"A Slippery Slope"
In recent articles, not particularly related to Spec Ops: The Line, I have touched upon the video game industry's recent love affair with delivering cinematic experiences. Given the paltry length of Spec Ops: The Line's single-player campaign, it could be perceived that some developers are interested in mimicking films entirely. A cursory look would confirm this sentiment. Luckily, if you have the wherewithal to delve deeper, past all of the superficial resemblances that The Line has to the dozens of modern day first- and third-person shooters that take that safe route, you might find a game that attempts to be so much more than a flash-in-the-pan experience.
However, do not mistake the game to be a slouch in the presentation department. Sand, together with its tumultuous friend, wind, is a woefully underused element, and previews for Spec Ops: The Line suggested that it would exhibit sand in all its unpredictable glory. The game looks great, with sand seeping into the smallest crevices of the ruined city. Sadly, the game rarely utilizes this asset for compelling gameplay, as only a few fixed situations allow you to take out multiple enemies by manipulating the environment.
On the whole, it is a pretty standard shooter fare that is reminiscent of the Gears of War series with its more deliberately paced, stop-and-pop cover / shooter gameplay. While the Spec Ops: The Line gameplay should be easy to pick up and play for anyone experienced in the genre, any notion that this is just your typical shooter is thrown out the window thanks to a deep narrative that should have little trouble in taking you out of your comfort zone.
If there was one theme to come out of this year's E3, it was the overwhelming sense that the most popular and anticipated video games nowadays involve putting the player in control of mass murderers (the off-putting gleeful reaction to Sony's brutal The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension presentations is proof of that). Consequences of such violence are scarcely touched upon. Other games exaggeratingly offer moral ambiguity and often fumble the execution of "choice" in said situations, so it is refreshing to see a game like The Line takes that to task and actually succeeds.
Here, you will not find any rote red-and-blue colored bars that fill on either side to represent the hilariously black-and-white moral choices you could make. Instead, you are presented with a would-be hero in Captain Martin Walker, as he and his team of Delta Force Operatives attempt to track down the disappeared Colonel Konrad (the game does well to thematically reference Joseph Conrad's seminal Heart of Darkness). The trials and tribulations the team endures in Spec Ops: The Line during their time in the sand-swept setting of Dubai offer a glimpse of character progression rarely seen in the shooter genre.
As the game progresses, and as you rack up your kill count, the characters find it increasingly difficult to justify their violent actions. You are supposed to be the good guys here. It should not be this hard. However, for these characters, it is. Situational decisions almost always land in the morally grey area, and you will likely second-guess if the choice you made was correct. You can certainly barrel through the game as any other, shooting everything that moves without thought, but you would be doing a major disservice to the carefully crafted atmosphere.
Where so many other games in the genre opt for bigger and louder explosions, obviously scripted set pieces, and other methods to imitate the world of blockbuster films, Spec Ops: The Line opts to produce an experience similar to that of books, where portraying compelling characters is the objective. An affecting story takes center stage, and the game is all the better for it.
GameDynamo's Score for Spec Ops: The Line (PC)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
[View Spec Ops: The Line images / screenshots +]
[Watch Spec Ops: The Line videos / trailers +]
[View more Spec Ops: The Line articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Spec Ops: The Line cheats / guides +]
More from GameDynamo