Destruction, environmental elements, and the absolute horrors of war all define this epic 3rd-person shooter. YAGER's Spec Ops: The Line puts players into the shoes of Delta Force Captain Martin Walker, as he and his team, comprised of Lugo and Adams, venture off into the baron wasteland that is Dubai to find his old acquaintance, Konrad. The world YAGER has put you in is one with limited boundaries, but the fictional setting and post-apocalyptic atmosphere is among the best I've seen in a shooter and wins my vote for creativity. You're not just sent to war thrust between two nations and you're not just a measly soldier on the battlefield. You truly are Delta Captain Walker as you begin to unravel a brutal mystery about mutiny and rebellion.
As immersive of a shooter as it gets
The overall controls of the game are that of any other shooter so there’s no real learning curve when it comes to that aspect. The cover-to-cover system isn’t as smooth as Gears of War but it doesn’t have any notable flaws to mention. You can sprint from cover to cover, and if you’re being shot at, your character will do a different animation if you time it right like rolling or sliding into cover.
Though, one of the gripes I DID have while behind cover is the fact that I couldn’t aim over certain objects if said objects were a specific height. Often times, I’d hide behind a broken jeep and it’s impossible to aim over the hood of the jeep, despite being a pretty beefy Delta Operator. I had to slide to the edge and aim over the side. Not that big of a deal, but with everything else being so fluid, I figured an issue like that wouldn’t be seen.
What I did enjoy about my venture through the game was the characters; the things they say and do just make me pay attention to them unlike most other shooters I play where I would never notice a teammate die because they weren’t really “there”. The voice acting was good and the quality of the dialogue during certain moments in the game were great. The fact that your character, teammates, and heck, even the bad guy on the radio react to everything with proper dialogue and animation just add to the whole experience.
“BOOM Headshot, suck it.”
“THAT GUY!? THAT GUY!? He was two days away from retirement!”
“DAMN! What’s with the violence? Gotta be them video games.”
To add to the whole experience, whether or not it’s a good thing, is the violence. Yes, certain guns do pop heads with a headshot, and when you do nail one, the game goes into slow-motion for a brief second to show you how awesome your shot was. And when you aim low or shoot them a couple times outside the torso, enemies fall to the floor and bleed out. You can however, choose to execute them as they try their best to crawl to safety if you so please. Sometimes you make it quick, other times, Walker uses more bullets than what was needed. If you find it too violent, just leave them be, or double tap.
A world of sand
If anything needs to be mentioned, it’s the ability to use your surroundings to your advantage. You’re in Dubai, which is pretty much a desert so guess what? Sand is your best friend. 2K has definitely taken the time to build the physics engine around sand. See sand pouring through a crack on a wall? Some may call that aesthetics, you know, added effects. But launch a grenade in that direction and see what happens. In the campaign-mode, there are many windows you can break to let sand in to blind or even bury your opponents. Oh my, three enemies keeping my head down? Bet you guys didn’t see that bus full of sand above your heads. Just shoot out the windows and watch the magic.
Also, tossing grenades onto sand will create a dust cloud which blinds enemies and more often than not, forces them to cover their eyes. While we’re on the topic of sand, every now and then, there will be a very large sandstorm, that slows you down and blinds everyone. You can use these sandstorms to get to your destination or gun down your opponents with limited resistance. This applies to multiplayer as well but I’ll get into that in a bit.
“Doing what’s right… Doing what’s necessary… It’s the same damn thing”
Campaign in Spec Ops: The Line is intense and before anything else should be said, the game is gruesomely violent, dark, and pretty much has that sense of evil the whole entire time. You will see the effects of war like no other and at times, I honestly felt guilty for doing “what I had to do.” Here, you are in control of Martin Walker, captain of a three-man delta force squad comprised of Lugo the marksman and Adams the heavy gunner. Your squad was sent to Dubai on a mission to find Konrad and his missing battalion, The Damned 33rd. Early on, you find out the 33rd went rogue when you see them killing civilians left and right. Though it’s not in your directive, curiosity on why the damned are doing what they’re doing gets the best of you and the need to “do what’s right” takes over. From here on out, your mission becomes a trip to hell and back, if you even make it back.
