War Games with Spec Ops: The Line Heart of Darkness
Spec Ops: The Line sets out to tell a dynamic story that emphasizes that war is a juggernaut that cannot be taken with a grain of salt. How does this third person cover based shooter play out from the main menu to the end credits?
Dubai has been hit by a series of horrid dust storms one after another. Colonel John Konrad was sent in to try help evacuate the population while maintaining military control over Dubai. Months later without hearing a word from the Colonel a message from him comes up saying that the evacuation of Dubai has resulted in a failure. The US Government sends in Delta Squad to find out what has happened to Konrad and the rest of the 33rd. You play as Captain Martin Walker who is in charge of Delta Squad. He is assisted by Leutinient Adams and Sergeant Lugo as they are deployed covertly into the harsh environment of Dubai.
Now here is where things get tricky. As you press further and further into Dubai you begin to find out some of the atrocities that the 33rd has done. They have begun to capture civilians and herd them over to a base called “The Nest”. The 33rd has also begun to kill innocent civilians in the process to make sure that their power is known. It appears the Konrad has lost his mind and is trying to keep Dubai under his foot. At the same time, part of the 33rd has rebelled and they are called the Exiles as they try to stop the 33rd’s actions. While this is going on, the CIA are helping the Insurgents to supposedly help the remaining survivors by telling the Insurgents to fight against both sides of the warring 33rd.
And this is where Spec Ops: The Line truly comes begins to shine in its story telling elements. You are never really told which side is right until the very end. You are constantly put in a constant state of distrust for each side as they fight over a war torn Dubai. Once one side seems like they are doing something right they are instantly seen doing something horrid in return like the executions of the 33rd by the CIA and Insurgence or the use of white phosphorous by the 33rd. You and Walker are constantly pressed to try and find the truth by pursuing Konrad.
While trying to seek out the truth, Walker is put into positions as to which you decide the actions that he must take. One example of a choice that Walker is forced to make is to either save some civilians or save a man (trying not to give away too much of the story) that will provide the location of a 33rd stronghold. Your supporting characters of Adams and Lugo both disagree on what should be done with Adams wanting to save the citizens and Lugo wanting to just save a man who could lead them straight to the source of the madness. No matter what choice you make. Your squad will never let you live that down. Constantly berating you at every moment when you choice end up going sour and you either lose your target or save them while being assaulted by an overwhelming force. And this is just a mild choice. You are also constantly reminded of what is done through the the voice of either Konrad or the mysterious DJ that is playing fitting music for each thing that is happening from classic rock to more contemporary parts.
There are other choices that are made in the game such as Walker unleashing an onslaught of white phosphorous on a 33rd encampment. The outcome of the actions that either the player or that is scripted by the game will bring about some form of devastation. No matter what you do, there will always be a consequence. Maybe it would be good, but more than likely in war it will result in some form of casualty. You have the choice of choosing who will live and who will die.
I honestly cannot express how much the story has an impact on the gamer. It is a tale that I cannot go into in too much detail without giving away major plot points. What I have described so far is just a small taste that would hopefully peak the interests of others down the road. I wish I could say more, but Spec Ops: The Line’s story is something that is on a whole other level. It sets out to say that war is hell…and war is some kind of dark hell.
Spec Ops: The Line gameplay is of your typical third person shooter affair down a linear path. You run in and out of cover only to pop out to shoot the baddies across the way. You could also blind fire if you are being riddled with bullets from Walker’s enemies. One thing that is cool is that Walker could vault over cover and kick an enemy on the other side to follow it up with a few well-placed shots to put them down. But I found that the vault isn’t as useful as it sounds because Walker becomes perforated with bullets faster than you could say “dust storm in Dubai”. With that said, this gives you an incentive to scope out the environment and look for potential advantages that cover could provide so you could put down the opposing forces.
There are some moments as to you will be placed on a mounted mingun flying through a helicopter or firing off some sort of explosive ordinance that helps to deviate from the cover based shooting. Also, while on some turrets, Walker could stand for more accurate shots but is now vulnerable to gunfire. To avoid damage Walker would have to crouch and then he could blind fire from that position. This is great because now when you have a turret of some kind you are not invincible and you aren’t completely owning everything in your sight.
Your squad mates Adams and Lugo are actually better than most AI followers. They actually put down enemies (but not too many) when the opportunity arises. They also shout if they are taking to much fire, which side you should flank, pointing out turrets that could be used, certain weapons to pick up, and even saying that you should get into cover because all of a sudden you decided to be Rambo. You can only shout out a few commands to your squad mates. Lugo could be used to kill a specific target once you have marked them. Adams throws a flash grenade that opens enemies to easy head shots. But this flash grenade prompt only seems to work when there is a group of enemies and it appears on screen to do so. While Lugo’s command could be used at what seems like any given moment unless he says he doesn’t have a shot. Adams and Lugo could go down during the fight. You could have, depending on who goes down first, Adams or Lugo heal each other while you provide cover fire. Speaking of which, these AI teammates do not die that often which is actually a nice breathe of fresh air.
The weapons that Walker uses ranges from your standard pistols to light machine guns that could be picked up from either convenient placement for a specific part or randomly lying on the ground after killing an enemy. Sadly, all weapons of the same class seem to have the exact same feel to them despite having minor alternates like the Scar has a grenade launcher or the AK has burst to automatic firing. Either way the guns get the job done with a rewarding slow motion moment when you get a head shot.
Also the fact that you are surrounded by the desert plays a very minor role believe it or not. There are times where you would be prompted to shoot out glass that would pour sand on the battlefield to give you the upper hand. But those are highly contextual and you are only aware of them when either Adams or Lugo say that you could. This concept is easily forgotten as the game progresses on.
The multiplayer experience is something straight out of Call of Duty’s leveling and perk system. As you perform objectives in standard death matches and other generic capture and hold points, you could upgrade and unlock classes that you could use for later matches. It just seems tacked on from no apparently reason only to try to get you to play the game that much more.
Graphics and Sound:
The games landscapes look fantastic. From collapsing building to another it is a spectacle to behold. Walker, Adams, Lugo, and the rest of the supporting cast in Spec Ops: The Line tends to look a little stiff during cut scenes and during gunfights. But they also show the damage that they take after fighting in Dubai for so long. The longer you play the game, the more burned, scraped, bloody Delta Squad becomes. It is a nice touch but other than the environments, nothing else really stands out.
The soundtrack truly gets your heart pumping because it plays more old school rock tracks that tend to set the mood for killing baddies. Also, for when the moments go sour for Delta Squad, the music shifts down and sometimes you cannot even notice that it is even there because you will be focused on what is actually being said in the dialog. This is especially true with Nolan North voicing the main antagonist Walker.
Dubai sounds like it is ravaged by the desert. The sand muffles out almost everything once the wind starts to pick up. You also hear every little detail of the sand shifting as places fill up with them truly immerses the player in Dubai. Explosions, weapon fire, and characters play their role in the setting of this game.
-Great back and forth between Delta Squad
-A third person shooter that actually works
-Lack luster multiplayer
-Replay ability is scarce
In the end, Spec Ops: The Line is like a beast like no other. It tells a story that is designed to tug at your emotions. It will make you feel bad at the choices that you are forced to make. Thusly, it will provide a story that you are driven to see through that you is invested in. This makes for a must have game with a decent but average third person cover shooter game that should be added to anyone’s collection. War is certainly hell. If you play this game you will be in for a treat that will have your brain wanting more.
4 out of 5