Review: Battlefield: Hardline (PS4)

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Title: Battlefield: Hardline
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (46 GB)
Release Date: March 17, 2015
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: DICE, Visceral Games
Original MSRP: $59.99 (Standard Edition) / $69.99 (Deluxe Edition)
ESRB Rating: M
Battlefield: Hardline is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 416 of the podcast.

I’ve been a Battlefield fan since its inception in 2002 with Battlefield 1942 on PC, and though a couple of them weren’t as good as others, it’s a series I’ve always stuck with. Some that have only played these games on console probably won’t understand my thoughts on this one though.

Gameplay:
The campaign in Battlefield: Hardline (BFH) is definitely the most ambitious from EA so far in their myriad of military/police-based first-person shooters. As one of the only games in the Battlefield series NOT developed by DICE, Visceral (developers of the Dead Space series) has attempted to build a story-driven game centered around a special Police unit in Miami, but in a decidedly “80’s cop show” way.

Intense action, deceit, double-crosses, hurricanes, alligators, drug running, and well, a bunch of crazy shit abounds throughout the campaign. A lot of what happens is ridiculously predictable, even if you aren’t old enough to remember Miami Vice. For me, the story was a bit too over-the-top to keep my interest and it’s pretty obvious that the writers didn’t know what to do in certain instances.

Plot twist spoiler

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One big difference that does make sense is that since you’re a cop, you can’t just go in guns a-blazing. Instead, you’ll want to sneak up on the bad guys and order them to drop to the ground so you can slap the handcuffs on. It definitely makes getting through the chapters easier but don’t expect it to work a lot. If you choose to use your taser, make sure you’re within about five feet of your target because those things have NO range.

… it doesn’t even “feel” like a true Battlefield game …
The acting is well done though, as well as the mocap and just overall motion. Faces of the actors are mapped well to the characters and the “known” actors are easy to pick out of the crowd. But that’s where the good parts end. As I mentioned, the story is absurd and jumps around a bit too much to keep track of. Instead, the story is merely used to introduce various set pieces, including in the Florida Everglades, Miami, out in some desert, and even on a secured island.

If you really pay attention though, it just makes no sense. What you’re met with instead is a sloppily written story that strings acts together just to change locations wildly. It’s even worse than it’s been in past attempts to add a campaign to a Battlefield game, a series that didn’t even have a single-player element until the series hit consoles.

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The bigger problem I have with Hardline though, is that it doesn’t even “feel” like a true Battlefield game. Instead, it feels more like what PC gamers know as a “Total Conversion” which is when someone retools a game engine to make either a conversion of the game or even to make an entirely new game. It happens quite a bit in PC gaming circles and it’s something that Battlefield veterans are very familiar with.

Instead of playing like a Battlefield title, to me, Hardline feels more like a combination of Payday: The Heist, Counter-Strike, and even Call of Duty (which is obviously what EA has been trying to emulate for a while now). It is only “Battlefield” in terms of online modes available, specifically Conquest. Motion doesn’t look right at all and instead looks like they’re trying to pull animations off that aren’t available in the Frostbite 3 engine.

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Even the shooting feels, I don’t know, muffled? Driving sequences control relatively poorly with either too much or not enough when it comes to the accelerator and the steering. There’s no weightiness to the characters either, at least compared to what we’re used to from past Battlefield titles. And since EA decided to add the Battlefield name to it, that kind of thing can’t be overlooked.

… the framerate is smooth with nary a hiccup …
If you do plan to play this online though, make sure you go through the campaign. It’ll help you unlock some weapons and items in multiplayer so at the end of the day it’ll give you a leg-up when you do decide to go online.

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Visuals:
The visuals are the highlight of the game and the Frostbite 3 engine once again looks great. Don’t expect though that because it uses Frostbite 3 it will also include a lot of destructibility, because not much of that is possible in Hardline (which I’m ok with by the way).

Textures are incredibly crisp with an immense amount of detail. The lighting saturates every square inch of what you can see along with an almost unlimited draw distance and all of the usual Frostbite 3 effects surrounding you. As you would expect, the framerate is smooth with nary a hiccup unless it’s caused by online issues. Honestly the visuals were never a worry in my mind but there is some weirdness in Hardline, specifically with the motion and animations.

