Review: Battlefield: Hardline
Battlefield: Hardline is finally here, and it’s time to move on to test this particular spin-off that leaves the military setting of the Battlefield universe and offer players a focused adventure on the clashes between police and gangsters by introducing a single player campaign that is a robust change from the days of Battlefield 3.
When it comes to singleplayer, Battlefield Hardline honors us with the usual 8-9 hour campaign mode, close to Battlefield 3 and 4. but on the contrary of the other opus, this campain highlights the talents of Visceral to build a dynamic and thrilling adventure. The tone of the story was quickly given the cop TV series treatment, with a fun “earlier on Battlefield: Harldine” recap at the start of each chapter, or “next in Hardline” when you quit to the main menu. The script and story therefore takes us in the heart of Miami and Los Angeles police department officers, all under the command of Nick Mendoza, a policeman attached to honor and ethics. In brief, the campaign drops ten chapters, all set in different environments and open up some unlockeables that will carry on the multiplayer section.
Following these quick headlines, let’s talk a little bit more about the campaign and rather about the atypical characters and clichés. Sadly, like any TV cop show, you have your typical corrupt cops with a scared face, the Asian police officer who excels in martial arts, the young computer nerd officer, the sassy tomboy girl armed to the teeth, etc. The mission objectives are sadly no exceptions to the rule, as you head to the field for investigation assignment, narcotic bust, raids on dealer’s house, before diving into a renegade avenger action scene that would remind you of Mission Impossible’s typical shots. Musically though, the soundtrack is quite dynamic and brilliantly accompanies the different missions, sometimes helping to achieve a rare level of intensity on this urban Battlefield.
There’s a strong resemblance to a certain Far Cry 3 when it comes to positioning yourself on the map
It will note in passing that there’s a strong resemblance to a certain Far Cry 3 when it comes to positioning yourself on the map, as missions are mostly the opposite of traditional staged FPS corridor shooting galleries, and everything can be solved with some stealthy take on the mission. To do this, Visceral mimics Ubisoft’s FPS code and offers a very similar formula with a familiar scouting machine (observe the area with our smartphone) to mark different targets or even identify alarms, that if one was spotted, pushes enemies to call for reinforcements. There is a sense of accomplishment when you clear an area without bloodshed, which I accomplished quite numerous times during my playthrough, although I will be frank, the AI is not very smart. On that note, there’s weird instances where the AI bugs out as it hear you shout “freeze” within a few meters, and that same enemy just won’t react to it. What’s also hilarious is that you will rank up faster by arresting bad guys instead of killing them, which then unlocks weapons, which defies in a way the purpose of sneaking around.
However, what makes Battlefield Hardline a success is primarily its gameplay, slightly redesigned to provide a more easily accessible for novice classes of the genre. You can grab ammunition directly from the waistband of your teammates, driving vehicles is more enjoyable, the minimap is clearer, the maps are smaller, shorter multiplayer rounds, and the action takes place almost exclusively through the ground levels, in game modes designed for fans of competitive capture the flag modes, or even original modes like heist (with a hint of Payday).
Now I do have to talk about things that annoy me, and especially on the technical aspect of the title. If Battlefield 4 was a step up in visual fidelity from the third one, Hardline almost feels like a Battlefield 4.2, almost making us forget that the Battlefield series was always a visual slap. Check on both PlayStation 4 and mainly on Xbox One, the game seemed relatively bland at times and almost crudely robust in textures when too much was going on. If the characters and weapons are really well modeled, topped by great animations, it is otherwise in relation to the rest of the screen’s textures, that it feels that they are misplaced. And that’s not me calling out the countless aliasing and screen breaks I’ve seen, interfering with my immersion in multiplayer as well as singleplayer experience, but then again, I can’t really ask for that much from a console game.
Besides these problem, the game’s cutscenes seem badly compressed (visible especially on the PlayStation 4) and there is a noticeable shift of fluidity between the latter and the gameplay itself. Technically, there’s a sense that Visceral Games learned from the expertise of DICE in regards to optimizing the Frostbite 3 engine for their needs, but it is just sadly disappointing for a Battlefield game.
In Battlefield 4, thanks to Dice’s Levolution engine, we were given dynamic maps, with flooding, to tropical storm, with superstructure collapsing, so might as well offer this in Hardline? Sadly, there’s not much more Levolution aspects that what I experienced in the Beta, like the Downtown crane collapsing opening up new passages, and the sandstorm on the Dustbowl map. Nevertheless, there’s still those greatly made micro-destruction found in structure interiors, found in several maps, literally shattered by bullets and grenades. Similarly, in the singleplayer campaign, you’ll experience a storm hitting the city within a mission, yet in the end, Levolution is a tad less ambitious but still effective, like the rest of the game.
