Spec Ops: The Line

8.0 Overall Score
Storyline: 9/10
Gameplay: 8/10
Multiplayer: 6/10

Compelling and Haunting Story

Multiplayer That Feels Generic

Written by on July 6, 2012 in [, , , , ]

Spec Ops: The Line is an odd chestnut of a military shooter from developer Yager Development and publisher 2K Games. Inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Spec Ops tells the story of Captain Martin Walker as he leads a small unit into a Dubai remade by massive sandstorms and the packs of people left behind. Walker must rescue Colonel Konrad and whatever friendly survivors they can lead out of the sand-ravaged Dubai. However the mission quickly turns into a descent into the depravity of humanity and the madness of a man’s soul. Like Conrad’s book, there are no heroes in this game, only survivors and casualties.

On first impression, Spec Ops: The Line felt like it was going to be a cheap retread on the themes of Conrad and Coppola’s works. Naming the lead character Martin Walker is an obvious allusion to Martin Sheen who played the lead character in Apocalypse Now and Colonel Walker is obviously referencing Joseph Conrad. Thankfully, the storyline, while it draws inspiration from those other works, tells its own harrowing nightmare in an engaging method only video games can bring. This is a game that demands to be played from start to finish. The player is forced to walk in the footsteps of Captain Walker, and the decisions he must make lingers with the player like a ghost. This story affected me for days after finishing it. There are moments in the story in which Walker has to make a decisive action that there are no good alternatives. The outcome of those decisions causes his teammates to lose trust in their leader and their mission and slowly the military-trained fabric frays in the frequent sandstorms of Dubai. The vanilla military shooter becomes a deadly and harrowing experience that is rarely found in most video games of the genre.

While the story shines like diamonds, the gameplay is rather pedantic. The game is a third person military shooter that uses a lot of cover mechanics. The gameplay to a large degree works well. Players can count on the same mission and checkpoint to each chapter of the story, complete with plenty of waves of armed enemies to shoot. There are varying flavors of enemies with their difficulties and abilities increasing as the player progresses. The game user interface is slightly ordinary, and sometimes the player will find themselves sticking to cover more than they would want or intend to. The team mechanic also felt clunky and difficult to command the teammates to take up various spots to attack or defend.

Another bright spot in Spec Ops: The Line is the environments that Walker and his team find themselves in. The unit must traverse open sands, and highways turned into potential death traps. They must also wind their way through all sorts of buildings and rooftops. The player is in for a treat as they navigate through once beautiful hotels, museums, and other environs made desolate from the massive sandstorms. There is so much to see and take in, that sometimes the player have to spend some time figuring out which way the developers want them to go. Players might find themselves finding cover behind a rooftop to admire the sand-torn vista. The unit will find themselves on high rises and desolate streets. To travel from building to building, players will sometimes use zip-lines and rappel ropes, which can be fun to use. Those massive sandstorms that have devastated Dubai also makes several appearances in the game and makes combat very interesting as enemies are hard to recognize from friendlies and environments change from cover to potential death traps.

The multiplayer elements in Spec Ops: The Line are as vanilla as they come. Besides the standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch, players can also try a handful of different mission objectives based gameplay, but they don’t offer much in way of being different. The multiplayer overall feels tacked on and is so far removed from the themes of the campaign that they feel like they don’t belong. Theres nothing particularly wrong with Deathmatch or Team Deathmatch, and in their defense, the maps do offer some particularly good locations that are fun to play on. Players playing the multiplayer rank up as they play, win, or finish, and those promotions unlock new weapons, tools, and even game modes. While the multiplayer works, suffice it to say, it isn’t the reason why gamers should give this title a go.

It’s hard to call Spec Ops: The Line fun, because while it is a fantastic game, it stands antithetical to a great many military shooters video games. This is no Call of Duty or Battlefield. Those games seem to sacrifice story on the altar of fun. Spec Ops: The Line is weightier fare, it’s a meaningful experience told through a video game. While the mechanics don’t quite stand up to other shooters, the story is by far one of the best players will be able to experience this year. Great locations, weighty issues, and an ending that will leave the player feeling spent and shocked…and then immediately try for an alternate ending. While this won’t be a game players will turn to on game nights, this will be a game that deserves to be experienced.


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Author: Chris Brown View all posts by

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