In a generation where the shooter genre reigns supreme, there are games that rise to fame and capture the attention of the masses, and then there are those that fall from view never to be heard or seen of again from the gaming eye. Gaining any momentum let alone attention in the over saturated market of shooters seems bleak enough, but what does it truly take for a game to break free of the usual convection's?
Spec Ops: The Line at first, looks like any other TPS out in circulation today. Something that my Grandfather always told me was that first looks can be deceiving, and in this case that statement stands as a firm testament that it's true.
Being my first review on this site, I'll learn in time how to write one properly, but for now I'm going to stick with going with each area individually. Hope you enjoy!
The barebones narrative is that Dubai was hit with a massive sandstorm, that made the city almost inhabitable. A decorated war hero John Konrad decides that leaving the city to it's fate isn't an option. He along with his 33rd Battalion leave for Dubai in hopes of finding and evacuating survivors. 6 months later, Delta Force picked up a daunting transmission from Konrad himself. "This is John Konrad, US Army. Attempted evacuation of Dubai ended in complete failure. Death toll... To many..."
You're sent in to save them.
Graphics: When the player is thrown into the war-torn post-apocalyptic Dubai the immediate immersion factor kicks in. There you stand, facing the ruins of colossal structures in the distance belonging to a once great city only to be ravaged by frequent sand storms. The sun's intense heat blazing down at you, sand dancing around in the air, and nothing but immense and beautiful dunes that spread for as far as the eye can see.
A miles long line of cars long ago abandoned by a last ditch effort to evacuate the city greets the player. A somber tone that all is wrong in Dubai. The vehicles left to rot in harsh weather conditions show signs of decay. People that failed or died trying to return to Dubai after the evacuation failed, have been mummified, left to be trapped in their metal tombs. Graffiti of the inhabitants covers the walls, telling stories of their daily struggles and the everlasting fight to survive.
The sheer attention to detail makes Dubai an outrageously stunning place breathing with it's own life even if it is cut short, for it is also a war torn place. Even with beautiful scenery, there are occasional hiccups while playing on PC when you enter a new area, and textures sometimes take a few seconds to load. Other than that the view is pleasant.
Sound: One thing I can't stand in any shooter is a distinct lack of differentiation from weapons. However, the audio quality of every weapon in The Line hits home. LMG's sound like they actually fire larger rounds than their smaller counterparts. Each assault rifle has it's own very distinct sound, from the M4's quick light rapid firing, to the AK47's distinct slower firing but heavier sounding rounds.
Another feature that adds to the overall sound quality is the voice acting. Walker (Voiced by Nolan North) displays emotional dialogue like a champ. At first Walker is just a normal Trained Operative in his dialogue, he retorts with an enemy killed by calling out "Tango Down" or "Enemy Down." When he reloads, he calls "Reloading" or "Changing Mag." As Walker deals with more stressful situations throughout the game, he begins to become frustrated, turning his dialogue into a more menacing tone, "Tango Down" is replaced with "Stay down Motherf%$#ker." The usual "Reloading" or "Changing Mag" is replaced with "COME ON RELOAD." Sometimes he just randomly yells as he tries to quickly get another magazine in.
Squad members also play an important part in the dialogue region. Staff Sergeant Lugo is the quick witty member of the team, spitting off humorous jokes when most needed. However, Adams is the non-playful member of the squad, never joking and always serious when he speaks. During firefights your team calls out enemy positions and unit types. If there is a shotgun unit to the left of Walker they'll yell over radio, "Shotgunner, 10o'clock." Also adding to the sense of immersion. During sandstorms, the audio is just as excellent, raging winds whip by as parts of cars creak off of hinges and fly into the distance. Glass breaks and shatters, and literally all hell breaks loose.
Gameplay: Now we step into where most shooters fail, the gameplay. You have your simple sprint with two taps of W A or X, and you have option to "hug" against cover to protect you from oncoming fire. It's literally as simple as it get's with almost any TPS. Normally, if The Line just had this simple system, I would have rated it even lower, but instead of following usual convection's, they decided to add a few entertaining features to try and keep it fresh. Having a squad follow you around in Dubai isn't just for appearances, you can use them tactically.
During a firefight, if they see you pinned down by gunfire, you can order them to throw a flashbang to give you a clear shot. Even when the enemy decides to hide behind cover and refuses to come out, you can order that target taken out, making Adams lay down cover fire and Lugo to throw a grenade into his position. Sand isn't just about pretty visuals either, see sand against a window where some enemies are positioned? Shoot it! Causing a cascade of sand to crush them from overhead.
There are also sandstorms that affect the game, when a sandstorm hits, you have reduced visibility, movement speed, and accuracy. Adding even more challenge and variety to the gameplay aspect of the game. All doesn't go without a hitch however, your squad mates AI happens to dumb down in what might seem like the worst places to mess up. They might happen to take cover on the wrong side of a wall, or sometimes when given a target, they attempt to take him out, but instead stay still just screaming out that they're moving to their target.
Online: The online version of The Line, is basically what you get when you make chili, but forget the spice. You might get a lot of food, but it has no taste. The multiplayer feels rushed or just even tacked on just to say it's there. You have a few game modes and a few maps but that's it. You can change, customize, and unlock items for your classes, but most of the better weapons and perks require dedication and a lot of perseverance, something that might run thin while actually trying to play. In a regular TDM mode, there are two teams of 4, it's straight TDM except the concept of the multiplayer is to stay in cover, leaving games to be a boring game of cat and mouse. I've even had the bad luck to be put in a game where neither team would advance at all, both sides would just wait and watch until someone would walk into their field of view.
There are 1 or 2 smaller maps that are actually quite fun, where players actually run around through cover having decent firefights. An interesting addition that is implemented well, but just lacks the power to make multiplayer any better, are sandstorms. Once or twice during the match, a sandstorm will hit the map, reducing visible range, and scrambling players radars, allowing you to possibly slip behind enemy lines undetected. There are also sand traps located around the map enabling you to shoot it and pour sand over your opponent, but the fun is taken out of that when everyone knows where they are and purposely avoids them. Overall you can have lot's of fun with a friend or two, but playing by yourself might just have you screaming at why you clicked multiplayer option in the first place.
Fun Factor: All in all, the game is extremely fun to play. Trying to complete the game fully will have you playing it around 2 to 3 times depending on your playstyle. The addition of squad commands, the sometimes changing campaign location, integration of sand as a weapon and a threat, and even just looking at the decals is a great experience.
Although that's not the fun factor of Spec Ops: The Line, it's about the story. It's about the non-cliche look at war and the effects it has on people, the actual feeling of playing a real human being with a real conscious, instead of playing someone who runs around and kills everything just because he can. Throughout the game, you'll be forced to make choices... difficult ones. Choices that will make you think long and hard about the consequences. A few of them even had me uncomfortable because of what it was asking me to do. Could you decide to let innocent civilians die to save a man who might know information about your mission? I can't say, but if you haven't picked up Spec Ops: The Line, you should see for yourself what you would do when pressed to the line.
Would you walk it? Or would you cross it?