Now let’s forget about singleplayer, and focus on what truly matters: Multiplayer. I mean, fighting crime and corruption in the streets of Miami and Los Angeles is fine, but facing other thugs on the battlefield is even better! At least that’s what many players thought ever since the announcement back in 2014, concerned about the quality of this spin-off multiplayer, which is more down to earth than its ancestors. Planes and helicopters play a small part in this episode, since the majority of vehicles are back to typical signature Battlefield games, with four-wheelers. The gameplay of these has evolved for the occasion in a nicer way, but I cannot vouch for the two-wheelers, always modeled on the physical Battlefield 3 models. Incidentally, if the driving feeling has improved and offers a detailed inside view and even radio station, I regret the lack of speeding sensations in single and multiplayer. Visceral nevertheless decided to put the effort on the four-wheelers, even to the point of building a complete game mode for it.
Hotwire, was a surprise for me. This whole chase on wheels, with great destructions, and mobile capture points is genius. Add to that a vital collaboration among team members and the game takes a different turn, taking advantage of a good driver, an engineer who repairs the car, a squad member that handles explosives and another that covers the 360 surround area with guns. The question is whether this mode will last on as it is, and won’t bore the players in the long run since without this main “strategy”, helicopters are still the overpowered choice of a player in Hotwire.
Hotwire, was a surprise for me
Weapons side, know that they are here fewer than before, but then again they enjoy a far larger customization range, filled with unlockable obtained with the ingame money or kills made with the targeted weapon. The sound of your gear is really well recorderd and strengthens the excellent feeling of power. In addition, we can count on various “gadgets” that are more or less interesting such as the zip line and grapple, the scanning camera, the syringe, C4, ammunition box, medkit, and the many tools that optimize your game… Or not.
Nevertheless, Battlefield: Hardline’s multiplayer has a direct root into eSports with the many modes it offers. And it’s mainly with two precised ones, with “the forgotten Counter-Strike” inspired Rescue mode, and half objective and half deathmatch based Crosshair. These two modes manage to introduce a healthy dose of strategy and tension between the two teams since there is no respawn until the next round. A spectator mode is also available if you get killed, and is used as well to wait for the next round, while adapting your equipment loadouts via the management screen.
In Crosshair, the cops have the job to escort a VIP, controlled by a human player, only armed with a Desert Eagle, can therefore sneak aside for the right moment to escape, until extraction point, or stay cover behind the troops until his team clean the house. The time of the match is very variable and can range from thirty seconds to several minutes, with or without bloodshed. However, I have live more games ending up without any shot exchange, mostly because of bad coordination between members of each parties.
Concerning the Rescue missions, this typical hostage extraction based mode, players are not required to recover all of the hostages, and can focus on some to be saved, which allows the prevent abuse camping around the gangster side hostages (like in good old Counter Strike). Nevertheless, it doesn’t prevent adding the ability for the hostage-takers to place laser mines near the victims or camp cheerfully! This mode can offer good moments in the sphere of competitive game with vital cooperation between team members.
Battlefield Hardline at launch offers 9 maps, each compatible with a number of game modes, and more will come with map packs which can be purchased alone or as a bundle thanks to returning Battlefield Premium (check more about it on the left). However, I’ve felt that as numerous and as varied the maps are, some fit better some modes than other. The Downtown map is for example for Rescue or Crosshair in comparison to the rest. I pretty much had the impression that some maps were thought out and designed ideally for a mode, and were subsequently adapted as best they could to try to match other but without really providing an optimal experience.
Heist and Blood Money, the two multiplayer modes tested in the betas, pits down players in perfect robbers and police situation
Finally, Heist and Blood Money, the two multiplayer modes tested in the betas, pits down players in perfect robbers and police situation, where you must protect the loot, or steal it and bring it back to safety. It brings some intense conflict situation especially during the extraction phases, where police can intercept robbers and return loot to their spawn point. Once the first bag is delivered, police power intensifies logically onto the second delivery point, in the manner of Battlefield 4’s Rush mode, which will give a hard time to a team of robbers. Effective and well staged in mostly bigger maps, Heist introduced a “Payday” strategy with the gameplay engine of Hardline . The result is an efficient and very nice way to play with friends, which still does not require as much coordination between team members and can be played quick casually.
In conclusion, Battlefield: Hardline combines a fun and effective singleplayer experience, even with all my criticism is the best for a long time in the franchise, topped with a sober multiplayer. When it comes to multiplayer, typical Battlefield 4 players will criticize the game with no doubt with its lack of scale, even if the gameplay is always encouraging and emphasize teamwork. In parallel, the so-called original modes – Heists, Blood Money, Rescure – are not all so original than they claim to be, but bring a varied experience to this title.
In contrast, if the main campaign plank respect in its desire to offer something else and get away from the usual shackles, the recipe is well served. It is unfortunately too short and easy to justify a purchase for just that solo campaing. At least Visceral Games has succeeded where DICE failed for some years, a fun and easy going shooting experience whichout losing gameplay values.
Editor’s note: this review is based out on ten hours of online game available during the EA Access trial period. We did not test the relevance of matchmaking during launch days, or the stability of PC and other platform servers.
Battlefield Hardline was reviewed using an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 early access to the game provided by EA Games. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC via Origin. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• A faster, more fun and accessible Battlefield
• A proper singleplayer experience
• The variety of multiplayer modes
• Small gameplay improvements
• A fine atmosphere
• Technical limitations on console
• Will not necessarily appeal to fans of previous Battlefield
• Downgraded vehicle physics
• Adaptability of certain maps in relation to game modes