I know some of you don’t like reading a lot of text to find out what someone thought of a game so I’m going to start this review with a super short summary of what I thought of this game. Never has a video game made me feel so uncomfortable, sad, angry and physically sick while playing it as this one. You know what though, I loved every minute of it.
Spec Ops: The Line is a third person shooter developed by Yager Development and published by 2K Games. It centres around a small group of soldiers sent into a near future Dubai that has been all but destroyed by catastrophic sand storms. After hearing a distress call from a decorated officer named Colonel Konrad who was thought to be dead, you are sent to find him and evacuate any survivors you find in the city.
The games main campaign is fairly short, taking me about six hours to complete the first time. While this could be seen as a negative, there are several reasons I am glad they stuck with this length. Firstly, the story is not only very strong but also has a fantastic twist. Once you get to the end of the game, you will want to go right back to the start and play the campaign again to see it in a completely new light. Also, at several points the game gives you moral choices whih you have to decide between. The campaigns length allows you to easily go through the story again and make new choices, seeing how they play out.
The games moral choices are handled very well. While most games coming out now that give you moral choices are very binary (see Mass Effects Renegade/ Paragon options), Spec Ops presents you with choices that are less black and white (or blue and red), instead putting you in situations where you are simply limiting the damage caused by your actions and living with the consequences of what you choose. These are the kind of choices that cause soldiers to come home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and you will certainly see your squad start to develop symptoms to suggest they are going through it.
Spec Ops is also very well written. The game takes the typical shooter and adds a level of depth and maturity to its characters. You see your squadmates starting to snap at each other more easily, you will see them hesitant to follow orders, and generally watch them struggle with the morality of actions soldiers could be forced to face any day. You will find yourself torn between completing the mission objective and whether you can ignore things as acceptable losses. I genuinely found myself feeling very strong emotions about the choices I made, and walked away from decisions wondering if I made the right choice. Playing through this game really showed me how powerful a tool video games can be for teaching about the realities of conflict and made me wish Six Days In Fallujah had seen the light of day.
Lets get into the actual gameplay side of things. The game starts off fairly bland and average looking on the outskirts of Dubai, but within a couple of hours you are introduced to much more interesting areas. The game runs smoothly and looks good, but doesn’t really have a huge amount to set itself away from games like Modern Warfare visually. Spec Ops controls well and I didn’t have any issues getting my character to do what I needed them too.
Where the game really shines though is in its music and sound direction. Throughout the game there is a speaker system broadcasting a radio station which alternates between the taunts of a mad DJ and some fantastically picked licensed tracks. The only gripe I have with the games audio is that the enemy soldiers use a particular piece of vulgar language more often than is really necessary, but that can be forgiven in the context of a warzone.
There is also an online multiplayer mode too, but it is really nothing impressive. It has a rather limited set of modes and while it works well enough it doesn’t do anything to push multiplayer forwards in any way. You might play a few rounds, but there are much better multiplayer experiences than this and I doubt many of you will spent much time in that mode.
All in all Spec Ops: The Line does a lot right. It is a shooter that focuses heavily on having a mature and interesting story, it provides uncertain moral choices and it focuses heavily on the real world implications of trauma on soldiers. It left me questioning what I was willing to do to complete my mission, left me feeling terrible for some of the things I did and stayed with me for days. While the campaign is short and the multiplayer is not particularly strong, the game is something very new and definitely worth playing through. It’s exciting, tense, tough and thought provoking gameplay at its finest.