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Game Review

Like many of the big-name shooters out there, the Battlefield games often resemble a 10-hour-long high-action war movie featuring scores of explosive combat scenes. This time around, though, the gamemakers at Visceral decided to mix things up a little and present their latest title as something closer to a small-screen action drama—a gritty cop show in the big city.

In a sentence: The international conflicts crisscrossed with shrapnel-pitted front lines are replaced with cocaine shipments and car chases.

Dunes, Detectives and Dope
With "Previously on Hardline" catch-up sequences, Battlefield Hardline introduces us to the crime-washed streets of Miami. You won't spot any pink T-shirts and white linen jackets with the sleeves rolled up in this TV-like world, but the old crew from Miami Vice would likely still recognize the place. Only now its detectives Nick Mendoza and Khai Dao who are on the job.

Their boss, Captain Dawes, has given the rugged guy-gal duo an "off-the-books" task of figuring out why new drugs are flooding into the city and savage gang wars are on the rise. With each back-alley storehouse that's scoped out and every crew of coke-pushers confronted, the detectives realize that no one can be trusted—neither criminal nor cop. That may sound like fairly typical first-person shooter fodder, and it is. There's a devious and cunning main villain to uncover. Crooked cops to best. Drug peddling to foil. A knotted-up storyline to unravel. And scores and scores of gun-blazing encounters where our heroes can grab a weapon—ranging from pistols and shotguns to machine guns and sniper rifles—and spatter the scenery with the liquid gore of foe after foe after foe.

Sneak, Skulk and Save a Life (Sort Of)
There are a couple of differences in this trigger-mashing cop game, though, that are worth pointing out. Unlike most video game baddies, this group of thugs actually respects a police officer's badge. If Mendosa runs into a gang of heavily armed ne'er-do-wells, he quickly flashes his badge and calls out "freeze!" The amazing result? The crooks actually do just that. From there, the police can make arrests rather than make more carnage.

Hardline encourages a sneak-and-arrest tack in many of the story's sequences. If you're smart and stealthy enough, you can clear an area packed with baddies by arresting the crooks one by one, earning a lot more XP points in the process. Ironically, though, all those extra points unlock more deadly munitions. Which, naturally, encourages you to wade in with guns blazing, if just to see how brain-splatteringly messy things can get. Go figure.

Truthfully, none of the choices you have in Battlefield Hardline are going to add up to stay-on-this-side-of-the-foul-line gaming. Even if you keep things as stealthy as possible, there's still a hard-core level of high-def bloody mess splashing onto so many stucco walls. You'll break the law in multiple ways yourself while getting the clear message that any given police officer or city official is crooked, cold-hearted and ruthless. You'll see cops and security guards killed by the score. And you'll hear more f- and s-word-riddled dialogue than just about any cable cop show you can think of.

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