Spec Ops: The Line Review
Dubai died screaming.
Original ideas in the military shooter arena are hard to come by but 2K Games and Yager are trying to break the cycle with their new game Spec Ops: The Line. Set in a near future version of Dubai that has been walled in by mysterious sand storms for the past six months, Spec Ops: The Line tells an unfamiliar tale with familiar themes, operators and equipment. Walk across The Line with me and I’ll tell you how this all worked out.
Spec Ops: The Line puts you in the boots of a Delta Force squad who has been sent into the city of Dubai to look for survivors amid some of the most violent sand storms the world has ever seen. U.S Army Colonel John Konrad led the 33rd Infantry into Dubai on an evacuation mission six months ago and no one has heard from them, until now. It was assumed that the sand storms killed everyone but your team has been sent to investigate a new distress call from Konrad.
Little is known about Dubai, as the storms still rage around it, and this is one of the problems I have with the story. Your team is just three dudes with goggles and scarves, if they can simply walk into Dubai, as they do in the opening minutes of the game, are these storms really that bad? Anyway, you’ll quickly discover that everyone isn’t dead and that bad guys, along with the sand, have taken over the most opulent city in the world.
I can’t give you any more specific details about the story, without spoiling things, but what starts out as a ‘kill all the bad guys’ type of romp quickly descends into a tale of moral ambiguity and the horrors of war. Make no mistake, Dubai is at war. There are places in the story where you’ll be forced to choose between shooting one person, or another, but these choices don’t seem to have much effect on what happens, other than how your squad talks to you for a few minutes. Yager are going for a more personal story than you find in many military shooters, and they do succeed in that. Rather than glorifying war, as most war games do, this story focuses on the horrors of war and the terrible things it can make good men do and that is a nice change of pace.
As far as gameplay goes, Spec Ops: The Line is a basic third-person shooter. You’ll take cover, you’ll aim down sites, you’ll throw grenades, you’ll yawn. An attempt was made to make the game feel more strategic with the addition of environmental hazards. A few times during the campaign you’ll be able to shoot out a window and send sand pouring down on top of your enemies. After the first chapter or two, these are mostly an afterthought as you’ll be hard pressed to find one and when you do it won’t be near enough to do much damage.
There is a shadow of a stealth system at play here as well, as you can equip a silencer on some guns, but you can usually only take out one enemy silently before a flood of enemy troops magically appears. Even if you’ve ducked back behind cover, they know where you are. Spec Ops: The Line doesn’t do anything extremely bad but it doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out either.
While the info above states that Spec Ops: The Line offers two player co-op, this is a separate mode that is planned for shortly after the game’s release. There is no co-op during the campaign, despite being in a squad of three the entire time.
The Line also features an obligatory competitive multiplayer suite that features the typical modes, like deathmatch, as well as the typical gear and visual unlocks as you progress. The one standout in an otherwise ordinary multiplayer offering is Buried Mode. This mode pits two teams of four against each other as they try to sabotage each other’s base. Each base has three vital points that must be destroyed, using explosives that spawn around the map. Once all three are down, the enemy’s high value target will be exposed. I did have some fun with this mode as launching your own assault will leave your base vulnerable.
Spec Ops: The Line planned to be different from other military shooters, but it gave up on that shortly after the game started. There is a functional run and gun shooter here, one that some people will have fun with, but you won’t find any of the originality you may have been looking for. Multiplayer has one bright spot but for the most part isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. If you play Spec Ops: The Line, it will likely be for the story as this is the only element that any real effort went into.