Let’s Be Cops
I want to commend Battlefield Hardline’s campaign for offering a system of choice rarely seen in your everyday FPS, but then I would have to immediately condemn it for failing to make that system matter. Hardline puts you in the role of a Miami Vice detective and gives you the freedom to play good cop, bad cop, or a murdering psychopath. Playing good cop yields the greatest rewards, giving you more experience points for making arrest and leaving criminals breathing. The faster you gain experience points, the quicker you level up, giving you access to better gear such as assault rifles (that you will rarely use if you’re playing good cop). Guns can also be unlocked just as quickly if not quicker by simply picking them up off of fallen enemies. Not only does this progression system seem a little backwards, it’s also very easy. A few arrest here and there and you’ll find yourself quickly maxed out at level 15, making the whole experience feel like an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway because the points don’t really matter. With such a fast progression system I found bad cop to be my preferred style of play, arresting and killing depending on the situation. I would typically use stealth to take down a few enemies and disable alarms before shooting the rest …sure it may be a little unethical, but dammit it gets results! While good and bad cops get more points, murdering psychopaths have more fun. You can choose to go through the game killing off as many criminals as you like and no one bats an eye; seriously, no one seems to give a damn. It’s both funny and disappointing that after a trail of dead bodies, your boss and partner don’t seem too upset and you’ll never see a shred of paperwork, not so much as a letter from Internal Affairs asking that you kill less people your next time out. While this may offer a sense of freedom, it also takes away from that whole “you’re a cop” feeling the game wants you to experience. You will quickly find that this complete disregard for consequence not only dilutes the immersion, it contradicts the very core of the games story.
Between a Rock and a Hardline
Hardline finds itself in a bit of a tight spot, trying to cram both the life of cop and criminal into a 7 hour campaign. While I found the story entertaining, I couldn’t help but feel it may have been better as two separate parts allowing for greater division between the roles. Events in the story are at times predictable, but not enough to derail interest in what develops. The game seems to try and out do itself moving from TV cop series to Hollywood action film by the end. While this may appeal to some, it takes away from the little bits of realism the game gives you. Some of the most enjoyable moments were early in the case, when I was patrolling Miami’s streets looking for local drug dealers, and those moments are too soon left behind. One big saving grace of this game is the cast. You’ll notice it’s lined with TV celebrities such as Benito Martinez, Kelly Hu, Eugene Byrd and famous voice actor Travis Willingham. Seeing these familiar faces helps seal in that cop show setting the game tries to emulate. Cut scenes and in-game dialog are enjoyable and seem natural, I sometimes found myself chuckling at the witty banter between allies. As much as the characters draw you in with their dialog, they push you away with their actions. Enemies are incompetent and allies are useless leaving you feeling detached at times. Although you are paired with a partner for most of the game, it often feels like you’re doing missions solo. Too often I found my partner far away from danger as I engaged in arrest and gun fights only to have them magically appear on the other side of a door I opened. It’s as if their only purpose is to give you hints and remind you of the mission objective. The enemy AI could also use a med kit as they all suffer from blindness and stupidity. The game uses vision cones as a detection method; as long as you stay out of their line of sight you’re safe. There sight is very limited however, allowing you to approach them from the front flashing your badge before they ever notice or react to you. Even when they do notice things, such as a dead body, they never seem that concerned about it. They will start looking around breaking their usual walking pattern, but can easily be avoided and taken down.
Game Mechanics Need a Repair Tool
At times levels feel like a puzzle in which you learn the best order to disposes of grunts before heading to the next area and doing the same. You are equipped with a Batman Arkham style detective mode in the form of a scanner that highlights enemies and items of interest in the level. Using this you can track enemies through walls making them easy to dispatch and avoid.
If you choose to shoot your way through a level it will have no impact on the next area even if it’s a mission where stealth is encouraged. It’s yet another pull away from realism to have a loud shootout in one room and still be met with surprised faces in the next. Faulty game logic aside, it looks and handles well. Your actions from jumping over obstacles to shooting down drug dealers feel as smooth as any Battlefield game and the sound design is fantastic. The music is a magical mix of corny and catchy but it fits well with the setting of the game. The graphics are good, but nowhere near award winning as they carry the signature sharp edges I’ve come to associate with Battlefield.
The Multiplayer in a way feels like a scaled back Battlefield 4. This isn’t to discredit the games multiplayer, but to say that it feels both the same but different, the biggest difference being new game modes like Hotwire, Heist, Blood Money, and Rescue. These new modes offer smaller maps and smaller team sizes, making you feel more important and your performance more vital to the team’s success. Rescue and Crosshair are as intense as any competitive game modes and leave your heart pumping as you only have one life to eliminate the enemy team or complete the objective. Blood Money requires a well-coordinated team as money moves fast and if you’re not paying attention, enemies could be riding away with your team’s cash in seconds. More familiar game modes such as Team Deathmatch and Conquest can also be found in the mix if you’re craving the classics. These new game modes offer a fun twist to the Battlefield experience but the one that stands out above all is Hotwire. Hotwire is a conquest style game mode that replaces buildings with drivable cars. The objective is to drive marked cars around the map as long as possible before the enemy team destroys your vehicle or forcibly removes you from it via gunshots. Hiding away parked behind a Rib Shack isn’t the best strategy, as you’re required to maintain a high speed to gain points. This game mode is pure action, excitement, and the most fun I’ve had in an FPS in a while. Hotwire represents the creative and fun ideas that I love to see in gaming and defiantly hope to see more of in this new generation.
Battlefield Hardline is a refreshing change-up that keeps the series from quickly going stale. It changes enough to avoid being Battlefield 5 while still maintaining the core elements of what you’ve come to expect from the franchise. The campaign can be enjoyable, but mostly due to the characters and not the game-play itself. It seems that a few minor tweaks of the games mechanics and AI could have really boosted the overall experience. It’s a bit funny that the story is designed to feel like a cop drama series because I find myself thinking it may have been better off opening in my Netflix app. Multiplayer offers a nice alternative while waiting for the next installment in the series, but if the next Battlefield doesn’t have Hotwire it may start a riot with me at the forefront.