the car around or stay inside of it. While Hardline’s monetary system is interesting, its biggest issue is that you don’t have much to spend it on, each class has 5 primary weapons and even then I am finding myself stuck with over 200,000 dollars with no urgency to actually spend it. You can also purchase Battlepacks with it, which is an interesting addition, but there should be more to throw it at. I believe Hardline should have taken the Safe House idea from Payday 2, the idea being that you would be able to spend your heist money to customize your Safe House and that police would try to raid it randomly. I think if Hardline allowed the Criminals to purchase and customize their own safe houses it would be fantastic and add a new level of play in the game and a sense of customization. The second reason for that is because at a certain point in Hardline your money will solely be going towards Battlepacks, while they contain some great items, it would be lovely to spend it on something more personal. I believe the idea works with a Platoon/Gang as well, such as a gang safe house. Eventually you would buy everything, but it would take significantly longer to reach that point and still add the benefits stated above. Hardline takes the series in yet another direction with its monetary system, while I like the idea overall, I feel as if it needs more for the players to purchase, I do like the system as a whole, but at a certain point our money will begin to stack and become meaningless, if only we could transfer it to our real life bank accounts, then I know everyone would be pleased with this system.
Graphics wise, Hardline is interesting, instead of the ultra-realistic approach taken by Battlefield 4, Hardline aims for a more comic book-esque look, it takes that style and runs with it and does a good job with this new direction. Visceral’s decision is one that was well thought out and something that has Hardline stand out even more so, while it may not be exactly what you are looking for, the presentation is enjoyable and in an age where developers are targeting ultra realism in shooters it comes as a breath of fresh air. I did not actually play any of Hardline’s beta test weekends, but I do know the popular complaints, one of which dealt with the graphics themselves as well as audio woes. Luckily for Hardline, these complaints seem to have been successfully answered by the developers. Hardline is the type of game I would prefer to play on my big screen with my surround sound and sub woofer turned on, but that’s most intense games. The point of my small thought here being that Hardline has improved somewhat drastically since its beta, if you were one of the 7 million people who played Hardline’s open beta you should know that Visceral worked hard to fix many of the complaints. For some odd reason Hardline has one of the many complaints from the beta in the final product though, that being the kill cam, I am not sure why this stayed either, the kill cam can be very frustrating, as I don’t want to watch my killer running around freely, I’d rather go to the spawn screen instantly. I may not be much of a graphics snob, but I am more in tune with the audio in games and I am somewhat picky with the feature. Hardline doesn’t have an audio problem for me, it sounds like an intense battle going on and it brings my house down, I can’t say it has the best audio in the world, but I can say Hardline definitely doesn’t have an issue. While I enjoy the graphics of Hardline, specifically the facial expressions in game are rather surprising, I do think some players may have an issue with this approach. The facial expressions are actually interesting, I don’t exactly stalk and gawk and while they may not be the best of all time they do remind me somewhat of L.A. Noire, which I believe to be quite adequate. Hardline has a good enough attention to detail and at some times may surprise you, I know after 20 hours I am still finding some cool things. While I like the way Hardline looks, it doesn’t do enough to push the specs of your system, while they are good enough to maintain immersion, I don’t think Visceral Games did enough to push the envelope for the newer systems.
Visceral unfortunately did not have enough time to craft a the best story for Hardline, as the story is sadly somewhat lacking. The last Battlefield game that delivered a truly great storyline, in my opinion, was Bad Company 2, while Hardline takes yet another new direction for the series, it doesn’t ever quite ascertain the greatness it is trying to grasp. The direction of Hardline’s story that does grip me is the fact that it actually allows for stealth, unlike previous games in the series. Hardline allows the player to choose between a stealthy or guns blazing style, it is a unique approach in the series that has me wanting more, while the story has me turned off at times. I am intrigued by the main villain though, it isn’t because he is this masterly crafted character that has no counterpart though, it is because he is such an 80’s narcissistic cliché that it makes me laugh. Hardline’s story is basically just that though, it’s an 80’s cliché cop drama about drugs and corruption, while I don’t think the story is unique I can’t help but find it entertaining. Visceral Games chose a path that many should enjoy, as they grab your attention with the overly cliché story and throw entertaining characters at you. Nostalgia factors in for me, but also I find that I am sympathetic towards the characters as well and I even see them as somewhat believable. Hardline’s story isn’t going to make you cry, it won’t make you really think, and you probably won’t fall head over heels for it, but at the very least it should entertain you.
Score - 8
While Hardline may not please the most hardcore Battlefield veterans, it does do a lot to push the series in a new direction, time can only tell if Visceral Games' push was all for naught or if EA will allow a sequel of this spinoff to take place in the series. Regardless, Hardline is a game that takes a lot of risks and for the most part it pays off, while it may not be the best Battlefield game to ever exist, it does provide a new face/body for an aging series. While it has yet to reach its true potential, it still manages to soar high enough to avoid crashing and burning. I didn't walk into Hardline with much in terms of expectations, but I find myself leaving with an enjoyable experience.