Title: Spec Ops: The Line
Developer(s): Yager Development, Darkside Game Studios, Blind Squirrel Games Inc.
Publisher(s): 2K games
Platforms: PC, PS3, [Reviewed: Xbox 360]
Released: June 26, 2012
Genre: Third-person shooter, tactical shooter
Rated: M for Mature
As the most recent addition to the Spec Ops series, Spec Ops: The Line tells the story of a fictional Dubai* as a city once stained with jewels and diamonds as well as corrupt politicians and obscenely wealthy men; a city once designed as a playground for the rich, now buried beneath feet of sand after an apocalyptic sandstorm.
As the storms worsened, and soldiers ran in to aid any suvivors, Dubai was covered for miles beneath a thick swirl of sand , effectively cutting off all satellite communication. Soldiers, and the people they swore to rescue, found themselves alone, stranded and barraged by the worst sandstorm in history; cut off from the only people who could save them.
Six months later, after all were deemed dead, a distress signal is intercepted. Cautiously, the military sends a group of three men to assess the situation and recover any survivors. You are one of those three men.
On immediately entering the city, the situation becomes strikingly clear. Overturned vehicles buried in sand, sunburnt – and some downright burned – bodies lay in the open as food for vultures.
Everything is silent and eerie and there is no human life to be seen. When you finally do find human survivors, you begin to uncover a story so un-like any other story you’ve seen in a war game. A story where cowards turn into men and men into monsters. Spec Ops: The Line does more than tell a story, though, it details an all too familiar tragedy where faces, bloodied from battle, are not forgotten and neither are actions.
The fantastic thing about this game, and probably the best thing about this game hands down, is the story line. It’s not your typical story where there is an easily distinguished good and bad guy, instead this game forces everyone to question the nature of good and evil. You’re forced to make decisions; choosing between the death of a civilian and the death of a soldier. You’re forced to make mistakes; dumping white phosphorus onto a group of innocent survivors and you’re constantly facing your own mortality and the consequences of your actions.
The storyline isn’t the only draw, however, as this game is as beautiful as it is tragic. The artists who developed the environment, the buildings and even the textures put some real time into them. Staring down into the pit that is the center of Dubai is frightening and surreal. It’s easy to see how far this city has fallen, but more so how far you will fall if you slip once. Your character does end up taking this fall at one point during the game, and it only gets harder from there.
Graphically, this game is very pleasing. It has the feel of games like Borderlands, but without the cell shading, and Rage. It definitely is a desert oasis, despite all the death and lack of water. Everything is covered in sand, but every once in awhile you see the remains of what was once a palace or the reflection of the sun through what is left of a beautiful stained glass and you imagine what it was once like. All of this beauty becomes buried, however, during the periodic sandstorms or beneath a mass of murdered civilians.
Gameplay is also very appealing. It plays very much like Gears of War, except the controls are a lot smoother and more intuitive. There is the same run and cover mechanism, but it’s a lot easier to get out of and isn’t as strict ;meaning pressing to cover button doesn’t always make you take cover. The game seems to realize when you want to take cover and when you want to run. There is an element of realism in this game, where ammo is hard to come by and enemies don’t hold back. It’s no war simulation by any means, but the developers made a point to emphasis the severity of the situation the soldiers find themselves in. I’ve died more on this game in normal mode than I’ve done in any other game and it’s frustrating but it’s well worth the fight. There is always something to keep you on your toes as well, whether it’s a surprise ambush or a man running at you with a knife; doing acrobatics the entire way – again, much like Rage.
Don’t think the entire game is against you though, you have your AI team to help you out. It might not be the best, at most they help distract enemies while you reload, but there are few mechanisms to help you with AI teamplay. You can instruct them to stun enemies while you get a clear shot, or even heal each other while they are downed so you don’t take your eyes off the enemy. They even move out the way when they are in a prime spot for cover and you want it!
If you get tired of playing with your AI buddies, multiplayer in this game is also really fun. I didn’t get a good opportunity to get into it as my connection made it lag, but the controls and ease of gameplay transfer from campaign to online play. As with anything, make sure you have a good connection or you’re going to have a bad time.
In the end, this game is really intense. I equate it to that final scene in Modern Warfare 3 where, spoiler alert, the bad guy gets what is coming to him as he dangles from his neck into the foyer of a giant room. This game, however, has multiple scenes that are like that, each accompanied with a diffeerent feeling; guilt, remorse, anger and ultimately the want for revenge. This game plays very well and the storyline is amazing. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on this game, you will enjoy it as much as one can enjoy a game with no clear answer to the time old question of good and evil; who wins?
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
*Yes, Dubai is a real city that really exists, but the game’s version of Dubai doesn’t reflect the actual Dubai.