Video game review: Battlefield Hardline - amped up to satisfy all gamers
Killing guys and blowing stuff up. That's the key to Battlefield's success. Over a dozen years and 30-plus games, the bestselling series has done exactly what it says on the tin and done it well: tossed players into multiplayer, first-person shooter battles across time frames and war-torn countries.
Simple and straightforward it may be, but the consistently enjoyable formula has kept critics and gamers happy. Why change things now? Hardline doesn't immediately offer an answer. The game is available for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC, and compared with the any-excuse-for-explosions stories of the past, the seven-hour campaign is surprisingly effective. Players take on a law-abiding Miami cop out to stop a drug cartel, and eventually having to face down his own corrupt police department, as well.
You can go in classic guns-ablaze style, with plenty of ferocious urban weaponry at your disposal. Or, atypical for an FPS but more in tune with your role as a lawman, there's the game's preferred stealth approach. Sneaking around, flashing your badge and making point-rewarding arrests - this is where things start to surprise. The stealth addition gives the game previously unseen layers. Players judge situations using a Splinter Cell-like tracker that allows them to perceive enemy placement and weaponry. And creeping and crouching is often the better bet.
All of this is set in an animated world that, on next-gen systems at least, looks magnificent. It's a little bit lifelike and a little bit comic book-like - a visual balance that's just as comfortable with intriguing movie-inspired cut scenes as it is with massive in-game explosions.
That all translates to the multiplayer modes, and Battlefield fans will be relieved to know it's as strong as ever, now amped up to satisfy all gamers. For those who prefer massive brawls with a multitude of weapons, Conquest and Commander are back, while fresh options such as Heist and the 5v5 Rescue effectively use the real-world police setting.
But it's Hotwire that most impresses: all players mount souped-up cars and the team that takes down the most enemies wins the round. Simple? Definitely. But that's what makes Hardline so entertaining is the combination of vehicles, guns and city-wide mayhem that gives it a fast-moving sense of urban chaos.