“Spec Ops: The Line” Review
I’ve played many military shooters over the years. I’ve driven tanks and jeeps, blown up buildings and choppers, and defeated countless evil dictators and villains. Yet, in all those missions, none have delved into the psychological toll war takes. “Spec Ops: The Line” is a revolutionary shooter in this way, choosing to throw away many standards to the typical shooter story, and manages to provide the most engaging campaign I’ve seen in any recent entry in the genre.
As mentioned, the story line for “Spec Ops” takes place in Dubai. You are sent in with a team of two others to investigate a transmission, one possibly indicating that an American commander may still be alive after trying to rescue many civilians from some terrible sandstorms that are still present and keeping the city walled-off from contact. As you begin to search the ruined city, a story unfolds that has you second guessing everyone’s intentions. Something is going on in this city, and you are continually drawn to keep playing to find out what happens next. The best part is that this isn’t a straightforward mission. There is no clear goal once you arrive in the city, and civilians and American soldiers become victims in your quest. This includes points in which you are forced to make decisions to save certain people or kill others. Each decision is difficult and has a nice role in the ending.
The best part about the plot is how it focuses on your small squad and how each of the actions you perform or choose affect them mentally. Your squad begins to fall apart and question you at many points, questioning your leadership and mental state, causing the player to reflect on their actions and really make every future one that much heavier. Further, the game puts heavier value on the casualties of war. Overall, this makes for a highly engaging experience that will keep you constantly wanting to push on to find out what happens.
The gameplay on the other hand is standard. You control your character from a third-person perspective, taking cover and fighting off waves of enemies to move to the next set piece. The gun play is average with each weapon handling well. There is a decent variety of weapons to use, with many genre standards from the M4A1 to the M249SAW. Where some frustration comes in is with the cover mechanics. It is nice to have a sprint button you only have to tap, but when this button is also your button to take cover, some mistakes happen. Cover is very sticky at times, and at others you slip right out sprinting into the line of fire. Don’t get me wrong, when it works great, it’s perfect – sprinting and sliding into cover while bullets and grenades fly by is exciting – yet, it is a 50/50 shot on how well it works. There is also commands available to “control” your squad, but these are very rudimentary and amount to little more than “kill that guy” or on occasion “throw a flashbang here”.
Graphics and sound are quite nice. The city of Dubai and sandstorms look detailed and each character’s appearance slowly deteriorates throughout the story (a very nice touch). Sandstorms are disorienting, the effects of various special weapons look appropriately catastrophic, and explosions/fire look quite nice. The sound also succeeds with a nice soundtrack mix of both licensed and original tracks (the licensed tracks here actually fit in with the story and are relevant). Voice acting is great, as well, Nolan North (aka Nathan Drake from “Uncharted”, or Desmon Miles from “Assassin’s Creed) does great work as usual as your character.
All in all, “Spec Ops: The Line” is a great shooter experience. This is certainly a shining example of how to do a shooter story right. I’ve seen enough set pieces and seemingly copy and pasted scenarios that this game was a refreshing breath of fresh air. If you are at all a fan of the shooter genre, give this campaign a shot (you will be happy you did) and experience a finely crafted story that will set the bar for shooters to come.
Note: This review encompasses only the single-player component of “Spec Ops: The Line”. At the time of my playing, multiplayer was quite barren and, from what I understand, also quite underwhelming.
Final Score: 8/10