Company: 2K Games
Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
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What would you do if the people that you were entrusted to save were actually your enemies? Dubai has been destroyed in a cataclysmic sandstorm and the only hope for the survivors is the Delta Recon Team. Their mission…get into the city by any means possible, locate survivors and radio for Evac. Simple enough right? Not by a longshot.
I am the first to admit that I am by no means a fan of military first person shooters. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor…I could care less about any of those franchises. When first hearing about Spec Ops: The Line I was hesitant to lump it in to the same category. The concept sounded different, but how would the game play? Would there be something that truly sets it apart from the multitude of copycat shooters on the market today? I went into the game with an open mind. I came out with a blown mind.
The one thing among others that truly sets Spec Ops: The Line apart is the story. Not only is it a military shooter that has a story, but the premise of the game is that the player must make the tough decisions to push forward how they feel the story should progress. Some of these situations are as simple as “go left or right” while others are tricky and challenging to pull off like escaping snipers that have surrounded you in the middle of the desert and managed to thin your ranks. Another surprising twist in the story is the enemies that you end up facing as the story progresses. They could easily be the most controversial enemies that you have ever faced. There really wasn’t any pussyfooting around what happened and who they truly were. Spec Ops: The Line’s script felt more like a movie script than that of a video game. There was some truly disturbing imagery, but the way that it was done was meaningful and pushed the progression of the enemies to a whole other level. It wasn’t tasteless, but it was memorable and served its purpose. Kudos to the writers for pushing the envelope and kudos for the company for backing up what they were doing and for allowing them to go all out with what they had envisioned.
Spec Ops: The Line plays more like Gears of War than COD or Battlefield. It’s a third person cover shooter with the basic mechanics of a first person shooter. Certain weapons that you pick up like a sniper rifle or rocket launcher allow you to zoom into first person perspective, but most of the time you’ll be running and shooting from behind deserted vehicles and collapsing walls. There are also some environmental objects that can aid you in your battle. I would have liked to have seen more creative use of background objects and basically more of these in general. It was fun to see a group of enemies engulfed in massive sand slides two stories high.
The gameplay mechanics were simple and easy to get used to if you’ve played any shooter ever. I would have preferred to be able to carry more than two guns at a time or if you could carry more ammo. Gameplay tips say that ammo is scarce in Dubai, but it’s kind of a waste when, after killing a dozen or so enemies, you have to leave those dozens of guns or ammo behind. There is more than enough laying around to merit a larger clip.
If I had one major gripe with Spec Ops: The Line it would have to deal with the look of the main characters. I’m talking about the generic soldier boy look in general and the fact that, in some of the close ups they suffer from that “uncanny valley” thing…where the characters have that creep unrealistic look. The graphics are otherwise gorgeous. The particle effects of the sand are stunning and when the sandstorms come sweeping in, it feels very surreal. Buildings look amazing as the sun reflects off of them and back against the sand in the background. Spec Ops definitely has a unique feel to it.
There are many multiplayer modes to compliment the single player story and keep you coming back for more. These modes are prototypical to the big guns in the shooter genre, but they do provide a break from the story driven campaign. They boil down to the simple phrase of “just blow stuff up son”.
When all is said and done, the experience of the single player story will stick with me for quite some time. Captain Walker’s (the main character in the single player campaign) slow descent into madness and the horrors and atrocities that he encounters along the way are so far ahead of the generic soldier boy cookie cutter campaigns in Call of Duty or Battlefield that it would be like comparing a Ford Pinto to a Rolls Royce. Spec Ops: The Line is definitely a different kind of shooter. It was challenging on multiple planes, but it was still somewhat simplistic and enjoyable. I’ll take from it some very memorable video game moments and when it comes down to it, that’s all that counts.
Bottom Line: A different kind of shooter that was challenging enough yet fun throughout. The story was by far my favorite and most memorable part of Spec Ops: The Line.
Favorite Aspects: Trying to make the right decision to play the game the way that I wanted to, using background elements ala James Bond to take out enemies indirectly, facing the true enemies.
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