In the early stages of Visceral Games Cops and Robbers take on the Battlefield series, you get the sense that the developers really wanted this to have a ‘Hollywood’ feel to it. To their credit they pull it off to a certain extent is done with a certain a sardonic style. Unfortunately by the end of the campaign the overall tone leaves the player with a feeling of discombobulation. The tongue-in-cheek approach is appreciated, but it’s when the tone attempts to be serious that the story comes across as a bit bipolar. Serious occurrences, that in other games would have kicked you right in the feels, just have no effect here because the of the game’s light-hearted tone. It would have been better if the game had carried on in the Chris Tucker from Rush Hour manner, but it doesn’t; It tosses and turns like a newborn and results in a mostly lifeless, cliché-infested story that should be charged and convicted with being derivative.
The campaign is broken down into 10 episodes and it does a really good job of making you feel like you’re in a cop show. You begin your story as good cop Nick Mendoza on the Miami beat investigating a drug gang hideout with his partner, big Carl Stoddard. Things quickly go south from here; mistakes are made and bullets start flying. Mendoza is then put on the trail of drug dealer Tyson Latchford, in order to uncover a distribution network for a deadly new drug with the aid of his new partner Khai Minh Dao.
Mendoza learns early on that not every cop on the force plays it by the book and loyalty is hard to come by. As he rubs shoulders with the cities low lives and high flyers, Mendoza is destined to come face to face with a megalomaniacal villain, corruption and betrayal on all sides. Throw in a cold serving of revenge and you have yourself a mildly entertaining, if by-the-numbers tale. You’ll also drive cars, a tank and a hovercraft, as well as shoot from a plane. You know, just to mix it up.
Missions can be approached by either going full-blown dicks out like the T-1000 in Terminator 2, or sneaking in the back door for some one-on-one action (lethal or non-lethal). At first, the stealth element appears to give Hardline an added dimension and has a certain freshness (for Battlefield) to it. By the end of it though this novelty wore off and I found it as tedious as my day job. Stealth gameplay is really only as good as the enemy AI; If the enemies are blind and deaf then what’s the point? This is a real problem in Hardline, the AI is appalling. You can complete stealth takedowns a couple of ways. First, you can sneak up behind an enemy and perform a takedown with your nightstick, police baton or whichever melee weapon you have equipped. The other option is arresting the enemy. This is done by sneaking up behind one or two targets and flashing that sweet badge of yours and shouting with vim and vigour, “FREEZE, MOTHERFUCKER!” Okay that last word I threw in for effect. Arresting an enemy gives you more XP (250 for a takedown and 500 for an arrest).
So the issue with the AI is this: They’re dumb fucks. Legit, you can be arresting a guard with another guard looking straight at you from a short distance away without being seen. Or you can arrest someone behind an enemy with his back to you well within earshot and he doesn’t hear the altercation. The enemy AI does not respond to your AI partner either, even when they run in front of them, it’s retarded. The best moment (or worst) is when my AI partner was being pushed along by a guard and went undetected. I wish I knew how to record video on my Xbox One, because that would have made the director’s cut.
The all guns blazing approach, while more fun is also a lot more risky. Your chances of being seen by the blind enemy are higher for one, but so is your chance of death. Enemy fire penetrates through barricades and they have the callous ability to flush you out with fire bombs. Most of these shootouts are usually straightforward with the enemy flanking you in small numbers of one, or staying back like weak hacks. Each kill is rewarded with XP points, some more than others as mentioned above. You also get XP from finding evidence with your police scanner. You are able to solve ‘side’ cases by finding all the evidence in that case.
The XP you acquire increases your expert level, the higher the expert level the better the weapons and attachments you can equip. You can also unlock weapons by picking them up from fallen foes. The guns themselves don’t feel overly satisfying to use, they weren’t bad, but you don’t get the badass feeling you normally would from a heavily-produced AAA action game. My favourite gun to use was the Bald Eagle pistol. That gun definitely packed a punch, but it was unfortunate that you couldn’t silence it. When my portrayal of Mendoza turned from a super cop, non-lethal arresting machine into a psychopathic serial killer, I had to use a silenced automatic rifle. For me, having to resort to this made it less ‘cop’ like, even if my creed of Serve and Protect had long since been left behind at this point.
The best things about the campaign are the character models and the house designs. All the characters are designed perfectly to the role they play in the game, and the houses you enter are dream houses. Pools with amazing views of the city, nightclubs, tennis courts and more are all part of living the dream as a crook. However, someone has probably gone overboard with the fireplaces. Seriously, one house had a fireplace basically in every room (obviously not a tree hugger). This part of the development really impressed me, as did the voice acting, even if the lines were cheesier than a Pizza Hut stuffed crust.
It’s unfortunate that my excitement for Hardline was crushed harder than when poor fellow DYEGB contributor James Shegog found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I was really expecting something, well… good. Visceral’s take on Cops and Robbers is brilliant in multiplayer (check out our MP review here), but this is a review on the campaign, and the campaign stinks. But who buys Battlefield for the campaign you fanboys ask? Me, because I really wanted a decent Cops and Robbers themed game. Instead I was let down, just like when Peter Griffin took the mystery box. He’s right, it could have been anything, but Visceral failed to create much of anything.
Reviewed on Xbox One.