Battlefield Hardline PS4 Review
After an unlikely turn of events, EA owned Visceral Studios, known for their acclaimed Dead Space franchise, have taken the reigns of DICE’s Battlefield series. Hardline is a spinoff focusing on a smaller scale cops and robbers storyline split into TV-like episodes that result in many partial good ideas ultimately combining to form a decent enough single player experience and a disjointed multiplayer that is anywhere from addicting to downright poor.
Stepping aside from the bombastic nature of the mainline Battlefield campaigns, Hardline has you play as Nick Mendoza, a young new detective who from the get-go is partnered up with Khai Dao, an experienced higher up in the division. The game introduces all major characters in an awesome CSI style opening cinematic and has you immediately care for them in what is otherwise a generic cop story with a very weak ending. The story is not the reason to play Battlefield games, but with Visceral including a ‘Next time on…’ feature and playing up the work gone towards the plot, I would have liked to see them take more risks as you lose interest in what’s going on within the first half of a 7 hour adventure.
The positives in the campaign are highlighted by a more open ended and sandbox style design to the environments as stealth is a huge aspect of the game. Being a cop, players are rewarded for hitting the left bumper and stopping criminals to arrest them instead of going in guns blazing. But as you level up with your campaign character via stealth, the developer oddly decided to give you loud shotguns and explosives instead of stealth weapons suited to the specific playstyle required to unlock such weapons. This forced me to choose a standard submachine gun early on in the game and only dabble in experimenting with combinations of other guns and gadgets in one of the weirdest design decisions of the year. Along with promising level design, the voice acting and performances are top notch accompanied by great facial animations and dialogue.
Visceral Studios also threw in a collectible system which has the player scan environments to find pieces of evidence that culminate in the solving of a case. The problem here is that when items are scanned, the characters only provide a few words of uninteresting dialogue instead of taking the opportunity to expand on the side stories. Other issues include brain dead AI, both ally and enemy, sprouting mainly from the use of the cone vision system as I walked in plain view (on hard difficulty) without anybody spotting me. Other times my own teammate would block a path just for the enemy to spot me and ruin a 15 minute stealth section that was going perfectly to plan. The most erroneous aspect though, is the fact that Visceral though it necessary to include ridiculous set pieces straight out of a Call of Duty game, in a cop drama. These sections felt awfully out of place and kicked me out of any faint immersion I had.
Stepping aside from the campaign, the bread and butter of Battlefield lies in its multiplayer suite which this time takes the focus off grade-A military firefights, and instead focuses on smaller maps with various Call of Duty elements implemented as players switch from both the perspectives of the cops and the robbers. Somehow the multiplayer is even more up and down than the single as you jump from an amazing mode, like Blood Money, to an almost woeful one, like Hotwire. Starting with the bad, Hotwire has players get into marked vehicles across the map and hit a certain speed threshold before they start earning points towards the overall score. The problem here is that a player can just find an open pocket of the map and essentially boost both team score and personal XP to their hearts content. Some players have even reported being in the top 100 in their regions by simply driving in circles in a mode that requires next to no effort. Then you have something like Blood Money, where both teams rush to a stash of unlimited cash (with the ability to hold 10 bags at any one time) in the middle of the map and bring it back to their respective vaults. The twist is, the vaults of the enemy team can be raided, and cash can be stolen to then be dropped back at your own vault. This creates an insanely addicting cat and mouse game where teams have to co-ordinate on whether or not to risk a gamble and sprint for the enemy team’s base or hold on to park the bus and defend their lead.
Hardline both succeeds with flying colors, and fails miserably in various aspects of its game design but the good outweighs the bad with its sandbox style mission design, handful of addicting multiplayer modes, and rock solid Battlefield gunplay players know and love.