Battlefield Hardline: new campaign missions - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Battlefield Hardline: new campaign missions

Inner city Miami. This isn’t the palm tree lined capital of Will Smith’s summer anthem, so don’t expect any partying all night on the beach ’til the break of dawn. Instead, as rookie cop Nick Mendoza, I’m cruising with my veteran partner, Khai Minh Dao, past the grimy rap seeping from rundown bungalows, past the woman unpacking groceries while casually discussing her man’s restraining order, past the happy hobo who sprays our windshield with an “Evenin’ officer!” then shouts obscenities when we drive off.

For Battlefield Hardline, a full length crime caper offshoot bringing a ten mission campaign and brand new multiplayer, developer Visceral returns from Dead Space to find a setting just as hostile and alien. Says Hardline’s executive producer, Steve Papoutsis: “When we were doing the Dead Space series, we had a lot of flexibility in terms of what we wanted to do, because nobody could tell us what the Dead Space universe looked like. With this game, trying to recreate something more real world had to get the designers thinking about more modern design, about the real world and scenarios that are fun and interesting in those spaces. That connection between art and design is what makes or breaks it.”
Developer Visceral returns from Dead Space to find a setting just as hostile and alien
The aim here is to find a man named Tyson Latchford (LA Noire’s Adam Harrington), who’s slipping drugs to his hoodrat buddies. We park the car to avoid suspicion and stoop through darkened alleyways, enemy vision cones and awareness arcs helpfully displaying precisely how noticeable we are.

Now to enter a gang occupied school for the first of what Visceral dubs ‘fortress sections’ open areas you can approach in several ways. “It plays into the cop fantasy of a stakeout,” Papoutsis explains. You're given a scanner “a tactical device to mark enemies, determine who’s a bounty and listen in on conversations. And we add another layer to the game, which is, of course, the investigations. If you use the scanner, you can find various clues. And if you interact with these clues, you can scan them and get additional detail that explains a background character or story thread.”

After tagging two guys, I approach and yell “Freeze!” A compliance meter appears above their heads, meaning that if I don’t give them equal attention, one will get cocky and reach for his gun. Non lethal play nets you more cash to purchase fresh weapons, and equipment such as ballistic shields, breaching charges, gas masks, tasers and even golf clubs (for hitting people, obviously).

After skulking around the school chucking empty bullet casings to distract guards, then knocking them out for being stupid, I find Tyson. That is, the monitor Tyson’s face is on. He’s gloating over Skype, so Dao calls for a trace and we speed off after him to end the level. It’s an effective introduction to Hardline's unique spin on the shooter, at once stripped down (a pistol and nightstick are among my few weapons) and freeform.

The next mission: infiltrate a playboy’s penthouse, dig up dirt implicating him with Korean mobster Henry Kang, and take down two legally dubious birds with one stone. Again, there are plenty of ways into the apartment: you can either duck behind hedges to circumvent patrolling guards, ascend the stairs of an adjacent building and cross the rooftop car park to get behind them, or blaze in through the entrance. After multiple failed attempts at sneaking in like Pierce Brosnan’s version of James Bond, I go with the Daniel Craig, bull-in-a-china-shop approach. You're not penalised for either tactic. The smart, cover only lean function proves that Hardline is still just as tasty at gunplay, enabling me to pick off oncoming goons as the lift arrives.

Now comes the finale a rooftop defence against waves of bad guys hellbent on introducing me to my maker. A handy weapons cache gives me access to laser trip mines, which I proceed to plant on walls, and infrared scopes that prove their worth when the lights go out. “Our creative director pitched the idea for episode nine, and it was always about the fireworks,”

continues Papoutsis. “It was always about the 4th of July and really trying to do something that stood out from a visual perspective. At one point, we thought it would be cool for the bad guys to cut the power, so that we could light up the room with that, and the designers were like, ‘Hey, what if they had flashlights ?’” As we zipline out, golden explosions illuminating the night, it’s a dramatic end to my two mission playthrough that showcases Visceral’s artful eye and Hardline’s graphical might.
If Battlefield 4 is like an epic war film, Hardline is more akin to a TV cop drama
If Battlefield 4 is like an epic war film a Black Hawk Down, perhaps Hardline is more akin to a TV cop drama, less about screeching jets and natural disasters, and more about well written characters, believable settings and meaningful choice. But those pining for the odd show stopping set piece won’t be disappointed either in this, a vital refresh of the franchise.

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