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Battlefield Hardline Multiplayer Review – Something borrowed, something blue

(Editor's note, for games with multiplayer as its focal point we separate the single-player & multiplayer reviews. See here for BFH's single-player review.).


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Visceral Games’ attempt at an episodic singleplayer campaign is a bust, considered by many as a failed experiment. Hardline’s multiplayer component borrows from its predecessors, as Visceral opted not to change the fundamental elements of Battlefield too much.

The result: Hardline stands out from other titles in the franchise with addictive new game modes and fast paced gameplay that sends sirens through the FPS community, screaming “look at me, I’m not just a glorified Battlefield 4 DLC”.

Fast paced and addictive game modes

Hardline features the staple Battlefield game mode, Conquest. For the uninitiated, in Conquest you have to capture and control points on the map. The more points a team controls, the slower their “tickets” reduce via player deaths. The first team to run out of tickets loses. The game’s maps are not quite as big as Battlefield 4’s, which means that 64 player Conquest feels a bit too crowded at times. Fortunately, Hardline offers 32 player Conquest to offer a staple experience worthy of the franchise’ most played game mode.

Team Deathmatch, the pallet cleansing game mode also makes a fast paced return, as Hardline’s Team Deathmatch mode (which comes in 64, 32, 16 and 8 player variants) is one of the most frantic I have ever experienced. Although Team Deathmatch is admittedly fun, the best multiplayer experience comes from the new game modes.

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Hotwire is by far most exciting mode introduced in Hardline. Players take control of vehicles that double as control points seen in Conquest, only in Hotwire they are fast paced mobile death-traps. The Hotwire mode creates cops versus criminal car chases, with players leaning from windows spraying bullets into the opposing faction’s vehicles. Unique and exhilarating player created scenarios play out through dynamic tactics and combat due to the nature of moving Conquest points. For example, I jumped into a Sedan with a few squad mates and drove through Dustbowl, trying to avoid enemies as long as possible, thereby building up points. An enemy helicopter pushed us away from our Sunday drive. As we frantically drove away, three enemy vehicles, chased by our team’s helicopter, followed us on the road. With no chance of escape, I suddenly hit the brakes, creating a pileup and subsequent laughter that continued throughout the remainder of the map.

The Heist game mode is, you guessed it, all about the money. The criminals try to infiltrate a vault filled with cash while the cops try to stop them. Once the criminal team breaks in, objectives open up, as they have to deliver two bags of cash and bring those bags to two points on a map. Unfortunately, from my experience Heist is the most unbalanced game mode. Not once did I see criminals deliver both bags of cash, thereby achieving victory. Hopefully, the mode will receive balance changes in the future, as the action that takes place at the vault and points of interest is extremely satisfying.

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Blood Money is a mode that fits its name perfectly. Criminals fight to steal money while cops try to secure it as evidence, creating a bloodbath of epic proportions. Both teams have a vault, in which they need to deposit their money, while the opposing team can raid their vault. Due to the mirrored nature of the game mode, Blood Money is far more balanced than Heist.

As an eSports enthusiast, Rescue mode is an exciting prospect. This competitive mode works in terms of “rounds”, where each player only has one life. The SWAT team’s task is to rescue hostages, while the criminal team needs to keep the hostages bound and gagged until the timer runs out. Victory comes from either the aforementioned hostage centric objectives or by eliminating all enemies. From my experience with the mode, Rescue is a deep and tactical mode that has the makings of an eSport. Throughout each map, players need to think on their feet as the destructible environment opens up new ways of flanking the enemy. Tactical grenades, for example the Smoke Grenade, should be used with precision as one brilliant throw could end a round.

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Crosshair is the second competitive mode, in which the cops must protect a VIP as they attempt to transport the VIP to a specific part of the map. The criminals’ task is simple; eliminate the VIP or all opposing forces in order to win. Just like in Rescue mode, a player only has one life per round, creating a tense atmosphere that requires tactical knowledge and teamwork in order to achieve victory.

No tanks…no thanks?

There is one core difference that set Hardline apart from its predecessor, Battlefield 4. Heavy armored vehicles such as tanks do not feature in Hardline. Attack helicopters as well as jets share the same fate as the beloved Abrams and co.