I’ve mentioned that this feels like a “Total Conversion” but in this instance it just doesn’t feel very good. When you’re walking or running it seems more like you’re gliding across the landscape instead of your feet actually hitting the ground. The head-bob feels almost exactly like Counter-Strike Source It feels natural in Counter-Strike Source because of the fast pace of that game and because everyone’s used to it, but here it just doesn’t feel right.

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What’s worse though is that the actual shooting feels “off”. Aiming is off when you’re looking down your sites, almost as if your gun is about 50% longer than it really is. Firing from the hip suffers from a weird dead-zone issue that I just can’t get used to. Driving also suffers from an odd dead zone, especially with acceleration and braking (weirdly enough). This isn’t simply based on how Battlefield 4 feels either, it’s based on a comparison to a lot of games that I’ve played in the past. Even after a marathon six hour session I just can’t figure a way for it to feel better to me, and that’s a bummer.

… really the only unique (multiplayer) mode available is Hotwire …
Audio:
The audio is again what you’d expect in a big budget game built in the Frostbite 3 engine. The voice acting is top-notch throughout with a penchant for some overly R-Rated dialogue although that kind-of fits the B-Movie vibe they’re working toward here. It doesn’t bother me, and actually some of the random lines blurted out during an online match are quite funny in their absurdity.

Guns, cars, explosions, fire, etc., etc. all sound great, again as expected with Frostbite 3. The game also sounds equally as good with a good pair of headphones and in full surround.

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Online/Multiplayer:
Multiplayer has always been the cornerstone of the Battlefield series and along with the Battlefield standards, Visceral has added a couple of modes specific to Hardline. Instead of trying to get creative with the descriptions, I’ll just copy & paste the mode info from EA’s website.

Modes:
Hotwire:
The criminals are trying to steal a list of marked cars while the cops are trying to repossess them. Use your driving skills to catch up with the enemy, and bring a friend riding shotgun to take them down.

Heist:
Heist is all about pulling off that big job or that perfect score. The criminals are trying to infiltrate a cash-filled vault, and the cops must regulate them. Once the criminals break in, they have to nab two bags of cash and jam out with them back to each of the two base points.

Rescue:
Rescue is one of two competitive modes. This is a cop-centric mode that lets you step into the boots of a SWAT operative tasked with saving innocent lives from the hands of criminals. Lead your team carefully into dangerous environments and get the hostages back to safety. Be careful though, because there are no second chances in this mode.

Blood Money:
A huge pile of loot has been intercepted in transit. The criminals are fighting to steal the money, while the cops are trying to secure it as evidence. Each team is trying to secure the money in their team’s vault – but it’s not safe there. Raid the enemy team’s vault to help your team score the most money.

Crosshair:
This is the second competitive mode. In Crosshair, a former criminal turned state’s witness is on the run from his former crew. The criminals are trying to erase the VIP’s face from the world, while the cops are trying to get him out safely. Once again, there are no second chances – one death and you are out for the match.

Conquest (Large and Small):
A Battlefield staple, Conquest is based on the idea of controlling a base. Capture a base by standing near a flag on foot, in a vehicle or in the skies – if your team owns more flags than the enemy you’ll slowly reduce their tickets, which are their ability to respawn. The first team to run out of tickets loses.

Team Deathmatch:
Team Deathmatch is infantry only and has the easiest objective to understand: shoot the enemy team more than they shoot you.

If you actually read those descriptions you’ll see a lot of similarities with modes in some other popular games like Counter-Strike, SOCOM, and Call of Duty, among others. Again, not a bad thing, but really the only unique mode available is Hotwire.

… the focus is laid squarely on Hotwire and Heist …
We’ll start with Conquest, which should feel very familiar to anyone that’s played a Battlefield game in the past and there’s really nothing new. The biggest change in the way loadouts are handled in Hardline though is that now everything is acquired by not only unlocking items, but also purchasing them with money earned in-game. It fits the whole “cops and robbers” vibe, but if they’re going to make me earn cash to buy upgrades, then make everything available right away. The fact that I still need to unlock items negates the formula that they’re trying to put across here and it makes me not want to bother with it all.

