Despite its generic name, sandy pallet, and bald mercenary who resembles a default Commander Shepard with Nathan Drake’s voice, Spec Ops: The Line strives to be something different.
But unlike its beating hot sun, the surviving locals won’t meet you with the same warm welcome forcing you to fight your way through sand and shootouts to uncover what’s been going on in Dubai. In its early hours, Spec Ops reeks of a brawny shooter with banter laced between explosive gunplay but there’s a soul tucked in there.
As you delve deeper into its meaty campaign, you and your squad are faced with dark dilemmas that’ll put your integrity on the line.As Captain Walker, you lead the tight knit Delta Recon Team into Dubai, a once bustling metropolis wiped off the map by sandstorms that have left the city’s sky scrapers buried under and left to decay.
Will you open fire on a rally of angry civilians? Will you cast judgement on innocent men or face an onslaught from a gang of snipers yourself?
The choices aren’t so easily defined and typically, the right way isn’t always the easiest but things really hit a head when the game masterfully guilt-trips you through grim cut-scenes and discomforting messages during loading screens.
Where others have failed to tap into our emotions, Spec Ops harsh lessons leave a lasting impression.
Adding to its tone is Dubai itself – a once glamorous city turned into a rundown slum. You’ll often wander through a corridor where the dead soldiers are piled high or hanging from ornaments to luxurious buildings where missing posters are plastered all over its walls. When it isn’t tugging every ounce of remorse from you, Spec Ops is a third-person cover shooter that ticks all the boxes from a varied arsenal of weapons, enemy types, and battlefields for your squad to shoot up.
It’s a shame co-op didn’t make the cut at launch but the two lackeys you’re dealt do come in handy. Holding down the RB trigger allows you to highlight targets for your comrades and ordering flash bangs and partner heals requires little intervention.
What should differentiate Spec Ops combat is its use of its abundance of sand pouring out of every nook and cranny. Shoot out a giant pane of glass and torrents of the golden stuff will pouring down on a well-placed enemy creating an effective escape route. Similarly, grenade explosions will create sand clouds that stun enemies over a larger radius though making it harder for you to aim. If only the game make more use of this infinite resource would we be completely won over by the idea.
This comes into play more in Spec Ops’s multiplayer where you’ll be able to build a character from scratch, ranking up and earning perks, weapons, and other trinkets. Standard fodder then but the use of sandstorm, ziplines, and sand traps across its six maps make Spec Ops multiplayer something to sink into once you squeeze a good 10 hours out of the single-player experience.
Though Spec Ops: The Line is largely a paint by numbers third-person shooter, it also introduces some interesting story-telling ideas into the genre with mostly successful results. It won’t be the most thought-provoking game to feature sand this year (an honour that goes to thatgamecompany’s Journey) but no shooter has had us questioning our moral fibre quite like Spec Ops The Line.
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