Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 07/09/12

Mr. Sandman

Spec Ops: The Line is a fascinating game. It begins with an on-rails turret segment, in which Captain Walker, controlled by the player, shoots down enemy helicopters as they maneuver around buildings in Dubai, a city that has been ravaged by sandstorms and has fallen into violent turmoil. From this intro, I was able to learn a lot of things about Spec Ops: The Line before even really getting into the first level. Let's just say that even if you find yourself burnt out on games like Call of Duty and Gears of War, Spec Ops may be the shooter just for you.

This opening helicopter segment shows off the game's awesome graphics brilliantly. The frame rate is top notch, the character models are very well done, and the buildings are towering, massive, and stunning. Animation is done well, and the set pieces are clever and original, not the same recycled fodder we get from Call of Duty year in and year out. Voice acting in Spec Ops is fantastic as well, and is complimented by a great soundtrack that sets the mood perfectly.

Presentation was a big deal to the developers, which is evident by the narrative. Unlike many action games of the same variety, Spec Ops: The Line features a very dark narrative that trades the machismo attitude for a realistic approach to the horrors of war. It's interesting to see the protagonists of the game, Captain Walker and his two squadmates, slowly deteriorate mentally over the course of the game as they are exposed to the heat and the violence more and more. At the opening of the game, they are making jokes and talking a lot. But by the end of the game, the chatter becomes less frequent, the jokes become nonexistent, and their characters see a metamorphosis into just what can happen when exposed to war. Also unlike many shooter games nowadays, Spec Ops: The Line features a variety of moral choices throughout the campaign, culminating in one of four endings.

This narrative fits perfectly in the game's setting, which isn't just used for storytelling purposes, however. The sand in Dubai is used as a gameplay mechanic on more than one occasion, in which Walker has to shoot out glass to cause the sand to rush through and take out enemies, or to make a new path. The sand is used very cleverly throughout the course of the campaign, in ways that I certainly never expected.

As for the core gameplay, Spec Ops: The Line is a third-person shooter. The combat is satisfying, and the gunplay actually requires some ammo conservation, which can lead to a few pretty intense moments. There is a nice variety of weapons in the game, tossing grenades is fun and simple, and the core gameplay works very well. One thing I definitely liked about it was that instead of having people push down on the left analog stick to sprint, all that is required is to tap the A button once, and off he goes. This is far easier on controllers.

As is customary for any shooter game nowadays it seems, Spec Ops does have a multiplayer mode. It's nothing special, and feels out of place with the rest of the game's atmosphere. It's boring and slow, kind of like if the Gears of War series reverted to what it was back when the original came out. Yeah, it was cool then, but seeing a similar type of gameplay near the end of the Xbox 360's lifespan is really unacceptable if it wants to be taken seriously. Spec Ops will likely be dead in a week or so multiplayer wise, and without any offline multiplayer options, the developers have really shot themselves in the foot with this one.

Another disappointment with the game is its length. Now, I'm not usually one to harp on games for being too short or too long or whatever. But Spec Ops is very short, and not only that, but there's very little replayability. Yes, there are different moral choices and different endings, but the game is going to be exactly the same every time that you play through it, making going after all of the different endings feel like a boring chore. The fact that the multiplayer is such a drag also puts a damper on the replayability factor, and the achievements are nothing fun to unlock, so that's out the window as well.

Spec Ops: The Line is an atmospheric, cinematic shooter game with plenty of elements that help it stand out from the usual shooter fare. The game is extremely well-polished, and while the campaign is short, it's very sweet, featuring intense gunplay, jaw dropping visuals, and a great soundtrack. But it may require a more sophisticated shooter fan to truly appreciate this game.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Spec Ops: The Line (US, 06/26/12)

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