Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Review: Spec Ops The Line

Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Developer: Yager Studios

Publisher: 2K Games

Players: 1 (offline) 2-8 (online)

Rating: Mature (Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language)

Reviewed on: PS3

Playstation Plus has a knack of pulling out the occasional awesome title.  Just last week, they added Spec Ops: The Line to their list of free games.  And boy, is this a title to add!

Spec Ops: The Line is set in Dubai after a massive sand storm isolates the city and covers it in sand.  Players take on the role of Captain Martin Walker, who is searching for Lt. Colonel John Konrad, a former colleague who has been missing for months.  As the game progresses, Walker is forced to make many, many tough decisions.  Players are given options as to what lengths they go to complete their mission.  All of these moments are meant to be a test of morality.  And sometimes the easy way out has the nastiest repercussions.

One of many grisly scenes players encounter
It's this angel and devil combination that really sets Spec Ops: The Line apart from the competition.  The way that players are forced to choose how to respond, sometimes instantly, really raises quite a bit of discussion material.  Is White Phosphorus something the military should be using in war zones?  How does revenge killing after the death of a comrade impact the overall mission?  How many people joined the military because they wanted to be a hero?  How many people play video games for the same reason?  Questions like these make Spec Ops: The Line far more interesting and nuanced than any shooter in recent memory.

Now, I've always had a hard time with console shooters.  I can barely play Gears of War.  I find myself either spinning the camera in nauseating directions, running into walls, or being that guy that stands up and earns Carmine's Star in every match of Gears of War 3.  That said, I found the controls in Spec Ops: The Line to be intuitive and easy enough to use.  Being able to order your teammates to take out specific enemies is not exactly the most novel thing out there, but the command process is simple enough, and popping out of cover to reach the next barrier is a easy enough to work with.  I wound up using the aim assist , which was really nice.


I also liked that the game noticed I died a bunch at the same checkpoint, and offered to turn down the difficulty for me.  This was a smart design choice on Yager's part, even though I didn't need it.  Just having the option available is really cool.  It's something that really should be considered by more developers.  Now, Spec Ops: The Line does have multiplayer.  But, given the negative views on it from the creative director, and the fact that nobody cares about it, I have not tried it out, nor do I intend to.  Heart of the Swarm is more important right now.

After trudging through the filth that is Aliens: Colonial Marines, seeing a shooter like Spec Ops: The Line is a welcome change.  It's great to see a game that takes a lot of risks.  The dialogue and concepts that Spec Ops: The Line brings to the table is fresh, relevant, and frequently, difficult to swallow.  If you haven't seen Extra Credit's take on this game, you definitely should.  The first half is spoiler free, the second half is full of spoilers.  I recommend checking them out, regardless.  If you're looking for a shooter that bucks the trend,  Spec Ops: The Line is your game.  If you want engaging story and narrative, Spec Ops: The Line is your game.  If you want to run-and-gun and be the hero, Spec Ops: The Line is not your game.  There are no heroes in this war.  Not this time.

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