Review: Spec Ops: The Line
What is it that defines a game? Is it the characters? Story? Setting? Gameplay? Or a mixture of the lot? In Spec Ops: The Line’s case the setting and story takes precedence and it’s this that turns another run of the mill shooter into something much more than that.
You take control of Captain Walker – voiced by Nolan North – and his band of merry men, Adams, a heavy gunner and Lugo, the sniper. They’re tasked with heading to Dubai and tracking down the US army regiment, the 33rd. The 33rd were sent on a rescue mission until all contact was lost with them and their commander, Konrad. Upon entering Dubai, Walker and his pals quickly learn that something has gone very wrong as the streets are littered with bodies and vigilantes.
The game opens with a adrenaline pumping helicopter shoot-out, you join Walker at the controls of a minigun as you tear down enemy choppers, buildings and anything that gets in your way. After this exchange finishes you’re sent back in time where the game picks up the story with your team entering the outskirts of Dubai.
Dubai has been destroyed by a series of momentous sandstorms cutting the city off from the outside world. The city looks fantastic, buildings have been turned to ruins, the streets are littered with wrecked cars, bodies and dead camels. The game will see you battling through the abandoned streets, taking out enemies from the top of skyscrapers and dealing out pain in swanky hotels with aquariums for floors. The sand isn’t only for decoration, it can also be used as part of the gamplay, although most of the time it’s scripted – shoot windows with sand against them and it’ll pour through, taking out anyone who happens to be in the way. Also, as you’re playing you may get hit by a sandstorm, leaving your – and the enemies – visibility and movement affected for the duration of the storm.
The gameplay itself is nothing new, any gamer with shooter experience will fit right in. The controls are pretty much what you’d expect them to be, one trigger to aim, the other to shoot. It also features a cover system that isn’t quite as streamlined as some other titles out there. You’ll stick to surfaces you don’t want to, or you won’t stick to a surface you want to, leaving you out in the open with lots of angry men bearing down on you. The set pieces are few and far between, leaving the majority of the gameplay revolving around your team entering a section, killing some dudes and moving onto the next area.
Ammo is scarce, swapping weapons with dead foes will become common practice. There’s plenty of guns to swap out to, from mini-uzis to RPGs and grenade launchers – most of which have a secondary function that can be activated by hitting up on the d-pad. The enemies themselves are basic grunts, although later in the game you will come across heavily armoured foes that take a lot of shooting to take down. However basic they may be, they’re no push over thanks to the brilliant enemy AI – they’ll flank you, take cover, flush you out with grenades, lay down covering fire and so on. There’s also plenty of nice little touches, such as enemies’ hats falling off when you shoot them. Your team-mates AI is decent too, they don’t need any hand holding and they’ll just get on with it – they saved my life on multiple occasions. There’s limited squad interaction, you can call out targets for them to shoot or ask them to chuck in a flashbang.
As you progress through the story you’ll be required to make a few decisions, these decisions will determine the way the game plays out and the ending itself. These decisions aren’t quite as cut and dry as you might expect – there’s no ‘Press A to save everyone. Press B to hand out kittens.’ For the most part, both options are bad news, you’re basically in a no win situation and it’s up to you to decide what you think is the lesser of the two evils.
On the multiplayer side, you’ve got your usual deathmatch modes as well as a few unique objective gametypes. Games are locked to 4v4 which can sometimes feel a bit small, although the nature of the game is to sneak and take cover so for the majority of the time it works fine. There’s also heaps of customisation, you can customise your character, load outs, perks and so on. At launch there’s no co-op but this is something that is going to be added via free DLC in August.
Spec Ops: The Line is a fantastic game, although this is mainly due to the story and setting. Sand savaged Dubai looks fantastic and the game has the grittiness to go along with it. It runs on the Unreal Engine and does have the occasional texture pop-in that so many Unreal games suffer with but apart from that it looks great. The story will keep you gripped and the decisions have the ability to leave you devastated. It’s a shame the gameplay itself couldn’t be a bit more unique but it’s more than playable and won’t retract from the experience.