After ample delays, Battlefield: Hardline is about to steal us away from our loved ones for the foreseeable future. The long-running Battlefield first-person-shooter franchise is often called the Pepsi to Call of Duty’s Coke -- they’re both kill/death-ratio-driven shooters that let you customize your loadout and talk proliferate trash.
Yet Battlefield has some things Call of Duty doesn’t -- like the ability to land a motorcycle on top of a moving vehicle and then proceed to RPG whole buildings to the ground, or to get in a tank and quietly run over the entire opposing team while humming “Uptown Funk”.
While Swedish developer DICE has served as the exclusive developer of the main Battlefield series for the last 10 years, Hardline sees Dead Space developers Visceral Games getting in on the mayhem. They’re taking the lead on development with DICE providing some assets and aid. The battleground has moved closer to home, with players taking on the role of a Los Angeles police officer trying to battle a growing gang war. Things are bound to be a little different in Hardline.
Since Battlefield 3 was released in 2011, sneaky players have been able to knife their enemies in a scripted animation full of grunts, groans and gurgles. It’s brutally satisfying, and makes sense when you’re playing a soldier battling terrorists and war criminals.
Such gory violence is a little less appropriate when you’re playing a police officer trying to keep the peace, which is why Hardline introduces “non-lethal takedowns.” When the player uses a blunt weapon or a Taser, he or she can incapacitate enemies, handcuff them and interrogate them.
However, there’s a tradeoff for moral superiority and the information gathered in the interrogations. Non-lethal takedowns take slightly longer to carry out than than the lethal kind, and because that leaves the player open to attack, players will need to be strategic with their mercy.
Level Up Levolution
With 2013’s Battlefield 4, a new mechanic called “levolution” was introduced, letting players affect their environment in a big way. You could crash giant boats, lock doors, demolish walls and even blow up dams to flood levels.
Hardline adds even more levolution. Players can blow up roofs to perform bank heists, or suffer through zero visibility in a level-wide sandstorm. On your first few playthroughs of each map, take note of the levolution options. Knowing how to trigger a flood, or which wall to demolish to escape the other team, is wickedly useful.
Same Game, New Names
Battlefield-series game releases are now on a two-year cycle, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for innovation. Apart from takedowns and levolution, most of the big changes are related to names. The commanders who used to aid the battlefield remotely are now hackers, and field upgrade system, which gave players access to perks, is referred to as the reputation system.
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The biggest change to names is seen in the “kit” category. In previous games, players had a choice of four kits they could use, and each would alter their style of play. The popular Assault kit, which allows players to heal, resurrect and use assault rifles, is now the Operator kit. The Recon kit, which let players approach the game from a stealth perspective, is now the Professional kit.
The Mechanic kit is the new name for the Engineer kit, which lets players repair vehicles and use RPGs and Stingers. Because the game has done away with tanks (more on that in a moment) Mechanics have also gotten a few extra goodies, like the ability to booby-trap vehicles and create mobile spawn points for their teams.
The Support kit has also seen a big change. Now called the Enforcer kit, its lost access to the light machine guns that set it apart from other kits, but Enforcers are now the only class allowed to use shotguns and battle rifles.
You can say goodbye to the stealth-recon shotgunners that were so irritating in Battlefields 3 and 4. Now, if someone is rushing you with a shotgun, you’ll hear them coming.
Tanks for the Memories
Tanks apparently have no place in a police-vs.-organized-crime war like the one in Hardline. It makes sense that your LAPD officer can’t just hop in an Abrams tank to annihilate the competition. Hardline makes up for the removal of tanks by adding a whole mess of cars. Car battles can never compare to a tank-on-tank fight, but at least the cars of Hardline can be repaired from within, and passengers can hang out the window and shoot at people, just as in real life (please do not do this).
But just because you can hop in any old empty motorized vehicle on the map doesn’t mean that you should. If you do tear off in one and see a “what the heck” in the chat, it’s likely you’ve stolen another player’s rampage mobile.
It’s easy to rectify such a situation. Either hop back out, or move to another seat. Almost every vehicle has additional gunner positions that can be critical to the survival of the vehicle. But a pro tip: if you’re in the gunner seat, make sure you’re never looking in the same direction as the driver. Doing so makes it much easier for enemy soldiers to sneak up on you and score sweet multikills with mines or C4 explosive.
Know Your Controls
Jumping into a vehicle automatically limits your field of vision and makes it even easier for enemies to flank and murder you. Check the control settings for the platform you’re playing to learn how to switch perspectives -- it allows your camera to move from first person to the much more vehicle-friendly third person and gives you a larger field of vision.
Helicopters and planes in Battlefield are notoriously hard to control when playing on a PC. All that nonsense about throttle and yaw goes out the window when you’re sending yourself, and the poor souls who hopped in with you, straight into a building. Thankfully, Battlefield now has a practice arena in which you can test out controls.
But the real pro tip is to do what the best do, and just use an appropriate controller when flying. Two joysticks means you can have finer control over that aforementioned throttle and yaw. You still may be terrible (I know I am), but at least you’ll stay in the air just a little longer.
Do It For The Grind
There’s always one multiplayer map in Battlefield that’s affectionately referred to as the “meat grinder.” It’s usually a gruelling slog, with limited avenues for advance and retreat. Players will pile up in openings and unleash the fire of hell from machine guns while weeping profusely over their quickly falling kill/death ratio.
If you find yourself in such a grind and are tired of dying, try playing a more supportive role. Assault players have the ability to heal and resurrect their fellow players, and Support characters can keep everyone in ammo and suppress the enemy by unloading their 100+ bullet clips in the general direction of the other team.
It’s a great way to level up and score points while also preserving your kill/death ratio.
I’ll be updating this space with specific Battlefield: Hardline tips in the coming days, so stay tuned for the best tips on multiplayer maps, the best guns to use to perforate the other team and my favorite Hardline-exclusive trolling methods.
Alex Cranz is the Assistant Reviews Editor at Tom’s Guide. When she’s not devising tests for new tech she’s figuring out the best way to run Plex on it. Follow Alex @alexhcranz. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook.