Taking it to the Streets
Who remembers playing “Cops and Robbers” as a child? It was a fun time with tons of friends, pretending that one team was the good guys trying to catch the bad guys on the other team. Battlefield: Hardline at first glance seemed to do the same: pretend to be a game of cops v. criminals instead of the traditional bland modern shooter. So, does the game stand out like a kingpin or is it just a thug to the shooter genre?
The single player is a mixed bag. You play as Nick Mendoza, a Cuban in Miami who had recently joined the police force. Nick tries to demolish the drug trade in Miami, and his quest shows him the true colors of the police force and the drug ring.
The story is presented like a television show with 10 episodes and a prologue. The game has a user interface almost exactly like Netflix and even a “Previously on” segment when you return to the game. I would like this if the plot was any good. Instead, Battlefield: Hardline is so riddled with clichés that I could guess the entire plot of the game after the first episode. All the characters are stereotypes themselves, from the main character with a shady past, the partner with a shady present, the ditzy blonde and even a comic relief black guy. One could say that Hardline is an homage or satire or 80’s crime shows like Miami Vice or Hawaii Five-O, but it does a poor job at that. The game even mentions that it feels like a plot from the 80’s, but to me this felt like a stock snark rather than clever lampshade hanging.
On the gameplay side of things, Battlefield: Hardline is great in an odd way. To put things plainly, it doesn’t feel like a Battlefield game. While there are times where you can shoot anything that moves, the game becomes the linear love-child of the Far Cry and Batman: Arkham series. The game encourages you to use your scanner to find and tag enemies, some of which have warrants for their arrest, sneak up to them and arrest them by flashing your badge at them and taking them down. I liked this change from the standard “shoot the bad guy” formula, and I arrested 80 percent of the enemies. The AI and large level design helped with this tremendously. I felt less like Rambo, sure, but I instead felt more like Solid Snake: scoping out the area, disabling alarms, distracting armed men with shell casing and arresting all of them.
I mentioned Batman not just because of the level design, but also because within all of the episodes, there are evidence to certain crimes to be found using the scanner. Most of these are easy to find and extend the game length from initial 5-6 hours. While these files are not the most engaging reads thanks to the cliché that is the story, it did have me look around and find these clue and investigate the various crimes.
While looking around, I had to notice how good the game looks and sounds. While most of the game takes place in the same-y city, the game does deviate and provides a good look at the Everglades, a desert and even a hurricane. The music is very situational, but the voice acting is superb.
What isn’t superb are the enemies. Many of the men I arrested were the same models in different clothing and haircuts. While this may be a small detail, it got on my nerves when I would arrest the same character model with the same line coming out of his mouth using the same arrest animation over and over. Luckily, the different models that are used are diverse, and the short campaign helps with this nitpick.
The last gripe I have with Battlefield: Hardline is the number of elements that are used only once or twice. For example, there was one quick time event in the game. While I’ll applaud the lack of token QTE’s, it caught me off-guard and I died. Either use QTE’s throughout so that players expect them or don’t use them at all. The game also introduces a grappling hook that is introduced and then is used only once more. Again, this may be a small thing, but it doesn’t help the game be cohesive.
A Civilian Soldier
Now that we are finished with the potatoes, it’s time for the meat of the matter: the multiplayer. Battlefield: Hardline didn’t change up the formula here like they did with the campaign. Instead, the familiar gameplay is still here and should still be what fans deserve. The large open maps as well as the smaller maps do more than serve their functions and provide a great experience with each game mode. The cars, while a little on the stiff side, provide quite a bit of fun on the open maps, and the small maps have plenty of places to hide while still feeling quite open. The maps have great diversity from the typical torn-up city to lovely beachomes.
The loadouts are a bit lackluster. All of the guns are the typical force with the same attachments found in almost all modern realistic FPS. While I never found this to be a huge problem, others who want more with their weapons and classes will be disappointed.
One element that I was on the fence about was the diversity of game modes. While it could be said that many of these are simply reskins of other generic game modes, I stilled enjoyed these, especially with the small twist that was given to them. Heist has the criminals steal money from the vault, and the cops need to stop them. Rescue is about the cops attempting to rescue hostages while the criminals stop them. My personal favorite was Crosshair, where players take turns being a VIP that the police must escort and protect from the criminals. Another good but possibly broken mode is Hotwire, where players must get vehicles and drive them like mobile capture points. It’s the tiny touches that makes these excitingly fun, and I hope to see more of these. However, I wish more game modes used the stealth aspect from the single player to spice things up a bit. What about an asymmetrical game mode where the criminals stay in a building and cops have to arrest them like a Drug Bust mode? It seemed like a huge missed opportunity.
The Verdict: 7.0 out of 10.0
Battlefield: Hardline is a far cry from previous games, and that’s not a bad thing. However, it does feel like two games are trying to be one. On the single player side of things, the story is nothing but clichés, but the stealth and detective elements were a nice change from the standard military shooter. The multiplayer instead plays to its Battlefield roots with fun alternatives to tried-and-true game modes. While the guns are a little on the generic side and there aren’t any game modes that follow the gameplay of the campaign, the same open maps and vehicles are still there and fun to play with in the different game modes. It made me want to see a Battlefield: Hardline 2 because this idea does have potential, and I had fun with the first outing. Hopefully Visceral and EA will let us play Cops and Robbers again soon.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Shawn Richards is MONG’s Associate Editor that studies games to understand how they work. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.