At first, Spec Ops: The Line seemed like a regular third person shooter romp. After it's explosive entrance, it began to slowed down a little. I was doing what I've done in most third person shooters. Shoot some bad guys, take cover, etc. It wasn't till I moved further in that I realised it's much more than that. Developer Yager have something unique, something that most shooters are lacking today. There's a shocking narrative that unfolds, and it comes out from nowhere.
The game takes place in a near-future Dubai. A series of devastating sandstorms, the biggest on record, have swept the city right under it's feet. Vehicles have become filled to the brink with sand, skyscrapers are buried or demolished, and most of the population have become decimated. What was once an attractive, wealthy city, is now left in ruins.
You take the role of Captain Walker, a member of a three-man Delta Squad. Six months after the catastrophe, a distress call is picked up in the area. This leaves Walker, and the rest of his team to investigate it. Their mission is to locate survivors and get them to safety. But when they quickly become ambushed by refugees, they know it's not going to be a walk on the beach. Without actually spoiling things, let's just say, there's more to it than meets the eye.
The game handles like most third person shooters do. With the tap of the A button, Walker can sprint to any available cover. He can peek above it to shoot, blind fire, throw grenades, and eventually, command his squad. These squad-based mechanics are not as deep, with games like Rainbow Six, but you do have some control over your squad. Not to far in, you are able to take command. Simply holding the RB button will bring up a red triangle. Pointing this at an enemy and then letting go will have your squad focus aim on that target. This can be extremely useful when your struggling to take down distant enemies, like a sniper. You can also order your team to stun enemies, allowing you to get an easy kill. Commands can be given whenever you feel fit, but they need to be used cautiously. Relying on it to much can get your squad hurt, or even worse, killed.
Sand plays a key role in combat aswell. It can be used against your enemies in different ways. You can throw a grenade to creating a cloud of dust, temporarily blinding your enemies. Or you could use the environment at your advantage. For example, if you notice a window that's filled with sand behind it, you can shoot the glass, resulting in a tidal wave of sand crushing your enemies. It's always pleasing to find an opportunity to use the sand, but they don't come around that often. The sand is also said to be dynamic, but it's a bit disappointing when everything is scripted.
There's a nice selection of military weapons throughout the game. These range from assault rifles, sub-machine guns, handguns, sniper-rifles and more. You can carry two weapons at any time, and most of them have an additional attachment, like a silencer. The shooting itself is fairly bog standard, but it is enjoyable. Shooting enemies in the head, or blowing them up with an explosive will sometimes trigger a short slo-mo effect. It's always a thrilling moment, and it adds intensity to the fire-fights.
The level design is extremely well made, allowing you to switch from cover-to-cover. But the game isn't without it's issues. For one, the cover-to-cover mechanic doesn't feel as fluid, when compared to games like Gears of War. It's a bit iffy, and you don't always enter cover when you want to. Vaulting over cover can also be annoying at times. I occasionally whacked walls, and over obstacles that I was trying to vault over. This is because the B button, which is used for melee is also used for vaulting. It can be irritating at times, especially when your having to switch from cover to cover, but I only found it a slight annoyance throughout the campaign
The game is a lot fun to play, but it's story can be horrific and depressing at times. Developer Yager have tried to bring out the horrors of war into the game, and it really shows. At certain points, you will be given choices to make. None of these feel like a win-win situations, but you have to decide one or the other. Most of them will have you choosing who lives and dies. Once you decide, there's no going back. It's a great example to what happens in real war situations, and it adds to the compelling story. The choices also give you a reason to play the game again. It's not everyday I play a game after I finish it, but I couldn't wait to see what would have happened, if only I chose the opposite
The campaign is around 7-10 hours long, but there is a multiplayer offering as well. It offers the basic solo and team based scenarios. But I found it to loose interest rather quickly. Spec Ops: The Line didn't need a multiplayer component, it feels more like it was added for the sake of it. It's the single-player experience where the game really shines, and what makes it stand out from other shooters.
Spec Ops: The Line offers something that we haven't seen before. It's dynamic sand and choices are a step into the future of gaming. It does have it's issues, but with a compelling story and interesting characters, this is a game you wont forget anytime soon.