Battlefield: Hardline scales down the over-the-top set pieces, huge maps, devastating vehicular chaos, and multitude of launch period bugs and downtime of Battlefield 4, and instead offer a faster paced, more stable and more thoughtful experience. It’s a bit of a departure from the norm but this refreshing entry is precisely what the long running franchise needs.
Gone are two armies facing off against each other and instead the classic battle between cops and robbers has broken out. Instead of tanks and jets, armoured swat vans, motorbikes and helicopters are some of your vehicular options. Battles are also now fought over much smaller maps with more lethal weapons, culminating in a far faster pace. Yet the Battlefield aesthetic is still present, with stunning lighting effects, uncanny valley character models, and a bright, glossy coating of paint. It’s certainly a greatly tweaked version of Battlefield but it’s familiar enough to keep the majority of its fans, whilst adding enough fresh content to entice newcomers and those who’ve grown tired of the previous title’s setup.
Tactics are still just as crucial, if not more so, when it comes to doing well on the battlefield. Weapons pack more of a punch so taking cover, moving thoughtfully and staying vigilant are just as important as ever. Meanwhile, equipment such as trip mines, and grappling hooks add extra danger to consider, as entering a building becomes more deadly and enemies have more options to move around and gain elevation. The five new modes also rely greatly on tactics.
Heist tasks the criminals with breaching a location with explosives on a 30 second timer, picking up two packages and taking them to a randomly chosen extraction point, then defending that area until pickup arrives. These three stages require versatility from both sides as they adapt to the shifting objectives. Blood Money has both sides steal packages from a central point and return them to their home base; however, these packages can also be stolen from each other’s bases, forcing both teams to weigh up the risk vs. reward aspect of offensive and defensive play.
Hotwire mixes up the capture point scenario with mobile capture points in vehicles. Driving the vehicles at speed reduces the enemy’s tickets, the side with the highest remaining score after the time limit – or the team who doesn’t hit zero – wins. Finally, Crosshair and Rescue offer small, 5v5 team based objectives with a single life each, targeted at the e-sports community. Crosshair has a player controlled VIP cop escaping, protected by the rest of their team, as the criminals hunt for them. Rescue tasks the cops with rescuing NPC hostages held by the criminal team, where killing all opponents nets a win for either team. For the cop team, extracting all the hostages nets a win as well.
Each mode offers a different and terrific team based experience, whether you’re joining a full 64 player battle or one of the smaller modes and maps, and additional tweaks to the traditional Battlefield formula improve the experience even more. Your speed on foot has been increased and you can run faster still when holding a handgun. You no longer need to grind experience for each class to unlock weapons; instead you earn in-game currency and can freely buy equipment and weapons as well as earn battle packs to kit yourself out with your preferred loadout. However, with less vehicle combat comes no loadout option for heavy machine guns and rocket launchers, these are now littered across the battlefield as pickups or accessible via ‘armoury upgrades’ to your vehicles. It’s certainly an appropriate change, but some may find it frustrating, especially when playing Hotwire.
Battlefield 4’s Levolution returns, where destructive events and natural occurrences affect the map drastically. A destroyed structure can change the location of an object, as well as kill plenty of cops and criminals caught in its wake as the fantastic explosions and falling debris litter the battlefield. Meanwhile, other events, like a sandstorm, reduce visibility and make combat more difficult and interesting. They have a brilliant effect on the map and the flow of play, challenging you to adapt to new situations quickly as well as distracting you with their awe.
And whilst the majority of your time is likely to be spent on the multiplayer side of things, Battlefield: Hardline has a great single player campaign. You play as detective Nick Mendoza, part of Miami’s Vice squad, waging a war against drugs. An episodic delivery with a framing device as if the campaign is a TV show, proves a great way to set up the narrative and deliver different objectives and intense shootouts and arrests. Moreover, the campaign is distinctly grounded, offering you a choice of stealth in most occasions and encouraging non-lethal takedowns and completion of secondary objectives. An arrest mechanic allows you to flash your badge at groups of up to three people, you must then control the group by aiming you gun at each of them as they get nervous, then throw handcuffs on them to arrest them. Arrest those with open warrants and collect evidence to complete case files and you’ll gain bonus unlocks. You can also throw shell casings to distract enemies. It’s all very well crafted to make you feel like the police, rather than just another gun-toting action star.
Battlefield: Hardline is not the Battlefield you’re used to; it’s faster paced, more grounded and less bombastic. It might split the fan base; the smaller maps and less of an emphasis on vehicular warfare is going to disappoint some, meanwhile, the increased tactical play and aforementioned fast pace will delight others. Overall, it’s a wonderfully refreshing experience for the franchise, with smart changes, enjoyable modes and a well-built single player campaign. It’d be criminal not to pick it up.
Thanks to Xbox & EA for supplying TiX with a download code
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