Because Payday TOTALLY didn’t do cops n’ robbers good enough…
Over the last few years, the FPS hype train has trudged back and forth between the two biggest (and blandest) games for top spot of the FPS genre; Call of Duty and Battlefield. The pattern is easy to predict: Call of Duty would announce the next annual iteration, Battlefield followed close suit. Each game has their perks to lure fans in: Call of Duty offering fast, frenetic gameplay in smaller maps and Battlefield with large, expanse, destructible environments and variance of gameplay. However, neither series has really seen improvement over innovation over the last few installments (Modern Warfare and Bad Company 2 are my favorites of each series respectively) giving fans less reason to pick up the next one. That’s where Visceral, the studio behind the Dead Space series, was given task to create the next installment of Battlefield. Enter Battlefield: Hardline, an episodic tale dealing with dirty cops, drugs and the Everglades.
Trust me, it’s about as cliché as it sounds.
Did M. Night Shymalan write this story?
Battlefield: Hardline puts players in the role of Nick Mendoza, a new Florida Police Detective trying to uncover the source of cocain distribution across Florida. As the case starts to unravel, it turns into a major plot involving dirty cops, major operations and Nick being framed by those he’s come to trust. After being sent to jail, he’s helped busted out by some of those who had helped sent him in there to stop the operation from spreading! WHAT A TWIST!
At every turn, the story never strays from the detective-gone-rogue formula and clings to TV tropes for dear life. For example, Nick Mendoza is the ultimate paragon of justice: he does everything he can to adhere to society’s rules no matter what. His one note personality allows no room for growth and puts him in the situations he gets into. Any change that has happened to him ultimately arrives too little, too late. It also lacks any real narrative punch to get the player invested.
The other major problem with the writing is how it contradicts with the tone of gameplay. Battlefield is a FPS shooter that often allows the players to go in guns blazing to mow down enemies without regard. In the case of Nick, who’d rather arrest people than shoot them, the violence of the gunfights doesn’t mesh contextually with his character. There’s no consequence or repercussions for the violence. If they had Nick morally ambiguous, then the gunfights could be justified and made sense. It’d also serve to have a more interesting character too. The icing on the cake is that the rest of the cast is also just as lackluster and do nothing to enhance the experience. Halfway through the game I didn’t care what was going on, by the end I was just trying to beat the game.
Lastly, if you want to experience the exact same story that’s told marginally better, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is your game. The story held my attention more, gave me reason to care and provided a character that was morally ambiguous enough to justify the gameplay. Unfortunately for both games, that’s not saying much.
Overall, the story felt like the weakest part of the game and let down the gameplay.
Don’t Tase Me Bro!
Much as the gameplay and writing conflict, I can admit the single player campaign provided some fun moments. Usually, Battlefield and Call of Duty are notorious for giving players an arsenal of weapons to choose from to mow down enemies like grass. The enemy AI is always incompetent and brainless: just another number to add to the bodycount. Usually, the single player campaign turns into a mindlessly numb game of gunfughts.
Battlefield: Hardline shakes gameplay up significantly. Players now have the ability to either go through levels stealthily or guns blazing, providing some depth and strategy to each level. The stealth gameplay is supported by several in-game items that give both a challenge and support. First is a gadget that will tag enemies, explosives and alarm systems to allow the player to keep tab of where everyone is. For the extra special enemies (ones with multiple warrants) a unique icon appears over there head to notify players where they are. The mini map on the lower left hand corner also shows you enemies’ cone of vision which increases or decreases depending on the player standing or crouching. If the player stands and runs, noise can alert enemies to your presence. Crouching eliminates that and only allows enemies’ vision to be alerted to you.
If the player successfully sneaks up on an enemy, they’re given a prompt for Nick yelling “freeze”. The next few moments offer some tense gameplay: after yelling “freeze” a black bar appears in front of Nick associated that can slowly fill up to red. If it does an enemy will put out a gun and fire at you, alerting other enemies to Nick’s presence. Oftentimes these moments and fun as much as they are tense.
The other mechanic, while borrowing from games like Far Cry, that makes the stealth approach fun and challenging is the ability to throw a bullet shell somewhere to distract an enemy or two. It allows for clutch moments of throwing the bullet shell just at the right time to get an enemy’s attention away from you.
