Review: Spec Ops: The Line
Title: Spec Ops: The Line
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
Publisher: 2K Games
Tagline: Gritty war shooter game that asks as much of your own morals as it does the character
Family Friendly: Click here for more information.
War in games has become somewhat stylised over the years – Call of Duty tries to be one big spectacle, while Battlefield can feel a little light hearted at times. The return of Spec Ops brings with it a rough and ready style to war and a landscape that reflects this new harshness. A great story backed up with excellent gameplay makes this title a brilliant experience – some clunky animations don’t detract overall from this adventure.
Spec Ops takes pride in its story, especially when compared to most over FPS games nowadays, and this really does show. Decisions on good or bad come up a lot in current games but in Spec Ops everything is morally grey. This doesn’t mean they all the decisions get washed to the side, but that nothing you do can be considered particularly nice. It’s all about how you choose to act when all the morals don’t mean anything and you face the most extreme scenarios – this is a really interesting way to look at decisions in games, when the only reward is how this sits on your own conscience. You can glaze over most of this just treating it as a shooter if you really want, but that won’t be doing it justice – even a few days after finishing the campaign I’m still thinking about the reasons behind some of the events that happened and how I feel about them.
Dubai is quite a unique setting, even more so for a shooter. A stunning high-rise metropolis built within a dessert, the fact that Yager have recreated this environment and then proceeded to turn it on it’s head is testament to the work they’ve done with the Unreal Engine. In the wake of a major natural disaster you’ll see these fantastic skyscrapers submerged in sand and nearly destroyed. Waging war in this land provides some interesting mechanics in order gain the upper hand, shooting out certain windows will bombard enemies under a sandy landslide, while grenades will kick up a cloud of the stuff when they explode which can be used as a distraction. When sandstorms occur at points in the game you begin to realise just how ruthless the environment is as you navigate through taking out enemies and searching for respite.
Nolan North has fast become a staple of videogame characters, playing Nathan Drake, Desmond from Assassins Creed, and even Penguin in Arkham City. In each game he appears to bring something unique and none of these characters mentioned seem to be the same as the last, this is one of the downfalls for Spec Ops. Lead character Captain Walker features a very familiar voice, North sounds exactly like the protagonist of the Uncharted series which is a little jarring at times. This won’t be a problem for people that have stayed away from this game, but for someone like myself it becomes disorientating to hear this same voice from another character.
As I mentioned, some of the character animations seem a bit rigid, especially when you initiate scripted actions like the rappel or zipline. While for the most part you should just be able to ignore this in lieu of a great story and gameplay, it is always there. The characters are look very good and reflect the gritty, desperate situation you’re in – as you play through all the different scenarios that come up during the story begin to take their toll on Delta squad and this is apparent through both the design and their interactions. Controls can also feel a bit hit and miss sometimes too – they never feel quite as tight as other shooters, this applies even more so when trying to react fast in multiplayer.
You’ll be able to take the fight online in Spec Ops with a competitive multiplayer mode, however this will never be the main focus of the game and will unlikely have players coming back for more. It never feels like a fast paced game that Call of Duty is known for, or pick up and play like Halo is. It just seems a bit flat, neither exciting nor engaging. The zipline mechanic for getting around the maps is quite an interesting features, but when sandstorms arise they don’t have the same affect as they do in the campaign and merely serve as a break mid game.
Spec Ops: The Line is something fresh in this time when shooters seem to arrive every other week. A few minor downsides in the animation and voice acting doesn’t detract from the fact that this game is actually incredibly interesting. Testing the players morality rather than just dolling out rewards in the game that don’t mean a lot. If when you’ve wrapped up the story you don’t spend some time thinking about what it’s all meant, then you might be doing it wrong.
The line of decency:
- Very good story mode that’ll make you think
- Enemies and player alike don’t feel invulnerable
- Not your average choice and reward morality system
Crossing the line:
- Voice acting can break the experience somewhat
- Controls can feel a bit imprecise
- Multiplayer isn’t very compelling
The short answer is no – this is by no means a family game, but don’t just take my word for it, the game comes in as an 18+ on the PEGI ratings. Swearing and shooting are the name of the game, and you will see the character engage in some brutal execution moves. You’ve also got the morally questionable content here too.