We suited up and braved some deadly sandstorms in post-apocalyptic Dubai to review Spec Ops: The Line. Does this cover shooter have what it takes?
Spec Ops: The Line is a modern take on Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness (Which was also the inspiration for Francis Ford Coppola’s cult classic film Apocalypse Now). It puts the player into a post-apocalyptic Dubai, which has been torn apart with sandstorms. This provides a surreal and complex environment in which to play out the morally challenging storyline which investigates the tough situations and decisions which soldiers routinely face in combat situations.
In a refreshing change from nearly every shooter of recent times (with the exception of Deus Ex) Spec Ops focuses mainly on a deep and intriguing storyline which by slowly revealing hints and snippets of a bigger overarching and disturbing plot, keeps the player keenly involved throughout the game. The focus is on the tough choices which confront soldiers in combat situations no matter which side of the conflict you are on.
I for one was really pleased to play a shooter with some real story behind it and found it helped to guide me through some grinding and unimaginative combat sequences. There is always a great feeling of uneasiness throughout the game, and some clever narrative between the characters helps to give some fantastic insight into the characters state of mind. The voice over artistry is fantastic in this game and helps to seal the overall storytelling package that is Spec Ops: The Line.
The graphical setting of this game is the real standout point of the overall Spec Ops experience. The graphics themselves are top notch and make playing the game a visual pleasure, but it is the artistry and use of lighting and colour in this game that really stands out. The scene is set stunningly against the backdrop of a decimated Dubai skyline with a series of high rise buildings providing the platform for the story to unfold. The artistry of the scenes and the use of contrasting blues and oranges help to accentuate the surreal feel of the game and heighten the overall experience for the gamer.
As a cover-based shooter, Spec Ops ticks all the standard boxes, but unfortunately goes no further. The gameplay mechanics are the standard Gears of War / Killzone style with the use of cover and environmental triggers to augment standard first person shooter gameplay. The addition of sand as mechanic provides Spec Ops’ only real uniqueness in this area, the player can cleverly use sand avalanches by shooting out windows against which the sand has collected (Pretty sure physics would disagree with this being possible) to turn the tide in tough situations.
The second use of sand is the occasional sand storm which crosses the battlefield reducing visibility and the player’s accuracy greatly, this mechanic unfortunately doesn’t add the high adrenaline intensity which it is meant to, but rather just becomes an annoyance. Spec Ops was very playable without being stand out on the gameplay front in any way, but considering the focus on storyline in this game I am willing to forgive this.