One of the biggest and most notable things about Spec Ops: The Line is that it truthfully makes you feel every bullet and person you waste. While most generic or top of the line shooters don’t spare a second to think about how the people you’ve been shooting at may feel, or what motivates them to attack you in the ways they do- spec Ops does, and utilizes this often as a key storytelling tactic throughout the entirety of this unconventional shooter. Almost every action has a reaction, as proven once more by the ramifications of your swift justice throughout this game- and most things never turn out exactly as you had thought or hoped they would. In the ever-changing battleground that has become modern Dubai for the duration of the game, you enter a hellish city with some dark secrets and even darker stains of blood throughout its recent history- oh, and the catch? There’s even more to come…
The city- or the remains of it, is in complete shambles and disarray after a series of devastating sandstorms and other malevolent attacks by mother nature, who seems to have declared war on this once magnificent city. After sending in a battalion of American military and army personnel to the devastated city, in order to lead the forward evacuations- which result in their direct disappearance, a team of Delta Force-esque operatives must search for the answers amidst the ruined streets of this giant city. The problem is however, not everything is as it was nor as it seems- and these men are in for an unpleasant surprise when they encounter the evils that seem to haunt and stalk this place like dark shadows in the twilight hours.
Throughout this tale of insanity and survival, one can find many allusions to classic works such as Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, which proved to be some inspiring works to base parts of the game off of- and to great appeal as well. Although many aspects of the game help to create both a mysterious and chilling, gripping atmosphere, others seem somewhat out of place amid a modern setting such as this- but help to drive many of the points home, as well as to shake your foundations and principles to the core with the sheer madness at some instances. The story is as much of a ‘why?’ question being repeatedly asked throughout as the commanding officer of the three-person Delta team tries to figure out exactly what is going on, as it is a survival and shooter tale of much gore and dark violence and torture spread throughout. Suffice it to say, things begin to deteriorate quite quickly- and these once untouchable men don’t seem as strong or stable for too much longer as the story plays out…
Your recon mission quickly changes to a different tack as you reunite with surviving troops and witness firsthand the hysterical madness that has been plaguing the city as of late. Combine this with records of the madness, and anecdotal notes- and you have a gripping narrative, especially surprising for a game that seems to be just another ‘controversial shooter’. This overly compelling need to find answers and seek out justice lies amidst the majority of the single player campaign, and is sprinkled throughout with the now generic morality choices and tough calls that gamers have grown accustomed to seeing in the past few years. The scary part is that eventually, these choices actually amount to something in often unforeseen ways as your crew navigates and fights their way throughout the hollow city. As they descend further into madness, their minds are far from untouchable, and their trigger fingers are always alert- they’ve glimpsed into the depths of hell and lived, so far as they can tell. They’ve come through far from unscathed though thus far…
The story is definitely the game’s biggest success, and remains so all the way up to its shattering conclusion that leaves you questioning what you previously had thought throughout the majority of the game. Mind blowing as it is however, the game truthfully only barely pulls through on its main mechanic- shooting. While it is unbalanced and uneven for the most part simply due to a few annoying covering and squad orders mechanics and related glitches. Despite all of these minor annoyances however, they still only amount to a slight lack of entertainment, as the riveting story in a shooter keeps your eyes glued to the screen between insane gunfights and the ever shcnaging stimuli of the world. As fun as environmental related hazards can be, they too begin to become a sheer annoyance later on when you’ve busted that umpeenth window or encountered yet another completely visibility-dimming sandstorm. While these are neat at first, they’re clearly only a one-shot gimmick because they grow old quite fast.
The only time the environment truly becomes a blessing and also a somewhat more bearable experience is throughout multiplayer matches where unscripted hazards often appear with little to no warning on the field of battle. You can use these against your enemies or have them used against you in many ways, which proves to be as fun as it is embarrassing to be caught flatfooted with in a match. As with any good shooter, there are hosts of gameplay modes, perks and skills, upgrades and weapons, and levels for you to unlock throughout the multiplayer, however- deep as this may be, it doesn’t support the large maps and mediocre gameplay very well, and multiplayer is thus more of a bummer than anything in the campaign.
While the morality choices injected into the normally generic mix of shooter fun and classic mayhem makes the narrative and single player campaign a blast for the most part throughout the story, a lot of other minor complaints and features bring down what would otherwise be a great game. Spec Ops: The Line scratches the surface of what could be possible with both story telling and gameplay in the future of shooters, and throws out some innovative ideas, however it simply isn’t enough to make it a must-play game. This is a mad journey into darkness and back into light, and an interesting thought, but one that ultimately still falls a tad bit short in the long run- and will never compare to juggernaut titles such as Battlefield or Call of Duty.
Concept: Make the player feel bad about shooting innocent civilians and enemies alike, as morality becomes a common stimulant in this insane shooter experience. Creating ever-changing environmental conditions in order to challenge the player to always watch their back and act as a team.
Graphics: The locale and looks are new and interesting enough in response to most modern day shooters and FPS games, but otherwise, nothing spectacular happens to appear by chance.
Sound: The soundtrack is catchy, but completely out of place with a modern day shooter. Who wants to listen to the tunes of the past in a modern age anyway, or at least in this instance?
Playability: Shooting works decently enough, but spotty allies and AI in addition to some big mistakes with covering, assisting, and flanking make this a sub par category for the game in the long run.
Entertainment: Since it is rare for a game of this genre to focus mainly on narrative, that is a refreshing change of pace and also something to keep you going when the going gets rough throughout the campaign.
Replay Value: Moderate
Overall Rating: 8.25