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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Battlefield: Hardline.

Transcript Edit

Battlefield *HURK* Hardline, I was ready to start facetiously naming as Battlefield: Hard-On and Battlefield: Harsh-Reviews-on-Metacritic right off the bat, but I can't in good conscience use the title the game wants to have. A series that has always been war shooters suddenly becoming a cop drama isn't so much a "step in a new direction" as it is "sawing our legs off and mounting the stumps on hover mowers" and slapping the 'Battlefield' name on it feels a bit disingenuous; almost none of the game takes place in a 'field' (it's mainly a city or somebody's house), the 'battles' are more like 'skirmishes', and it's not particularly 'hard'. The 'line' it can have, 'cause the campaign is characteristically linear as shit. So with all that in mind, here's my review of Skirmish-House: Easy-Line.

Not that I want to discourage an attempt to escape the tired and toxic swamplands of the modern warfare shooter. it is very gratifying to see a Battlefield game with cover art that doesn't depict a soldier slowly walking towards the camera. They went for 'man pointing gun' this time, but a step is a step.

Things didn't get off to a promising start when the first thing that happens in the campaign is you kicking someone's door in while a burly white guy says casually racist things (and I challenge you to find a single moment that more perfectly encapsulates the modern warfare shooter), but then we see just how much times have changed when you start arresting people instead of filling their faces with unwanted extra nostrils, and the enemies actually have the sense to put their hands up and surrender when a twitchy bloke with a camera for a face points a gun and tells them to. Yes, to the classic formula of 'shoot the nasty man' or 'knock out the nasty man,' we've added the innovative third option: 'arrest the nasty man': functionally identical to 'knock out the nasty man' but takes about three times as long. Although you do get more points, so it's not adding fun, it's adding another way for psychotic completionists to torment themselves. Well, drawing guys off and arresting them one at a time is a chore, but you can make it tense and exciting for yourself by attempting to arrest them three at a time, 'cause you have to keep your gun on all of them in turn like you're playing a hybrid of Russian Roulette and Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Moe.

The story campaign is surprisingly elaborate for a series that has historically gotten it's mileage out of multiplayer, with an all-star cast of mo-cap actors rounded up from an L.A. Noire reunion, and seems to be making a concerted effort to offer a rebuttal (or Rebuttal-Field, if you will) to all that racism that underlay most contemporary war games like a cake platter made of frozen sick, almost to the point of going too far in the opposite direction, I'd say. While you muscle your fair share of disenfranchised immigrants, all the major controlling villains are as white as the polar bear bukkake shoot. There's even a chapter where you take on a militia of redneck assholes with the Second Amendment firmly wrapped around their shriveled vestigial cocks, which strikes me as terribly ungrateful to the demographic who were keeping the modern warfare shooter afloat up to now. Meanwhile, the main character is Cuban, (I think; I picked up subtle hints to that effect after they brought it up seven million times) and by the end of the game, he's assembled a little Scooby gang of allies so perfectly ethnically diverse that they could all line up in order and start a novelty act called 'The Amazing Human Gradient'.

As for the actual plot, well why don't you fill in the blanks yourself? You're a cop on the ___, You get ___ed for a ___ you didn't commit and now you're out for ___ and to clear your ___. The new modern shooter is officially the old detective thriller with gradual shifts to heist movie in the second half. What confuses me, though, is that even after you've been wrongly accused and are on the run, you can still arrest people. In fact when the evil private cops show up to arrest you, you can arrest them back. What organisation is going to come around and pick those guys up? The Criminal Police from opposite land who give talks to high school kids on how drugs are really great and everyone should take them?

The campaign gameplay is kinda token; the difficulty settings don't change much more than health and enemy gun damage and that doesn't come up much if you take the sneaky 'arrest people' route. It does the Far Cry thing where you can find a vantage point and mark targets, but they appear on the mini-map whether or not you do that, complete with visibility cones, confirming my suspicion that they all have the eyesight of a myopic cyclops with a surfboard nailed to each ear. Can I be honest with you, AAA action games? I'm getting kinda bored of the 'predator' thing. It's every bloody game now! Sneak up behind, wait for them to drop the soap, instant take down. I know it's about letting us choose our gameplay style, but I always feel forced to take the sneaky option when it's available, because I always get the sense that the game is faintly judging me otherwise. Be Bulletstorm or be Thief. There's something terribly undignified about trying to be both at once. I feel like you can aspire to be the world's best sprinter or the world's best weightlifter, but when you surgically attach a sprinter to a weightlifter, then neither of them are going to be bringing their A-game anymore. And besides, Battlefield has much clearer ambitions when you switch to multiplayer; it's back to good old "shoot everything with two legs that isn't an ironing board" and then ten minutes later, get told whether or not my team won or lost, which meant precisely dick to me 'cause I'd only been concentrating on staying alive for more than two seconds in a miasma of shouting and violence, like the foxes were holding a rave in the hen house.

I did rather enjoy the Hotwire multiplayer mode, which is based around driving vehicles. It was much easier to comprehend the sheer number of players on the server when they were all piled into vehicles waving their willies out the passenger windows, but the need to drive around fast emphasized the relative smallness of the map, as people were constantly going out of bounds. God knows why they didn't just put a big wall around everything, 'cause there's nothing worse for the immersion than driving innocently down an open road and the game suddenly going, "INDEPENDENT THOUGHT DETECTED. CALL THE FUN POLICE."

I enjoyed it. But it was so utterly removed from the experience of the single player campaign, it felt almost surreal that the two were ostensibly part of the same game. Surely the campaign should in some way prepare you for the multiplayer, but all that arresting people did me a fat lot of good when 'XXXWolfNobblerXXX' was bearing down. I even unconsciously pressed the 'arrest' button at one point and found myself throwing a grenade, which in the single player had been conspicuous by their absence. A grenade is the exact opposite of arresting someone. Arresting someone involves swiftly making an intimate new friend. Grenades involve swiftly losing one, along with everything below your waist.

Addenda Edit

  • You'll never take him alive: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • The Criminal Police are the people you call when the riot squad are outside and you want to make a noise complaint.
  • Hand over your badge and gun
Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2

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