There are many reasons people buy video games. Some buy them to support the developers. Some buy them to show off their cool new game to their friends. Some buy them to get Platinum trophies on their Playstations. Then there are some crazy people who actually buy games to play them. Can you imagine? Freaks...
But even though I want the trophies and the showing off (not so much supporting the devs in this case), the real reason I'm buying Hardline is, frankly, a little stupid:
I'm sick and tired of military shooters.
Sounds a little vague, doesn't it? I should probably rephrase that. I hate the military aesthetic in modern first-person shooters. I get where the devs are going with this. Really. The military gets all the cool gadgets that could easily transition into mechanics in a first person shooter game. Things like UAVs, tanks, squad-based tactics and such. Bash modern games all you like in favor of Doom, most of the time I'll even agree with you, but you can't say that some of the game mechanics that these tools make aren't extremely fun. So it's great and all that they used this aesthetic to create gameplay elements, but isn't it possible to put those kinds of tools in other settings? What about sci-fi shooters, like Killzone or Halo? What about a pseudo-fantasy setting reminiscent to Shadowrun?
Or maybe something that's a little close to home: Cops and Robbers.
You may be wondering why I have an aversion to military aesthetics, and to be honest, for the most part, it can be explained in one, simple word.
Russians. And if not them, then it's Iraq. If not them, then it's the Nazis. Then, if not them, it's Canada. The list goes on. I'm not saying the US should be a villain, but story writers for games like Call of Duty try so hard to be so grand that they basically turn an entire nation into a terrorist cell, hell-bent on world-destruction using "nuclear missile bomb," nearly all of which are played by people with thick accents and not a single, utter, shred of humanity in their entire being. It's generally accepted by the media that this is all "just a game," but the way the stories are written seem to have a subconscious impact on the way people think. In a lot of cases, this ends up hurting the wrong people, my friends and family included (I was a sociophobe for years due to the intense fear that resonated from people whenever I told them my nationality), thanks to strong stereotypes and generalization. Most people tend to skip the campaign, as do I, just to get into the meat of the multiplayer experience. But somehow, all that pseudo-politics (yes, I love the word "pseudo") seeps through into the multiplayer experience as well, and not thanks to the players I'm playing with.
This is particularly notable with Tom Clancy games, with Blacklist being fresh in my memory for cramming their politics down your throat, no matter what single-player/co-op game mode you happen to be playing. Even when you skip the cutscene, the game starts glorifying every single military action that happens in the game through its dialogue, as long as it's against the enemy. Which makes sense, I suppose, but the double standards thing brings up the whole question of "good and evil" when in reality, everything is a huge, massive, blurry grey area which is so foggy that most people have no idea what's going on in between, even in Blacklist's story. I should tell you now, I love Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Really. I really do think it's the greatest entry in the entire franchise. But at the same time, I despise it for force-feeding me a gibberish plot that always feels like it is attempting to steer me into thinking in black and white. Every time I get my adrenaline pumping from an intense, cerebral stealth segment, I'm immediately brought back to the Earth with a loud "thud" by Sam's (and his crew's) dialogue.
The reason I'm bringing this up is because I'm practically in the same boat with Battlefield 3, a game which I absolutely adore playing whenever I get the opportunity. Granted, it's nowhere near the blunt scale that Blacklist was at, making it a much nicer multiplayer experience to play. But I feel it could be better. Hardline sounds like a dream come true. From what I played, yes, it is just an upgraded Battlefield (really, aren't they all?), and it does have some pretty cool new things that previous entries didn't have, like the ability to arrest instead of kill enemies (both teams, actually), grapple hooks, and all that good stuff. But really, all that matters for me is the aesthetic.
I'm pretty sure the story's going to open up with the Russian Mafia, somehow, but let's not kid ourselves, Mafia are, actually, criminals. And when a bank heist is going down and all the civilians have been shot, there's no gray area in the middle of it, anymore. There's no politics. There's no rationalization. It's just freakin' cops and robbers.
Honestly, when I first heard about Battlefield: Hardline having nothing to do with the army, I laughed at how stupid the idea was.
For a good five seconds. Then I paused with wide eyes and asked my friends: "How cool is that?!"
And already, the difference is notable in the way the game feels. It may seem like DLC, but the truth is that lots of the elements of Hardline already feel different, from the way cars handle especially under pressure from bullets, how game modes are tweaked to suit the theme, and how the campaign, from the reveal, seems to drop the whole "one man army" trend in favor of more of a "freedom-of-approach" style. Honestly, I believe them to be much better than they were in Battlefield 3, from what I have seen. Plus, with the recent rise of anti-hero popularity, it just seems all that much cooler to be a cop or robber fighting over cash instead of a soldier fighting over territory. The game's not even out yet, and we don't know anything about it except from the beta footage. Even so, I've never been this excited over a Battlefield title since Bad Company 2. All this just from a change of setting and aesthetic.
It's not just the change in aesthetic which is the reason I want to buy it. I want to buy it because I want to see more of it. I want to see devs behind games like Call of Duty and Battlefield think a little out-of-the-box when it comes to incorporating gameplay mechanics from settings, and I want to see them do something different, even if in doing so all they'll do is make cops-and-robbers games for the next decade.