The Line’s campaign is a story of how evil humans can become and how far one will go for vengeance. A long your journey, you’ll encounter situations were you must make a decision; essentially the choices include doing what’s right or what’s necessary. As the story progresses, you’ll learn to realize that both those choices are essentially the same and no matter what you do, you can’t “save them all.” I’ve ran the different scenarios in every possible way and every cutscene is a chance to characterize the person you’re becoming as well as what your squad has to say about it.
Many kudos to 2K Games and Yager, as the characters portrayed in the story are very “real.” I could just imagine these scenarios being done in real life if the situations were ever to become true. Every decision and action you make, Adams and Lugo will having something to say and no matter how much they hate what you did, they’re soldiers and they remain loyal to their captain. Despite that loyalty, you can see the hatred and every chance they get, they’ll blame you for something. I did enjoy my squads company. They were funny and said and did things that were simply fitting. Knowing how dark the story is, I’m sure you can understand the outcome, hope you’re prepared.
I’m going to say it now. Spec Ops: The Line SETS THE BAR for shooter campaigns. For a long time, I have accepted “thrill rides” as a suitable single-player mode for my shooters, much like how Call of Duty does it and I laugh at how hard companies try to incorporate story and plot to a realistic military shooter, much like Battlefield 3’s campaign. But Spec Ops: The Line has it all. The action, the challenge, and the cutscenes in the plot kept me at the edge of my seat. I have to admit though, that the game can be disgusting at times. Violence has its place in gaming, and The Line is definitely the place for it. It could potentially be crossing the line for the faint of heart but other than that, the added violence just leaves you feeling even more guilty for every poor action you do.
You got campaign in my multiplayer!
Spec Ops: The Line’s multiplayer is excellent. There I said it. Class balancing, weapon balancing, and map design are at its best in the game. But what’s even more interesting is not only is the multiplayer a section of the game where players can bash each other till they virtually bleed to death, but it’s also an extension of the campaign. At first, I thought something like this wasn’t going to work. Not everyone wants to do PvP just to get some more story time in, but considering all you have to do is one game at a time to get the varying cutscenes, I’d say it isn’t that bad.
In multiplayer, you get to play as The Exiled, a group of soldiers who broke off from the Damned 33rd (can’t get enough of betrayal…), because they didn’t believe in their ways. To put it a little more straight, as you begin your journey as Captain Walker, you’ll see people hung on lamp poles and what not. Those lifeless bodies were once The Exiled. So essentially, the multiplayer is a prequel to what has happened before Delta was sent to check out what’s going on in Dubai. I guess I foreshadowed The Exiled losing at whatever it was they were trying to achieve, but how is still a mystery.
The integration of story onto multiplayer isn’t dynamic, but you really can’t expect it to be since I assume they didn’t want to force too much PvP onto people who just want story. It’s still a nice added bonus that most dev teams don’t ever begin to ever think about.
Balance is everything
Of course I wasn’t going to talk about how awesome the multiplayer is and not talk about it, right? The multiplayer in this game is sweet and though one can jump in and be a great player, working with your team will play a huge role in your success. The Line is not really about that large team combat found in other shooters. It’s all about that 4 on 4 tight-action gameplay that competitive gamers are definitely very used to.
