Electronic Arts Games
Action/First Person Shooter
PC, PS3, PS4 (Reviewed), XBox One, XBox 360
March 17, 2015
₹3499(PC, PS3, X360), ₹3999 (PS4, X One)
There are several problems and questions that Triple A developers and franchises are facing in today’s age. While it is said that developers are not necessarily bringing anything new to the platter, like most of the old gen games, it is the genre that is now officially termed as a straight path minus guts and innovation. Battlefield: Hardline sums up my recent run of Triple A shooters, namely Evolve and the likes. And for a franchise that is so dear to me, I will make sure that the criticism resounds as loudly as the minimal praise I have for the recent installment. So let’s hear it out.
The Hardline Concept:
Battlefield Hardline is definitely a path-breaking installment in the Battlefield series; it improvises on the series’ hit formula without trying too much. Tons of Plan B’s, massive urban jungles ready to be your warfront, and a gutsy discourse from Russians vs. Americans to Cops versus Burglars. And the whole dictum of Karma. The change is so welcoming that it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to gel with the changed brief. The concept hooks you straight to the game but doesn’t pay you off at junctures or doesn’t show resilience to hold on to you. For a Battlefield game that is all about those big filmy moments and the vehicle exploding, knuckle breaking action, prepare to get all disappointed.
The Hardline Mini Series:
Thank you Battlefield: Hardline for showing the next best way of presenting a single player campaign, honestly. The mini series presentation is hands down the best way to stay immersed in a 6 hour-long Battlefield campaign. Each chapter is divided as Episodes; you get to play 10 of these chapters as Nick Mendoza, the protagonist rookie who wants to make it big in the Police Department. Watch the teleseries drama unfold in front of you, as each time you log in or log out you see a recap or a ‘Next on Hardline’ featurette telling you where the story is going. Even though it’s an additional gimmick to the 6-hour campaign, some parts of the episodic narrative is really beneficial to the gameplay addicted campaigner.
What’s not hot with the Hardline narrative is the low profile action sequences, considering it is coming from a franchise that lives sky high with acrobatic action. Hardline is just about being a slacker cop trying to make a living by staying moral or immoral, running errands for the agency with an NPC partner who is a worthless piece of addition. Battlefield: Hardline tries to introduce stealth sections and stealth sandboxing for the first time in the game. If you live for big blasts and entertaining stuff, do not get easy on the campaign mode, instead venture out into the online modes. However, you can cause carnage even during the stealth sections, sacrificing some of your pro points that can help you unlock guns that you may never use, because being stealthy and sly rewards in the new Battlefield approach.
The story of Battlefield: Hardline is not the pinnacle of Police underbelly stories, however, it isn’t that bad either. There are predictable pivots within the story that might upset you after a hard fought mission, but the overall narrative is definitely mature and in sync with how Battlefield tries to tell its story. The lack of a superior antagonist and the introduction of random badasses in every chapter make the motivation swing sides. By the end of Hardline, you just revisiting more of Kevin Spacey’s portrayal of the corporate killer in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Maybe it’s how Triple A games with guns tend to end these days. One of Hardline’s biggest fallouts has definitely been its weak writing, especially dialogues. Additionally, Hardline’s mysteriously new ways encourage gamers to solve cases by scavenging for evidence pieces and can tell another aspect of the already evident tale. These changes certainly motivated me to stay hooked to the core gameplay as much as the inherent storyline.
