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Spec Ops: The Line Review – A Different Kind of Military Shooter

Gaming

Spec Ops: The Line – A Different Kind of Military Shooter

It becomes immediately clear when playing Spec Ops: The Line from publisher 2K Games, that this game isn’t your typical military third-person shooter. At a time when the market is virtually flooded with violent military shooters focusing on competitive multiplayer, Spec Ops takes a different road. Whether that road is better, however, remains to be seen.

It’s not the squad-based tactics or even the cooperative multiplayer (coming in later DLC) that sets this game apart. In an era of violent military shooters focused on who can get the most kills, blow up the most buildings, and cause the most damage, Spec Ops: The Line takes a totally different approach. Throughout the main storyline the player will be faced with difficult moral choices. The game seeks to make players deal with the reality of the incredibly difficult choices soldiers sometimes must make during war, particularly what choices a soldier may make when they feel they’ve been forgotten or abandoned on a battlefield. How far will they go to complete their given mission? How far will they go to survive?

Spec Ops: The Line / Story Line

Players will control Capt. Martin Walker and his elite Delta Squad as they search a post-catastrophe Dubai for missing war hero Col. John Konrad. As the game progresses, Walker and Delta Squad find themselves at war against the very people they are attempting to rescue, fighting renegade American soldiers. For the first time in a military shooter, American troops are pitted against fellow brothers-in-arms. Needless to say, this decision by developers has received less-than-stellar reviews from critics, who point out that at times the game can seem a bit heavy handed in making its point.

To make things even more interesting civilian non-combatants are present throughout the game as well. Players should not expect to be virtually rewarded for holding fire against a civilian non-combatant, nor will they get their hand slapped for shooting one. These decisions are the players to make, and the consequences of their actions are something they must deal with. While still capturing the adrenaline-pumping combat aspect expected of military shooters, Spec Ops: The Line provides an interesting psychological element as well.

Final Wrap Up

spec ops the line review

With all the critique of the psychological elements present in Spec Ops: The Line, critics are ignoring another significant element of gameplay. In another interesting move by developers, Dubai’s natural sandstorms will play a significant role throughout the game, changing the terrain and providing an interesting obstacle (for both player and enemy) during gameplay. Few games, if any in the shooter genre make use of natural weather phenomena this way. Add that to a cooperative multiplayer rather than a competitive one and Spec Ops: The Line looks to be a truly unique and innovative game.

For a gaming audience growing increasingly bored with traditional shoot-em-up, and the dynamic natural environment coupled with the psychologically stimulating storyline, could inject just the right combination of reality and challenge to capture their interest. The Line comes remarkably close to being less of a video game, and more of a social commentary on the morality of military shooters in general, particularly the push by gamers for more and more realistic elements within these games. Essentially, it gives players what they’re asking for, but does so in a way that gamers generally don’t expect.

Furthermore, it does this all while asking the questions “Are you sure this is what you want? Do you really want to be making these choices? Don’t worry, you can turn off the game and go back to real life.” There are several moments where the curtain is torn down, the fourth wall destroyed, and gamers are playfully reminded that if they’re feeling uncomfortable it might be time to turn off the console or PC and switch to something else.

The game obviously compares itself and contains references to films such as Apocalypse Now, which played a similar role in the military film genre during the late 1970’s. While the reaction of critics has ranged from lukewarm to downright hatred, only time will tell how actual gamers will react to this viscerally psychological, yet sometimes over-the-top third-person shooter.

Spec Ops: The Line (2K Games) released in North America for Windows PC, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3 on June 26, 2012.

See also our Game review of Skyrim Dawnguard.