Video Playstation 3 Game Review: Spec Ops: The Line
We get a great look at the jaw-dropping third-person shooter from Ubisoft through the eyes and words of new writer Christian Lane
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Yager Development
Before you ever sit down to play Spec Ops: The Line (and you should sit down to play it) there is one very important warning that I must give: You will not come out of this game feeling good about yourself. That is not criticism against the game. Far from it, actually. The reason you won’t feel like a noble war hero after you complete the game isn’t due to any flaw on the game’s part, but simply because Spec Ops: The Line doesn’t want you to feel like a noble war hero by the time you’re done with it.
I’m going to start things by looking at Spec Ops: The Line’s strongest areas—its plot and setting. The game is set in the ultra-modern city of Dubai, only with an interesting twist. Rather than Dubai being the sprawling metropolis that it is today, it is, instead, the sprawling metropolis that we know today after it has been mostly buried under a sea of sand, suffering at the hands of a vicious and constant barrage of sandstorms. The “Damned” 33rd Battalion and their commander, Colonel John Konrad, who were returning home from Afghanistan, volunteer to aid the evacuation of the civilians still trapped in Dubai. After contact is lost with the 33rd, the US Army sends in three Delta operators led by Captain Martin Walker; to find out the fate of the “Damned” 33rd Battalion and their distinguished commander.
Needless to say, what started off as a simple intel gathering and rescue mission quickly turns sour as Walker and his team, consisting of Lieutenant Adams and Sergeant Lugo, soon encounter heavy armed resistance on the outskirts of the city. From the very first gun battle, the game drives the player through wave after wave of seemingly limitless enemies to rack up a nice kill count. In this respect, Spec Ops: The Line falls in-line with almost every other third-person shooter as players move from area to area, needing to kill a variety of enemies before moving on. The formula may be simplistic in nature, but when it’s done right is it really such a bad thing?
This brings us to the game’s gameplay mechanics. At its core, Spec Ops: The Line is a run of the mill duck and cover shooter. You hunker down behind broken walls and rusted husks of cars and pick your enemies off one by one, to put it simply. To aid you in your killing spree, the game offers players a generous arsenal of weaponry of all types, from your standard pistol and M4 rifle, to sniper rifles, grenade launchers, RPGs and shotguns. You can have two weapons on you at any given time, enabling players to carry the arms best suited to their play style. Like to get up close and personal? Use the sawed-off shotgun. Like to hang back and “pop heads” at range? There’s a plethora of rifles, both scoped and non-scoped, automatic and semi-automatic for you to enjoy. Like to blow stuff up? The grenade launcher is for you. The game also features fixed weapon emplacements, including the obligatory machinegun nest and even a white phosphorus mortar launcher that leaves a particularly harrowing wake of death and destruction.
For the most part, the controls are fluid and smooth, providing a solid base for the gameplay aspect of Spec Ops: The Line. However, there is one flaw. The cover system isn’t always the most reliable, and there have been times when I’ve been mercilessly gunned down in a hail of bullets because Walker flat-out refused to take cover behind a waist high obstacle. This can become quite grating as the enemy AI is unforgiving. Unlike most shooters (I’m looking at you, Modern Warfare) that make the player feel like an unstoppable one-man-army-demigod, Spec Ops: The Line is all too happy to remind players of their mortality. You are encouraged to pummel your enemy before they pummel you. A tactic that comes highly recommended as given half the chance, the enemy will swarm you and your team and eviscerate you in a matter of seconds. They will flank you, they will flush you out from behind cover with grenades, send in “shotgunners” to kill you up-close, all while snipers try to pick you off from a distance. Yet, Spec Ops: The Line never crosses the line from challenging to needlessly difficult.
Tactics also come into play in the form of Walker’s fellow Delta operatives. Adams, the heavy machine gunner of the team, can be ordered to stun enemies with flash grenades, providing the player with some breathing room and the perfect opportunity to pick off a few exposed soldiers. As a contrast, Lugo is the team’s sniper and his skillset can be used for situations that require a little more precision. The player can single-out specific targets that are giving them trouble, having Lugo plant a bullet between their eyes from a safe distance. This does make Lugo infinitely more useful than Adams, as he can take out enemies out of range or who are entrenched behind cover too high for you to take out personally.
Another strategic element is the sandstorms. The time they hit and the intensity of each storm is randomly generated, meaning you could play through one gunfight without a speck of dust fluttering by, and then do the same section again and have a wall of sand rip its way across the battlefield. As you can imagine, visibility drops to nearly zero when in the middle of a sandstorm, both for you and the enemy. So much so that sandstorms can turn the tide of a fight. You may find yourself hopelessly pinned down and outnumbered only to have a sandstorm hit, blinding your enemy and enabling you to charge in under cover and pick them off one-by-one.
I mentioned earlier that Spec Ops: The Line wouldn’t leave you feeling very good about yourself by the end. This is because at certain points in the game the player will be forced to make a choice. Often these choices are very “black and white” in other games. Do the bad thing and get the “bad guy” reward, or do the good thing and get the “good guy” reward. Spec Ops: The Line throws that rulebook out the window. Instead, just about every choice you make has a bad outcome for someone. It gives the game an overall bleak atmosphere, but at the same time gives a more honest depiction of warfare. This game doesn’t glamorise violence like Call of Duty or Battlefield, instead it gives you a disturbing insight into the violence and cruelty that can plague a war zone.
If you buy Spec Ops: The Line hoping to get a good third-person shooter, then you won’t be disappointed. Aside from the issues with the covering system, I found The Line to be extremely enjoyable and satisfying. The various weapon types and frantic gunfights as you and your enemy try as hard as possible to out flank one another, make every encounter intense and forces the player to give their all to obtain victory.
If you buy this game hoping to find a story that has more substance than the majority of paper thin plotlines that exist in shooters these days, then The Line delivers. The characters all feel like they have their own personalities that develop as the game’s plot unfolds, which is a refreshing change from the generic macho testosterone fuelled protagonists that star in most war titles. The plot had me hooked and I found myself wanting to keep playing to see what would happen in the next cut-scene. I definitely recommend getting this title for those of you who were contemplating it. The things you experience during your mission in Dubai will stick with you for a while after the credits finish rolling.
Review written and produced by: Christian Lane
About Christian Lane
Christian works full time in an office processing student grant applications for all the universities in Ireland. In his spare time he records live commentary videos for YouTube and hosts a weekly 2 hour radio show on a small local radio station. He’s always loved history, especially anything and everything about World War 2, with an equal interest in both the political and military aspects surrounding it. Christian has also always loved writing, from short stories to video game reviews and would love to someday publish a book of his own.
Forum username: TheTrueIronGamer