Though the Battlefield franchise has a history entrenched in military combat, the folks at Visceral have seen fit to give law enforcement a try with the popular shooter series. With the popularity of TV cop dramas and dozens of military shooters flooding store shelves, some cops vs robbers could be a welcome distraction. While it doesn’t always get things right, Hardline shows a lot of promise and reveals some versatility in the Battlefield formula.
If you have played any of the most recent Battlefield games then you already know what to expect from Hardline, or at least most of what to expect. Shooting is still satisfying, though targeting feels a tad more loose, likely due to the fact that we aren’t playing as soldiers. Driving can feel wonky in some of the faster cars, but vehicles overall feel good. Hardline differentiates itself from other titles in the series the most through its emphasis on stealth and non-lethal takedowns. Arresting a bad guy is worth more than killing him and forcing characters into submission is fairly easy if you pay attention to your surroundings. At times, it feels like the game is too quick to want you to shoot, so stealth is very unforgiving if you make a mistake. If you can maintain the element of surprise, however, you’ll be in for a very different, very fun Battlefield game.
Story and Modes:
Hardline pays homage to TV police dramas and heist films and it sure makes for an entertaining campaign. A cast of likeable characters coupled with some over the top set pieces makes Hardline feel as much like a Hollywood blockbuster as it does cinematic action game. It lives and breathes this aesthetic by breaking the campaign into episodes, adding a made for TV intro and ending your session with “Next Time On Hardline”. This is still very much a multiplayer first game and the single player is not without some slow moments or a few extreme ones just for the sake dramatic effect. The story is a tad predictable as well thanks to the movie and TV tropes it so lovingly clings to. However, the 6-8 hour campaign is impressive enough that you’ll actually want to play it, not just jump into multiplayer.
Multiplayer is all about the cash, and most modes revolve around having more cash than the other team. Classic modes like conquest make their return, but new modes such as Heist and Blood Money put the emphasis on getting in and cashing out. Even unlocks are tied to how much cash you have earned, though some are still earned the old fashioned way through raking up. Hardline has a perfectly serviceable multiplayer, but it isn’t quite as good as Battlefield 4 (post updates BF4). The average lifespan is short to non existent during some of the more hectic portions of a map and you could easily spend more time respawning than playing. The new modes aren’t well explained before entering a match, making the learning curve brutal as you die over and over just trying to figure out what the objective is. Once you come to understand the subtle nuances of Hardline, you’re in for about as much fun as you’d expect from a Battlefield game, though the lack of tanks and fighters could be a turnoff for purists.
Visuals and Sound:
Credit where credit is due, Frostbite 3 is about the most well optimized, gorgeous looking game engine on the market. Considering I was playing on max settings at 1440p, I expected some slowdown, which was the case with games like Dying Light and Evolve at similar settings, but Hardline ran like a dream, with nary a dip under 60fps as far as I could notice. Water and lighting effects were stunning and character models were top notch. Of course, your experience may vary depending on your build, but rest assured that you’re playing a top notch PC title. Now for console fans I have some good news. Aside from the frame rate concession, you’re getting an equally impressive looking game. While PC players will certainly get the better overall looking game, the PS4 and Xbox One prove to be no less capable or running the game well.
Hardline’s sound design and soundtrack is where things get really interesting. Of course guns sound great and explosions will leave other sound muffled as the ringing in your ears dissipates. You expect that level of quality from a Battlefield title. However, I’m proud to say that voice acting has received a huge bump up in quality to go along with the superior characters. There’s still some corny dialogue, but the talent is clear. The soundtrack leans heavily on licensed music, but this music is used to perfection. While it might have been easier or cheaper to just make original music that got the job done, the licensed tracks continue the theme of made for TV or film. There is still the original compositions, but Hardline has one of the best licensed soundtracks outside of Grand Theft Auto.
Being a Battlefield game, you generally know what to expect. An emphasis on multiplayer is clear, though there is an appreciated focus on the campaign that separates it from previous titles outside of Bad Company. The cops and robbers story has been told before from varying perspectives, but Hardline’s style is fresh for games based on the concept. The multiplayer, outside of the cops vs. robbers specific modes, is exactly what you’d expect from a Battlefield title, just with a much shorter lifespan.
The Big Question:
Can Hardline overcome it’s previous beta woes and prove to be a long term destination for Battlefield fans? A certain level of confidence has been restored since that last beta prior to release, but the nearly 6 month delay of Hardline could have some feeling caution toward the title. It also doesn’t help that the previous DICE developed title is only now recovering from some serious issues. The Battlefield name has been tarnished in unfortunate ways in the last 2 and a half years, and a dev with a poor track record outside of the Dead Space franchise doesn’t do much to boost confidence. I suppose the real question is are we ready for more Battlefield? Unfortunately for Hardline, that answer may be no.
Perhaps more so than Battlefield 4, Hardline is easy to recommend as a complete package. The superior campaign design coupled with the tried and proven multiplayer formula fans expect makes your $60 go a lot further. It also helps that Hardline will benefit from the netcode enhancements implemented in BF4, making for an improved multiplayer experience from the get go. Maps are diverse, even if the selection is limited to nine, shared across all modes. If you need more Battlefield, then this is surely a package that will leave you satisfied.