Let’s start with classes that grant players proximity abilities. There are five of them and each have a unique set of abilities. For example, if you’re within a certain distance from The Medic, you’ll be granted health regeneration bonuses and if you’re within a Gunner’s proximity, you’ll be granted bonus bullet damage or larger explosive blast radius if you’re near a Breacher. This is a whole new mechanic for clan on clan combat, and allows teams to pick and choose the classes they want in or out for certain maps and game types. When I felt like being lazy, I just played medic and repeatedly gave the team gunner healing and adrenaline boosts. Won every match and never fired a shot…
Much like other shooters, there are also perks that affect what you do as an individual player. You can have up to three, and can select any three you want, you’re not limited by categories. Most of the perks in this game affect mechanics rather than just giving you more bullet damage or something simple like that. For example, every time you sprint, you become detectable on radar. Where you are and what direction you’re facing can all be seen. Don’t want to be caught on radar for sprinting? There’s a perk for that. Want more melee damage for knocking back those players with extra armor? There’s a perk for that. Want to run during a sandstorm? Well, there’s a perk for that too. There really aren’t any perks you HAVE to have, as they simply help where you might find trouble. After all, I got more kills playing an entire round not sprinting at all.
All in all, the game is balanced quite well. There are over 30 weapons and 45 levels for you to progress through. Once you run through those 45 levels, there’s a system similar to Call of Duty’s “Prestige mode” called “REENLISTMENT.” I don’t know what that does quite yet other than “unlocking your potential”, but I’m sure it resets your stats and gives you more emblems and titles for your player card.
Maps with sand
A couple new dynamics added to multiplayer already takes the cake, then they just throw in more things for us to enjoy! I really appreciate it when a company takes the time to make new maps for multiplayer and not just recycle areas from the campaign. The maps in this game are very fitting to the mechanics of the game. Lots of cover, lots of indoor and outdoor openings, and of course, lots of sand. After playing several multiplayer matches, I can say the game doesn’t have very many one-sided maps. Both teams and every player has a fair shot at winning and that is absolutely beautiful.
The thing about every map is much like in the campaign mode, there are areas where you can utilize sand as a weapon. You’ll find sand behind glass, sand slipping through the cracks of a broken painting… it’s basically everywhere. Again, they’re not just for aesthetics. Put a well-placed grenade near one of those cracks and watch the sand bury your enemies. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you can sway a fire fight in your direction.
Since we’re on the topic of sand, I have to talk about the large sandstorms that randomly occur during a match. Once these storms kick in they can be pretty harsh. If you’re still outside, you’re heavily slowed-down and have a visibility of about five-feet. This could be bad if you were about to snipe the face off your target, but if you were losing a battle, it could buy you enough time to get away, or even get a flank going if you play it right. Though, I swear sandstorms only help my enemies because they seem to kick in right when I find someone out in the open.
But yea, 2K and Yager loved sand soo much, they named one of their game modes “buried” and it’s a very interesting mode. It involved two bases and having to destroy key areas in the bases, like pillars, walls, basically stuff keeping the base up. Once the points have been destroyed, a High-Valued Target (HVT) was revealed, like a bomb that you have to destroy to blow up the whole base and win. In a 4v4 match-up, choosing what your team has to do is key. You can send out two players and have two players defend or perhaps just all go on the offensive. I went on the offense with some other player not knowing all four of the opposing players did the same. They took out our base immediately.
All in all, Spec Ops: The Line’s multiplayer impressed me greatly. I had tons of fun and I’m not much of a third-person shooter fan. I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy Gears of War. Heck, i'll even recommend it to those who enjoyed SOCOM!
Hidden Blockbuster Hit?
Now that I think about it, whenever I ask people who have gone to gaming events or when I read up on websites about what they considered “the best of show” at said event, Spec Ops: The Line was almost always among those titles listed. To me, it was quite hidden and I honestly paid no attention to it till the release date drew near. All I have to say is it shocked and awed me.
This is a game of quality. I don’t know how long it’s been in development, but everything was thought-through. If you’re a shooter fan, it’s definitely worth the rent but I’m confident enough to say it’s worth the buy. Excellent campaign on top of outstanding multiplayer mechanics? Spec Ops: The Line just set that bar. I give the game Five out of freakin’ Five.