Spec Ops: The Line's title admittedly gives the game a bad shadow, almost dismissing players from even trying it. Well, curious reader, what if I told you Spec Ops: The Line is the best single-player experience I’ve had all year?
You heard it right. I was shocked when I heard it was halfway decent, too. The game had marked itself as heavily story-driven, but I and many others had dismissed it as just another third-person shooter. “Go shoot the brown people for America!” as it goes in most modern shooters. Spec Ops is different, and shortly into the game, it forces you to know that it’s different.
It’s difficult to say much about the game without spoiling the finer points, but here it is. Spec Ops is one the darkest games I’ve ever played. The narrative is brilliant, rivaling those seen in movies or books. The story follows Delta Operators: Walker, Adams, and Lugo. The beginning sees the characters arriving in a fictional version of Dubai where sandstorms have encompassed the city by an entire wall of sand. Sand is very crucial to the story as many events are triggered, such as sandstorms coming in, but more on those later. Delta Force arrives at Dubai with the mission to extract civilians and leave. They come upon a small command center, find a dead American soldier, and are then encountered by the locals, at which point a firefight begins. This is as far as I can delve into the story itself without any major spoilers.
Regardless, the story of Spec Ops shows fantastic character development, intense risk taking, and the pacing is absolutely perfect. The story is dark. I forewarn you, you will see atrocities, and at some points you will blurt out loud, “What the fuck just happened?” or “Did I really just do that?” This is played off great by the characters reactions to the events as well, making them seem very human, which is ironically joked at in the beginning when one of the characters refers to himself as a well-oiled killing machine. With twists around every corner, the six-hour campaign of Spec Ops is fantastic and just long enough to grip you in, making you want to see just what the hell is going to happen next engrossing. You'll want to finish the game in one sitting as I did.
There are three brilliant endings to the game, all of which make for insane outcomes which keep you guessing until the end. This is held up great by the games great voice acting, especially the main characters, who all show true emotion, and seem like real people.
Now all of this is fantastic, but if the gameplay is bland and boring it wouldn’t be able to stand up to the level that it actually does. Luckily, the gameplay is great. Even playing with a mouse and keyboard on PC feel tight and fun to play. This is the opposite with most third-person shoots on PC, making most resort to using gamepads. It’s going to be a fun experience on whatever platform. PC players will be happy to hear that there’s a good assortment of options as well as the game seems to be ported great. On my upper mid-range system I was getting 50-60 frames per second at all times on maxed-out settings at 1080p.
The level design is great and really adds to the experience as a whole. The levels are really varied, and it’s not just the same brown color palette you’ve come to expect from modern shooters. You go through hotels and experience the luxury of Dubai in an almost post-apocalyptic destroyed setting. Some scenes even surprised me that I was still in the middle of a giant desert. But sooner or later, a giant sandstorm would come in, allowing the plot to continue, as well as to provide some new gameplay styles. It’s really insane when you’re fighting on the top of a yacht with sand blasting in your face, can’t see 5 feet in front of you, all the while enemies are rushing you.
Some minor annoyances I had with the game were, and I know this is picky, the very few number of enemy character models. It wasn’t very immersive when you see the same guy with a cowboy hat on for the 50th time. Aside from that really, I can’t think of anything that stuck out very much in the way of bugs or annoyances.
Spec Ops: The Line is a fantastic game. Some may be turned off by the basic multiplayer, which I didn’t get a chance to play, but it is not a main part of the game. In fact, the multiplayer was developed by a different studio. Others may be turned off the shortness of the game, which I feel is perfectly paced and a perfect length. But other than that, anyone who is a fan of intense dark stories should definitely check out Spec Ops.
Go play this game.
Publisher: 2K Games
Developers: Yager Development (Single-player), Darkside Game Studios (Multiplayer)
Release Date: June 26, 2012
Number of Players: 1 (Campaign), 2-8 (Multiplayer)
Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (Reviewed)