I've spent the better part of the last two days with my hands glued to my controller and my eyes watching madness. Parachuting off of buildings to avoid gunfire and breaking into bank vaults. Rescuing hostages from heavily armed criminals and Tasering anyone that gets too close. Slamming into the living room of a millionaire's mansion with the sirens of your squad car blaring as KRS-Ones "Sound of Da Police' is blasting. All this and more in the newest installment of the Battlefield franchise, Battlefield: Hardline.
When the last beta finished up and I had time to collect my thoughts on what I'd just played, I was honestly a bit disappointed. The gameplay was sound, sure, but the visuals were a bit lacking and I still wasn't sold on the whole Cops vs Robbers thing. I knew I was going to still get Hardline because I'm a big fan of Battlefield and shooters as a whole, but my hopes weren't nearly as high as the last few installments of the series. After pre-downloading the game on my Xbox One, I was ready to go at 12:01 on Tuesday. As I do with all games, I dove into the single player first and to my surprise, I was kinda enjoying it.
The story mode puts you into the shoes orange jumpsuit wearing former Miami detective Nicholas Mendoza. Right off the bat it seems like Nick shouldn't be there, and sure enough you are soon sent three years into the past where we meet a seemingly new detective who gives the player the sense that he actually wants to make a difference. Being a true boy scout, Nick is almost immediately at odds morally with his partner, veteran Vice Detective Stoddard. The campaign is set up almost as though it's a television show, with each mission being an Episode and each episode even having a "Last time on Hardline' and "Next time' cut scene. It's a bit odd to see in a Battlefield game, but I gotta say it really works for them and I can see it being really useful for people that can only play some of the story at a time. I'd rather not give any of the important story aspects away for now, so I'll just focus on the gameplay.
One of my major concerns aboot this game was that Battlefield players have gotten used to some pretty extreme armaments while dispatching bad guys. Things like RPGs and M249 machine guns didn't really seem like the kind of thing in the arsenal of a Vice detective. To address that truth, the player starts off with a standard issue pistol and a surprisingly useful taser. Seriously, on the Hardline difficult, I use that little zapper more than any gun. Anyway, you're given these seemingly minor armaments and expected to handle situations that a detective might find themselves in. Also in your arsenal is your shiny Miami PD badge. Sneaking up on up to three targets will give a "Freeze' prompt that will let you flash your badge and make the criminals drop their weapons and reach for the sky. This leads you to be able to do something else not found in previous Battlefield installments: arrest the bad guys. You will be able to perform a takedown that drops the opponent, cuffs them, and leaves them to think aboot what they've done. Doing things like non-lethal takedowns and arrests will result in increased experience toward a new single-player leveling system based on "Expert' ranks. These ranks range from one to fifteen and dictate how quickly you unlock certain guns, gear and attachments. Don't worry, there are plenty of guns for your trigger finger to enjoy.
While there are significantly less weapons in Hardline than there were in Battlefield 4, you still have plenty of options for all of the situations that your officer will come across. Sniper rifles, assault rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, semi-auto sniper rifles, carbines, pistols, battle rifles (which seem to be a mix of semi-auto sniper and light machine gun) and one light machine gun are all at your disposal. After you unlock the required collectables that is. This brings we to another new feature: cases and warrants. Visceral and Dice really put effort into setting this game apart from its predecessors, and it shows in the collectibles. Since you are playing as a cop, you should probably actually do some police work, right? Nick seems to think so, and is equipped with his handy-dandy scanner to do it. Pressing RB allows you to pull up the police issued scanner, which is capable of tagging enemies, objects of note, alarms, and can analyze people and objects. The analyzing part is what's important for the collectibles. Hardlines collectibles are split into case files and warrants, with both appearing in each mission. Warrants are for individuals that need to be taken in alive, and the scanner allows you to identify them. Using your badge to arrest the criminal or giving them a little shock therapy with your trusty taser will get the job done, and then that collectible is taken care of.
Next are case files. These can be a little tricky, because sometimes they are as small as a sheet of paper or smaller. Visceral seemed to realize this and made it so that your scanner (controller) will vibrate when you are in the vicinity of evidence. Then you take out your scanner and start hunting for something green. Analyze and boom, another one down. There are several different cases in the game, each with their own sets of evidence. Another great feature is that it allows you read up on the case information and see what is going on in the world around Detective Mendoza. A pretty big step up from dog tags in Battlefield 4 if you ask me.
Next up is the reason why I went until 4am on Tuesday before realizing I should probably get some sleep: the multiplayer. Remember that visual issue I had with the beta? Yeah, that's gone. This game is beautiful, and plays just as smoothly as we can expect form the Battlefield franchise. Classic game types like Conquest (both regular and small) and team death match are available, with new modes Heist, Rescue, Hotwire, Blood