The Hardline Gameplay:
Battlefield: Hardline introduces some brand new routes into the existing franchise and rebuilds some of the classic BF benchmarks like a boss. For the first time in Battlefield, you get to choose how you want to interrupt a crime scene. Hardline features the two new shoulder button prompts. If you catch an enemy before he catches you, you can raise your Cop Badge and force him to surrender. This works brilliantly especially if you are avoiding mess and simply want to clean up the house like Batman. You can command upto 3 enemies to submit to you, by keeping your gun pointed at them to make sure they don’t reach for their guns. A meter on top of their heads notify you if they’re going for the gun or not, and if they do, you will be caught between two parties of gunfire. With the right shoulder button cue, you can scan the environment for evidences, a brand new feature to the franchise but an existing gameplay diversion as pioneered by Batman: Arkham Origins. Each episode guarantees you a truckload of evidences that you can scan with the help of the scanner. If you can find all the evidences leading to a crime scene, you solve a subplot within Hardline, which not only guarantees you perks but also tells the story minus the direct narrative. In the age of linear shooters with jaw dropping environment, that’s a nice diversion there. The game also reintroduces the cat-scanning asset of the Far Cry series; simply scan the environment and auto tag enemies, threat alarms and inflammable objects that can be used to one’s benefit.
Battlefield: Hardline introduces the concept of leveling up for the first time in the franchise’s single player campaign, as leveling up increases your chances of unlocking new weapons and weapon parts. You get more XP points for playing stealthily and exploring the sandbox, thereby making the whole point of unlocking better weapons a nullified demand. Battlefield :Hardline doesn’t necessarily pump you up for an epic action sequence, no aviation missions, a dull tank mission and keeping you hooked to your low profile whatever may be the scenario. There are some forgettable car chases that made me reconsider Visceral’s involvement in the game’s development. Hardline features some of the most negligible ally AI ever, prepare to survive because none of their flanking tactics came to much use.
The single player stands out as a Battlefield game every time bullets are fired and something blows up. However, DICE’s Levolution physics don’t always play by rules; determining the outcome of heavy machinery, like in Battlefield 3 and 4, leaving less action points for people who simply enjoy watching the world burn. Battlefield: Hardline may naturally bring out the stealth concept into the franchise, but it severely lacks creativity and authenticity when it tries to describe a meltdown towards the end of a chapter. There was this certain tank section towards the end of the game that turned me off for a solid 20 minutes, the gameplay during action sequences was jarred and rode on an outdated linear concept. Battlefield may have introduced new bits to the series, but definitely lost its footing on its home soil – i.e. over the top military action.
The Hardline: Competitive Online Modes:
One of Battlefield: Hardline’s key assets in this edition is definitely its various online gameplay modes. Classic BF veterans can witness a return of the TDM that we often loved about Battlefield online. Get ready to immerse in a new kind of Cops versus Burglars that start off darn well. New ways to fulfill objectives, with the new edition’s heavy focus on teamwork, there is not a single moment where the action drops, unlike the single player campaign.
The classic Battlefield style Conquests return as well, in a new skin, with updated mission objectives and tons of new ways to stamp your authority on the SPM inspired maps. Adding to the long conquest games format is the new Small Conquest format, that basically cuts down on the time you take to travel from marker A to marker B, but still abhors close combat.
What makes Battlefield: Hardline’s multiplayer so engaging and addictive is its brand new modes, namely Blood Money and Heists. I have already spoken about how addictive Heists can be, wherein Team Burglars try to open a confidential vault, steal the money and report to the drop point, while Cops must defend. It’s an instant hit amongst those who play co-operative Counter Strike. It’s a classic case of 32 vs 32 players working with gadgets (Ziplines, Incendiary bombs) to hold off the opposition in order to complete clan based objectives. There’s a lot of e-Sports potential in this brand new mode of Battlefield. And most importantly, it is the most fair BFH game mode you’ll get this year.
Blood Money is a well-conceived Control game mode, wherein players must work alongside teammates to hold off a point while others grab the cash, and then make way to the escape point. It’s not the synonym for the Hardpoint of Call of Duty, but it is definitely a fun mode somewhere in the lines of the former.
