REVIEW: Battlefield Hardline [PC]

It appears the reign of the modern military shooter is coming to an end. No, not the actual franchises (that’d be crazy talk, they’re a license for their publishers to print money!) more so the generic, Hollywood war backdrops we’ve become accustomed to destroying. Hell, the poster boy for the military industrial complex – yeah, I’m talking about Call of Duty – is straying more and more into sci-fi territory every year. Looks like EA saw this trend and thought ‘Hey, let’s jazz up Battlefield! Who else has authority, guns and unwavering morals? Ah! Cops!’ And boom. Hardline was born.

Problem is, over the last couple of years news stories involving cops have rarely included positive terms. And a group of cops running around with high powered military firepower has taken on a whole new meaning. Act surprised, it isn’t a positive one.

This massive shift in public awareness and how it’s affecting the truly commendable cops just trying to do their jobs could have been a fantastic premise for Hardline‘s campaign. But nope, that could offended people.

Hardline‘s campaign instead is basically a distillation of every 80s cop movie you’ve ever seen. You play as the na├»ve, incorruptible rookie Nick Mendoza who must gingerly tip toe through a world of cocaine, corruption and casual racism. Damn it! So close EA, so close.

Seriously though, at one point the game tasks you with pulling your gun on a couple of ‘criminals’ and taking them down. What makes them criminals? Well, for a start they live in the projects. Also, they’re hanging on the street listening to hip hop. Pfft, who needs a warrant, amirite?

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Back to the story. If you’ve never seen a movie before, this might be a thrilling rollercoaster of intrigue. But if you have, it’s as predictable as taking a morning piss. Of course you get double crossed. Of course you go rogue to clear your name. And that cop that plays hard and loose with the rules? He might as well have been waving a sign that said “I love cocaine and committing crime!”

As for the gameplay, it seems confused. I applaud the ability to actually play like a cop, flashing your badge and non-violently apprehending suspects – but this seems at odds with what Hardline rewards you for. Arresting suspects or stealthily giving them brain damage rewards you with Expert Points, which unlocks more guns and modifications… which you’re clearly not using.

The levels also feel specifically built to play like a poor man’s Metal Gear, with dumb enemies that have next to no peripheral vision and ample places to take them down unseen.

Oh, you can also shoot the place up, but that nets you nothing but the game’s judgement.

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Okay, multiplayer time. It’s Battlefield 4, only with a different skin…kinda. Hardline multiplayer will feel familiar to anyone who’s dabbled in Battlefield before. You’ve got your obligatory classes and vehicles but where it deviates is in its speed and playstyle. This isn’t the methodical and tactical Battlefield of old but a faster, more chaotic breed. Feeling like a hybrid of COD and CS:GO, Hardline seems to be trying to appeal to the blossoming eSports crowd and that’s not more apparent than in its new game modes.

Rescue and Crosshair are specifically 5v5 affairs, where you have to either rescue hostages as the cops or assassinate a VIP as the crooks? Terrorists? Whatever they are. These modes also feature no respawn, so teamwork and co-ordination is key for success here. If your team’s into that kind of thing. Mine apparently was not.

The other new mode, that was popular for a while, is Hotwire. It’s basically a hold the point. Except the points here are multiple cars, which you have to drive at breakneck speeds to hold. It quickly devolves into either re-enacting Speed or searching for a RPG to blow the cars clean off the map. It’s kinda enjoyable for a bit until you realize all you’re doing is essentially driving around in circles, and the only reason most other people are playing is to farm XP.

Battlefield Hardline just straight up confuses me. As a Battlefield game, it doesn’t offer enough new, worthwhile content to justify it being a standalone release, feeling way more like an old school expansion pack than anything else. At the same time though, as a stand-alone game, free from the constraints put on it by being “another Battlefield“, it could have easily carved its own identity and done something truly interesting with its premise. But that’d mean EA being bold and taking a calculated risk… and the last time they did that we got Origin. That wasn’t so ba… ah who am I kidding.

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