So we have another shooter blah blah, it’s set in an Middle Eastern country blah blah, and there are lots of bullets and tough gruff men blah blah.
It’s a story we’ve heard far too often and one that is starting to go a bit on the stale side. With other big games like Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare and the upcoming Black Ops 2, what hope is there for a modern warfare shooter?
Well, the answer is a quite a bit, but only just. You see, the first thing that sets this apart is that it’s a 3rd person cover shooter, not your run of the mill first person shooter that these genres of games are known for. This is the first plus point. The second is that it has a pretty handy cover system, not the best for sure - that medal goes to Bodycount’s clever FPS cover system.
Spec Ops, like most of its peers, suffers from the perfect right angle syndrome if you want to move around cover. But for what it is, it does it pretty well, Thanks in part to the tap a button to run, rather than hold it down, this lets you slide into cover from greater distance, A handy addition indeed seeing as you’ll be running to cover as often as you’ll be firing bullets.
Another plus point this game has is the morality issue. At times you’ll be tasked with making life or death decisions; do you save the civilians or stick with your mission parameters? Do you shoot first and ask questions later? These decisions turn the game from a run and gunner to something more thought provoking.
There are two sides to every story and it’s up to you to make the right decision in the heat of battle with your two team mates arguing out what they think is the best course of action. Coupled with the sheer amount of death you’ll be seeing, and the usual atrocities of war and you have a game that makes you stop and think, more than most games of this type.
The true winner of Spec Ops: The Line though is the story. It’s a deep compelling journey that takes you through some spectacular locations, and has more twists than a Steven King Novel. Couple that with a great soundtrack that echoes through the derelict city of Dubai through the medium of radio and you have yourself a game that is well worth sticking with, despite the linearity and some what clichéd action.
One thing that bugs me though is the use of sand. Dubai is covered in sand thanks to some major sandstorms. There are opportunities at times to shoot out a window or ceiling and let the sand come flowing in, wiping out the platoon of troops that you’ve been shooting at. It’s a great tactical element to the game but is sorely underused.
Considering the people you’re shooting at have no real intelligence, simply picking their cover spot and shooting rather than try to flank you, Some extra sand based strategic elements would help make the firefights more tense and tactical, but this is a minor gripe.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing Spec Ops The Line. It’s not particularly original and it’s more linear than a stick, the environmental elements are questionable and the guys you’re shooting at are nothing more than identikit soldiers.
But that doesn’t really matter if the game is fun to play and Spec Ops is. The story helps a great deal, forcing you to play on to find out what happens next and the location, despite being in an Middle Eastern city, is refreshing and beautifully realised. The set pieces are spectacular and numerous meaning you’re always kept on your toes. It’s not perfect, but it does what it does, and does it well.