It took quite a lot to convince me to buy Spec Ops: The Line. I’m getting sick of modern shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. I think they’re all the same and save for a few moments of inspiration, they fail to hold my interest.
I went into Spec Ops expecting another boring ride through the usual set pieces, but within the first few missions my cynicism was flipped upside down.
Spec Ops is a third person cover based shooting game, which, I’ll grant you, seem to be coming out every few days. But we aren’t here for the game play. The selling point for Spec Ops is the storyline.
You play as Captain Walker. Walker and his two lackeys, one named ‘Lugo’ one named ‘I can’t remember’ are sent into Dubai a few weeks after the biggest sandstorm in history hits the city, to search out Colonel Konrad who had been in the city trying to evacuate the citizens. Walker has no idea where Konrad is, or even if he is still alive, but instead of leaving and telling the US Military this, he decides the best thing to do would be to explore.
The story in most of these games are just a loosely related series of events. Missions seldom flow into each other because in some games you can be in different cities, or even different countries. Spec Ops is one of the first gritty realistic shooters I’ve found that has emphasis on a good story campaign.
The first few missions were par for the course. Walking down narrow corridors that the game pretends aren’t narrow corridors with a few fire fights here and there. The turning point for me game around the third or fourth mission when I was forced to walk down a narrow corridor in a basement surrounded by bodies. Blood everywhere. From what I could tell, most were civilians and seemed to have been executed.
If you have seen any adverts for this game, you will know that one of the selling points of the game is trying to portray the horrors of war. You aren’t really there to have fun. You’re there to learn what war is really about and the game succeeds in this amazingly. In most games like COD you would smash through the enemies in front of you and proceed to become the hero with no mention of civilian loss. Spec Ops makes you watch as your actions and choices condemn those around you and you start to feel the pressure.
About half way through the game when the choices started coming thick and fast, I started to feel the pressure. I tend to play games for the happy endings. In all the Fable games or Mass Effect games I try and make everybody happy and keep everyone alive. In Spec Ops, you can’t. As simple as that and boy, it starts to feel frustrating after a while.
The story is fantastic. I can’t stress enough how much I loved the story. I know my summary of it was a little vague and that’s purely because I love it so much I don’t want to spoil it for whoever ends up reading this. You will only get the impact from it if you play it yourself.
However, not everything is perfect. The actual game play, because after all, it is a game, not a book, is somewhat lacklustre. By no means bad, but not amazing either. I found it competent enough. You click and your character can usually be trusted to fire his gun. If there is someone in front of the gun they can generally be expected to fall over. That’s about it.
There is a brief mechanic where the game expects you to shoot out windows to make sand fall onto your enemies, but looking for them in the middle of a fire fight felt unnecessary when I could be using the energy just to shoot the bad guys. There are a few set pieces where you can’t progress unless you shoot out these windows, but your support characters are helpful enough to shout at you to do it until you actually do.
I forgot to mention the two support characters. Just about every game ever has to have support character’s these days. It’s some kind of law. In Spec Ops if you press a button one of your support guys will through grenades. If you press another, the other one will snipe an enemy. But again, these just seemed out of place. In order to get your sniper to shoot someone you have to have your cross hairs over an enemy and if I’m doing that, I might as well just use my own gun to kill them. Again, there are a few set pieces where this is necessary, but the game forgets about it after the first few tutorial levels.
In summary then, if you are going to play this game, do it for the story. If you are fed up with the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield, give Spec Ops a go. The game play is by no means revolutionary, but I can guarantee the story will make up for it.
Score – 8.5/10 I couldn’t bare to take a whole two marks off, so I only took one and a half off for the game play. Don’t get me wrong, I found the game fun. The fighting was adequate if nothing else, but everything that it tried to claim as unique had already bee done before. The whole rest of the mark is for the story, because, frankly, I have never seen anything like it and I doubt you would have too.