Review by Nathan A Miller using Xbox One retail copy.
Available for PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, and PS3.
The Battlefield series has been a powerhouse military shooter for the past decade thanks to its premier strategic offerings and expansive downloadable content. So for many, it was a surprise when the next entry was announced to be a police themed shooter. Corruption is a hot topic for law enforcement currently in our present world, so Visceral Games (Dead Space) could not have picked a better time to explore those themes in their first entry of the Battlefield series. Hardline is a great attempt at shaking up the expected from a well-known franchise, but it does have its issues.
Nick Mendoza is a good cop roped into an underground operation to fight a drug war currently being waged in Miami. As off-the-book becomes common place in his investigations, things take a turn for the worst as corruption rears its ugly head on his side of the law. Mendoza is framed for something he did not do, and he seeks vengeance on those responsible.
When I started the single-player campaign for Hardline, I immediately noticed its beautiful visuals and highly composed sounds. Gunfire blasted through my speakers as I would expect from any great movie, and the gameplay was improved over its predecessors: the movement was smooth, the weapons were fine tuned, and the television show approach added character. You play as a cop, so Visceral games gives you the option to arrest someone or go the nonlethal route whenever possible. I ended up arresting more criminals than killing them because of that. It helped make the violence less prominent and added morality to the mix which usually is not an option. The story is explosive yet paced perfectly, and the motion capturing on the actors was implemented in high detail. I ended up putting in 12 hours into the campaign as I tried to capture all outstanding warrants (for added experience) and complete case files (evidence is the collectible in this game) within it. Those case files added to the lore of the game which made collecting them worth it .
The multiplayer for Hardline introduced new modes that were made specifically with cops and robbers in mind. Heist is a mode where the robbers try to break into a vault while the cops try to stop them from escaping with the money. It is an intense experience no matter which side you are on and a welcomed addition to its multiplayer. I would like to take this time to state how much I enjoy the new Hotwire game mode. I spend most of my time playing that mode because of how original and compelling it is. Hotwire plays like conquest mode but, instead of capturing points on the map, you are capturing cars that must be constantly moving in order to gain capture points. Whether you are riding shotgun shooting a grenade launcher at opposing cars or recklessly driving throughout an abandoned city, it is a fun experience that gives you a fast and the furious feel each and every time you play. Also, Hardline brings along a robust leveling system in multiplayer that will take an abundance of time and dedication in order to unlock everything. It is a pain grinding on certain weapons or classes but once you get past that point, all out destruction of fellow competitors just feels so damn good.
The story breaks from a honest police tale to a Jason Statham movie based around vengeance (which is entertaining), but it diverged from what could have been an important narrative diving deep into current issues. Visceral games chose to take a different route, which I can respect, but I think they could have taken their storytelling past cliche action movie moments. As I mentioned before, I like the option of taking a non-violent route whenever dealing with enemies in the story; however, it does not make sense for Mendoza to arrest people (especially the enemies with warrants) when he is not a cop anymore. The people he is holding up to arrest are technically the "good" guys in the public's eye, because they are working for the company now tasked with patrolling the streets. On that note, once Mendoza breaks bad, you should be able to shoot people you are holding up. It is a petty thing to shoot someone who is unarmed, but we should be given the option once he is done being a cop.
The multiplayer has some issues that can easily be corrected. Spawning, map size, and weapons need tweaking for certain game modes over others. Team Death Match has an update coming to change an issue I had with their lightning spawning, but they need to alter the spawn points as well. The game modes that are out of place in this entry are the ones borrowed from Battlefield 4 and the latter. The new modes crafted for this title make those ones seem off because they do not fit in the world they are within. I see that Visceral games is actively listening to the community about multiplayer exploits and frustrations, and I appreciate it as well.
Spinning a military shooter into a police themed one is not as farfetched as you may think, but they may have taken it a few too many notches into imagination land. It is not all bad, mainly because Hardline has an entertaining story, and I like the chances they took with the series. It may not be a perfect title, but there is a lot of content in this package and it does not hurt that Hardline is fun as well. Visceral games should have pushed further from the battlefield formula for its multiplayer(their new modes are funner than the old modes), but I understand that they needed to appease veteran players and new players alike. Either way, Battlefield: Hardline is a great game and a shooter most people will enjoy.