MMO News, Reviews & Opinions
MMO News, Reviews & Opinions
- Written by Sm1tty Sm1t
Shooters aren’t deep. They’re not thought provoking journeys into fabled lands. Shooters are simple. They’re typically the same mechanic wrapped around a decent story, purchased in the hopes that the online play might provide some semblance of fun while players wait for the next Call of Duty to release. It’s strange that a game titled Spec Ops the Line would take the layout of a shooter and turn the execution of it into a secondary part of the experience. That’s exactly what happens though, as you stagger your way through each chapter of the campaign. Players will find that the game plays as a typical third person shooter, complete with its own quirks and frustrations, but in the end it’s The Line that draws your focus.
Set in Dubai, players may worry that they’ve seen this setting before; the city has been blasted by an enormous sandstorm turning it into a mix of city and desert. But worry not, the setting has been established this way for multiple reason, though most aren’t apparent until well into the game. The story follows Captain Martin Walker as he enters the city in search of Colonel John Konrad, a war hero gone missing. A strange transmission, explaining the failure of Colonel Konrad, is received by the military and Delta Squad, led by Captain Walker, is sent to investigate.
Users will find that that the shooting -- you know, the heart and soul of a shooter -- works as it should. Third-person, cover-based shooting rarely offers variety in terms of new gameplay mechanics: run from point-a to point-b, stay alive, shoot enemies in the face. Occasionally that redundancy is broken up with a frag, sticky, or flash grenade, but it’s pretty typical.
A nice touch sprinkled throughout each level is the implementation of terrain that players can interact with. Typically, glass windows hold back tons of sand, ready to burst through like a torrent. As combat escalates, players can trigger landslide-like sand waves or take aim at strategically placed explosives that litter most combat zones. The sand is a wonderful touch, but other implementations feel artificial. Finally, the use of cover and the ability to slip from behind it feels lifelike, but the limitations of the controller offer some frustrations. If you’re hoping to sprint from cover-to-cover and vault over some sandbags to dispatch an enemy, you may find yourself simply meleeing at air, having missed the well-timed jump you were hoping for unless you were lined up perfectly. Far too often Captain Walker lie in a pool of blood because of quirky mechanics.
The small things are what really takes the game to a level above ‘same old shooter’. During much of the campaign, players will get accosted by sand storms that whip up seemingly out of nowhere. Additionally, as players progress through the story, the setting changes, despite the game never leaving Dubai. Open dune battles give way to tight building hallways and, eventually, vehicle combat that follows the same aesthetic. Even the collectibles scattered throughout the game, typically an annoying side-mission for players achievement hunting, offer dialogue and backstory to give players a deeper sense of what they’re fighting for.
Multiplayer offers a bit of that as well, though on a more fast-paced scale. Each level layout embraces the cover-shooter aspect that is Spec Ops the Line while implementing various tweaks to make multiplayer their own. In addition to the debris-riddled landscapes, maps have a certain verticality to them that helps them seem far larger than they are. Like the campaign, sandstorms are stirred up during each match, knocking out maps and limiting movement speed and vision. As players progress, perks can be unlocked that provide a sort of meta-game, posing problems to players such as, “Do you use a close-range shotgun, a long-range sniper, or a mid-level gun?” or “Which skillset is best used on this level?” As perks are unlocked, players quickly discover the benefits and drawbacks of each, creating a constant feeling of unease as you try to discover the best combination for any particular map. Most importantly, guns don’t feel over or underpowered and strangely, players finding enjoyment online will typically find players that use a combination of teamwork and light trash talk to set a mood of fun rather than “KILL, KILL, KILL!”
The underlying theme throughout both online and single player is the previously mentioned Line as it takes an undefined stance throughout. You see, The Line has different meanings for different people at different points of the game. It’s the barrier that a soldier puts up to shield himself from the hell of war. It’s a metaphor for that one action that you or your squadmates aren’t willing to cross. It’s even a challenge from an enemy to a hero. Surprisingly though, that line gets blurred. The difference between right and wrong becomes confusing; what a soldier is willing to do to be a hero and what a soldier must do to survive become intertwined; and what a soldier sees and does on the battlefield can come back to haunt him for the rest of his life.
Players will find a surprise waiting for them inside the box of Spec Ops the Line, a story filled with suspense, anger, sorrow, and confusion. Taking an almost Shyamalanian stance, the twists are surprising and, until revealed fully, confusing. But while sifting through the facts, players will also have to dodge bullets and knife-wielding lunatics in order to survive the city. Coming full circle, the gameplay is solid, the visuals are gritty, and the story is amazing. This may end up one of the nicest surprises of 2012.
Overall score: 8 out of 10
Disclaimer: 2k Games provided a copy of this game for review