Spec-Ops: The Line by Yager Developers (2012)
When the worst series of sandstorms in history hits Dubai, its general populace is left stranded as the wealthy and powerful secretly evacuate themselves. The ‘Damned’ 33rd infantry battalion volunteer to help with evacuation efforts, but end up struggling to survive themselves. Their last radio transmission stated a mass evacuation attempt via caravan; the caravan never showed and the city has been silent ever since…
Months later, a looped transmission comes out of the desolate Dubai from Colonel Konrad, leader of the 33rd; “Attempted evacuation of Dubai ended in complete failure. Death toll: too many”. Delta Force operatives Captain Walker, Lt. Adams, and Sgt. Lugo are sent past the storm wall into the sand-swept city, tasked with finding any trace of survivors. What they find is, unfortunately, what they came looking for.
Spec-Ops: The Line is designed to make you question your actions, or the actions of Captain Walker depending on how you want to look at it. While gameplay is composed of the traditional run-and-gun FPS elements that has defined the genre, Spec-Ops takes it many steps further by adding more weight to the bullets you fire. Killing enemies, taking innocent lives, morality is turned up-side down when you begin to doubt which is which.
Before we get too deep into discussing the heavy moral undertones which make this game exceptionally unique, we must cover our basics. Spec-Ops has smooth combat and just enough variety in the weapons and map layout to keep things interesting. Hazards such as sand and explosive containers are strategically placed to help you deal with the waves of enemies, though they aren’t always obvious, taking a trained eye to take full advantage of them. I will admit that some sections were frustratingly difficult when cover is risky to come out of, but when you’ve got sharp quality rock music keeping you going and Lt. Adams shouting at you to help his ass out, trying again and again isn’t so bad.
Your fellow operatives Lugo and Adams are anything but minor characters just there to help you clear out enemies. Right off the bat, Lugo’s wry humor breaks the ice while Adam’s plays the straight-man. Captain Walker takes on the hardened leader role, keeping the team on track and calling the next move. As they continue down the rabbit hole however, their psyche’s slowly fall apart when faced with trial after trial. In the end, we learn a lot of what we already knew, with an exceptionally brilliant twist involving Captain Walkers past and the missing Colonel Konrad.
If you’re too busy following the drama surrounding your squad, you may miss out on the small details that make Spec-Ops such an immerse epic. The AI is exceptionally reactive to the changing battlefield, warning you of grenades and nearby enemies and even taking out specific targets based on your squad commands. By finding “intel” collectibles, pieces of the story are told from different perspectives. Journal articles, interviews, and personal notes give hints to what happened before your arrival to Dubai, giving you insight into the motives and personalities of those you oppose. Even the re-spawn screen gives you hints or one-line summaries of the latest events, keeping you focused on the scene at hand.
Spec-Ops: The Line dares to go beyond any expectations, aiming to blur the lines of morality within both the characters and the players themselves. Completely self-aware, I would say it goes so far to satirize the current state of first-person-shooters by calling attention to those on the other side of the firefight. You control a squad of burly, seemingly indestructible soldiers; but you aren’t here to stop Russian terrorists from launching nukes or defending yourself from a zombie apocalypse. You fight against soldiers and civilians who believe they are doing the right thing which, in the end, is all that really matters.
Spec-Ops: The Line is also available on Playstation, Xbox, and Mac.
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Music – 7.5/10
Visuals – 8.5/10
Flow – 7.5/10
Story – 9/10
Final Score – 8.1/10 [Marvelous]