Up until now, the general consensus regarding the single player portion of Hardline has been largely that dismissal – “it’s all about the multiplayer, stupid!” or “When has there ever been a decent storyline in a Battlefield game without Bad Company in the title?” It’s hard to ignore those cries as they’re fairly accurate, but Visceral Games came to Gamescom to restore some faith in the single player campaign, and I was invited to see how they planned to rekindle our interest in the storytelling aspect of the franchise.
The first thing we were told was that the focus on story was of great importance to Visceral, so much so that they had hired writers responsible for bringing the critically acclaimed series’ Justified and True Detective to life on the small screen. This was clearly evident during the early part of the level we were shown, which happened to be the same one used in the EA press conference. Taking place halfway through the game (or “season,” if the episodic thing is to be believed) protagonist Nick Mendoza finds himself and his partner Boomer being double-crossed in a deal-gone-south, with the player tasked with escaping their imprisonment and completing their assignment.
Here, we were told that, unlike other Battlefield games where the aim was to keep the action high at most times (rat-stabbing aside), Hardline would offer a different, more subtle pace by adding in sections such as escaping the silo. Despite the linear affair to begin with, we were promised that players could choose to take a non-lethal approach if they wanted, but greater player choice would be more prevalent in the larger arenas available in the game. One thing is for sure though – even though it was clearly done to illustrate Mendoza’s current predicament, having the handcuffed hands up in the bottom of the screen looked a little silly.
When the bullets started flying, though, the destruction mechanics of the Frostbite engine helped to amplify the action, something that was more evident during the open section of the level. Unlike what was shown during the press conference, the demonstrator went all guns blazing to highlight it as a valid (albeit messy) option, with the walls of the trailers splintering apart thanks to the intense gunfire. So, the thing to take away from all this is that at the very least, Battlefield Hardline will be a good looking game.
In the interests of showing off other gameplay mechanics, the game was reloaded from the last checkpoint and we watched a proper stealth run similar to the one shown during the press conference, complete with use of the badge to subdue enemies slowly, and the taser to do the job in a quicker fashion. It was here we were reminded that giving the player choice was more than just deciding whether to go stealthy or all Rambo, but also in how players deal with foes directly. This is what the Hardline subtitle refers to – Mendoza walks a fine line between being a good cop or a bad cop, and players would be rewarded with currency to upgrade gear depending on if they did it in a clean manner or not.
Much like with the press conference, our demo then went very loud with gunfire going off until the end, but I’d be interested in seeing if there was a quiet way to end the level or not. Sadly, we weren't able to find out as the press session ended there, but I certainly hope we get to see even more choice put into the player’s hands during the single player campaign -- well, as much as they can without derailing their episodic approach (something even Telltale Games has suffered from in recent months). Overall, though, I came away feeling a bit more optimistic for Hardline’s storyline than I was before. Don’t get me wrong – even with the pedigree of the writers involved I’m not expecting Emmy-award winning performances, but I do think Visceral are on the right track. Let’s hope it stays that way when it releases next year.
Platforms: PC | PS4 | Xbox One | PS3 | Xbox 360
Developers: DICE / Visceral Games