‘Battlefield: Hardline’ is out now on old- and next-gen consoles and PC.
EA’s latest Battlefield – while at its core a spin-off cops and robbers take on the established Look Now There’s A Tank!!! formula – is essentially an enjoyable, straightforward first-person shooter with standard mechanics, plus some new wrinkles and narrative choices.
The single player campaign is the focus more than ever, and takes the form of literally episodic (‘Last Time, On Hardline!’) police investigations, assaults and at times all-out catastrophe within the context of an ostensibly present day, drugs war-torn, Miami. Despite some predictably dodgy script-writing, detailed-but-inhuman player models and CSI-level plotting (that is not a compliment), it utterly fails to be compelling, but it skips along narratively well enough and takes you all the places you expect — including, at one point, inside a tank. Because… well, Battlefield.
While you’re always a second or two away from a gunfight, you’re not playing Doom either. Thanks to some stealthy new play options you do have the option of attempting to arrest criminals in single player before simply shooting them. You can arrest up to three crims at a time, flashing your badge and shifting your aim between them until you can perform an R3-takedown with your endless supply of handcuffs. Quite often though this won’t work. Another enemy will burst in or you’ll mess up the arrest, and people will die. But it doesn’t seem to matter – I killed literally hundreds of people during the campaign, and no one seemed to mind all that much.
Obviously, this is one of the philosophical problems with the game — can you suspend your disbelief long enough not to care that the police depicted within are effectively Judge Dredd-level maniacs? It’s not something the narrative tries to address really, so you can also ignore it if you wish — but for me it just didn’t really make sense.
What you’re left with in the single-player, then, is a fairly interesting, fast but not especially memorable campaign that you probably won’t play more than once. Which is a shame because the multiplayer — always Battlefield’s strength, servers permitting — is hardly welcoming for new players, a group into which I remain consigned in skill terms despite having played many previous games in the series. There are tons of modes, including some new capture-the-flag-ish scenarios aligning more closely to the police-criminal dynamic. It’s got the same feel and depth as previous Battlefield multiplayer iterations, and won’t disappoint longtime players. But I just couldn’t get good enough in my short time with the game to really enjoy it all that much.
The skeleton of Battlefield: Hardline is rock solid. The single-player takes some chances — or rather, tries a couple of experiments — without all that much conviction, but to largely good effect. It looks decent, the multiplayer seems to have gone down well with the hardcore, and it all makes sense in an objective way. Subjectively, though, I didn’t get into it; it was too dumb to be compelling, too pretentious to be stupidly enjoyable, too violent for its setting, and too boring to admire. It’s good, but I wouldn’t play it.