For as long as the series has been going, the Battlefield games have always done a better job with their multiplayer modes than its single-player ones. And I say that as someone who doesn’t play well with others. But by adding some intriguing (albeit not wholly original) mechanics to its campaign, while keeping its online modes mostly the same, Battlefield Hardline (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC) is fun whether you play it on your own or with friends.
While previous Battlefield games had you joining the military, Battlefield Hardline all about cops and robbers. Which, in the campaign — or “Episodes,” as they call it — is why you’re cast as officer Nick Mendoza, a Vice cop in Miami.
What kind of cop, though, is up to you, since Battlefield Hardline often gives you the choice between being an upstanding member of the police or a trigger-happy rogue who plays by his own rules. For instance, when approaching a suspect, you can blow them away like Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies, or you can flash your badge and arrest them like you’re Roger Murtaugh in those same films. Granted, there’s no guarantee that they’ll obey your commands; they are criminals, after all. And there are times when, despite your best efforts, a situation will escalate, as well as incidents when you’ll have to go in guns blazin’. But there are also moments when you can not only take everyone out all official-like, but doing so may give you a tactical advantage.
Now, being a first-person shooter, you might think Battlefield Hardline is more fun if you shoot first and ask questions later. But there are advantages to following police procedure, not the least of which is that it makes this just as challenging and engaging (though, obviously, in a different way). Not only does arresting people work like a stealth kill does in other shooters, but doing things by the book also levels up your “Expert Progression,” which rewards you with better weapons and items to modify those weapons. Which isn’t to say those with itchy trigger fingers are hosed, since you also level up by using your scanner to examine evidence.
Arresting people also plays into the stealth mechanics built into Battlefield Hardline, which makes this play more like Wolfenstein: The New Order than Call Of Duty. Not only can you toss spent shells to distract people, but the map also indicates which way they’re looking, much like in an early Splinter Cell game. There are even times when you’ll use the scanner to survey an enemy hideout before attacking, which makes this feel like Far Cry 3 or 4. Though while stealth does add something new, and fun, to the Battlefield template — which I hope they’ll keep in future installments — it’s hard not to wish they hadn’t gone even further with it. Say, by letting you take out the lights like in the Metro or Splinter Cell games.
Along with the shooting, arresting, and sneaking, Battlefield Hardline also has moments when you get to drive, much like you did in Medal Of Honor: Warfighter. Though, ironically, the driving isn’t as good as that otherwise disappointing game, either in the way it controls or in what you do while driving, as its slightly clunky controls are matched only by its simplistic objectives. That said, things are better, in both regards, when you get to drive an airboat through the Everglades.
Though it should also be noted that while the driving controls in Battlefield Hardline aren’t optimal, the ones when you’re on foot are smooth, intuitive, and generally spot on.
As solid as the campaign in Battlefield Hardline may be, it’s not without its problems. For starters, you can’t turn the music down or off. Which wouldn’t be a problem if, during heated battles, the game didn’t crank up some sub-par guitar wanking.
Battlefield Hardline also has some technical issues. The most problematic of these is that if you’re approaching a closed door, you have to be able to see the button prompt to open it. If you run right up to the door, and thus can’t see the prompt since it’s located near the handle, you won’t open the door even if you hit the right button.
Along the same lines, there were also times in Battlefield Hardline — such as when I had a hairy firefight in the lobby of a hotel — when my enemy’s bullets would defy the laws of physics and go through numerous obstacles and into my chest.
Of course, for many people, Battlefield Hardline is a game they’ll only play online. Which is too bad, not just because the single-player mode is good this time around, but also because the multiplayer options are, for the most part, nothing new. While the game boasts numerous modes, many of them are just “cops & robbers”-themed versions of the same modes you’ve played in previous Battlefield and like-minded games. “Blood Money,” for instance, is “Capture The Flag” but with money; “Crosshair” is “V.I.P.” with a criminal turning state’s evidence, much to the chagrin of his former coworkers; while “Team Deathmatch” is, well, “Team Deathmatch.”
Where things get a little more interesting is when you play “Hotwire,” in which the criminals try to steal specific cars, and the cops try to stop them. While this mode sometimes devolved into what was basically a vehicle-centric “Team Deathmatch,” when played correctly, it was quite engaging, like if someone crossed the shootout scene from the movie Heat with the car heist parts of Gone In 60 Seconds. Though what’s odd is that the driving controls in “Hotwire” don’t feel as clunky as they do in the campaign.
Of course, being a Battlefield game, all of these modes had a certain familiarity about them. Whether it’s the massive destruction of the city’s infrastructure, the ability to use numerous and various vehicles, or the unforgiving nature that results in noobs getting killed really, really quickly, multiplayer in Battlefield Hardline — for better or worse — feels like multiplayer in every other Battlefield. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but it is nothing you haven’t played many, many times before.
Sadly, both the multiplayer modes and the campaign in Battlefield Hardline have a problem that’s so common these days that I just cut and paste this paragraph into almost every game review I do (and I’m getting kind of tired of it): some of the type is to small. Unless you sit really, really close to your TV — y’know, like your mama told you not to — you’ll have a hard time reading the descriptions of your unlocked gear, your objectives in multiplayer, and the tutorial menus.
In the end, the single-player and multiplayer modes of Battlefield Hardline are kind of like a good cop/bad cop routine. While one is more effective than the other, both work well, and together they get the job done. Which is why I’m glad this series — unlike some of the people in the movies that inspired it — isn’t too old for this…well, you know.