Battlefield Hardline was panned by critics at launch for a multitude of reasons. Here’s why most of those complaints are wrong.
Note: there are spoilers in this article, some of which are big, others small.
Battlefield Hardline’s campaign is a cop action show which takes place over the course of 10 “episodes,” or levels. These episodes all play in different ways and take place over vastly different environments. Hardline’s writing is almost identical to that of a cop show, with a ton of explosions thrown in for the real Battlefield Experience™.
The game is like the love child of The Wire and Battlefield.
The question is, why do people hate this so much? The answer is: its not a real Battlefield game, and the people who reviewed it tried to play the game like one.
The game plays like a cop drama with more action
The main theme of the story is corrupt cops, and trying to expose them. The main character, Nick Mendoza comes from a troubled background, since his father was a member of the Cuban secret police (spoilers: theyre really bad guys). Nick’s wants to be a good cop, since his dad was a bad cop. Unfortunately, everyone Nick works with is a bad cop, gets framed, and eventually comes to terms that he prefers being a bad cop.
There are many settings in the story, from the suburbs of a gang controlled neighborhood, to the swamps of Florida’s national park. Every setting reminds me of a real cop show, but with the occasional explosion.
There’s a surprising amount of character development considering the way previous Battlefield games handled their stories in recent years. Battlefield hasn’t had this much detail in each character since the Bad Company series (please give us Bad Company 3).
The devs went so far in detailing each character, that every main character is motion captured down to the movement of a pinky. Every actor plays their part fantastically, and there are so many details that could be easily missed. When a car filled with mob members (who you are avoiding) drives right past your window, your friend puts his hand up to cover his face, and puts on the most nervous face I’ve ever seen on a characters face in a video game.
If this was an actual show I can see it lasting at least 5 seasons, and inspiring a CSI Miami style meme.
You shouldn’t feel forced to go in guns blazing
Nearly every one of the opinions from popular critics and youtubers are completely nonsensical, but partly understandable. Battlefield Hardline has the Battlefield brand, so people expected explosions, tanks, jets, and an over the top story which frankly no one cared about. All they wanted was Battlefield.
The most notable example of this comes from Youtuber LevelCap, who’s channel focuses almost entirely on Battlefield. He does make some good points on some very convoluted plot points later in the game. Towards the end of the game, the game begins to be much more extravagant in its use of explosions and B-movie action scenes which are both wholly unnecessary and make little sense. One thing that bothered LevelCap greatly is how there is a sort of obligation to use the non-lethal options.
The problem with this argument, is that you reach max level for non-lethal halfway through the campaign. This means for a full half of the game you can go guns blazing with all the weapons available. The idea that the entire game is built around a tazer just doesn’t hold up.
The game plays in very different levels/episodes so playing the game one way or the other shouldn’t be a problem. I even found myself replaying some levels (heaven forbid a AAA shooter have single player re-playability). In my first run of the game, I used the non-lethal options for stealth. The game played pretty well as a stealth shooter. Because it’s a Battlefield game and checkpoints are plenty, there’s a huge margin for error. At one point I decided to stealth an entire level with a silenced pistol, and despite messing it up several times, I was able to stealth through an entire 40 minute level.
Even then, I never felt like there was a lack of progression thanks to the side missions. The side missions require some “detective work.” I quote detective work because the mechanic to find clues is basically pulling out an all knowing camera, which highlights anything relevant in an unmissable green. Honestly even with the bright green evidence, I found myself having trouble finding certain items, and I was truly obligated to investigate parts of a level.
Play-style is in no way a hindrance to the game. If you want to spray and pray with an automatic rifle, you can do that. If you want to stealth through the whole game with a silenced pistol, you can do that too. There really isn’t anything stopping you. Even then, the tazer works as an effective point blank weapon since it one-hits enemies so you can keep building up your experience throughout the game.
My favorite part of the game didn’t even let you shoot anyone
Midway through the game SPOILERS: Nick is betrayed by his fellow police officers who were (quite obviously) corrupt cops. They frame you for stealing money from a crime scene, and get you sent to jail. Three years later, you manage to escape after a friend blows up your prison transport. For the next 20 minutes, you’re running from police hiding in an attempt to reach a water tower where your friend is waiting. While eventually, your handcuffs are removed and you can steal a tazer, the game suddenly became a really tense stealth game. I was seriously disappointing when it ended.
This part of the game says everything about the developer, Visceral Entertainment, and what they’re able to accomplish. It seemed as though the Battlefield moments were forced into the game, rather than the developers decision. I think that if Visceral Entertainment was given full reign over a second Hardline game, they could create a genre defining game centered around professional robbers, a-la GTAV.
Battlefield Hardline should not be played like a Battlefield game. Underneath the B-movie action and plot issues is a fantastic campaign with some of the most excellent moments in Battlefield [campaign] history.
The ends like a French movie, all’s well that ends well and what happens next for the main character is up to the player’s imagination. Then again this is EA, so expect Hardline 2 in fourth quarter 2016. Honestly it would be smart for EA to make a sequel, since Hardline ends with a fantastic setup for a new story.
You’re reading TAY, Kotaku’s community-run blog. TAY is written by and for Kotaku readers like you. We write about games, art, culture and everything in between. Want to write with us? Check out our tutorial here and join in.
To contact the author of this post, e-mail him at email@example.com or tweet him @Geo_star101