For all my talk of Call of Duty (CoD) and nostalgia I have actually played and enjoyed a number of non-CoD first person shooters (fps) in the past few years. While the battlefield franchise isn’t a completely new experience for me, having owned the past God knows how many, I never clicked with them in quite the same way. That is until I picked up Battlefield Hardline, the black sheep of the franchise, which in my opinion has the most engaging multiplayer the series has ever produced!
Ok, they’re called ‘episodes’, but I have a problem with this. Most AAA first person shooters in the recent past have had huge blockbuster action sequences, inspired strongly by movies. The choice of approaching the campaign in episodes, and giving me little reminders of what happened ‘previously’ just doesn’t make me feel like I’m in the game, but rather experiencing it second hand. I realise this isn’t the feel Visceral were going for, but that’s how I felt playing it.
As well as using an episodic structure Dice took a new direction by diverting from their tried and tested military fps background and bringing in a cops vs robbers style game full of cocaine and police brutality. Honestly they did a decent job skirting inevitable criticism on those themes, and I believe the episodic feel may have had something to do with this.
Emotional investment in the characters on my part was low because they weren’t particularly likable. Your partner, Khai, has some fire in her but it seems to get put out by the wet flannel which is your character: Mendoza. Its a shame, because the plot line could have been interesting, with equal measures of intrigue and betrayal, but when playing through recently to refresh myself of the story, I mysteriously found myself back on multiplayer again!
There are some cool features that are new however, such as non-lethal takedowns giving the player moral choices as well as giving the missions some replayability. Though I don’t think the situations you are landed in are particularly suited to non-lethals; as some of the areas you are sent (alone) are more like bond villain hideouts… Luckily you are able to pick and choose your weapons, but in classic battlefield style, you only have access to weapons you’ve picked up in the field. The stealth is pretty cool though! My favourite experiences involved (lethally) taking out guards with a silenced sniper rifle, then making arrests on the wanted targets if they weren’t firing Mac-11s at me.
Game modes are what really sets this game apart from its military cousins. Classic modes like Team Deathmatch and Conquest large/small are accompanied by Heist, Blood Money and Hotwire which, along with the change in weapons and vehicles give the game a more frantic arcade like feel, which I love by the way. Hotwire especially introduces an interesting take on Domination, where the control points ARE vehicles which must be driven at top speed in order to drain the opposing teams credits. And due to the low durability of the vehicles, compared to tanks of Battlefield 4, all kinds of hilarity ensues as you try to control these highly explosive command points. In all honesty though, the game mode I played most was Heist. Being objective based but small scale means it promotes high intensity infantry conflict, which requires a surprising amount of teamwork and tactics, leading to some nail biting experiences.
Classes are balanced nicely in a way that having a few of each is a real help to a team due to their kit. Operators act as assault medics who carry around medkits and defibrillators/revive, they are the backbone of the squad, providing direct help to injured or revivable players. Mechanics are essential in Hotwire due to their explosives and repair tools. They are also useful in small objective modes where their sub-machine guns make short work of enemies at close quarters. Enforcers carry either shotguns or battlerifles, they are the heavy gunners which support the other players by dishing out ammo boxes. Lastly the Professionals are the Recon class which, more often than not use a sniper and camp for the majority of the match. Whilst this class is SUPER fun to use (see video), a Professional heavy team is almost always a losing team!
There is an absolute plethora of weapons, attachments, optics and kit available to buy with in-game cash. Most of which is available to buy from the off, so you have an overwhelming choice of things to spend your cash on. Luckily you earn cash along with XP pretty quickly, and often the time spent getting enough kills to unlock optics or attachments is also the time in which you earn the cash needed. The variety in class setup is amazing, each gun has completely unique statistics, and although obviously some guns are superior to others, its fun working out which is best for you.
The more generic kit adds another level of traversal with the grappling hook and zipline making for some tactical or just plain daft moments. There are also items like flak jackets and gas masks, the gas masks being extra cool because your breathing gets heavier which gives a gritty authentic feeling to the game. Authentic may be a rich word to use when describing this game, but I’d definitely say that the general feeling makes it like no other shooter I’ve experienced. The sound and lighting effects really do make you feel like you’re in a battle, and its pretty scary! Especially when someone explodes the supports on a house you’re taking cover in.
Whilst the ‘Episodes’ were underwhelming (at least for me), I have been pleasantly surprised by just how engaging Battlefield Hardline’s multiplayer is. The wide range of classes, weapons and kit, along with the hugely rewarding team orientated small scale objective modes and maps make this an experience I have kept coming back to over any other in the last month. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I don’t even need a buddy to join me online to properly get stuck in, although some of the best moments I’ve had have been with a friend in my squad. Unfortunately the weak single player stops this game from excelling in the way it deserves; but the multiplayer stands alone, head and shoulders above many other titles of its kind. For this reason I have weighted the overall rating more heavily on the performance of the multiplayer over the campaign.
Campaign Rating: 5/10
Multiplayer Rating 9.5/10
Overall Rating: 8.0/10