Spec Ops: The Line is a mixture of confounding morals and ethics. The game’s overall concept is to convince you that killing is bad. However, in the process of teaching you this idea, you kill hundreds of enemies and have a blast doing it. This causes the game to have a confusing end result in a gamer’s mind. It’s hard to process such a game, but one thing Spec Ops does indeed do is cause a gamer to seriously contemplate what they just played after completing the campaign.You play as Captain Walker, and your squad, Adams and Lugo, are right beside you, ready to be commanded. There’s a radio message from a Colonel Konrad, stating that he failed the evacuation of Dubai after a devastating sandstorm buried the entire city in sand. Your mission is to make contact with Konrad, find out what’s happening, and then call for evacuation. To say that things did not go according to plan is an understatement. Watching Walker, Adams, and Lugo try to survive the horror that is Dubai while trying to keep their sanity is something to behold. Going into anything more will spoil what is, arguably, one of the best stories for a shooter genre. The pacing, plot, characters, and settings are all exceptional.
The game is beautiful to look at. The graphics are great, and the city landscape, buried in sand, is amazingly well done. It gives a post-apocalyptic feel to the city, which makes sense, considering that Dubai has been abandoned by the world. Unlike most shooters, covered in grays and browns, Spec Ops has a wide range of colors to appeal to the eye. This is displayed best in moments that you witness breathtaking views of the entire city, backlit by a majestic sun floating in the background.
Spec Ops has a seemingly magical ability to take your morals and twist them until you feel like you’re committing heinous atrocities. You think you’re having fun watching an enemy’s head explode in slow-motion, but a second later, you listen to some spectacularly deep dialog, suddenly making you feel like absolute crap for what you just did. There are certain instances in the game where you have to make a choice, and they aren’t easy. There’s no right answer; they both feel wrong, and there’s no easy way out. Still, you have to decide, and decide fast, before things really get ugly. You’ll celebrate one minute for being innovative and creative, and then realize afterwards the collateral damage you just caused. This game picks you up, and then slams you into the ground, making you question what’s wrong in the world and, more importantly, what’s wrong with you for enjoying a game like this.
A good story doesn’t always make a good game, but don’t worry: Spec Ops has a good gameplay core to backup the story. It’s a third-person cover-based shooter, and everything runs as smoothly as you’d expect it to. There are a few hiccups, though. The sprint button and cover button are the same, which will sometimes cause you to sprint into the open when you were just trying to attach yourself to cover. However, nothing really gets in the way so much that it really drags the game down. Close-up executions are amazingly fun to witness, and watching the game slow down for just a second as you get that head-shot feels rewarding. On the downside, the gameplay doesn’t change much through the course of the game, so it may feel repetitive after a long sitting.
On top of your abilities, you’re also able to command your two buddies with the press of a button. Adams and Lugo have fairly smart A.I. and are smart enough to know the difference between the orders you’re issuing, despite the fact that you only have one button. If the enemy is far away, he will be sniped; if there are multiple guys, a grenade will be thrown. What’s really great, though, is listening to the chatter. Simple things, like hearing where a sniper is located or where a shot-gunner is coming from, help to sell the game as a real squad communicating to one another.
The enemy A.I is fairly good as well. They will try and flank you if you sit still too long, and they work well with one another, making each area a challenge. If you get careless, it will be costly. However, there are a few moments where this intelligence slips for everyone, including your own squad. Sometimes, for whatever reason, Adams or Lugo will sprout this ingenious idea that they should run into the middle of a hail storm of bullets. They die, of course, and that leaves you to heal them, which involves you running out into the middle of a hail storm of bullets as well. As expected, you end up the same as your friends and have to restart from the last check point. Instances like that are rather annoying.
The multiplayer is hardly worth mentioning. The Team Deathmatch mode is four on four, with large maps with confusing layouts. This makes the online matches feel slow and boring. The Buried Mode isn’t bad: it’s a matter of defending your base while destroying your enemies. The problem is finding an actual full lobby can be rather difficult, leaving this mode a waste of potential. There are class upgrades and unlockables, as you’d expect, but nothing out of the ordinary, and it won’t give you reason to play for long.
There are definitely other issues in this game. The textures will pop in and out; a minor flaw, but an annoying one nonetheless. The check points are few and far between, and they place the checkpoints right before a cut scene, which is just poor design. The game puts a heavy moral system in place, yet, between these deep moral decisions, you butcher hundreds of enemies and have fun doing it. So, when that moment that taking one life is bad comes, you think, “Wait, I just killed about thirty guys back there; why should I care about this person?” It gives the game an overall inconsistent feeling. The most questionable aspect of Spec Ops, however, is the surprising lack of choices you make. Every now and again, you will have to make a tough choice, but at other instances in the game, you are forced to make a bad decision. It will be very clear that the decision is wrong, but the game makes you do it anyways. It would’ve been far better to leave the decision entirely up to the player.
The presentation this game carries in its campaign is amazing, and the fairly fluid controls are good enough to give you an overall enjoyable experience. Spec Ops: The Line is a game that should be played for the story alone. The few decisions you make affect how the story ends. Unlike other shooters, which tend to follow charming or badass protagonists, the heroes in this game are far from those stereotypes. In fact, they might not be heroes at all. Watching Walker try to stay sane, despite the impending despair of the world, is something that will stick with you and really makes you think. When was the last time you could say a shooter made you think about morals and ethics?
Final Verdict: Rent the game to play the story, but the multiplayer isn’t enough to keep you around.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of Spec Ops: The Line developed by Yager Development and distributed by 2k Games.
- Amazing Story
- Decent Enemy AI
- Nice Graphics
- Sparse Multiplayer Element
- Technical Issues