Welcome to the official USgamer Battlefield Hardline review. Here, we've considered all aspects of the game as a whole, and offer an official score. You can find deeper dives into the specifics of the single-player game here, and the multiplayer game here.
If there is ever to be a television reboot of Miami Vice, I expect it'll beat at least a superficial resemblance to Hardline's single-player campaign, which tries hard to evoke the classic '80s cop drama. As expected, it by turns resembles '80s and '90s cop dramas and the films of Michael Bay, leaving little room for nuance outside of a bit of musing about the drug war and maybe a plotline about a privatized (and very corrupt) police force. Battlefield Hardline aspires to be nothing more or less than a cheesy cop drama, even throwing in "Previously on..." trailers for good measure.
As I've said in my deeper dive into the story, this can be a blessing in disguise. By shying away from realism and more toward the action movies of the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, it mostly avoids having to address hard questions like police brutality and our growing surveillance society, both of which have become major issues in the past few years. Hardline's Bad Boys 2-like action is also in keeping with Battlefield itself, which has never been what you would call a hardcore military thriller. Battlefield's story, at least, has always had the trappings of a summer blockbuster.
Unfortunately, a Michael Bay-like outlook on storytelling is not the only characteristic Hardline has in common with the core series. Battlefield's campaigns have long been seen as a weak link in the overall experience, suffering as they do from weak stories and sketchy level design, and Hardline is no exception. After a mission or two, Hardline becomes a kind of stealth action game, with "arrests" taking the place of takedowns and backstabs. You can still shoot your way through a level, but the way the damage is balanced makes it very difficult to take on large numbers of enemies at once. As such, you're much better off creeping slowly through Hardline's warehouses, malls, mansions while trying to stay out of the amusingly limited enemy sight cones — a throwback to the days of the original Metal Gear Solid. It's not actually as bad as it sounds, but for various reasons relating to the limited stealth mechanics and the unimaginative level design, it never quite comes off.
As tends to happen in spinoffs and pseudo-sequels like these, Hardline brings a bunch of new ideas to the table — arrest warrants and hidden evidence among them — none of which feel particularly well fleshed out. If you're going into Hardline looking for a really well-realized single-player campaign, I'm afraid to say that you won't find it here. Unfortunately, single-player shooter campaigns seem to have hit a nadir for creativity, with many games either ignoring them entirely (Titanfall) or falling back on the same old tricks (Call of Duty). Hardline should be commended for experimenting a bit; but as I've written elsewhere, making a good police game is hard. Hardline does its best to shake things up, but it's tough to see it as anything more than the gaming equivalent of CBS' Hawaii Five-0 — a story to be watched and then forgotten.
I started out impressed by the single-player game. The quality of the audio-visuals and the way the storyline unfolds over the first few levels is really quite entertaining. However, the more I played it, the less I enjoyed the action. Being a shooter fan, I really wanted to be the bad cop and simply blast my way through the game. It's possible to do that, but it seems like the developer really wants you to treat Battlefield Hardline as a stealth game, and apart from some key shootouts, it does seem the easiest way to progress is by arresting people rather than killing everyone outright. And for some reason, I just didn't find this mechanic particularly engaging.
I guess it's a politically correct way of doing things, but it doesn't necessarily make for a great game. In a way, it makes me wonder if the focus being on arresting people rather than blasting your way through the perps is to avoid potential accusations of building a game around controversial cop tactics of shooting first and asking questions later. Whatever the reason, the result is a game whose action feels sporadic and sometimes unengaging. Sneaking up on people is sort of exciting, but nowhere near as thrilling and heart-pumping as a game designed around shootouts - as is clearly evidenced when the game finally gets going in its latter stages, and you do have some action to contend with.
Props definitely have to be given to Visceral Games for trying something new, but I don't think the single-player campaign ultimately works as well as it could.
Where Battlefield Hardline is stronger is in its multiplayer. Here, for the most part it's rock solid and fun. It doesn't always feel as tight as it could be in terms of level design and the cadence of its action, but generally speaking the action is enjoyable. The cops and robbers premise works best on small maps that deliver exciting shootouts where the action is fast and intense. The larger maps are a little hit and miss, and some modes just have too many lulls in the action.
In a way, Battlefield Hardline feels like it's trying to live up to its name in terms of its big-scale combat, and that's prevented it from realizing its full potential as something completely new, focused on what it does best – epic shootouts in tighter, close-quarters locations.
The Nitty Gritty
- Visuals: Battlefield Hardline looks outstanding, and some of its locations are beautifully rendered with incredible attention to detail
- Sound: Absolutely terrific. From the voice acting to the sound effects, Battlefield Hardline sounds brilliant - especially in multiplayer mode.
- Interface: Simple interfaces make the game easy to work around and understand.
- Lasting appeal: Single-player mode is reasonably entertaining, but multiplayer mode delivers plenty of long-term appeal, assuming the action is to your liking.
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