Spec Ops: The Line review
Spec Ops: The Line looks like your average war shooter, but delve beneath the camo-gear, military-grade boots and AK-47s and you’ll discover a shooter that attempts to go emotionally deeper than any before it, says Stephen Ebert. But is the long journey worth it? Find out in our Spec Ops: The Line review.
Traditionally, the military shooter sub genre is full of action, but thin on plot. Spec Ops: The Line attempts to change that, with a story that raises all sorts of moral questions and situations during its course.
The more tense of these forces you to choose between killing a murdering soldier, or a thief at point blank range. Walking away would be a good idea, but the snipers trained on you tell you otherwise. A choice has to be made. One that will leave Captain Martin Walker feeling just as much of a good guy as those he’s out to stop.
Set in a modern skyscraper-filled Dubai battered and left derelict by sandstorms, Captain Walker sets out with two fellow squad mates in search of a Colonel John Conrad. But he finds all is not well. US soldiers already there have gone rogue, the citizens of Dubai are hostile, and everyone wants you dead.
It’s a story that lays the path for action at every turn, but Spec Ops: The Line’s biggest success is in making players realise the futility of war and ask themselves: is war really worth it?
In its storytelling, Spec Ops: The Line attempts to stand out. The result is a story in which you find yourself caring more for your battle-hardened character than you may have in similar-themed titles, and one that after a few hours is guaranteed to have an emotional impact one way or another. War is brutal, it takes no prisoners. By the end of the game, players will realise this.
Yet the action never, ever stops. No matter the consequences. Spec Ops: The Line constantly reveals the ravages of war, and makes no apology for doing so. There’s someone waiting to shoot you at every turn. The cover-based action is relentless and well executed, offering up plenty of challenge on the process.
Cunning enemies constantly work to get the better of you, deliberately distracting you with bullets, while others flank you, or use grenades to smoke you out, leaving you nothing else to do but fight your corner. There are some neat instances where you can also use the landscape to your advantages. Shooting a building support might send sand tumbling down to smother your enemies. The landscape both hinders and aids players progress.
You’re helped by two fellow soldiers throughout. Tapping one of the shoulder buttons lets you command both or either to target enemies for you while you stay in cover, lending a handy co-op element to play. It’s a smart feature that if used well, can help you clear areas even when you’re out of ammo. Once they’ve done the dirty work, ransack the fallen foes gives you the chance to replenish your ammo once more.
A terrific cast and some great voice acting, led by Nolan North ( also the voice of Uncharted’s Nathan Drake) add some personality to what would otherwise have felt like a dreary shooter.
While kudos is due for a story that attempts to be different, it’s only later when things really pick up, and begin to become a little clearer. For too long players are left wondering what is is they are fighting for, where they are going, and where the story is headed. There’s a thin line between suspense and being lost in it all, and Spec Ops: The Line treads dangerously close to the latter.
The relentless action tends to grate towards the end. What initially feels like an all-action blockbuster soon becomes a bullet-strewn trudge from setting repeatedly doing the same thing, not helped by less than smooth cover mechanics that too often leave you prone to enemy fire, and too many untimely deaths. The cover mechanic either feels too sticky when you need to jump out of cover, or not sticky enough for when you need to take cover.
Multiplayer doesn’t have the same involving feeling you sometimes get with the single player campaign but, fans of communal shoot-em-up action will find a neat variety of maps on board that flesh out the Spec Ops experience. However, chances are you won’t be playing this one for too long after clearing the single player mode.
The bottom line
Spec Ops: The Line dares to be different. It succeeds some of the time, and confuses at others. There’s a lot to like, but when it comes to the crunch, Spec Ops: The Line is a capable shooter entertains and engages, but ultimately one we’ll soon forget. A good game that could have been great.