Spec Ops: The Line is a third person shooter game developed by Yager Development and published by 2K Games. The game was influenced by the novel "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad which, for some people who do not know, had a film adaptation in 1979 called Apocalypse Now which has a few similarities to Spec Ops: The Line in its expression of war and the toll that war has on an individual.
The basic premise to the game is that you are Captain Walker and you are sent into Dubai with two other Delta Force soldiers called Lieutenant Adams and Sergeant Lugo, covertly, to recon what has happened to the “The Damned” 33rd Battalion and its commanding officer Colonel John Konrad. Colonel Konrad was sent to Dubai to aid in a relief effort for Dubai. After being ordered to evacuated and leave the refugees Colonel Konrad and his unit went rouge and were denounced by the US government.
Firstly the voice acting in the games is superb. I was a little bit concerned about Captain Walker's voice as Nolan North did make him sound very similar to another character he voices (Nathan Drake). However, these fears are quickly put to rest. The voice fitted to the character and as the game descended in murky territory the vocal strength of North was really brought out. The other voice actors did a great job of making these characters believably especially when it came to the emotional parts
The story to this game is not only fantastic but it is refreshing to see a game delve into uncomfortable themes which is aided by the strength of the voice actors as the game makes you question your actions as you slowly cross the moral “line”. It is hard to explain without ruining the experience this game creates. It is great to see a shooter like this have no real enemy or sides. The traditional formula of you being the good guy needing to take out the bad guy is not present in this game. As you go on through the game, the game makes you question your actions and also you start to query are you really on the morally “good side”. On a negative note some parts of this game, like the infamous white phosphorus bombing mission, try to force an emotional response which was a shame. I felt these moments were not as effective as other more subtle moments of dubious morality. Luckily the forced emotional segments were few and far between. The endings are worth mentioning. Each of the four endings is perfectly executed with one in particular being very brave for the developers to do and I praise them for this.
A great story can be hindered by bad control but this game nails the controls. I did spend some time trying to get used to the button X being used to sprint into cover but after a few missions things feel very natural. This game didn’t really try anything too ambitious and the controls and gameplay feel very normal for a game of this genre. Getting in and out of cover is easy and fluid and the shooting controls feel great with each weapons feeling different. Each bullet seemed to do some visual damage to where it hit which is a nice touch that a lot of games forgo. I did notice a few bugs throughout the game. The most annoying was vaulting over obstacles. The problem occurs with the same button being used for melee. Too many times did I want to vault quickly over an obstacles but I ended up just smacking it. The most ambitious part to this game was the use of sand. You could destroy objects which would bury your enemies and throwing grenades didn’t just kill the enemies but also could blind them with the sand plume. Sandstorms would also sweep the area at certain points to the game which created its own challenges when it came to combat which I found I fought very differently in a sandstorm. Despite this praise I feel they could have done more with the use of sand. For instance the option of burying your enemies could have been used more naturally because it felt a bit forced. You would see a massive window with sand behind it with a large amount of enemies in front. It was too coincidental. This brings me onto the AI. Now I found the AI to be quite smart. They would try to out flank me and they would also change position if I out flanked them. They would also use cover a lot and not stand out in the open waiting to get mowed down (also the friendly AI actually helped and were not a pain). But when it came to these sand set pieces the enemies seemed to lose all intelligence. They wouldn't try to move out of the way nor think that it was a bit odd that a guy is trying to shoot some window behind them with a wall of sand behind it. Spec Ops: The Line also gives you the ability to order you companions to kill certain targets. It is very basic and does help at certain points in the game but I found the friendly AI was competent enough to do things themselves
Graphically this game looks great but only when the textures loaded. I did notice a couple of times the textures were slow to load which is pretty unacceptable. Character models looked great but nothing too get excited over. The character models do change as the game progresses. As you get more battle weary the characters get dirtier and look very tired which just adds to the experience. The big thing to this game was lighting. The game had this realistic orangey-yellow glow about it. The lighting had this natural feel about it with the sun creating natural like shadows.
Multiplayer being included in this game was an odd one. I am not saying the multiplayer is badly designed because it wasn’t. It does take a visual hit but the maps are nicely laid out and the levelling up system feels very familiar. My biggest gripe with the multiplayer is it doesn’t fit in any sense with the single player. You play through this amazing campaign that delves deep into moral ambiguity and sets its self apart from the norm but then you play this multiplayer that is norm and doesn’t try anything new. The multiplayer isn’t bad and is quite fun (does need more people to play it) but it is a shame that the developers didn’t take it that step further like they did with the campaign.
Spec Ops: The Line is a refreshing take on morals and the impact of war (how morally questionable it can become). The campaign is fantastic and a recommend it. Only a few games have invoked an emotional response and this is one of them. There is no real “good” guy/ending so do not expect a happy ending. It is a shame that there are a few technical issues and the multiplayer feels a bit of an odd inclusion even if it was developed well. This is the only game I felt bad about crossing “the line”. I highly recommend this game.