Spec Ops: The Line is a game that many people and perhaps you have passed off as a “generic shooter” and by all means. Yes it has guns, it has fire fights and third person perspectives on the aiming but Yager Development have made this game so much more than that and I’m going to tell you why.
I’m suspecting that most people reading this have only heard of Spec Ops in the past few months what with the demo going live and trailers gracing our computer monitors however, I have been waiting on this game for around two years. After first setting my eyes on screenshots of the game, I was drawn to something – the sand. This was something that was fresh and new to see in a shooter game and I feel that point still stands today. The backstory to Spec Ops: The Line is that an evacuation process was underway when Colonel Konrad defied his orders in an attempt to save more people from the sandstorm that was about to hit Dubai. It has been six months from that day and two weeks ago, a distress call was heard from Konrad himself. This is where our story begins when you play as Captain Martin Walker and accompanied by Lieutenant Adams and Sargent Lugo, the three of you are sent on a mission to find Konrad.
With Dubai being half buried by sand, Spec Ops definitely has that post – apocalyptic feel to it, more of which I will go into later, but was an eerie setting to play through. No guns being fired. No shouts from the enemies (not yet anyway) but just the sand, wind and Lugo giving his normal comedic comments about the mission in a light-hearted fashion as we walked through the devastation that had been caused by the sand on Dubai. When the fire fights did start however, the gun mechanics were solid and using the cover based system was easy to dip in and out of cover, picking off enemies as you went and using the team command controls to pick off snipers from afar. So far, Spec Ops was living up to its expectations in my eyes. The first real ‘Wow’ moment for me came when you were told to shoot out the windows of an abandoned bus that was lying lopsided above the heads of three enemies that you had come across on your travels into the city. Thankfully, the bus had filled up with sand over the six months so by shooting out the windows, you made the sand your friend and kill off enemies. Now there are many more moments like these where by you can use the sand to your advantage by killing off enemies however, I felt that I had that annoying older sibling relationship with the sand – you love them but there are days where you want to punch them in the face. As you would expect being out the desert, sandstorms can come at any time and boy are they a pain in the ass! Even trying to find where that last line of bullets came from is a challenge and don’t get me started on trying to navigate your way through it. You can latterly only see what’s in front of you when you’re about five steps away from it but I think it’s a feature that Yager have implemented well and brings in something new not just for the game but for the genre as well.
Survival is a theme that I notice to trend through Spec Ops. Not just with the sandstorms that I’ve mentioned but in other aspects of the game as well. The devastation that the sand alone has caused to Dubai is apparent but, I found that Spec Ops held nothing back in regards to showing the suffering and violence of the destruction that you yourself are causing on Dubai. As opposed to the game title, Spec Ops has tried to pry itself away from the pre-cut mould that shooters are inevitably becoming linear experiences for gamers and they’ve done this by forcing you to choose on several occasions on the outcome of the problem that you’re faced with. Now it’s not a case of “what gun should we use to kill the horde of men that’s due to come our way any second now”, it is life or death decisions. With other shooters that I’ve played in my 15+ years of gaming, it’s always a case of “run, shoot, kill and repeat” but not with this one… oh no! Spec Ops makes you suffer the consequences by displaying to you what happened as a result of your decision. Whether that is the loss of what could have been a vital ally, the havoc that you’ve caused with that mortar kit – I could go on. I genuinely felt guilty for my decisions and even felt my mood dip a little (I did have a break to watch Finding Nemo before going back and playing it again!) Not only is it visually you see the harm that you’re causing but within the team itself you can see that your decisions are having an impact. Adams and Lugo will frequently have arguments between themselves about what they should do or should have done before Walker gets them focused on the mission again. This was another aspect that I loved about Spec Ops – giving the characters emotions and a bit of depth to them. Each character is interesting in their own right. I found that Lugo was by far my favourite due to his humour that he brings with him throughout the game and his one liner. Whether this is down to the fact that I am part of the more emotional side of the human race or not – there’s no denying that Yager have no held back with portraying the horror of being part of the military.
As the story continues, I began to feel myself thinking on the various outcomes of the game itself as one normally would however as soon as I felt myself get like that, the game drew me back in by basically going “Oh yeah remember you have people to kill” which I’m glad it did as after playing through the entire game, the story could have potentially been predicted however this didn’t leave me in awe at the ending of a fantastic game.
Spec Ops was everything that I had wished for plus more and was well worth the wait. After essentially doing nothing but play this as soon as I bought it, completing it was just the beginning as I was more than ready to dive straight back in and see what would have happened if I had gone the other route on my options. By playing through it on normal difficulty, there were times where I felt “should I bump up the difficulty as I’m finding this a bit easy” whereas other times I was like “well thank Christ I didn’t bump it up earlier” which, I would say was somewhat of a good standard but could have ironed out the creases a bit better to provide a consistent difficulty.
I can assure you that Spec Ops: The Line will provide you with an experience that you will not forget in a long time but it can still pack a punch as well providing you with good shooter action! With very little to criticise about Spec Ops and being respectful in the fact that they have concentrated on ensuring that the single player side of the game was more of the attraction as opposed to the multiplayer, I would have to give the game a 9/10 for providing a solid and unforgettable play through that lasted from beginning to end.