Its time to play good cop vs bad cop in Viscerals first installment in a new take on the Battlefield franchise. However does it deliver or do the sirens ring for this one?
Battlefield Hardline is the first IP Visceral games have taken on since joining EA and its with great pedigree in story telling and game mechanics having delivered blockbuster series Dead Space. Visceral havent forgotten this either and there’s more than a few references to that space epic throughout Hardline. Set in Miami in the heat of a ensuing drug war you play as office Nick Mendoza of the Drug enforcement unit. You will take on a series of missions during a campaign which is structured like a series of TV episodes. It has that American TV vibe to it and in parts it really works where as in others it probably distracted the writers from really achieving something special.I found it got old after the second episode however it is a great little idea for players who are returning to the campaign perhaps after a few days break from playing and want to feel they are back in the loop of all things drug busting.
The story telling in Battlefield Hardline is well bland and pretty predictable its about double crossing stereotypical american policing and the good guy done good story lines. There is some well inserted humour that breaks up the story’s attempt to take itself too seriously and character Boomer who is later introduced is the tonic to offering up a better balance in dialogue. The voice acting is fairly ordinary and the dialogue is as predictable as the story with typical one liners and police references stuck in here there and everywhere for good measure. During gameplay the voice acting is at its weakest in some missions characters try to make small talk whilst you progress and its neither interesting or helpful in completing the missions. Lines such as “You should read Dowes Memoirs” really had me wanting to turn the volume down rather than up.
Many of the missions have a fair bit of action and this should be expected after all it is a Battlefield title. At its heart though Hardline attempts to bring something completely new to the genre and just about pulls it of. Im talking about stealth and the way in which the game does a great job to make you the player think twice before pulling that trigger. Sneaking up on criminals flashing your cop bag and telling them to freeze is great fun but it does start to get a bit old 10 missions in. Its well delivered and does make you approach levels with caution not typical of a Battlefield game.
Enemies are pretty predictable and they all kind of look the same. Its noticeable mainly as a result of getting up close and personal with so many of them, by arresting frequently rather than shooting you realise that their faces all look the same and cycle from what looks like a pool of 5 faces. its not huge and many games do it but theres only so many Green Shirted and bage trouser wearing foes I can take in a game and this certainly filled my quota. Coupled with the takedown animation being the same every time I feel Visceral could have done a bit more here to expand the gameplay and thus the variety.
Takedowns aren’t the only thing new to the Battlefield gameplay here players can also toss shell casings to draw enemies attentions which helps shake up guard patrol patterns and also players will now be equipped with a scanner to use in game. The scanner helps you collect evidence to solve additional cases and also theres an achievement or two if you want them. Actions of stealth, non lethal takedowns and evidence hunting help you rank up your new Expert Meter which helps unlock new weapons in game. The highest rank is 15 disappointingly I achieved this half way through my playthrough and once hit it stopped rising. It gave me the message that ok we get your good at stealth how about you just go shoot some things now. Its a shame because this really drove my behaviour in the earlier levels and stopped the game from diving into a typical shoot em up.
As much as the story doesn’t quite hit the mark its still enjoyable and worth a playthrough if you have around 10-12 hours spare. Theres some terrific set pieces and environments to get screenshots and some of the character modelling is fantastic. Cutscenes are where you will see the best graphics unless your in a confined action scenario which there are a few of and these help boost the environment looks with bullets flying and light piercing through the bullet holes. It’s top drawer and a reminder why the FrostBite engine is so popular.
Everything else in this game is distinctly Battlefield in nature and theres even a moment when you get to strap into a vehicle or two which adds a bit of fun but not much more as these sequences in the campaign are fairly short and non demanding. Suspending your disbelief and embracing the story is something you will have to do in order to over look some of the gaping plot holes and slight issues for example when your gun decides to become unlimited in its supply of Ammo and doesn’t require a reload as you hang out a car as your enemies attempt to gun you down. Its sequences like this that felt forced in the campaign and showed the developer and level designers were trying to hard to deliver a unique Battlefield experience whilst catering to the old school battlefield player. Weapon sounds and selection is still authentic and the sound with a good set of headphones on is brilliant. The game only features the one main title track
Multiplayer is where this game will ultimately be judged as with all Battlefield titles and Battlefield Hardline more than holds its own in this regard. The fan favourites are here such as Conquest, Team Deathmatch etc but Visceral have went to extra lengths to extend the cops and robbers theme into the multiplayer as well. New modes have been created Hotwire, Blood Money, Heist and rescue to give players more variety and game types to choose. We played around 15 hours of online multiplayer in our review across both the PS4 and Xbox One and performance wise the game is excellent only noticing some frame drops and lag during the large conquest maps but running smoothly across all others. New modes such as Hotwire are great fun and really bring a new aspect to team work. Top tip this mode is also brilliant for ranking up your character with some extra cash and XP. Cash is the new form of currency in Battlefield Hardline and this allows players to pick and choose what they unlock once they can afford it. I think this is a better mechanic overall than previous Battlefield titles and lets players truly customise from the start. Graphically however the multiplayer doesn’t shine as strongly as the single player and in car views are pretty poor with little detail or texturing. Some of the maps also feel a bit barren in places and in need of some extra additions to really make them look stunning. That being said this multiplayer shows no signs of the nightmare scenes found on Battlefield 4’s launch and Visceral and EA should be congratulated for testing thoroughly and delivering a truly polished and smooth online experience with some stunning new game modes.
Overall the new modes are fantastic fun and I hope they feature in future Battlefield titles. Visceral have done a lot of great things in this area of the game and the usual mechanics for customisation, loadout and squads are present. The battlepack feature has been given a new look and it works alot better in hardline. Theres still in game micro transactions if you want to grab some gold battle packs quicker however the split on reward for XP bonus is targeted at player behaviour so XP boosts will push you towards objective play amongst others. Where we would like to see improvement is on the death upon spawning scenario we encountered far too often. its mostly prevalent in team deathmatch but Visceral are believed to be working on a tweak to this as we speak.
This title was reviewed on the Playstation 4.
A great first effort from Visceral in the Battlefield franchise. This take on cops and robbers is an enjoyable playthrough buts its star is the multiplayer which should keep you hooked even if the weak story won't.
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