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Also, they’ve made using boosts even more confusing by now offering boosts for specific areas of gameplay including objective, team play, etc. You can apply a separate boost to each of the four classes simultaneously though, which is a nice option since you may play the game differently depending on which class you use.

This also allows them to essentially offer even less in Battle Packs now since they’ve spread the boosts especially really thin. Instead of getting simply a 200% boost to use, now you’ll get one that only applies to one aspect of the gameplay. With EA’s push to use microtransactions more and more, this move isn’t surprising but that doesn’t mean that we have to like it.

In terms of the modes available, like I said, most feel really familiar. For me though, the map layouts don’t really work in most cases. In Conquest the layouts just feel uninspired and messy and that goes for most of the other modes as well. It’s pretty obvious that the focus is laid squarely on Hotwire and Heist though and that’s relatively hit or miss for me as well.

Hotwire is a cool concept on paper but after playing for hours I felt bored and frustrated more than anything else. Even when people actually PLAY the objective it just seemed too easy to sit still and lay breach charges down to take the vehicles out. The mode itself is basically Conquest but the flags are actually the marked vehicles and you only capture them while driving at full speed.

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In a perfect world your teammates could fill the vehicles, repairing and defending them as you drive around the map. The reality is that a majority of the random people you get matched-up with online simply play the game like it’s Team Deathmatch. It happened with every server I joined and it lead to huge amounts of frustration.

The funny thing is, Hotwire offers a huge opportunity to rack-up copious amounts of XP and cash if you can stay in a captured vehicle for a good portion of the match. I jumped twelve notches in rank in about a three hour period. At the end of the day it just doesn’t work, mainly because the weapon and item balance is really out of whack currently.

… it’s not the technical stuff that’s the issue …
The other mode I’ll discuss is Heist since it’s pretty obvious this is the mode they spent the most time on. Although it feels a bit like a couple of other games out there, Heist is definitely played at a faster pace. Most of the maps even seem to be designed around this mode and that’s probably why it’s the most solid one available.

Heist can be very fun and intense but now that some players have figured out shortcuts and exploits it can be more frustrating than anything if you join a server with players in the know. Don’t get wrong though, Heist is my favorite thing in Battlefield: Hardline but there’s not enough there to keep me playing the game for more than around an hour.

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Overall, it feels like the lack of balance in the weapons is the biggest buzzkill. Shotguns, as in Battlefield 4 for quite a while, are way too overpowered and posses the range of a regular rifle. Also, helicopters are too overpowered and quite difficult to take down.

In your available loadouts you can’t possess an actual RPG, so the best weapon is either a powerful LMG or the Grenade Launcher, which is next to impossible to hit a chopper with on a regular basis. Instead, you can acquire an RPG (with two whole rounds) in either the trunk of a police car or in specific spots on each map (Stingers are available to find too by the way).

With the crazy firepower that some of these choppers possess in the hands of skilled gunners and pilots they move beyond a mere annoyance to full-on tanks in the sky. To not have effective weapons to help balance that power, it makes me yet again not want to even play the game.

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Conclusion:
Overall, it’s not the technical stuff that’s the issue, it’s the content and the execution. I’ve always said that I really wish that EA hadn’t slapped the Battlefield name on this one. I’m sure they felt that it would help sell more copies, and seeing the initial numbers, it looks like it did.

But really, the game is a mess in many ways with substandard gameplay, unbalanced weapons, and uninspired map designs in most cases (though there are a couple of exceptions). In the campaign, the Police mechanic of sneaking up behind assailants and cuffing them is a “cool” change but the reality is that it breaks up the flow of the gameplay and later in the story it doesn’t even work that well since you can only “freeze” three suspects at once.

There was a lot of promise with Hardline and there are moments of greatness throughout. Unfortunately, those moments aren’t strung together well enough and in this instance the bad outweighs the good. Only a smattering of my online friends have gotten this game and as it stands now I’ve warned the rest to not bother. I just wish so many people hadn’t left Battlefield 4 now.

Score:
6.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Great review, for some reason though this is the first battlefield came ive gotten into since bad company 2. I did enjoy BF3 but there was something about BF4 I just didnt like!