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Spec Ops: The Line Review

By Frank Diglio

Shooters have been a staple of gaming for many years. Recently the Call of Duty (COD) franchise has reigned supreme in the genre of shooters as they always sell extremely well and are reviewed the way they sell. One main criticism of COD though is that it glorifies war. It sets up world wars against Russians and Arabs and makes it pretty black and white on what the story is. We (the west) are the good guys trying to put down the bad guys out there. Spec Ops: The Line, a third person shooter, shows a different and more realistic side of war. A side that has not been explored nearly enough by games.

The game starts off with a typical war game mission. You are dropped off at the edge of a sand covered Dubai and you have to find and rescue survivors. Your first mission has you killing hostile natives, after that it becomes a very different game. You find yourself fighting Americans, some rogue soldiers and some following orders. The game casts a cloud of moral ambiguity over everything you do from this point on. You can’t just be the good guy and call it a day. War is not like that. And neither is Spec Ops: The line.

The main asset of this game is the storyline. You grow with the characters. You are the head of a Delta team with two other men. Together you move along with the best intentions but your actions don’t always show it. All three characters go through a character arc that is rarely seen in shooters. You can really see the hell they are in having an effect on them. The protagonist, Captain Martin Walker, has it the worst. Watching Walker slowly lose his mind is powerful to watch. As you play the game you pick up Intel lying on the floor. Sometimes it has text and sometimes Walker talks and explains what you found. If you listen carefully to what he says this can be very unsettling.

The game takes place in Dubai. It takes place sometime in the future as in the opening scene we see a picture of Obama at a military event. Dubai needs to be searched for survivors and evacuated because the city is riddled with sand storms. Some buildings are completely underground but because the Dubai skyline is so impressive many still tower over you as you walk past them. Everything around you from the infrastructure, to the sky, to the sand looks amazing. The graphics were great and were a little different than most shooters.

The gameplay of the game has some ups and downs. Let’s start with the down areas. For one, the controls aren’t great at all. Tapping A is sprint, take cover, jump down, slipping out, and switching cover. Now I know many games utilize context sensitive buttons (a concept I would bet many gamers my age learned from Conker’s Bad Fur Day) but this just seemed too clunky. On several occasions I was busy trying to not die and I pressed A for one reason or another only to watch Walker do something different, sometimes leading to his death or coming really close. There are other minor issues I had, like with grenades but once you get used to them they aren’t really an issue. The A button problem may persist for longer than you’d think though. It is tough because the control stick affects what A does but sometimes for aiming purpose the control stick is doing its own thing.

The other issue I had, and this may be just my issue, was gun hopping. I found myself without bullets in my main gun a lot and was forced to use my hand gun as I searched for a new weapon. Now I am not a shooter expert but I have played a lot of them and never had an issue this severe that lasted this long. It seemed every mission I was trying to strategically use my bullets and change how the gun fires to preserve the gun as long as I could. Finding a new gun isn’t too hard but you just have to roll with whatever gun you see and hope it lasts you enough time to find another. This may be a part of the realism the game tries to create but it became a burden in every gun fight I found myself in.

There are some positives to the gameplay though. The usage of materials around you, like shooting the windows to drown enemies in sand or to make them fall to the ground was a cool touch that proved to be very useful. There also was the AI of your men. Both of them are fairly competent (no Slippy or Peppy in this game) and only occasionally rarely require to be healed. Also they are very quick and always in position with a flash grenade when you direct them to throw one. Along with following their story, having your teammates definitely makes the game better.

Overall this game is one of the best shooters I have ever played. Instead of focusing on gameplay (though it isn’t all that bad) the story is the star of this show. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters, doing the right thing, and finding out what happens next. There were times where I felt like no matter what I did it would be the wrong decision but that is the beauty of this game. There is no black and white. Everything you do has a consequence and even the best intentions may lead to horrible consequences. I would rate this game an 8.5 with only some control issues holding it back. If you are looking for a completely different shooter that will leave you emotionally confused though than Spec Ops: The Line is the game for you.

Overall Rating 8.5/10

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