When Battlefield: Hardline was announced, one of the biggest talking points in the community was the debate over whether it warranted being its own game, or if it should have merely been DLC for Battlefield 4. Does it stand on its own?
Battlefield vs Hardline – What’s Different?
It would be disingenuous to suggest that Hardline doesn’t have some differences. The best thing is that it has, for once in a Battlefield game, a decent single player storyline. It’s not amazing, but there has clearly been some effort on behalf of Visceral Games. There’s motion capped performances from some fairly big name TV stars (Kelly Hu takes a leading role) and a plot that at least tries to make the player care about the characters involved, even if it falls short.
What the single player campaign does do better than most in the franchise is introduce the idea of stealthy gameplay. Within this mode at least, there’s more to be gained from sneaking around and making sure criminals don’t raise the alarm or start a massive firefight, even if the tools the game gives you are a little on the Mary Sue side of things. The scanner in particular is ridiculous. This is a game set in the modern day, roughly, although the police somehow have access to a scanner that can see through walls, instantly recognize criminals and display warrants they have, instantly log evidence, vibrate when you’re near mission-valuable objects and selectively see through walls with impressive clarity.
Battlefield has never really been about realism, though. This is a franchise where it’s possible to jump out of a plane, fire a rocket launcher and then land back in the cockpit. That being said, Visceral Games have taken an odd approach to Hardline’s setting. The single player campaign paints a realistic enough picture of Miami Vice attempting to clean up the poorer areas of the city – and yet, there are clear instances where the game goes completely over the top – criminals with rocket launchers, mini guns, near-military grade armoured vehicles and helicopters.
It’s these discrepancies that make it feel like Hardline doesn’t really know what it wants to be. On the outside it screams ‘cops vs robbers’ but as soon as the action picks up it feels exactly like army vs army; Battlefield 4 with a slightly different skin.
There are at least a couple of new mechanics. Playing as a member of the police department, you’re armed with slightly different weapons, but also a near-magical badge, which allows you to shout ‘Freeze!’ at criminals who will then near randomly decide to either comply or shoot you in the face. Although, to be honest that seems realistic enough. What doesn’t seem realistic enough is that, as a street detective, you appear to carry around an unlimited supply of handcuffs. In one mission, I walked around and handcuffed close to 15 criminals at a single scene. Where on earth did my character keep all those handcuffs, and how did he manage to walk around quietly?
There are areas too where Hardline doesn’t push the idea of playing by the rules enough. There is very little to dissuade the player from going into single player missions all guns blazing aside from the occasional force ‘don’t kill everyone’ objective and the odd enemy within each area that has a reward attached to their warrant (because apparently the police are also bounty hunters?).
Release Date:: 17/03/2015
Available on: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Windows, PC Download
Game Play Heist Mode Video
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Multiplayer is Where the Problems Start
Then there are the multiplayer game modes. While the most popular modes that I’ve found during my time with Hardline are still conquest and team deathmatch, Visceral did at least try to add something new, introducing ‘heist’, ‘blood money’, ‘hotwire’, ‘rescue’ and ‘crosshair’ modes to multiplayer.
Heist is the one that I had the most fun with, and it’s just a shame that more people aren’t playing it. In this mode, the criminal team must rob a vault or hold up an armoured car, steal the money and return it to their own extraction point. It’s the job of the police team to stop this from happening. This is a new kind of strategy that is based loosely on capture the flag, although it’s more like having several flags in play at once with only one team interested in returning it to their base.
Blood money sees both teams attempting to retrieve money from a container in the middle of the map (and also from the opposing team), with the team first to deposit $5 million being the winners.
Hotwire is like conquest with moving vehicles as the objective points, while rescue is a mode that revolves around the police either freeing a hostage held by the criminals or simply killing all the criminals.
Crosshair is the opposite of rescue – here the criminals are attempting to kill a VIP that’s under police protection. The last two are modes that Rainbow Six Siege have executed brilliantly, much to Hardline’s detriment.
Here’s the problem though. Despite the new modes and mechanics (most of which don’t have enough prominence in multiplayer modes), conquest is still the most popular. The weapons that you have to choose from are, much like this game mode, really hardly any different to those available in Battlefield 4. Playing Hardline was a confusing experience at times, as once I got up in the action I felt like I was playing Battlefield. Everything, right down to the orange and blue markers on the minimap, made it feel like Battlefield 4 – and that’s why I have a hard time understand the point of Hardline as a standalone game.
It simply doesn’t separate itself enough to warrant the current £39.99 price tag – especially when you take into account that there’s also Battlefield 4-esque DLC that fragments what little player base there is.
The saving grace for Hardline may well be Origin’s new Access program, which comes as part of the £3.99 per month service at no extra cost. As long as it remains in the ‘vault’, it may well see more players – that is, if only Battlefield 4 wasn’t also in the vault.
People who’ve made progress in Battlefield 4 clearly didn’t feel like moving over to a nearly identical game and starting over, and I see no other reason why people shouldn’t play the more established and polished bigger brother, either.
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Battlefield Hardline is developed by Visceral Games (EA).