In the Line of Duty | Battlefield: Hardline Review
Battlefield Hardline is the first time the Battlefield series goes behind the badge. But when the dust is settled is the game a Law and Order contender, or is it just an NYPD BLEW?
Story is Battlefield Hardline’s weakest attribute. It’s stuck somewhere between trying to be an in-your-face action movie and a traditional police procedural. I think if it had chosen a direction it wanted to go from the beginning, it would have benefited the story that much more. The beginning of the second act is where the story goes off the rails into pure action schlock. You play as Nick Mendoza a hardnosed detective that just wants to do what’s right. He’s paired up with Khai Dao and the two of them are sent to investigate the recent influx of cocaine.
Like I said before, the first act of the story plays out a lot like one of those primetime cop shows. Inexplicably there is an animosity between Dao and Mendoza for no reason other than to play into cliched tropes. Between our two leads and Detective Stoddard and Captain Dawes, there is no personality from anyone of the characters we are supposed to be focused on. Not only that, but everyone’s motivations is driven by what they are supposed to be rather than who they are. The cast does get larger as time goes on and the support characters are far more memorable than the leads. Tyson, Tap and Boomer are my favorite characters in the whole thing; and Tap is criminally underused. Heh, jokes. His few short scenes are incredibly funny and Tyson is enjoyable to have on screen. It’s almost as if the directors let the actors do whatever they wanted, and they run with it. I can understand why main characters lack any personality in games, to help the player feel more “immersed,” but in the end you get a boring character. Now they don’t have to be wacky or anything, but being able to interact with other characters or bits of story in a unique way would be much more enjoyable.
Between the next two images, I will be going into spoilers for the story. Skip to the next image after the following one for the rest of the review.
So the big reveal, and what sets up the rising action, is that in addition to Stoddard being the dirty cop, so is Dawes and Mendoza’s partner Dao. It came as no surprise to me in the slightest, and I was expecting that from the beginning. If only because of how cold Stoddard, Dawes and Dao act toward Mendoza. Often trying to intimidate him, because “reasons” I’m sure. I spend the first few episodes waiting for the shoe to drop. Like I said before, where the game truly goes off the rails is at the beginning of the second act. Cut to three years later, and Mendoza is being transported to another prison. I don’t think it’s ever explained why he’s being transported, but it makes it easier to break out of a prison transport rather than an actual penitentiary. For story purposes you see.
After you escape the police, you meet up with Tyson and Khai as they explain how corrupt Dawes has become in the last three years. The story, from here, goes into an almost off-the-wall revenge story. It has Nick traveling from the desert, to LA, to a Hollywood producer’s mansion, to a high-rise and then finally a private island. We never find out Khai’s motivations for feeling betrayed by Stoddard and Dawes other than they “wronged” her. Dawes, in the three year time skip has, apparently become some sort of multi-million dollar villain with a vault filled with gold and jewelery. Hell, when Nick is breaking into Dawes’ penthouse suite, he has to move a golden bust of Dawes to open a secret vault. That just screams cartoon villainy without a sense of irony. Stoddard isn’t anything more than a cardboard cutout of a crooked cop. Both Stoddard and Dawes’ deaths were incredibly anti-climactic. Both just happen. There tried to be some emotional investment into Dawes’ death, but it just felt forced and flat.
Battlefield Hardline focuses on stealth, rather than taking on enemies with full force. Although, that is certainly a reliable strategy. The game rewards stealth techniques over an all-out brawl, however the rewards don’t help being that much more stealthy. If take down an opponent stealthily, or complete a level objective, you get experience points which “level” up your character. Unfortunately, the things you unlock are more guns or accessories to your guns to make them more powerful. If you take down most enemies, by episode 7 you’ll have hit the level cap of 15.
The stealth gameplay, as whole, is very simplistic compared to other games; such as Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell, or even the Hitman games. You are given a few tools to help taking down criminals, like a scanner that you can tag enemies, explosives, and alarms, a minimap that shows enemies’ field of view and the ability to throw empty bullet casings to get enemy attention. The scanner makes everything a bit easy, as you can tag enemies and switch to the scanner to get a sense of their location. The only way to take down an enemy is to either make them freeze by showing your badge, or doing a takedown maneuver behind them. With your badge, you can make up to three enemies freeze while you are arresting them, but only if they are within range. If another enemy comes up behind you while arresting another, then the other enemies go into full red alert which is hard to get rid of.
Upon writing my review of Hardline, I had read a quote from Visceral Games about how the game’s single player campaign would not be linear and that choices would heavily change experiences with the game. I found neither to be true. The levels, while built more like boxes, had a very linear progression; go from the start point to the end point. The only non-linear segments were where I would have to incapacitate enemies.
In order to mix up the gameplay somewhat, there are vehicle segments. None of which are very tense, as there is no sense of speed. Sure there are tons of explosions and crashes around you, but it almost feels like a theme park ride. Everything happens around you while you move on a track to your destination. Luckily these segments are few in number.
Hardline is presented in a format very similar to a police procedural show. Think something like CSI or Law and Order. When you start playing, there’s a quick “last time on Hardline” recap of the story up to that point. Same thing when you quit playing. Which I thought was a really fun idea. Between episodes, there’s even a “seconds until next episode” graphic that resembles the one on Netflix.
Visuals are rather disappointing though. There’s a certain level of visual allure from AAA games that I kinda of expect from this point. Hardline’s is competent. It doesn’t suck, but there really isn’t anything that you’ll want to talk about at the watercooler in the morning. The only thing that looked interesting were the facial textures that the actor’s contributed. Even then, the game’s bugs often made certain scenes look weird. I was able to run everything on Ultra settings at 1080p, and it was not very taxing on my computer.
Battlefield Hardline tries to do something different with the Battlefield name, but ultimately just becomes something that isn’t entirely memorable. The gameplay is enjoyable enough and I appreciated all of the nods to cop shows, but the game isn’t the arresting title one would expect.
Also on Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3.
CPU: Intel i5 3570K
Motherboard: ASUS P877-V
GPU: GIGABYTE Radeon HD 7970 3GB
RAM: 16 GB