EA moved Battlefield’s original developer DICE to head up their newly acquired Disney Star Wars license and crushed the hopes of all horror game fans by moving Visceral, the studio behind the massively popular Dead Space series, over to their signature first person shooter war series. Then Visceral did something really interesting. They took the action from the military and focused it on the City of Miami’s police department and moved the spotlight from online multiplayer to the often overlooked in the genre single player campaign. It’s such a daring departure in an industry where every shooter is almost mandated to follow in Call of Duty’s footsteps and an interesting set up that could lead to some real points about modern real world issues. It’s so incredibly disappointing that it doesn’t really work and lets so many opportunities slip by.
Detective Nick Mendoza joins the Miami Vice Squad and is immediately thrown into a brewing turf war, a conspiracy of crooked cops and a new cheap liquid cocaine called Hot Shot that has started to flood the streets. With a wink and a joke about Miami Vice, Hardline skirts any modern real world issues and statements on the military-police-industrial complex, not even stopping to comment on how all the game marks everyone in the low income housing complex you are illegally stalking through is labeled a criminal, for easy and empty prattle about the war on drugs.
The cast is full of veteran television and film actors who all give fine performances with what they’re given. They all turn their blandly written cutouts into characters that spending some time with isn’t incredibly frustrating. It is just too bad that the writers couldn’t give them something more to work with. There is no character development and little tension despite the stock story having plenty of setups to have them. It ultimately feels more like a network series that has pretensions of being gritty progressive crime drama but doesn’t want to offend or challenge anyone who might tune in to a primetime slot. It’s frustrating to see the potential being within easy reach but realizing that no one involved was every going to even make the attempt.
Visceral’s best design choice is the television series being streamed on Netflix setup. Every episode has a nice rhythm to it, an introduction scene to advance the narrative followed by some action set pieces that build to a small episode payoff before dumping you into a Netflix inspired screen with a window running your score and stats for the episode where the credits would be and a Next Episode countdown window. It’s a nice gimmick and gives some nice entry/exit points for the player.
The combat mechanics are taken directly out of the last installment and there’s nothing wrong with that. Shooting is solid and the controls are responsive. It’s not all wash rinse repeat from Battlefield 4 though. Gameplay has some nice new additions to it. The new stealth mechanics to lure enemies into easier to control situations or use non-lethal takedowns. Being a police you can flash your badge at up to three enemies for them effectively stunning them. It’s nice that Miami gangs are so easily intimidated by someone saying “Freeze”. It works so well, and rewards you with so many more experience points, that you can get through the most situations without ever firing a shot. It’s so effective that the fairly deep weapon selection and modifications, which are unlocked with experience level ups, feel pretty useless. Why bother tinkering with your loadout if you can easily stun everyone with a little patience? It’s all made that much easier because the AI is painfully stupid. Your partner will sometimes just openly stand there, gun drawn, looking off to some spot in the distance… but that’s ok because the enemies will walk right past without registering the slightest thing a miss with such a heavily armed statue.
Of course since it’s a shooter there is a large variety of online modes. Staying within the new theming, the massive maps of previous entries are left in favor of more up close and personal room by room encounters. Instead of whole cities being destroyed in a hail of tank volleys, it’s chunks of drywall raining down as you shred the enemy’s urban focused cover. New modes with a cops and robbers focus include Heist, with a squad of police defending a vault from a squad of criminals who must break in, clean out the vault and escape. Battlefield’s flagship Conquest mode has been retooled into Hotwire with ground territory being replaced with stolen cars. It’s all passable but the gimmick wears quickly and none of the modes offer anything really special or dynamic enough to keep players coming back for hours on end.
Battlefield Hardline is an ok game. It’s standard and basic and doesn’t try to be anything else. If you’re looking for an average shooter to fill your time, it’s exactly what you are looking for. If you want an interesting narrative that tackles some modern issues, you should look at something else. Hardline puts it’s fingers in it’s ears and tunes out anything that could be considered questionable or difficult subject matter. Maybe the promised sequel will have a little more guts and a little less head in the sand but somehow I doubt it. Not worth full admission price but very few FPS are.
Battlefield Hardline- 5/10- Passable shooter that will fill your time until the next passable shooter that will fill your time until the next passable shooter…