Spec Ops The Line, from Yager and 2K Games takes you on a journey to Dubai in the third person perspective – it’s been six months since Dubai was wiped off the map by a cataclysmic sand storm which now sits buried under sand, and your mission is to search for survivors, but then it all goes a bit – deep!
The game starts out like the lovechild of Ghost Recon and Bad Company – intense yet comical with the action packed objectives setting the scene for many moments of ‘do or die’ as you command your small team (of two) across the desert wasteland engulfed in sand, yet mesmerised by the architectural city left for dead by natures cruel hand. After one of the finest in the air helicopter on helicopter conflicts that see’s you down the enemies with your turret reminiscent of a modern day action movie sure to set your heart racing, a mysterious radio signal on the ground gives hope for survivors. Intent on following the trail you’re shortly ambushed – and from then onwards your mission fast becomes a tale of squad survival and working as part of a small team to evade the ambush as powerful firefights takes centre stage.
Dubai is no longer the wealthy, extravagant city it once was as it sits buried deep under mountains of sand, but thousands of lives were lost – including those of American soldiers that were sent in to evacuate the city – or were they! Throughout the campaign you encounter many rogue soldiers, face decisions that have consequences and battle through the mental challenges of physical, intense brutal warfare. Spec Ops The Line – is undoubtedly a gripping story that differs from most other modern day warfare games. Character choices, murder and brutality as you fight your way through the city is portrayed deeply with fantastic narrative that will have you engrossed with your team. You get a sense of urge to want to keep going further and further to see the eventual outcomes as it walks you personally through the game.
It’s very mature in content whilst visually aiming to look realistic as possible with stunning scenery of Dubai plastered in miles of sand. Occasional storms still sweep inwards and the explosions of your grenades whip up a dust cloud around your location affecting vision. As the whole game is set in Dubai with the city under sand, it’s quite astounding how the developers managed to not make it feel like the same-old-same as each chapter takes a different turn of events throughout sharing you between internal and external locations, luxurious hotels, tower blocks, as well as in parts taking you backwards and forwards in time to learn the story behind your infiltration objectives. Powered by the Unreal Engine, the effects of Dubai is quite literally shining with some of the best effects and lighting glistening from the intricate interior designs and across the sun lit skylines. Visually flawless and graphically on par with some of the top game releases this year – looking very polished indeed!
The main campaign is split on being action-packed and exploration based whilst heavily relying on cover as a means of survival, which is where the similarities between Ghost Recon and Bad Company comes into play. It has the third person intensity and squad command style of Ghost Recon, whilst the small squad action and tight knit approach to evading a huge scale enemy ambush with a more personal approach to the story with the characters can give a hint of Bad Company. Although the story is addictive, challenging and great to play – it’s at the same time not all that memorable. I may sound contradicting, but it doesn’t give a good first impression as the main intro into the game with the helicopters is utterly incredible, but for a short while after that it’s an anti-climax as trekking through the deserted wasteland seems a bit disheartening until quite a few chapters in where the story picks up, brutality intensified and excitement levels peaked! It doesn’t build up to greatness, but instead just seems very quiet and then all of a sudden it’s as if the game actually begun at chapter 5.
During gameplay the games minor annoyances that offsets the fun-factor is first of all the main means of cover; one of the only two means of survival from either cover or shoot – it is highly flawed. Many, many times your lead character, Captain Martin Walker who is leading a Delta Recon Team through physical and mental turmoil is unresponsive to cover behind walls, furniture and other random objects to protect your head from a round of bullets – so you end up just having no choice but to die – Game Over! Using cover is a one button press system when you are close to the object you want to hide behind, although more times than not you can position yourself into cover it just seems unresponsive at random times where you have to persist to get it to work. Oddly, reviving a team mate whilst in cover will take you out of cover exposing you, and the aim reticle of your weapons (once you find some that is from downed enemies) a little too sensitive.
Next up, your reliable and all-obeying Team Mates – just basic run and gunners with bad AI that will see your small two man assistance downed and awaiting your revival actions in the most difficult of times. Although you can with a command point them in the direction of a highlighted enemy of your choice for them to concentrate their fire, the AI process of your men is insisting that they must run straight into the action getting virtually killed outright, leading you as the only survivor of the team straight into difficulty. Whether this is a development tactic to up the games difficultly level or a flaw is questionable, but it seems that for such an intense story, driven by the effects of choices in difficult situations and the mental aftermath – you have a suicidal team on your hands, unintentionally!
One thing for sure is that once you have made it to the end in the campaign, and witness the shocking twists and turn of events unfold, you will want to play the game again – despite having only a 6 – 7 hour campaign with varied difficulty settings to lengthen or shorten that time, the outcome of some non-obvious decisions, live or die situations will allow for a few different endings. It’s such a god damn shame that for such a story of survival with bad assistance that it wasn’t open for co-operative gameplay over Xbox LIVE. The addition of co-op instead of the half-hearted multiplayer element with a lengthier campaign would have absolutely ‘made’ this game more complete.
The multiplayer part which in effect should aim to offer more replay value is just downright disappointing. Allowing for up to 8 player only matches, small 4 vs 4 team based games across some of the campaigns best firefight-esque maps. Excellent design, great map sizes, perfect ranking up system based on experience – but limited on player limits that make it more of a lonely experience you just can’t be bothered with or find any fun in playing whilst you seem to be replicating a cat and mouse chase with such a small amount of people. Multiplayer is so bad it should have been scrapped from this game.
Spec Ops The Line is a great story driven campaign, albeit spoilt a little by the cover system and AI, with the multiplayer definitely nothing to shout home about. You will not regret playing this at all for its campaign offering, but you’ll probably more want to question how much you are paying for this – dare I say the words ‘used’ or ‘price drop’?