Should the player be unable to yell “freeze”, but still don’t want to fire a bullet, players are able to carry a tazer on them. The challenge with using this would be the short range it has for firing. Missing the shot alerts the enemy to Nick’s presence and set up a gunfight. Battlefield: Hardline’s risk of adding stealth as a gameplay option is refreshing and adds some new elements to an otherwise derivative game.
Sadly, Battlefield: Hardline falls flat and stale in the other elements of gameplay. The cases that are extra side quests/collectible gathering are optional and boring. The gunplay is as every bit you’d expect coming from Battlefield and leaves an overall been there done that impression.
Beautiful, Plastic-y Florida
Visually, Battlefield: Hardline is a mixed bag in the graphics/environment department. Environments have a plastic, dead look to them. A lot of the spaces, while either contained or open, feel empty and hollow. Some of the spaces do end up looking nice and slick thanks to the “night time” environments players get to enjoy.
Admittedly, a lot of the environments are set up nicely to create tension depending on the favored decision; stealth or gunfights. For stealth environments, there’s plenty of places to hide…or so you think. There are moments when players will think they’re hidden, only to realize that the height of Nick makes it hard to remain hidden. Other spots can only serve as temporary reprieves until you’re spotted
In the moments where a gunfight is inevitable, a lot of the spaces are cramped and boxed in, providing ample tension and challenge to make the fight engaging. It shows how much planning and detail went into the environment.
Unfortunately that’s not enough to cover up the fact that the environments feel bland, boring, lifeless and about what I’ve learned to expect from the annual entries of this game.
Cops and Robbers….Battlefield edition!
*To preface this part of the article, I have yet to play all of the modes offered in the game. I have played most of them and feel I can at least give an opinion on the ones I’ve played*
This is where Battlefield: Hardline excels; the multiplayer is definitely the selling point of the game. In fact, I’d argue this game is the finest Battlefield multiplayer experience to date. There are some of the standard game modes players expect of FPS games like Team Deathmatch, Conquest (aka Capture the Flag), and so on, there are several new modes for players to enjoy. These are: Blood Money, Heist, Crosshair, Rescue, and Hotwire. Of the new game modes, I’ve only played Heist and Blood Money. These two game variants can offer some fun, exciting games to play in.
Blood Money starts off with a pile of money somewhere laid out on the map. Both cops and robbers are trying to take the money back to their vault: the criminals are looting for themselves, and the cops for evidence. Players can even loot the enemy vaults to take the money back to their vault. Whoever gets to 150 wins the game. Blood Money offers up a lot of fun and strategy; how many people should guard the vault? How many for the money pile? Do players go for the enemy vault instead? It’s exciting, challenging and fun.
Heist, simply put, is cops and robbers. The robbers are trying to steal money from several “vault” locations, and it’s the job of the cops to stop them. The game ends with either the cops killing 150 criminals or the criminals escaping with all the money. While the game variant provides some fun, I feel like there are other games that have done this way better (like Payday). There really isn’t much thought or strategy put in for this type of game mode.
The other modes, like Deathmatch, Conquest, etc., all play what you’ve come to expect and doesn’t do anything to change the formula. It’s as if DICE is going by the mantra “Don’t fix what isn’t broken.”
Overall, the multiplayer offers some fun and refreshing ideas that doesn’t take away from the Battlefield identity fans have come to know and love. Depending on anyone’s take, that can be good or bad.
Follow the TV Trope road!
Battlefield: Hardline is a game trying to keep a franchise alive that’s starting to feel stale and trying to overcome the series’ usual glaring weakness; the single player campaign. For better or worse, the game certainly does put shake things up tremendously only to provide an uninteresting, atypical cop drama. The gameplay can be fun, but it goes at odds with the tone of the narrative and the main character Nick. Multiplayer is fun, and the new game modes provide a refreshing experience, but there are other games that have done it before and better. Personally, this game is a game I wouldn’t recommend getting; it’s bland, doesn’t do enough to really make it a worthwhile entry and plays it safe by keeping the multiplayer mostly the same as the last entry. It’s just not worth the full price it’s asking for.