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Spec Ops: The Line Review

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Ian Dransfield

Can 2K Games fulfil the promises of Spec Ops: The Line, or has Yager Developments just created Gears Of War in the sand? Find out in our review.

specops_14.jpg

Published on Jun 26, 2012

Spec Ops: The Line is confused in what it wants to present to players. On one hand there’s an unflinching approach to the portrayal of the horror and confusion of war, while on the other hand there are heads that literally pop from a single pistol shot.

On a rogue third hand there are moral quandaries and the question of just where loyalty ends and where the concept of duty stretches to, while on the horribly deformed fourth hand the game comes with a special FUBAR Edition.

In a few ways, Spec Ops: The Line does manage to be something more than the sum of its parts – it’s not home to a story of incredible depth, but it does feature one that offers something a little bit more interesting and fleshed-out than the usual fare.

It approaches thoughtful territory once or twice – it even shocks in one particular scene. And it does a job of making Spec Ops: The Line far more memorable than it would have been otherwise. But it doesn’t make it a good game.

For all its bluster about setting itself apart from the crowd, how Spec Ops: The Line is ‘mature’ and whatever else, it’s a game you know before you’ve even taken your first step on the sand-covered streets of Dubai.

Ouch, that looks painful.

If you were to look up the dictionary definition of ‘a totally uninspired take on the third-person, cover-based shooter’ then, well, you’d be wasting your time because it won’t be in there. But if it was in there, it would show you a picture of Spec Ops: The Line’s front cover.

For all the grand promises of a dynamic battlefield, reshaped by the brutal sandstorms hitting Dubai, there’s little on show of dynamism beyond the odd chance to shoot out some glass and drown your enemies in sand. Comparisons to Red Faction and Fracture were, we can safely say, premature at best.

No, this is linear, straightforward stuff. You are funneled from encounter to encounter to take your customary position behind a waist-high wall, popping up every now and then to eviscerate one of the hundreds of anti-self-preservation campaigners you seem to be battling.

Aside from the ability to off your enemies with a sea of sand every now and then, there’s the chance to… no… well, there’s that feature where you… hmm… you can press a special combination and… ah.

Nope – this is uninspired. Boring, even. Combat is snappy enough, simple enough to be enjoyed by players of any level, and with enough extras – squad orders, basically – to keep things that teeny-tiny bit more interesting than they would be otherwise.

Squad-mate control is limited, and they’re idiots when you don’t tell them what to do.

But it doesn’t change the fact that you’re playing this game, again, and there is little about the mechanics themselves to actually keep your interest for any amount of time.

It’s the sort of game that opens on a mounted gun section, for the love of all that is, isn’t or might possibly be holy – that’s the level of unspiration we’re talking here.

You might think that would result in a lower number at the end of these words – if the game is boring and brings nothing new to the table, we are to tear it a new one, si?

But the aforementioned story, the setting, a few decisions by the developers manage to keep interest levels higher than they would otherwise be.

It doesn’t save Spec Ops: The Line from the ignominy of its status as ‘one of the games you won’t remember in six months’, but at least it tries. We reward that, because it’s something to reward.

But even the narrative – the setting and the enemies you face – struggles in its own logic thanks to the mechanics of the game. Minor spoiler, but you face off against fellow US troops in the game – it’s a tiny bit of a shock and your character and his squad react accordingly: they don’t want to kill their brothers.

This guy counts himself as “like Hunter Thompson”. He is not.

But while the protestations of your men are still ringing in your ears; while Nolan North is still justifying cutting down an American soldier because it was ‘self-defence’, you – the player – are capable of carrying out ‘execution’ moves on these very same people you’re apparently struggling to come to terms with having to murder. As in, close-combat, hyper-violent insta-kills.

You’re apparently against the concept of killing US troops, but that doesn’t stop you from beating them to death with the butt of your rifle, rather than just disabling them in some way.

That might seem pernickety, and it is, but it’s elements like this that take away from the overall effect of the game. You see the effects of white phosphorus in quite some detail, revealing the true horror of such an insanely inhumane weapon.

But then you gib five soldiers with your handy-dandy grenade launcher you’ve just picked up while your character yells some rah rah nonsense line about ‘takin’ ’em down’.

It’s as if the adults read Heart Of Darkness and decided their game should be influenced by it, but then chose to vaguely explain the concept to a group of gore-hungry 14-year-olds who went on to actually make the game. A hugely missed opportunity.

 

Score Breakdown
Graphics
7.2 / 10
Sound
8.5 / 10
Gameplay
5.7 / 10
Longevity
5.4 / 10
Multiplayer
TBC / 10
Overall
5.9 / 10
Final Verdict
What would be a ridiculously bland and forgettable experience is rendered that little bit less so through a fairly interesting setting and narrative. But it’s still not very good at all, and still really not worth your time. Unless you’re really bored.
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Game Details
Format:
PS3
Release Date:
29/6/2012
Price:
£49.99
Publisher:
2K Games
Developer:
Yager Developments
Genre:
Third-person Shooter
No. of players:
1-8
Verdict
5.9 /10
Spec Ops: The Line provides some genuinely interesting story segments, but its bookended by generic gameplay and contradictory morality.
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