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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.