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Battlefield: Hardline

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Visceral Games
Release Date: March 17, 2015 (US), March 19, 2015 (EU)

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Review - 'Battlefield: Hardline'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on April 22, 2015 @ 12:01 a.m. PDT

Battlefield: Hardline switches the franchise standard of military themed action for a more urban environment with the player taking part in a police-oriented adventure.

It had to have been more than a bit intimidating for Visceral to try its hand at the Battlefield series. It's been DICE's flagship for decades, and even they've had a hell of a time with the most recent entries in the franchise. Battlefield: Hardline is an admirable effort to mix things up, and it successfully trades its military fatigues for balaclavas and riot shields. Its take on police versus criminals makes the game feel like something new, despite its obvious pedigree.

The multiplayer segment manages to somehow feel both familiar and significantly different at the same time. On the surface, there isn't much that differentiates Hardline from previous games of the series, as the mechanics and the user interface share a lot of similarities. There are still four classes that settle into their now-familiar archetypes, and there are still objectives to be completed and conquest points to be captured. Indeed, jumping into a server running the team deathmatch or conquest modes feels like you may as well be playing a re-skin of Battlefield 4.

What sets apart this entry — and why it seems most servers don't run those modes — is the other game modes, where the criminals-versus-police concept is injected into the gameplay modes. Heist is the title's take on the old Rush game mode, but instead of a series of objectives, it's just a pair of them. A vault is located on the map, and the criminals need to blow it open to free the packages within. The packages need to be brought to a randomly selected pickup zone, and they must be held there while an AI helicopter comes to pick it up. Meanwhile, the police need to kill enough of the criminals to prevent this from being accomplished, as the criminals only have 100 tickets with which to respawn.

Blood Money is quite a fun mode; it pits both teams trying to recover a massive pile of money from the center of the map. Getting to the pile alive is only part of it, as you must hold your "use" key on it to slowly stash some money in your backpack. You're vulnerable the entire time, but if you're killed, your whole stack can be recovered by either team and immediately spirited away. This money must be taken back to your team's vault before it counts toward a team victory. However, these vaults can also be raided, and a team with a comfortable lead may suddenly find itself with empty coffers if it doesn't play some defense.

Hotwire is where Hardline does something completely different in that the teams are fighting over conquest points, which are vehicles. To capture them, you must drive them at high speed, which means that the entire mode is basically a series of explosive car chases. Occupants in vehicles can fire from their seats or can sit on the windowsill, which lets you aim all around but makes you far more vulnerable to return fire.

Regardless of the mode, the emphasis on bringing the Battlefield franchise to more infantry-level combat could hardly be more apparent. Tanks and jets are nowhere to be found, and while helicopters can take to the skies, they are far from the gunships of previous titles. Additionally, even the biggest maps also feature a series of close-quarters areas to provide plenty of opportunities to get into pitched gunfights with the enemy. The result is that the combat feels up to the scope that fans expect, but without the influence that vehicular combat often brought to the table.

That's not to say that you don't get some toys to play with. Among the expected sedans, motorcycles, and police cruisers, you'll also get to hulk around in armored SUVs that are resistant (if not impervious) to small-arms fire. These trucks all have some form of armament, from machine guns on the roof to side-facing turrets, to help get a crew through a dangerous area safely. They also tend to make a great shooting target for enemies, and even the command truck can take a beating from one or two grenades.

As a player, you'll see armored trucks rolling around and helicopters strafing the ground, and you'll want to unlock some launchers as soon as possible. However, in Hardline, none of the four classes can unlock such weapons, which is a pretty far departure from previous games. The weapons are still present, but they're not as expected. The easiest way to source them is to look around the map for weapon icons, which spawn an LMG, an RPG, or a Stinger missile launcher.

Grabbing one makes you unable to use anything else in the meantime, but you're able to blow some vehicles in short order. The sedan and coupe-style vehicles can also be upgraded to have one of those three weapon types in the trunk. This effectively lets any of the four classes know that they have such a weapon at their disposal — as long as they have access to a car. Even then, a teammate can elect to grab the weapon instead of the driver, so there is also some potential for teamwork there.

The four classes are similar to what they were previously, but they've all seen some changes in one way or another. The Operator class replaces Assault and takes on the expected healing and revival duties for the team. The Mechanic class replaces Engineer, which is still the repair class but is also pretty good at destroying things thanks to a grenade launcher. The Enforcer class replaces Support and has traded in its affinity for LMGs for either shotguns or battle rifles. This is arguably the biggest change for the classes, and it completely changes the class's archetype. Finally, the Professional class replaces Recon, but it still has the same variety of sniper rifles and other toys, such as cameras and decoys.

The lack of LMGs — with the exception of being a pick-up weapon — does wonders to help the flow of gameplay. Gone are the days of a single Support holding a choke point against waves of attackers. Combined with the multiple ways to approach pretty much any point on the map, it makes combat feel much more fluid and less like you are going to get mowed down the first time you step out into the open.

However, the chaos can sometimes go too far in the other direction. While some maps have an obvious flow, others can take place inside of multilevel structures, where the floor plans already allow for a ton of flanking. Add the ability to blow holes in the walls, and it can be a daunting task to even check every possible angle before taking fire from an unknown adversary. These situations can be remedied with the help of a strong team, but they're absolutely murderous when you find yourself as a lone wolf.

It must be noted that for as much of a role that destruction has played in previous games, it has been scaled back for Hardline. By now, everyone knows that the crane in that one level can fall over and sections of the interstate can collapse, but most levels lack anything similar to that level of destruction. Even in your more micro situations, the Levolution engine seems to have been reined in, with RPGs no longer blowing holes in walls, and buildings no longer being leveled. Granted, it makes sense that such combat shouldn't decimate the surroundings, but it's baffling when you shoot an RPG in a modern Battlefield game and not have it blow a hole in something.

After the horrible launch of Battlefield 3 and the subsequent debacle that was the first six months of Battlefield 4, I was certain Hardline would have some issues. However, the game performance and the stability of the servers have been absolutely rock solid. On my machine, I was able to run the game on all High settings with smooth frame rates, and though Ultra was the next and final step up, it got pretty choppy at that point. The Battlelog interface suffers from some sort of issue where it doesn't save any changes that you make to your loadouts. You can still use it to unlock your gear, but you'll want to actually kit yourself out in-game instead.

Should you want to take a break from the multiplayer, you can take the single-player mode for a spin. On the plus side, the single-player is probably the best that the franchise has had since the goofy fun of the Bad Company games. However, as much as it clearly wants to be something greater, it is mired by a series of problems. Our own Adam Pavlacka goes over it in far greater detail in that as a stealth game, the single-player portion can be fun, if not awfully two-dimensional. However, once a gunfight breaks out, the game becomes little more than shooting at fodder. It's all held together with a plot that is pretty predictable, barring a strange trip into the desert near the end.

For a fan of the series, Battlefield: Hardline can be met with two reactions. Some see it as a series taken in a new direction, while others see it as a mere cops-and-robbers re-skin for Battlefield 4 (which, let's face it, was just a tweaked Battlefield 3). Ultimately, both of these things are true because despite the new thematic elements, the game plays much the same way. For those who haven't recently played Battlefield, Hardline can be a great excuse to jump back in and get your fix. It just needs to be noted that even with a new developer at the helm, there is still a nagging feeling that perhaps the game wasn't taken far away enough of the franchise's usual dusty battlefields.

Score: 8.3/10

Reviewed on: Intel i5 2500k, 8gb RAM, nVidia GTX 660 Ti

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