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'Spec Ops' a fine line
Aug 10, 2012
By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada
It doesn't take long to get a grasp on the overriding theme for Spec Ops: The Line, which is developer Yager's new military shooter. That theme, which is drilled into your brain like a shotgun blast, is simple: you're damned if you do - period.
Typically, the toughest decision a player needs to make in the average military shooter is whether to pick up a rocket launcher or throw a few grenades to take out the endless waves of mindless enemies spawning from every direction. Spec Ops: The Line aims to make decisions far more difficult.
The game takes place in a nearly-abandoned Dubai, a city which was devastated six months prior by a massive sandstorm. A team of American soldiers known as the 33rd Infantry went in to help those residents who didn't or couldn't escape, and now it's up to you, Captain Martin Walker, and your team of three Delta Operators to enter the city and investigate a distress signal that seems to have been sent by the 33rd.
The campaign starts off as serviceable - and generic - as just about any third person shooter released in recent years. You'll sit in a helicopter one moment, using a chain gun to take out pursuing choppers, and you'll be in the middle of the desert, taking cover from gun-wielding enemies the next moment.
It's not long, though, before the plot truly unravels and the game takes a much darker tone. In one of the first "did that just happen?" moments, players will be forced to shoot American soldiers who view you as a threat and come out guns blazing. The scene plays out like a typical video game firefight, but it's one of many examples where the game does its best to force the player to really think about what they're doing.
Just how many players will actually consider the deeper meanings of Spec Ops is anyone's guess, but Yager should certainly be commended for not pulling any punches. The decisions you make aren't the kind of black-and-white options you're given in numerous other "choose good or evil" games, such as the first InFamous game.
As the game becomes darker and more disturbing, Yager manages to still wrap it around a solid third-person shooter. Absolutely nothing here is revolutionary, but there's enough tight gunplay and action-rich set pieces to satisfy most trigger-happy gamers.
In the months leading up to the game's release, a big deal was made about how sand plays such a big part in the environment, since players spend much of their time outside a sand-covered Dubai. Although there are certainly some neat moments, this gameplay element never feels fully realized; sadly, it treads more along "gimmick" territory than anything else.
There are some truly intense moments, such as when Walker and his crew get caught in relentless sandstorm. It's one of those rare moments where a video game manages to actually bring you into its world. You'll practically be licking the grains of sand from your teeth once the scene does pass.
Gamers who are used to dead-easy shooters should beware - Spec Ops: The Line can be quite punishing even on the medium difficulty setting. The AI isn't terribly smart, but enemies are pretty good shots, and it doesn't take long for your screen to go red once you've begun taking fire. You will get the chance to revive your computer-controlled teammates if they've been downed, but they can't do the same for you, so you'll have to be patient and pick your moments to take on enemies carefully.
There is a multiplayer component to Spec Ops: The Line, but it's really nothing particularly worthwhile. You'll have the usual variants such as deathmatch, elimination, and king-the-hill, and players will be treated to the constant upgrades that are so important to the multiplayer component of any new shooter.
The problem is, the game plays like titles in the Call of Duty franchise, which is completely opposite to the campaign. Gamers with lightning-quick reflexes are rewarded, while cover and the sand gimmick barely play a part during matches.
The maps aren't particularly inspired, and many matches are either decided very early on, or it becomes apparent from the get-go that games will end in a tie because it's nigh-impossible to find more than one or two entrances to reach an objective being held by the other team.
Spec Ops: The Line's real hook - its take on the realities and travesties of war - may be completely lost on many gamers these days, but even for those who just want another solid shooter, Yager's latest release will do the trick. Here's hoping, though, that the people holding the controller will think about what they've done once they've powered off their console.
Spec Ops: The Line
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