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Battlefield: Hardline review impressions: Crossing the thin blue line

Hayden Dingman | March 18, 2015
Battlefield Hardline, a cops vs. robbers spin on the military shoot 'em ups, actually shakes up the series' tried-and-true formula so much that it barely even feels like Battlefield anymore.

But Hardline is fun. It nails the cop-show feel, with some great acting by Kelly Hu, Benito Martinez, Adam Harrington, and more people who you'll go "Oh wow, that's the guy from [insert TV show/movie here]." The characters here are two-dimensional archetypes, sure, but they're well-written archetypes. And honestly, well-acted too. It's crazy that when LA Noire launched, the facial tech in that game was so amazing for the time. Now, regular ol' games like Hardline are hitting that same level of fidelity.

The game is just gorgeous across-the-board, which comes as no surprise after Battlefield 4. Take a look at this screenshot driving in Miami, for instance:

Or this one, of the Los Angeles skyline:

I actually sent that last one to a friend who lives in Los Angeles, I was so excited. "Look, you can see downtown LA! And you can see Hollywood! And if you pan over you can see Santa Monica! And they're all in the right place!" I spent more time than I'm willing to admit just admiring backdrops in Hardline, be it downtown Miami or Los Angeles or a sunset over the Everglades. It's all beautiful.

Pacifist run

Which brings us to how Hardline plays. Honestly this is the most interesting part: It plays nothing like Battlefield. Or, at least, it doesn't have to.

You could go into every level and just shoot everything that moves. In fact, I have no doubt a subset of people will play the campaign like they play normal Battlefield, and they'll go "This is dumb." And they'd be right, because Hardline is not built to be played as a shooter.

You hear that? Battlefield Hardline's singleplayer campaign is not a shooter. If you play it as a shooter, I guarantee you'll be bored. Encounters often include just a handful of enemies. Even large encounters drop in two-dozen guys at most. This is not the non-stop slaughter you'd expect.

And the game doesn't reward you for being quick with a gun either. Over the course of the game you'll unlock new weapons and gadgets with your "Expert Rank," and the only way you accrue experience is through non-lethal action — either arrests, non-lethal melee takedowns, or taser stuns.

So the surprise is that Battlefield Hardline plays like a stealth game, in its optimum form. You can approach up to three enemies at a time, flash your badge to order them to freeze, then put each of them in handcuffs. If you're spotted while making an arrest, or just spotted sneaking around, the whole base goes on alert and it turns into a shootout, nullifying any experience you might gain from the area.

 

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