And there are Hotwire and Crosshair modes, which might impress you as concepts but are terrible when it comes to balancing out and giving a fair chance. These are the only two modes wherein Visceral spent the least time QnA’ing. Hotwire is Control Mode on cars, the more you own a VIP car, the more points you spend to the team’s total bucket. Chances are, you might be earning points like rocket while merely making round trips of the ally spawn camp. It was meant to be a vehicle blowing, fast paced game mode, and it is by far the most random and non-Battlefield game mode. Crosshair is a single life team death match between teams of 5, wherein one gets to be the VIP and others his guards. The objective is simple, press down the other team in a small map, hunt down the VIP and take him down in order to win the match. It’s a timebound match wherein you switch sides every now and then. The problem with Crosshair is the same as I have with the entirety of 2K’s Evolve: you either tire yourself out figuring out who’s the VIP or you end the match in a heartbeat. More importantly, it kind of reminds me of Grand Theft Auto Online’s VIP missions.
I had limited time with the other mode, which calls itself Rescue, but it looked fun as well. You either save hostages as the Cops or defend your catch as the Goons.
The Problems of Hardline/Online:
While it might sound all fine, there are tons of issues with a game that costs ₹4K on the next gen consoles. Battlefield: Hardline lacks content, both on the Single Player side and primarily in the online version of it. I do understand that the franchise switched universes to tell a brand new story, but that’s no excuse for cutting down on the amazing guns choice that the franchise rode on. While Hardline gives you an advantage to buy a gun (instead of earning it) and upgrading it with in-game currency, there are limited variations to choose from. I’ve seen it all in previous Battlefields and now with Evolve, and I assume that pushing down DLC as a marketing alternative has to stop. A DLC is additional content that the user buys when he is transformed from a user to a fan, and so these blatant cash grabbing moments only turn me off. The same goes for the maps. Somehow it feels like a mod of BF4 maps or directly borrowed from the single player missions.
The highly unbalanced Hotwire mode needs to be modded or else there will be a time when players will leave all other modes and flock to simply speeding by the respawn points, because none of the modes reward as much. The random Crosshair mode can be looked into and can easily become the Survivor game mode of The Last Of Us Factions.
Something that most people won’t tell you about Battlefield: Hardline, but I must – Fix that car collision impact. I was crunching down mangroves with a speedboat in the single player campaign, and the same collision mechanism continues in the online mode. If this is a Battlefield game about high adrenaline chases and armored car takedowns, then it must feel like it! In this scenario, the only thing that feels real is when the chopper goes down. Not cool EA! Bikes feel like Magic Carpets, as you perform jumping stunts while your partner sticks out his head and shoots at random caravan windows.
Visuals, SFX and Soundtrack:
Even though it may not perform at its maximum potential, especially on the consoles, Battlefield: Hardline maintains everything in harmony with its established visual treatment. A sandstorm hits you while you are driving around a deserted town, a crocodile opens its jaws to consume you, everything feels brilliantly realistic in Hardline. With some bummers here and there like texture pop-ins.
The SFX of Hardline is probably the best bit about this or any Battlefield in general. I was gaming on a non-gaming VModa M-100 pair of headsets that boasts of its bass capacity, and I was stunned how crystal clear every SFX bit was within the game. You can literally follow an out of sight enemy by the sounds or scope out an environment with the noises around you, needless to say the sniper SFX feels so different from a thick skinned close range shotgun.
Hardline got me all excited when they signed one of my favourite contemporary artists for the soundtrack – Jamie N Commons. His iconic BFH song Karma defines and stitches the beginning and ending of the single player story. The single player campaign has a cool soundtrack to boast of as well. But it is the radio listing that I have major problems with, as my first task after grabbing the wheels became turning off the radio. Terrible, loud, noisy tracks that may satisfy a psychotic killer on the run, but not a gamer who is trying to concentrate and plan out every move.
Battlefield: Hardline is yet another OK game of this year, and this “next-gen”, but even then it has stepped up some of the mainstream shooter game logistics. If the developers can realize where Hardline fails as a shooter game, fun game or a Battlefield game, I am sure of it, the sequel would be nothing but grander. Until then, cross your fingers for the rest of 2015, and an imminent unbanning of Dragon Age: Inquisition.
+ Stealth Sandboxing
+ Episodic Presentation
- Lack of Content
- Vehicle Physics/Mechanism
- Predictable Storyline
- Where is Levolution?