As I have mentioned before in my Inversion review, shooters over the past few years have been either hit-or-miss. It was definitely more miss than hit this year, with the only ones I liked being Darkness 2, Binary Domain, and of course, Mass Effect 3. I have played Max Payne 3, but I plan on reviewing it in the future so keep on eye for that review. It just seems like developers can’t fully comprehend that there is more to a shooter than guns blazing through modern warfare with 3-hour campaigns and everything put into the multiplayer. We want a story with substance, memorable characters, and of course, memorable experiences. One of the games that do this sort of thing best is the Uncharted series. Sure, it might take place in modern times, but it is set up like an enjoyable action adventure film with well developed characters, amazing set pieces, and time put into both single player and multiplayer. Hopefully, today’s review can take that next step of evolving the shooter more than what it is, Spec Ops: The Line. At first glance, it does look rather generic, but there is more to it than meets the eye. An interesting setting in current time albeit after a catastrophic event has taken place, and an emphasis on dealing with the mind of what a soldier goes through while going through the front lines is put to the test here. Does it succeed? Or does it just get buried under the desert sand?
The game takes place in modern day Dubai where a huge number of sandstorms have torn the city apart, have killed multiple people, and have stranded many within the city. An army general was sent there with a team of soldiers called the 33rd, but for some reason, they haven’t left yet. You play as Captain Martin Walker, voiced by Nolan North, who is in charge of an elite delta squad. Your mission to go in, find this general, and get him out of there. Of course, things don’t go so well in finding this army general, and you get caught up with the 33rd who apparently have gone mental and are capturing and taking citizens of Dubai as prisoners. It is up to you and your two teammates to get the heck out of Dubai, but to also find out what the heck just happened! I know this game was based off the novel, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, but I haven’t read it before so I’m going to judge the story on its own merits. It is DARK! This was a surprise to me, since most shooters that have come out this year have had mediocre and terrible storylines with little thought and or investment put into them. Spec Ops: The Line however, goes with a very grim and gritty story that dives into the mental capacity of a soldier’s mind going through something like this. Sometimes you might think you are doing the right thing, only to question yourself, and your characters questioning themselves wondering if this or that was the right thing to do. The choices you make in the story are not as deep as say Mass Effect 3 or Binary Domain, but it still gets you to thinking what choice do you want to make. It’s dark, and when I finished the game, I still questioned if the choices I made were the right ones. That is one thing that Inversion, Syndicate, and Resident Evil Operation Raccoon City can never lay claim to.
The gameplay is a linear squad-based third-person shooter. You have the usual two-weapon limit, with up to 3 different kinds of grenades. It’s the cover-and-shoot style of third-person shooting that a huge amount of games use these days. There are some simple squad commands you can give, like taking out certain enemies or throwing a stun grenade. It can be useful if you want to get an early drop on some enemies. There are even some specific areas where you can shoot out glass to have tons, and I mean literally and figuratively tons, of sand fall onto your enemies. The multiplayer is your pretty typical multiplayer that you can find in ANY shooter these days. You’ve got your classes, experience points to unlock weapons, death match, team death match, and some other modes that are, for some reason, locked and you need to level up to unlock them. Overall, the game play is solid, but you will definitely just be playing this game for the story.
The graphics are good. They can look amazing in the single player, but they look just okay on the multiplayer side of the game. In the single player, the lighting is used extremely well since you are out in Dubai and the sun is always going to be glaring down at you, making you warm up and cook like a boiled egg. The music is also solid with some licensed music to truly fit the mood and setting of the game. Voice acting is great, and while some of it can be a bit much, Nolan North and the other voice actors should be congratulated on bringing you into such a dark and gritty believable story.
So, with all that I have said about the story, graphical presentation, and voice acting, this should be one of the top 10 games of this year right? Well, there are some big problems, but it’s still one of the better shooters of this year. The biggest problem that this game has is that the single-player and multiplayer game play is, well, just okay. The mechanics are solid, but sometimes I had trouble making it to cover, and there is just nothing innovative in the combat. I mean, there is the cool sand mechanic, but it isn’t as fully fleshed out as it should be. It’s like Inversion and its gravity mechanic, kind of cool, but it could have been used much more and have been implemented more into the game play. Think of how hectic and terrifying multiplayer could be with having the ability to drop tons of sand on your enemies? The single player does break it up a few times, but overall, gameplay is just okay. This upsets me since it does one thing so much better than the other. I kind of feel disappointed that the story is so great, but you just have to go through solid, but okay third-person shooter mechanics. I also find it a bit annoying that multiplayer is locked in some areas until you level up. Why lock up half of the multiplayer at launch until you’ve played through a couple hours of it? The multiplayer is safe, so what’s the reason to play through it just to play through the same safe multiplayer, just with some new modes?
Spec Ops: The Line is a solid and enjoyable shooter, but you play it more for the story than the safe single and multiplayer gameplay. It truly is one of the best stories of this year in video games. It does something most shooters can’t do and it does it well. I just wish the gameplay was more unique, since in this day and age, you can’t play it safe with your games, meaning you had better throw all the punches and not hold back. I can recommend getting this as a rental for the weekend, or picking it up at a low price of maybe 30 or less dollars. This is one of the games that surprised me at how much I enjoyed it. Just wish I could enjoy the full package. Maybe next time they cross the line, they can bring something truly great.
This game gets a 7 out of 10