Battlefield Hardline: Better than The Bill? - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Battlefield Hardline: Better than The Bill?

You know it, we know it, Visceral knows it, EA knows it: Battlefield is renowned for its exceptional multiplayer and that’s precisely what everyone is looking for whenever a new entry comes along. In some respects, Visceral’s first stab at a Battlefield game struggles to live up to that legacy. You expect to develop an affection for a couple of maps in the early going, anticipate that one or two will shine in certain modes, but, alas, that doesn’t really happen. There’s even an argument to be made that
the game’s maps don’t work particularly well in Battlefield’s trademark mode, Conquest. Control points often feel unimaginatively placed, and too many of the maps are uncharacteristically cramped, to the effect that the traditional strategic bent of the mode is nixed some what and the flow of matches suffers. Don’t get us wrong, Hardline’s map design is far from terrible, nor are we suggesting that Conquest isn’t any fun to play. Rather, we are saying that the mode doesn’t quite match up when
compared to previous entries. It can offer moments of brilliance, but they’re much rarer than they used to be.

Fortunately, while Hardline might struggle when it comes to Visceral trying to ape what DICE does best, there’s a spectacular reversal when it takes things in a new direction. That’s most notable in the brilliant Hotwire mode. Hotwire is a bit like Conquest mixed with the Speed films each control point is a vehicle that remains in your team’s control only as long as you keep it up to speed. This leads to some exhilarating battles as you bomb around the map in cars, hanging out of windows, lobbing grenades and spraying gunfire at enemies who are doing the same, in a bid to take out their mobile control point so that it respawns on the map and sparks yet another mad dash to grab it for your team. Hardline may struggle at times to leverage its cops and robbers set-up in a meaningful way, but during those intense car chases, you really do get an action movie feel.
Speaking of Hardline’s attempts to make the game’s cops and robbers theme count, there are times when this both helps and hinders the game. The aforementioned Hotwire and Heist a mode in which crims have to break into a vault and then get its contents to an escape point are examples of the former. However, the decision to split upgrades and inventories between the two factions in order to differentiate them ends up feeling arbitrary and frustrating. Add the fact that unlocking new weapons and attachments requires a combination of ranking up your character, meeting particular requirements with your weapons and earning cash and the whole system becomes unnecessarily convoluted. In and of itself, it’s not a big deal, but it is emblematic of Hardline’s uneven success in finding its own identity whilst also remaining a‘ Battlefield game’.

That’s also the case the game’s single-player campaign, which takes episodic TV as its influence. The storytelling is certainly better than in previous entries, though you could argue that’s a bit like saying being kicked in the shins is better than being punched in the face. There are some decent moments in Hardline’s story, but those positives are tempered by its tendency to fall back on clichés. It’s also notable that Hardline is careful to avoid saying anything of value about the police force at a time where police conduct has been brought into focus in the US. There’s also little, if any, attention paid to police brutality, racism or police militarization. The police don’t come off favourably by the end of the game, but Hardline’s tale of corruption unmistakably treads on safer, more well worn ground.

To return to our starting point, though, it’s multiplayer that really matters. When it comes to many of the aspects for which DICE’s Battlefield games have been praised, Hardline performs little more than a imitation. However, new modes like Hotwire, Heist and Blood Money elevate it to being far more than an inferior copy of what’s come before. If you’re here for the multiplayer, as we suspect you are, then you’re still likely to have plenty of fun. 

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