In the current video game market, it's unsurprising to see when games blatantly get favored over others. Some games become very popular, while others become glanced over. Some games become overrated, while others become underrated. One could hope that a game like Spec Ops: The Line could get the attention and recognition it deserves. Believe me when I say that Spec Ops: The Line absolutely deserves to have a chance to be in your collection.
This is no typical military shooter that has come out as of late. Spec Ops: The Line is a third person shooter with a huge emphasis on moral implications in times of strife. The location of the game is different as well.
In particular, the game takes place in Dubai where a massive sandstorm system wiped out the entire city off the map. An American battalion ("The Damned" 33rd) was volunteered by Colonel John Konrad to head in to aid civilians and commence relief efforts. The rich and politicians of Dubai had left long before the storms hit. As the storms intensified, the 33rd were ordered to leave, but Konrad insisted on staying and leading a caravan out of the city. At this time, however, a storm wall had surrounded Dubai which cut off all forms of communications and the caravan never arrived.
This is where your main characters come in. They are Delta Force Operators Captain Martin Walker, 1st Lieutenant Alphoso Adams, and Staff Sergeant John Lugo. They are sent in to Dubai after a looped radio message is picked up. The message is from Konrad who mentions of the failed evacuation and the current death toll. Their mission: Find out the status of Konrad and any survivors, then radio for evacuation. What they find instead is a city that is ravaged by inner turmoil and fighting for control.
I can't tell you how intense this game can get. Everything ranging from the firefights to the moral choices you must make can leave its mark on you after you play. On top of that, there's quite a twist at the end of the game that will make you double take on what you just saw.
Spec Ops: The Line left quite an impression on me. One that is highly different from when I played a Call of Duty or Battlefield game. Actually, Call of Duty and Battlefield can only wish to do what Spec Ops: The Line has accomplished. What is that exactly? A few things that separate it from all other military shooters.
One, the story is incredibly different from anything I have seen before for the military shooter. It's engaging, interesting, and has a great setting. Two, you actually give a damn about your characters. The squad that you're with throughout the entire campaign actually question the events of the game and the choices you make as you progress, and they have unique personalities. Three, the gameplay is different from the normal shooter. Sand is incorporated into combat and can be used either as a weapon for you or against you, your teammates are very effective in telling you what's coming your way, and there are plenty of weapons to be had.
Gameplay is pretty solid. As with all third person shooters, you have a cover system and gives you a variety of things from this advantage. Cover shooting is effective; however, enemies at certain angles can tear you to pieces if you're not careful. Blind cover fire seems best when enemies are closing in, especially with those who run at you with knives. You are also able to sprint and vault simultaneously. This makes for great coverage of an area. See a wall you want to get to, but a few things are in the way? No problem! Sprint forward and vault over those obstacles when prompted to do so. REMEMBER: Only flat, low level obstacles can be vaulted.
Like I stated earlier, sand plays a major role in combat as well. Given the current state of Dubai, sand is literally everywhere. One game mechanic includes seeing sand just outside of glass. So if you're in a shootout with some enemies and you see that they are in front of said type of situation, go ahead and shoot out the glass. Watch as the sand pours in and engulfs them. You save ammunition and time. REMEMBER: Don't stand too close to the sand when it caves in like this because it will hurt or kill you, too!
You are also able to command your two squad members to take out certain enemies. At long distances, Lugo can use his sniper rifle to take out a specific enemy. If there is a special, yet tougher enemy on the field, tell your men to focus on that. If you're pinned down and need some relief, you can call for a stun grenade to be thrown by your teammates.
You can also collect various items for intel on what has happened both before, during, and after the sand storms hit Dubai. These give you more background on who has been involved and what has transpired. These give you more information on who you might be dealing with and what their ultimate motives are.
If you are worried about having to restart an area after getting killed, no worries there. Spec Ops: The Line has a great automatic checkpoint save system. Say you're in an area where there are a lot of turrets (which believe me can get annoying) and you manage to take one nest out, but you get cut down around this time. Well, there are moments within the combat that will be saved. Whether it's activated through a certain accomplishment you make during the combat section or by reaching a certain area in the combat zone, the checkpoint system will be there to help. So no frustrating restarts of entire areas here.
The weapon system is limited to two guns and three grenade types...unfortunately. Yeah, this mechanic kind of annoyed me. To only be limited to two guns felt very restricting. While there is a plethora of weaponry and ammo to be had (hence you can switch it up on the fly), I did not enjoy being limited like this. When you run out of ammunition, but all of the enemies in a given area have been eliminated on the other side of your position, this gives you little more than frustration. Whereas in Call of Duty and Battlefield, where you have a good amount of ammo per gun, in Spec Ops: The Line you have surprisingly sparse ammunition.
This is one of the game's weak points. Although this isn't like the other military shooters, it should also try to diverse itself away from the limited weapon idea as it could be very annoying and restricting on the player. If I may make a suggestion, try the weapon system that the Delta Force games have on the PC. One primary weapon type, one secondary weapon type, a sidearm, possibly an explosive weapon type, and whatever small extra things you want to implement.
Enemy types range from standard gun wielding foes to more dangerous specialists. Heavy gunners are imposing and very tough. Take these guys out quick with grenades and heavy fire. Combat specialists are equally as dangerous and a big priority to deal with. REMEMBER: Combat specialists have knives for close quarters combat, so eliminate them quickly before they cause heavy damage to your health.
The sound of the game is varied. You literally get a soundtrack courtesy of one of the main antagonists, The Radioman. It's reminiscent of what you would hear in a movie. It's really great. Voice acting is top notch. The talent behind the characters includes Nolan North, Jake Busey, Bruce Boxleitner, Christopher Reid, and Omid Abtahi. One thing I noticed was that there will be times when you clear an area of enemies, but you still hear their shouting, but that lasts only for a bit.
The characters have distinct personalities and looks that makes them stand out. The now sand ridden city of Dubai is unique and intense. The whole subject of a once civilized area gone to hell from natural disasters brings up even more harsh visuals. Some of which include war crimes and the breaking of foundation around you. In short, the graphics capture these well. The only hiccup for the graphics covers the texture loading when restarting from a checkpoint manually or loading up a single chapter once you complete the campaign; however, this is only a minor problem.
So, do I think that Spec Ops: The Line is worth it? I say, yes! Spec Ops: The Line is a great relief from the first person shooters we have been having for the passed five years. It is also a welcome addition to the military shooter genre.
From what many people say about this game and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, I hear quite a lot of good things. Among the popular things said include, "They are a refreshing take on shooting games and are nothing like Call of Duty or Battlefield", "You actually get to strategize", "The stories and characters are better", and "You actually feel like you have gameplay skill outside of shooting like crazy and doing cheap melee kills." Okay, that last one was mine, but still you get the point.
Basically, rent this game or borrow it from a friend if you know they have it and try it out. I can guarantee you will enjoy the writing, the acting, the gameplay, and the story. It's addictive, it's fun, and it's enjoyable. Personally, I hope that more shooters will turn to stronger stories and better, fluid gameplay mechanics. So, Spec Ops: The Line gets my recommendation and I hope it will get yours as well.
*NOTE: There is a multiplayer component to the game, but I did not manage to play through it during my rental. Hopefully I will next time I rent it or actually buy it. When I get the money that is.