Game: Spec Ops: The Line
Reviewed: January 2015
A game like Spec Ops: The Line makes you think, and that’s an unusual thing for a game that, from the outside, might seem like your average Call of Duty style game. Sure, it has the guns and all that, and you are in the army, and fighting other army enemies, but there is a lot more to it than that. It’s a game you just need to play, and experience, and too much insight might give away something, and spoil the moment.
The game is based in an unusual setting; a post-apocalyptic Dubai – not in your average Nuclear Holocaust sense, but due to natural phenomena around that region. This is just one bit of the story I’ll mention – Dubai has been suffering extreme sandstorms, up to 80 miles and hour, and the city lies in near ruin, with most of the inhabitants of the city evacuated, but not all. Amongst that ruin you’ll find remnants of a once rich place, and I mean that in the material sense. Fast sports cars, jewellery, and other items are left strewn throughout the wreckage of a once elite society. All left to rot, and show how pointless those trinkets now are. It’s certainly puts things into perspective.
You play as Captain Martin Walker, and you start off patrolling outside the city with your fellow soldiers, Adams, and Lago, when you hear something on the radio that leads you to investigate further, and from then on, you will be exposed to the horrors that lie within. There is stuff in the game that may or may not shock you, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t provoke at least some sort of thought on the matter, and make you ask questions. After all, it is human nature to.
The whole setting would make a decent action film, but I think what really helps is that by playing the game, you do become Captain Walker, and that makes the experiences more personal, and more evocative. If I was to criticise the game, I would say that some of the things that happen almost seem absurd in that everything starts to feel over the top. When I got to the end of the game, it came up with an interesting conclusion, that made me start asking questions, and I think it was done in a good way, but I also feel like (without giving to much away) it is almost too fantastical a conclusion, since some things don’t seem to quite add up. A lot of this won’t make much sense, so, as I said before, the best thing to do is just play it.
Playing as a soldier will not be unfamiliar to a lot of gamers these days, and I’m betting a large percentage will have tried something along those lines at some point, so if you like challenging combat, with a nice selection of weapons, you’ll probably quite like playing this game anyway. Those who play Call of Duty and Battlefield games who want something a bit different would be highly recommended to try this game, since the story and setting, even if it isn’t normally something they care about, will make the game that bit more interesting. Those too, who don’t normally care for games that involve shooting, should also play it though, and for that very same reason; the story.
If I were to compare the game to anything, the closest game I could think of, barring the ones mentioned, would be Homefront. That too provided an unusual setting and story, and while the combat was decent, it mainly felt like just like anything else you may have played before. In Spec Ops, the combat doesn’t break amazing new ground, but neither is it something to be mocked, since it is solid, and purposeful. While it could be described as being like Call of Duty, there are differences that give every shot more meaning; even the typical 2D bombing from above section is done in a more unique way, one that you won’t realise straight away. Going back to basics, there are a wide selection of practical weapons to use, of which you can carry two at once – a realistic number for a soldier, as well as three types of ‘throwables’: frag grenades, sticky grenades, and flashbangs. I shall choose my words carefully, since to call the combat or the weapons enjoyable or satisfying just doesn’t seem correct, and again, you’ll have to just play the game to fully understand what I mean. You’ll like it, but at the same time, if you are properly paying attention to what the game is trying to tell you, you’ll also not like it.
Cut-scenes occur quite often, but they do seem well placed and are also purposeful, not simply just being action-packed. There is no filler in this game, and as a result, although the game can be completed in less than 6 hours, the experience feels much longer. Indeed, it almost felt a bit too long, especially as things get more and more bizarre. But as bizarre as it does seem, it is also necessary for the story, and right now I feel like I’ve been as cryptic as I possibly can without giving away too much.
Graphically, the game looks about as decent as any game from 2012 should be. The lighting is nice, and also quite soft, and while the desert setting will neuter some opportunities for colour in the game, the scenery does look very good, and the colour that is used, is used well. Weather effects when sandstorms hit are good too, giving you a real sense that you better get the hell out of that particular area, even if you are never really going to come to any harm; it just feels threatening and imposing.
Sound wise, the game seems well voice-acted, and due to the story meaning more than your average first or third person shooter, the words carry more weight, and are worth listening to that bit more. Weapons sound solid, and a lot of music playing throughout certain levels seems appropriately fast-paced for when the action gets busy, and suitably goes away at times when it wouldn’t be fitting, to be replaced by softer, thoughtful, melodies.
It is genuinely hard for me to completely get my head around what has gone on, and what I have just played. I’ve been reflecting on it for the past hour after playing the game, and while I feel I understand how things have worked, other things still puzzle me. I’m left wondering if the story is just a bit too complex, or convoluted, and has gone a bit over the top. Or maybe I could do with another play-through for things to sink into place. It does give you a lot of moral choices, and it does make you sit up and take notice, though, however you perceive the game. For that, it should be applauded.
Anyway, the final judgement is for you to decide, what I can say, though, is that if you usually play first or third person shooters, this is automatically a must-buy for you, but even if you aren’t in that category of gamer, I would also recommend you play it, not because the story is nice, but because it does present another side to combat, and the horrors that a soldier has to face. The game aims to shock, and some of the things you’ll see might not be all that appetising. This isn’t a game for the squeamish or those who like to put blinkers on and ignore things that make them feel uncomfortable, because this game will probably give you those kinds of feelings at some point along the way. It is a game that may open your eyes. The things you do have consequences, remember that.
I shall end this review in a rather muted fashion, minus the usual comedy references, since it doesn’t really fit in here. The game deserves the following arbitrary final score:
If you like this game, you might also like: Homefront, Call of Duty series, Battlefield series
Do you hold the moral high ground ? Let us know in the forum!