The Battlefield Hardline singleplayer campaign structures itself as an in-universe television police drama, with individual levels being referred as "Episodes" and having interludes between levels. The singleplayer campaign features many elements from past installments, taking place in numerous locations across the world such as Los Angeles, California and its surrounding deserts. Similar to Battlefield 4, levels are built in sandbox-style environments but on a much larger scale, allowing players more freedom to complete objectives. Players have the option to either approach situations either through typical firefights or by stealth. While it may be easier to complete objectives through weaponry, players receive bonus points for taking the nonlethal approach. Despite this, however, once the player has become detected, there is no way for them to return from the state of alert. Levels are inspired by crime shows on television, with each ending on a cliffhanger to lead into the next mission.
In July 2012, Nick Mendoza has been promoted to detective in the Vice Squad of the Miami Police Department. Shortly after his promotion, Mendoza and his new partner Carl are involved in a drug bust gone wrong. After arresting the last surviving suspect, Captain Julian Dawes puts Stoddard on special detail and partners Nick up with Khai Minh Dao to follow a lead to cocaine broker Tyson Latchford . Upon locating Tyson's associate, Tap Milstein, they forced him to wear a wire in order to locate Tyson and rescue him from a group of armed men. They also learn of the existence of a new type of cocaine known as Hot Shot.
In the process, Khai is shot and wounded in the shoulder, putting her out of action for several weeks. After returning to duty, Dawes orders the two meet Leo Ray at the Elmore Hotel in Miami as he is looking for protection from Remy Neltz by the police in exchange for information on Neltz's operation. Angry that Dawes did not come to meet him himself, Leo calls the deal off and start to depart, only to be met by Neltz's men who proceed to open fire on Leo and the two detectives.
After fighting their way through the Elmore, Nick witnesses Khai beating a captured Leo for seemingly insulting her. Horrified, Nick stops Khai and tells hers they need to go as more of Neltz's men arrive. Once they have been taken care of, Nick and Khai haul Leo into a nearby armored truck and proceed to escape as the remainder of Neltz's men chase them. Upon losing them, they meet Captain Dawes who then personally takes Leo into custody, with Nick claiming that Leo sustained his injuries from the previous car ride.Leo's information leads Nick and Khai off the books into the Everglades, where drug bales are being dropped. During the investigation, they are led to Neltz at the old Miami Aquatic Stadium. Whilst confronting Neltz as he attempts to make his escape in his speed boat, he tells the detectives that he has made the deal with Stoddard and that they can now leave him be as promised, much to their confusion. Neltz then quickly departs and holes up inside a nearby warehouse as the Miami Police Department surrounds the building.
Stoddard takes over the situation as he plans for a SWAT team to enter the building and apprehend Neltz. Unwilling to hand over the case, however, Nick decides to apprehend Neltz himself with Khai and is almost successful in doing so until Stoddard abruptly enters and fatally shoots Neltz as he is about to elaborate more about their deal. Nick leaves in disgust after Stoddard and Khai take some cash before more officers arrived. Later, as a hurricane makes landfall, Dawes and Khai reveal that he was being tested and passed once he refused to accept the money. The fact that Stoddard is dirty is evident, forcing Dawes to send them back to the crime scene for any evidence incriminating Stoddard.
Finding Neltz's recording implicating Stoddard, Nick finds his former partner in a meeting with Neltz's crew but is forced to work with him to rescue Khai from more armed men. The three later meet Dawes, who destroys the evidence implicating Stoddard and revealing that himself and Khai are corrupt and that Stoddard had been acting under his orders the entire time. The three then betray Nick due to his refusal to go along with their scheme, framing him for laundering Neltz's drug money.Three years later, while on a prison bus, Nick escapes with the help of Tap and Tyson Latchford. The mastermind behind Nick's escape is none other than Khai. Despite raw feelings about her betrayal and being framed, Nick leaves with Khai and Tyson for Los Angeles. Khai briefs Nick that during the three years he has been in prison, Dawes founded private law enforcement firm Preferred Outcomes, having 'cleaned up' Miami and is starting to expand into other US cities, starting with Los Angeles. Wanting to ruin Dawes, Khai sends Nick and Tyson to rendezvous with Marcus "Boomer" Boone at a car dealer ship, which is in reality a front for a drug operation run by Henry Kang. Unable to make contact with Boomer, Nick and Tyson investigate Kang's warehouse and find him in the trunk of a car that was about to be crushed.
Nick then retrieves Boomers labtop on the other side of the compound and proceeds to escape with Tyson and Boomer as Kang's men pursue them. Afterwards, they learn of Kang's intention to invest in Preferred Outcomes, prompting Nick to decide that they end Kang's involvement permanently. Successful, they come upon Kang's supply of cocaine which Tyson estimates is worth almost 10 million dollars. With police inbound, Tyson attempts to move the cocaine via forklift but is caught on the adjacent train tracks moments before a train is about to pass, forcing him to abandon the drugs as the train smashes and covers them with it.
Through Kang, they are lead to the house of drug kingpin Neil Roark who is having meeting with Stoddard and other LA crime lords. During Roark's meeting, Nick comes up with the idea to steal Dawes' money before he can launder it and uses Khai's phone as a makeshift tracking device by placing it in a briefcase to be taken to where the rest of Dawes's money is being kept. After surviving a brief assault by Roark's men, Nick and Khai make their escape.Discovering Dawes' money is kept in the penthouse of his corporate HQ skyscraper back in Miami and behind an impregnable vault, Boomer calls a former associate of his for a safecracking robot known as the Brute. He and Nick drive to the desert to meet Boomer's contact, his ex-girlfriend Dune Alpert who sets up a meeting with her father, Tony Alpert. Alpert backstabs them however, revealing he knows Nick is an escaped felon and that Stoddard has placed a bounty of two hundred and fifty thousand on him for his capture alive. Nick and Boomer escape their prison and retrieve their gear from Alpert's compound. Along the way Nick discovers that Alpert was behind the creation and manufacturing of the Hot Shot drug, and murdered ATF agent Darius Barnes to cover up his plans of starting a civil war. Dune helps the two escape to an abandoned airfield but separate after surviving Alpert's ambush at a gas station. At the airfield, Nick retrieves the Brute and wins a tank duel against Alpert, before he and Boomer escape in a OV-10 Bronco Boomer had repaired.
As Khai, Nick, Boomer and Tyson prepare to leave for Miami, they are ambushed by Stoddard and his men. Before he can execute Nick, however Nick kills his former partner and sends a picture of Stoddard's body to Dawes in order to update him. The group arrive at Miami and infiltrate Preferred Outcomes HQ. They find the vault in Dawes' penthouse only to find it booby-trapped, with Tyson gravely wounded by the blast as a result. Nick answers Khai's ringing phone in the empty vault to hear Dawes on the other side, telling Nick to come find him at Santa Rosita off the coast of Florida. Nick departs from his group at the island, and infiltrates it alone to Dawes's mansion, telling Khai to get Tyson to a doctor as quickly as possible.
Nick finds his corrupt former captain in his office, where Dawes tells him that he wishes Nick to join him and take over Preferred Outcomes once he is gone and that the two are akin to be "more criminal than cop". Nick agrees to the last remark and shoots Dawes without hesitation. Dying, Dawes asks Nick how his mother is doing, knowing that she died while Nick was in prison. Immediately afterward, Nick executes him. Searching his office, he finds a letter addressed to him from Dawes explaining why he framed Nick three years earlier and follows a passage to his underground vault. Inside the vault, Nick finds Dawes' laundered fortune, with the note ending with a question asking what Nick will do with his newfound fortune.
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