The last Battlefield game to launch was Battlefield 4 in 2013. It was the first shooter to use the Frostbite 3 engine and also the first in the series to release on PS4 and Xbox One. It was also a complete mess.
Committing to the launch of the new consoles was a mistake for EA and DICE. The game was full of game-breaking bugs and should have been delayed. It took months of effort and patches before the game was playable online.
The latest release is Battlefield Hardline which again uses the Frostbite 3 engine. However there have been some big changes to the familiar Battlefield formula. Firstly the game has a new developer with Visceral Games (Dead Space) taking their first shot at the series. Secondly this instalment has switched from the normal military setting to instead focus on the battles between cops and robbers.
In recent years we’ve been complaining that the single player campaign portion of the game has been the weakest part of the releases. We’ve half been wondering if the campaign might eventually get dropped to allow sole focus on the multiplayer.
This year things are different and the campaign has been given a lot of love. Putting Visceral in charge, along with the new setting, has allowed them to bring a whole bunch of new ideas to the series. Obviously it still has its roots as a military shooter so the gun play and vehicles are as good as ever.
The campaign is called Episodes and is split up into ten parts. This setup works well and kind of makes it feel a bit like a cop TV series. A neat touch when you exit is a preview of what is going to happen ‘next time’. Similarly when you resume you get a ‘previously’ recap of events.
Set in Miami, you play as Nick Mendoza who has just made detective. Accompanying you through much of the game is your female partner Khai Minh Dao. The story is decent and while it does get a bit silly at times we found the whole thing rather entertaining. Trying not to give much away the main theme throughout is one of corruption.
How you tackle missions is largely up to you and a lot of the linearity has gone. For example you can go in normal Battlefield-style with guns blazing or opt for a more stealthy non-lethal approach and there are multiple paths to take. That’s right stealth plays a big part in Hardline and it’s possible to get through much of the game without resorting to your gun.
Get close enough to criminals and a tap of the left shoulder button flashes your badge. As long as you keep your focus on them you can then click in the right thumbstick to arrest them. Doing so plays a nice animation where you force them to the floor and cuff them.
At first it’s hard to get away from the normal run and gun mindset but arresting people fast becomes addictive. Before you tackle an area you can use your handy scanner device to target enemies from a safe distance and even listen in on their conversations. Scanning more well-known criminals can turn up an arrest warrant which rewards you with more points should you take them in. Points are used to unlock new guns and items.
While sneaking around you can see the field of view of nearby criminals. To draw them away from each other you can toss coins to get their attention. If things go wrong when trying to make an arrest or you get spotted while sneaking around then you normally have no choice but to switch to your guns. If you manage to escape the area and lay low for a short time then you can go back to arresting people.
Graphically the campaign looks fantastic and while environments are incredibly detailed the characters are even more impressive. At times you forget they are computer generated thanks to detailed models, excellent voicework and superb animation.
Multiplayer is similarly impressive. Despite the different setting it instantly feels familiar if you’re a Battlefield veteran. We’ve also had none of the issues that plagued Battlefield 4, games have been quick to connect, lag free and the servers have been rock solid.
One thing to note is that although Battlefield is well known for its use of vehicles in multiplayer they don’t fit Hardline the same. There’s cars, vans, trucks, bikes and helicopters but none of the heavy stuff like tanks.
Multiplayer feels quicker than usual but there’s a nice selection of old and new modes. Standard modes like Team Deathmatch and Conquest (capture the point) are present and fun. The new modes on offer are Heist, Blood Money, Hotwire, Rescue and Crosshair.
Heist has criminals trying to steal cash while the cops try and protect it. Blood Money is a tug-of-war over stolen cash. Rescue and Crosshair are competitive modes where you defend/rescue hostages or protect/kill a VIP.
Our favourite mode so far is Hotwire which is like Conquest mixed with the film Speed. Here you must steal certain marked vehicles and then drive them around at speed to earn points. It’s a thrilling mode and hilarious to ride as a passenger leaning out of the side windows.
Multiplayer uses the normal system of four classes and has a new unlock system based on cash you earn. This can be spent on unlocks for new weapons, gear and items. Two favourite items are the grapple hook that allows you to climb and the zip wire for getting between (and down) from buildings. Playing as a cop chasing a criminal, who is escaping with loot, down a zip wire never gets old.
Right now there’s only a small selection of maps on offer and although they feel big they aren’t as overwhelming as some previous efforts. They seem designed in a way that there is always something going on and finding the opposition tends to be quick. Hardline will be getting plenty of DLC so we expect the multiplayer to keep evolving over the next year. There’s also a Battlefield Premium pass on offer to make things a little cheaper.
Overall we’ve been mighty impressed by Battlefield Hardline. A decent campaign was a nice surprise and the multiplayer is as addictive as ever. We’ll be playing this one for a long time to come. Fans of the series who were put off by Battlefield 4’s problems should give this one a chance.