The removal of these powerful war machines could very well be enough to put veteran Battlefield players off Hardline. As a player who has played way too much Battlefield in the past, I did not once miss one of the “extinct” vehicles mowing me down. Hardline has enough of its own charm through varied game modes that stick with the theme of urban, cops versus criminals warfare; and it works.

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However, due to the removal of the distinctive Battlefield vehicles such as tanks, Visceral decided that there is no need to include an array of powerful, anti-armor type weapons. At first, the decision seems reasonable, until a skilled pilot climbs into the passenger-type helicopter accompanied by two decent gunmen controlling the bird’s only weapons, mounted machineguns. In their hands, the helicopter becomes slightly overpowered, mowing down the enemy team with ease.

Fortunately, the developers have scattered some heavy duty weapons at various locations on each map, which help in taking down an expertly piloted bird. Even so, I prefer the ability to unlock and set up a Loadout specifically to combat helicopters and vehicles.

Cracking the vault of unlocks

Players level up by doing just about anything in the game, from shooting enemies to repairing a Sedan. Throughout gameplay, various factors boost the amount of experience a player attains, from headshot distance to spotting enemies for their team. With each level, new weapons and gadgets open up, which players need to unlock with their hard earned cash. Cash is attained at the same rate and manner as experience. A player can spend their cash on various unlocks either through the in-game loadout menu or via the browser based Battlelog.

Hardline offers the player choice with regards to which items he / she wishes to unlock. Instead of unlocking an item at a specific level, players can chose to spend their cash on whichever item they want most. Limits are still put in place, for example, to unlock a Laser Sight with a new gun, you must first score 25 kills through normal play.

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Battlepacks offer yet another way to acquire items, which are awarded to players for completing the singleplayer campaign, pre-ordering the game, buying the Deluxe version, leveling up and even buying with in game cash. These Battlepacks offer unique weapon upgrades, camouflage and booster items (which for example boosts XP gain for completing map objectives or following squad directives).  

The game has enough potential unlocks to keep players busy for a very long time, which adds to the addictiveness already fostered by the new and exciting game modes.

Graphics, sounds and performance – Surprisingly solid

Hardline’s graphical quality is on par with that of Battlefield 4, plunging players into detailed maps filled to the brim beautiful structures to destroy. Explosions, gunfire and environmental lightning look spectacular. Character animations, from death scenes to reloading and even climbing a ladder look realistic and feel responsive.

The sound effects in Hardline are some of the best I have heard in a FPS. The symphony of bullets hitting walls, windows and enemy heads all while environmental sounds such as wind or rain clatter against a building creates an unforgettable experience.

Small scale “levelution” changes each map in spectacular fashion, creating a sight that is so distracting I found myself dying more than I would like to admit just watching the map change. For example, in one of the (nine) maps, Dustbowl, a sandstorm approaches during a round. At the end of a round, a sandstorm blows through the map, ensuring death to all who fail to find cover.

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Beautiful graphics, amazing sound “levelution” is all good and well, but what about performance? Well, one thing Hardline did not borrow from Battlefield 4 is the performance woes at launch. The game runs like a hot combat knife through an enemy’s throat; silky smooth with no discernable bugs, glitches or drops in frame-rate. Furthermore, the glaring netcode issues which accompanied Battlefield 4 at launch did not rear their ugly heads during my time with the game.

The only issue that I could pick up on was one or two very rare instances of rubber-banding and character animations of a corpse awkwardly bouncing if a player gets shot while climbing a ladder. However, these are minor issues that will not take any player enjoyment away from the game, unlike the harsh, unrelenting issues encountered in Battlefield 4.

Closing Thoughts

Hardline’s multiplayer is still a Battlefield title, incorporating the chaos of large scale battles with its own unique charm. The varied game modes, from the fast paced Hotwire to the eSports centric Rescue mode deliver a breath of fresh air to the franchise. For the first time since Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I felt the need to play “Just one more map” for hours on end. Coupled with the addictive multiplayer experience is a plethora of unlocks to strive for and no glaring performance issues to speak of.

Some might argue that Hardline could be a DLC for Battlefield 4. In some way, they might be correct, as the game borrows heavily from its predecessor. However, I think Hardline can stand on its own as an exciting, solid multiplayer experience veterans of the franchise as well as newcomers should give a try.

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