In my book – a book with lots of pictures and big, easy to understand words – there are two types of gamers on this planet. There are those who know, deep down in their hearts, that the Battlefield series of games are better than the juggernaut that is Call of Duty, and those that are wrong. However, that isn’t to say that all Battlefield games are masterpieces, and the game I’m casting my mind back to now is one of those difficult titles that tried to move away from the established Battlefield formula, attempting something new. Now, change can be a good thing, and without innovation there is no evolution, but was EA’s gamble on Battlefield Hardline a good one?
One of the most notable facts about Battlefield Hardline is that it was the last Battlefield game to be produced on the previous generation of consoles, the Xbox 360 and the PS3. First thing that was different about this game was the developer, going right back to grass roots. Now, as a development studio, I have a lot of time for Visceral Games, as I loved their Dead Space games, so I wasn’t too perturbed by the game going to someone other than DICE. What worried me more was the complete change in direction. You see, the Battlefield games I’d played previously, all the way back to Modern Combat on the Xbox 360, had featured various armies knocking seven bells out of each other, complete with tanks and military aircraft. To discover that we were going from this to the mean streets of Miami, and were going to essentially be playing cops ‘n’ robbers, did make me pause for a moment. And playing through the single player, it initially appeared that my concerns were well founded.
Being completely honest, not many people play these types of games for the single player mode. For the majority of Battlefield players it’s all about the multiplayer, but I am the exception to the rule. I do play the single player missions, and usually enjoy them, especially in the case of the Bad Company games. This one was a bit different, with a storyline that was straight out of an American cop drama. With the full complement of dirty cops, an upstanding hero sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and the ultimate payback, there was seemingly not a single cop show cliche that wasn’t plundered.
However, with a stab at a stealth mechanic – usually not a Battlefield strong point – the gameplay on offer was good enough to keep me playing though to the climax. With an ending that was reminiscent of the conclusion of the first Bad Company game, a fortune in our hands and no idea what to do with it, I really did enjoy the story mode. Taking down enemies in a non lethal style was a novel departure for the series – and honestly it just worked.
The multiplayer was another story, however. There was the usual spread of multiplayer modes to go at, including the Battlefield staple of Conquest, in both large and small flavours. However, the new modes this time around were designed to be the stars of the multiplayer show, with more new modes than you could shake a taser at. These included Heist, which charged the criminals with breaking into a cash filled vault or armoured car, before moving the cash to a point for extraction. The cops, meanwhile, would need to stop them by employing lethal force. The Blood Money mode also featured money, with both teams trying to move cash from a point in the middle of the map to their respective armoured cars. In a twist, the opposing team’s armoured car could also be robbed, so a real tug of war would develop as both teams tried to get away with the cash.
Further, Hotwire was a twist on the classic Conquest mode, with the flags this time around being drivable vehicles. Capturing was done by driving above a certain speed, and the team that had the most cars in their possession drained the tickets of the enemy team. Rescue and Crosshair, the last two modes, were much more tense affairs as each player had only one life, and with no respawns the pressure was on to stay alive while either rescuing some hostages in Rescue, or killing a criminal turned grass in Crosshair. With the carrying over of the “Levolution” feature from Battlefield 4, where certain actions would trigger a change in the level – for instance causing a crane to come crashing down on the streets – the scene was set for many memorable battles.
Time has not been kind to the new game modes, however. One of the great joys of writing these “Looking Back” pieces is the chance to reinstall games that I may not have thought about in a long time, and so it was with Battlefield Hardline.
Now, I can’t remember why, but my career in the multiplayer stages of the game seem to have been very much curtailed, as for some reason I seem to have finished as a pretty lowly level. However, I dived back in to try and test the game out, and found that the population is very much reduced. I couldn’t get a game in any of the unique game modes: the most I saw was two players online in Heist, but with a minimum of four players needed to start a game it was a complete non-starter. Diving into the server browser, the only game mode that had any population in the time frame that I was playing was that of Conquest Large, and in the entire world there were only four servers with active games on them. The people that are still playing are all pretty much pro at the game now, with the majority hitting the level cap of 150 but still playing. They know the maps, they have all the good kit, and making any progress at all is very tricky. In a word, it is sweaty in there, with some truly ridiculous K/D padding going on.
With Battlefield Hardline on Xbox One now being available for free via EA Access, the story mode is certainly worth a playthrough again, but with the reduced multiplayer population and the fact that all those playing it seem to be completely 1337, it’s hard to recommend it to anyone in this day and age. But what about your memories of Battlefield Hardline? Did you play it back in the day? Did you prefer the story or the multiplayer? Let us know in the comments!