Saturday, February 16, 2013

What I Think of Spec Ops: The Line

Been working on this post for awhile now, let's see if I can get this done! THIS IS A SPOILER FREE POST! At least I will try as hard as possible to not give any sort of spoilers. Also, I played the PC version with a wired Xbox controller.

I am going to assume that by now most people already know what Spec Ops: The Line is - a third-person cover based military shooter that features a story based on the movie Apocalypse Now and the novella The Heart Of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Some may say the gameplay is just average at best which I think is a tad shortsighted and I believe there's a bit of hyperbole surrounding the story with these intense moral decisions.

Without going into spoiler territory let's begin with the story.

Six months before the start of the game Dubai is engulfed by a massive sandstorm burying most of the city under sand. Lieutenant Colonel John Conrad, commander of the 33rd Battalion which was in the process of returning home from Afghanistan has volunteered his unit to go in the Dubai and attempt to rescue those stranded in the city from the sand storm.

In the mean time Dubai has become surrounded with what is called the sand wall making flights in and out of the city impossible along with any sort of communications. Four weeks later a mysterious and slightly broken message penetrates the sand wall from Conrad and the missing 33rd. Players take on the role of Captain Martin Walker as he leads a three man recon team tasked with investigating the source of the transmission and to see if there are indeed any survivors before pulling back to the sand wall for extraction.

This information is pretty much revealed during the opening cutscene while the credits are rolling, anything further would be in that spoiler territory. Now initially there is a tutorial where you learn how to aim and shoot, run and use cover and interact with objects, from that point forward though the game goes into what I like to call the Heart of Darkness weirdness. Well actually, that kind of starts before the opening cutscene.

What I can say about the story is that I loved it the first time I played through Spec Ops. I only knew of Heart of Darkness from the many references made on various podcasts when talking about the game and I had very little knowledge of the movie Apocalypse Now because I've never seen the movie. Not knowing what happens in the movie or novella and how they influenced the story in Spec Ops was for me perfect. By the end of the game I was blown away by the story, found it interesting from start to finish.

Unfortunately after that first play through I spent some time looking for information on both the novella and the movie to see just how close in story all three were. All that time learning about how Spec Ops compares to the novella and the movie and what exactly it took from them, reading about the clues from the author and then playing through the game two more times to see if I could see the twists coming caused me to lose some of that initial love and admiration for the story that I had.

In the end the way I experienced Spec Ops the line with no prior knowledge of the source material I believe was the best way to play the game. However, if you are familiar with the novella and/or the movie I still think you will appreciate what Spec Ops does.

So what about the gameplay you ask? Well there's really not much to say honestly; you can aim, you can shoot and throw grenades, you can sprint, take cover, sprint in and out of cover, pick up all sorts of weapons and blow enemies heads off. It may sound generic or average, but it is a whole heck of a lot of fun. The gameplay was part of the reason why I played through the game three times in two and a half days.

There was a half-baked squad command system in the game which isn't a real detriment to the game, but on the harder difficulties it can be annoying when you have to repeatedly redo sections because your squad dies or you die from trying to revive them. Speaking of difficult, Spec Ops is not easy. It's easier on normal but it can still be pretty tough at times.

Spec Ops isn't revolutionary, it doesn't introduce any sort of new gameplay mechanics. It's not like when Gears of War was released and suddenly every third person game had to have cover mechanics. It's not like that at all, but what it does do gameplay wise is done I think very well. The camera never interfered with my enjoyment of the game, the cover system works great and the weapons had a hint of realism with bullet spread and kick when fired.

For me Spec Ops: The Line had the whole package - it looked good, the audio was fantastic with the voice overs, sound effects and music, the controls were tight, the gameplay was great, the pacing was perfect and the story was amazing. I picked up the game on sale for five bucks and it was money well spent. I would say Spec Ops is easily worth twenty or thirty bucks, if not for the gameplay then at least for a story that you don't normally get in game like this.

A few small tidbits - I did try one game of the multiplayer and if you've played Call of Duty or Battlefield then you know what to expect. A coop mode was added in later but I did not get a chance to try it out.


Stabs said...

It's a problem for me that it's not easy. I don't play shooters very often and while the story intrigues me I doubt I'd be able to discover it by playing.

Jayedub said...

Yeah, the game is definitely not easy. Smart use of cover and grenades seems to be the key, and if you can get your squad mates to not act stupid when you order them around then it's a bonus!