Criminal Activity Offers Needed Expansion of Battlefield Hardline World

I’ve enjoyed the last few months with “Battlefield Hardline” but it hasn’t exactly replaced my quasi-addiction to “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” partially because Activision has been smart to release map packs for their mega-hit at a steady rate. There’s something great about new territory to explore, especially when it feels like the competition has staked out all of best hiding spots on the old ones. When it was released, EA promised that “Hardline” would have a similarly aggressive policy of DLC, releasing new map packs throughout the year. Well, the first is finally here, available now for Premium owners and on Tuesday, June 30th for everyone else. I’ve spent the last couple days playing different modes on all four maps and I have very good news—like the team behind “Advanced Warfare,” the people who make “Hardline” have not merely offered maps that didn’t make the cut for the full game. These are fully-realized, clever, fun maps. I’d go as far as to say that three of them are as good as any map in the actual Hardline game (with the possible exception of “Dust Bowl,” my personal favorite). Map by map, in the order I hope they come up between matches:

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1.  “Backwoods”

What a great map. Played on “Conquest Large,” this expansive map places you in the middle of a giant woods in the Pacific Northwest, where a criminal drug operation has overtaken an abandoned sawmill and the trailers and buildings nearby. From the trailers that feel like they blow apart with even just a shotgun blast much less a grenade to the centerpiece wooden covered bridge that doesn’t stay upright for very long, the “Levolution” on this map is fantastic. And so is the scope of style from the close quarters of the sawmill to the variations in topography that creates massive sightlines for snipers to take you down. This is one of best maps in “Battlefield” history and reason alone to download “Criminal Activity.”

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2.  “Black Friday”

A shocking close second is this literally insane map that takes place in an abandoned shopping mall, which you will absolutely destroy. This is also a fantastically huge map (especially on Conquest Large) that keeps revealing new corridors, blind spots, levels, etc. It’s an entire mall, from the food court to the escalators to the security rooms, and what’s so great about it is how quickly intense firefights will develop in one central location and keep you entertained for minutes at a time. There’s a hallway, door, mall aisle section in the middle that becomes pure insanity as players die, throw grenades & molotovs, respawn, shoot a few times, etc. It’s just nuts, and in a really great, addictive way. This map features the diversity of combat that we’ve come to expect from the best Battlefield levels, although it doesn’t leave a lot of room for snipers. There’s no space.

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3.  “Code Blue”

Like the food court insanity of “Black Friday,” I love the centerpiece of “Code Blue,” a night club room that serves as the “B” in Conquest and becomes a combat nightmare shortly into any match on this map. While the nightclub action is intense and awesome, the other sections of this map feel a little incomplete and perfunctory. “Hey, what can we put over here? How about a construction site?” And yet that nightclub is what “Hardline” does best—crazy, unpredictable, addiction action.

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4.  “The Beat”

The only map that arguably doesn’t work in “Criminal Activity” is this hodge-podge of settings and elements from other “Hardline” maps. There’s an apartment complex in the center that’s pretty entertaining but features so many levels that it’s literally insane to find a sightline and feels almost random at times, but it’s fun. There’s a garage that can get blown to pieces quickly and a few other city-based environments, but this is the only map in “Criminal Activity” that feels somewhat like one that didn’t make the complete game or was just cobbled together from ideas for other maps. And yet there’s still fun to be had here, especially in those low-lit apartments. The fact that “The Beat” is the least successful map in “Criminal Activity” tells you everything you need to know about this DLC. If you even slightly enjoyed “Battlefield Hardline”—maybe you’ve put it away to play other games like “Bloodborne” or “The Witcher 3”—“Criminal Activity” will remind you what you loved about it in the first place. Or, and yes it’s good enough to do this, make you fall in love with it the first time.

Game of Thrones: A Nest of Vipers PS4 Review

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Anyone who has played Telltale Games’ excellent “Game of Thrones” series (one of the best games of 2015 so far) up to the just-released fifth episode shouldn’t be surprised to know that there is blood and heartbreak in this 2-hour episode of this incredible game. Really, anyone who’s watched the Emmy-nominated HBO show could tell you that the penultimate episode is one of those scripts in which actors and actresses hold their breath on first reading, fearful that they won’t make it to the final page.

It’s no spoiler to say at least one character with whom you have become invested won’t make it to episode six of “Game of Thrones.” And, once again, the choice is yours. Episode five of “Game of Thrones,” subtitles “A Nest of Vipers,” is one of Telltale Games’ greatest accomplishments. There are multiple action scenes, intense character development, and a climax that will have you screaming at the TV like the first time you saw the Red Wedding go down.The emphasis has been placed even more firmly on Rodrik, the current leader of House Forrester, stuck in a nightmarish dynamic with the Whitehills and the vile Ramsay Snow. Since the day he climbed off a cart of dead men, Rodrik has been faced with a dozen tough decisions, and he’s faced here with some of the most important of his entire life. There’s a scene late in the episode that I won’t spoil but my blood was boiling as past decisions I have made as Rodrik were thrown back in my face as mistakes. Again, Telltale redefines game authorship.

These weren’t Rodrik’s decisions or a developer’s decisions—they were MY decisions. And I stand by them, even as I watch them lead to tragedy.

Meanwhile, Asher has freed Meereen with Beshka and is still recruiting slaves to bring back to his brother Rodrik. Time is running short and Asher has to impress everyone who crosses his path enough that they want to put their lives on the line for his cause. In King’s Landing, Mira continues the political cause to save her family, although she may have told a few too many lies, now feeling like she’s untrusted by Cersei, Margaery, and even Tyrion (this arc is easily the most star-studded, although increasingly the least satisfying, largely by virtue of the intense, life-or-death stakes going on in the other subplots). Finally, Gared is WAY beyond the Wall, trying to keep his band of outcasts headed to the North Grove but facing increasingly deadly conditions and legendary enemies.

There’s a density to the storytelling in “Game of Thrones” that is so accomplished that one can begin to take it for granted. In the aforementioned confrontation with Rodrik, the conversation is based almost entirely on the arc that I specifically chose in previous episodes. Would I have different allies if I had made different decisions? Might I not be betrayed? Might the cliffhanger finale not even come to pass? We are WAY beyond the “Left Path vs. Right Path” narrative choices of the first season of “The Walking Dead.” Each path you take branches off to another path and another path, until I may be playing an ENTIRELY different version of “Game of Thrones” than you are. In fact, I look forward to going back and playing it again with different decisions and paths taken, just to see how it turns out.

If anything, the only disappointment in “A Nest of Vipers” comes from knowing this incredible saga is almost over. “The Walking Dead” is one of the most influential and important games of the ‘10s. I enjoy every minute of “Tales From the Borderlands.” And yet I’m thinking that “Game of Thrones” may be this company’s greatest accomplishment to date. We’ll know after one more episode. visit Real Money Wild Jack Casino