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    Battlefield: Hardline, Loose can(n)on!

    The game has changed. Battlefield Hardline is an exit stage left from the oo-rah flag waving with new developer Visceral ditching the dogs of war for the boys in blue, and… pause for dramatic effect… embracing a story component which will grab you by the balls rather than something you quickly skip, bolting straight to multiplayer.

    Cop this. You play law enforcer Nick Mendoza, arguably the most stunningly named protagonist outside of Suda 51’s wheelhouse. Nick wants to clean up the mean streets of Miami, but to do so he’ll have to weave his way through drug dens, militarised patriots and triads while dodging crooked cops and lead flying around him.

    The plot is doled out episodically for easy access and replayability starring top notch TV talent including Nicholas Gonzalez as Mendoza, Adam Harrington, Travis Willingham, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Hu as your partner Khai and The Shield’s Benito Martinez as your Captain. It’s engaging, keeps you guessing and even manages to ease the dramatic tension with some very well-timed one-liners. It wants you to think it’s some kind of hybrid between The Wire, The Shield and Justified, but it doesn’t quite have the same depth, though it does put in a valiant effort. It’s easily the most fun we’ve had working our way through this style of shooter’s single-player in a long time, and that’s saying something.

    Forget about Levolution, it’s all about evolution. Battlefield veterans and purists may object to the tonal and gameplay shift for the campaign, but we applaud and embrace the change in direction, and just because it’s different it doesn’t mean you can’t get your straight ‘Battlefield’ on. Each scenario is a puzzle to solve, not unlike tackling an outpost in the Far Cry series. New tech, such as your really, really, really, super Smart phone allows you to mark targets, assess if they have outstanding warrants and uncover evidence as you formulate a plan of attack. The familiar arsenal set-up from the multiplayer has been transfused into the campaign, so you can kit yourself however you see fit.
    Arm up with a Taser, Grappling Hook or Zip-line and flank, taking the road less travelled
    You want to run in guns blazing? You go right ahead soldier. Load up on Ammo Boxes, Bulletproof Vests or First-Aid Kits and have at it. Let that inner warrior off the leash, ignore tactics and mapping out an infiltration route, visualise that Arnie weapon montage and let the bullets fly. Drink in the sumptuous surroundings as cover explodes around you like a John Woo wet dream. Burn through mag after mag, reloading as your health bar dwindles and heavily armoured reinforcements test your endurance and resolve. It’s bullet time, and how could you possible deny yourself such and indulgence with an almost limitless armoury at your disposal?

    Or you could go in loud. Like really, really loud. You may not be rocking an unending supply of grenades, but you can still get more bang for your buck. Trip Mines are a devilishly evil way to set some poor sap up and watch him go boom. For those who prefer the more direct approach, Breaching Charges can be operated just like C4 charges, and while they may alert everything in a twenty block radius, there’s no denying the morbid exhilaration blowing up a cluster of enemies sky high. Whichever of the more aggressive routes you favour, run that gauntlet and prove you are all that is woman or man. You’re a goddamned renegade maverick, and we’d follow you anywhere, anytime for some urban pacification, with full knowledge we’ll be chewed out by the Chief for supporting your reckless ways.

    That said, there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction taking a predominantly non-lethal approach and playing it by the book. Arm up with a Taser, Grappling Hook or Zip-line and flank, taking the road less travelled. By utilising stealth, misdirection and thoroughly surveying your surroundings you can whittle down the resistance, disarm alarms to cut off the call for reinforcements and eliminate the opposition one by one. In another nod to Far Cry you can even toss bullet casings to alert and separate patrols and move in for the kill, err, stun.

    The new mechanic, to “Freeze” up to three enemies by drawing your badge, is outstanding and a remarkably tense addition to your repertoire. You’ll need to keep your firearm drawn and aimed, alternating between all targets as you cuff and arrest each with any momentary slip-up leading to a hail of blood and bullets which never ends well. Choose your path, be it lawful or skirting its edge or find a happy medium in the middle. Battlefield Hardline caters to all.

    The only real gripes we had were with the progression. You’re awarded the most XP for non-lethal kills which in-turn unlocks the heaviest hitting weaponry. Why not support and reward a particular playstyle? Play aggressive, get that Bald Eagle hand cannon. Play quiet and unlock silencers, and if you go non-lethal, how’s about a shotgun with bean bag rounds? Just a thought, guys. On its looks, while it was very pretty overall, screen-tearing ripples and pop-ins would momentarily destroy
    immersion and the driving sections were absolutely shithouse. Please please please, for Hardline 2: Boys in Blue Boogaloo, just grab someone from Ghost Games to give the four-wheeled sections a once over, m’kay?
    We found it tough to ever be without Breaching Charges, you know, just in case
    And what of the much-loved multiplayer you ask? The hit-detection, laggy woes of Battlefield 4 are left n the rear view with all the modes you know and love making a triumphant comeback, kind of. Team Deathmatch returns as does Conquest, still the king of modes, with the new twist on Conquest, Hotwire, providing a suitable prince waiting in the wings. The concept is the same, but rather than catching points, you steal specific cars and drive them really fast to hold the point. Keanu would be proud!

    Heist is a stunning variation of Capture the Flag as you break into vaults or armoured trucks to abscond with the loot to an extraction point, and Blood Money is similar to boot as you steal from a central stack of cash or your adversaries’ stash trying to hit a specific amount. Rescue and Crosshair are single kill game modes with no respawns sure to tickle Counter-Strike fans, but none of the above are all that much of a departure. It’s the way you deal with vehicles which is the real game changer.

    With regular arms fire damaging most vehicles, no mines in sight and the only rocket-launchers limited to those left on the maps at specific points, the biggest threats are helicopters and armoured vehicles, both sporting team destroying turrets. We found it tough to ever be without Breaching Charges, you know, just in case. There were countless times where a single vehicle would literally shift the tide of a battle, and we would bet our money stack it’s something which will definitely polarise the community. We dug the change of pace, though we’re not gonna lie, we did shed a tear for our lost Engineer and the mine-fields he’ll never plant and rockets he’ll never fire.

    Battlefield Hardline is a bold step forward in many ways for Battlefield, but is sure to divide opinion. It offers a pretty solid single-player campaign and a same-same but different multiplayer experience that we hope will start a risk-taking trend for franchises with a string of hits under its belt, rather than simply staying the course.

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