Review: Spec Ops: The Line
- — 11 July, 2012 22:00
|Name||Third-person shooter: Spec Ops: The Line|
|Summary:||Spec Ops: The Line is a military shooter that will make you think.|
|Games Info:||Developer: Yager Development; Publisher: 2K Games|
|Platform:||PC, Xbox 360, PS3|
Your two Delta Squad squadmates are screaming at each other. "He's turned us into killers!" one screams, grabbing the other by the front of his shirt. Is he right? You don't really know. It's so hard to tell. You were just trying to do the right thing... you think.
See, it's all gotten a bit confused. You're US soldier Captain Martin Walker, tasked with trying to find Captain John Konrad. That much you know. Intel says he's still alive, somewhere in Dubai - a city so ravaged by sandstorms that , after a failed evacuation, only 5000 are left alive in the city. You've been searching for much longer than you intended, and along the way you've done things. Terrible things. Maybe you have turned your team into murderers. Maybe you're a murderer.
I'd like to tell you about the multiplayer in Spec Ops: The Line, but it didn't work. At all. There are several possible reasons: my NAT is too closed (although I can play every other online game ever), the matchmaking system is borked, or there's just no one online playing on PC. I think the second or third options are most likely, and Spec Ops: The Line probably sold a lot better on console than it has on PC. Given that the game came out a couple of weeks ago, if there's already no one online, it doesn't bode well for the longevity of the game.
However, since I can't be sure of the cause of my multiplayer issues, I'm going to rate the game on the campaign alone.
It's safe to say that in most military shooters, war is so glorified that you don't stop to think about who you're killing, whether they have a wife, kids, or even just a good reason for wanting you dead. You just do the right thing and everything will be okay. In many games, you're forced to do the 'right thing' whether you like it or not.
In Spec Ops: The Line, there aren't really any 'good' decisions. And where there are, it's often infinitely more difficult to do the right thing than it is to do the wrong thing. The realities of war have been explored many times in many mediums, but Spec Ops: The Line is one of the first video games that will make you feel truly ashamed of what you've done.
As the game goes on, and things get more complicated, Captain Walker changes. He begins to look different - rougher, beat up, and more like the bad guy. His dialogue also changes, from a soldier just doing his job to a solider at the end of his tether. His tone of voice is harsher, and he swears like a sailor. It rubs off on his squadmates, and toward the end it reflects their collective shift in attitude - they've all made so many bad decisions that they're given up on making any good ones.
It's fortunate that the story is so great, because the gameplay in Spec Ops: The Line doesn't really hold up. The game's basic mechanics work well enough, and there's a wide variety of weapons to choose from and use. There's also a nifty mechanic that allows you to essentially get your teammates to do the work for you, by spotting an enemy for them, and mixing it in with regular combat can be quite fun. But every single battle just feels the same - defend your position, take down enemy soldiers, move forward. And because the game's quite hard, even on normal mode, you can spend 20 minutes or more on one fight, which really sucks all the fun out of it.
In the end, the only reason you keep playing is to get to the next little tidbit of storytelling. Toward the end of the game, I seriously considered giving up on the game altogether - the only thing that kept me playing was that I had to know what happened at the end.
The payoff was worth it, for the record.
There are other good things to discover along the way, however. A sand-ravaged Dubai is a beautiful Dubai. You fight through huge buildings, probably hotels, made of blue stained glass, and stare with awe at the statues in the lobby. You look out over the city from a ledge high above it, and glimpses of colour peek out from beneath the sand. Everything in Dubai before the sandstorms was huge and over-the-top, and most of that's still there. It's just empty now.
While there's not much left of Dubai, the world is full of fantastic music, and all of it is used really, really well. Much of it is licensed and familiar - The Star-Spangled Banner performed by Jimi Hendrix, Storm by Bjork, and Nowhere to Run by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. There's also fantastic music from Mogwai, Deep Purple and The Black Angels. The best part about Yager Development's use of so much licensed music is that in fits in perfectly in context, and sometimes makes your battles feel strange and surreal. The music is often deliberately upbeat while you're mowing down enemy soldiers, and it just adds to the feeling that what you're doing isn't quite right.
Spec Ops: The Line has a solid story, but in the end I can't recommend you buy it at full price. It's a short game, with rough mechanics but a solid story, and you're probably only going to want to play through twice at most. In short, it's a renter - even if the multiplayer was great, people will have given it up in a couple of months and gone back to CoD and Halo like they always do.