Spec Ops: The Line may first appear as just a standard third person shooter. When it comes to gameplay that’s true, but hidden is a deep and engrossing story that builds to an epic ending and sets the stage for unique and interesting gameplay moments.
Set in the sand covered lands of Dubai, you play as Captain Walker. Walker and his two squad mates are sent in to Dubai to look for his former commander and help evacuate the citizens of the city. While you’re following a trail of breadcrumbs, you will face off against American soldiers gone rouge, the CIA and even some militant inhabitants of Dubai. This all makes for some good story moments as Walker is always regretting having to kill rouge Americans who have abandoned their mission. It leads to heavy arguments between the squad of three and tough choices throughout the game.
Choice is a heavy hitter in Spec Ops, and it’s a very interesting system. There is never a clear right or wrong, good or bad choice. No matter what you choose people die and in numbers. The choices you make don’t really matter when you make them, but they build up to an extremely interesting ending. Throughout the game you see a change in Walker. At first he is determined to find the commander and rescue as many innocents as possible. As he discovers rouge Americans, CIA and other nasty parts of Dubai, he is fuelled to find the commander at all costs, killing anyone that gets in his way. As you play through the game you will come to like Walker and his squad mates, that at first seem like a gigantic cliché.
The gameplay in Spec Ops: The Line is solid for the most part, but can easily stumble. The controls aren’t as fluid as other third person shooters and it seems that one button does too many things. Vaulting over objects and sprinting into cover normally works, but it can be extremely frustrating when it fails as it will normally result in your death. Playing on normal difficulty it doesn’t take a lot of damage to kill you and the enemy AI is actually quite intelligent. They will charge at you if they’re using shotguns or small weapons and stay at a distance behind cover if they’re equipped with snipers or assault rifles. If you’re stuck you can order your two squad members to fire upon a specific enemy or make them hurl stun grenades. Squad commands come in extremely handy in later stages of the game when you face off against many different types of assaults.
Unlike most shooters the combat in Spec Ops never gets tiring. While it doesn’t have a vehicle or an AC130 like moment, that we’ve come to expect from shooters, it keeps it fresh with new enemies, new terrain and a lot of new weapons. Every level feels different, you go from a sandstorm on a freeway to the lobby of a billion dollar hotel. As you progress through the game new enemies will come with body armour and new weapons, switching weapons is essential because there isn’t too much ammo in Dubai. Because of this you will get to try a lot of weapons that keep the combat fresh. The environment is also a huge weapon, you can shoot out glass to stun enemies, shoot out sand filled walls to crush an enemy to death or hop a mounted machine gun and mow the baddies down. While the gameplay can be hit or miss, there is definitely more good than bad.
The sand covered lands of Dubai look fantastic. While at first it just seems like a gigantic pile of sand, you will be pleasantly surprised by interior levels that are colourful and wonderfully put together. Character models looks great and as you fight for days at a time, Walker and his squad members will slowly look beaten and battered, which is a nice touch. On a negative note, the game can take ages to load. I had Spec Ops installed on my Xbox 360 and when I died it could take minutes to load up a checkpoint and I died quite often in the harder stages of the game. I wouldn’t want to know how long it could take to load without an installation, so I recommend installing the game if possible
The sound in Spec Ops is also fantastic. I joked about Nolan North voicing the main character…Again. But this is arguably his best performance. Not to be outdone, the other cast members are great as well with a special mention to the radioman, one of the best voices in the game. The radioman is a voice on the radio that stirs up Walker, previously a journalist he is now embedded in Dubai to speak on behalf of the rouge Americans. The soundtrack in the game is awesome and you’ll fight with rock songs blaring in the background, thanks to the radioman. Overall, the audio is great, voice acting is top notch and coupled with a solid soundtrack.
Spec Ops: The Line tells tales of how horrible war can be, it puts you right there and it makes you make tough decisions. The atmosphere of innocent people hanging from light poles, destroyed skyscrapers and having to pull the trigger to slaughter fellow Americans in self defence is done so well. While you’re trying to save everyone and be the hero, you may just turn out to be the villain. The choices are tough and more than once I thought about reloading the game to try and make a different one.
Spec Ops: The Line is an incredibly immersive story experience that you really don’t expect. With heavy choices and violent story moments that shows you the bad side of war, it’s a game I must recommend. It’s only letdown by inconsistent controls and occasionally weak gameplay. However, there is more good than there is bad.