By Renan Silva
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The latest instalment in the blockbuster Battlefield videogame series has an unusual twist for a first-person shooter: it rewards players for not killing people.
"Battlefield Hardline" marks the first foray away from the military campaigns that characterize the franchise into a Miami Vice-style cops-and-robbers scenario.
You play narcotics detective Nick Mendoza, who discovers there is corruption in his vice unit as new and dangerous drugs arrive in Miami and flood the streets by the shipload.
So, cue rampaging through the streets, all guns blazing, taking down the bad guys? No, the emphasis here is on stealth, and points to unlock bonus features and items are earned by making arrests without killing.
The incentive to avoid complete carnage on city streets is perhaps an effort by Visceral Games and Electronic Arts to freshen up the franchise and sidestep the moral opprobrium that has greeted the likes of the Grand Theft Auto series (although it hasn't depressed their sales).
This will inevitably frustrate many gamers. But the high-risk, high-reward mechanics of sneaking around and taking thugs unawares can be fun and does offer a nice change of pace from most kill-everything-that-moves first-person shooters.
Some parts of the game lack polish though - such as crooks immediately falling asleep after being handcuffed - while in the single-player campaign the overarching storyline soon seems supplanted by a series of clichéd 1980s cop movie sub-plots.
That's not to say that many action sequences are not enjoyable, but like its predecessors in the 13-year-old Battlefield series - which have sold tens of millions of copies in total - Hardline's main appeal for most fans lies in the multi-player gaming.
Last month, Electronic Arts reported earnings and revenue that beat estimates and attributed the good results partly to the launch of Hardline, saying more than 30 million online sessions of it were played in the first quarter. [ID:nL4N0XW4D8]
The maximum number of 64 players has been kept, and the closer quarters of an urban environment, and the replacement of tanks and fighter jets with trucks, motorbikes and ziplines adds a more frantic dynamic to online clashes.
Between game modes such as Hotwire, Heist, Rescue and Crosshair, and a wide variety of weapons, attachments and customization options - even for the vehicles - there's a fair amount of new skills to master to keep play interesting.
With Hardline, which runs on PC, PlayStations 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Battlefield gets closer to Call of Duty's style of gameplay, while still setting itself apart with vehicles, wider arenas and more simultaneous players.
(Renan Silva is a Reuters employee. The views expressed are his own)
(Editing by Pravin Char)