On the surface, Spec Ops: The Line is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill military shooter set in the Middle East. This skirmish in Dubai features third person, cover-based gunplay and a linear campaign reminiscent of today’s top war titles.
Forget the surface.
Spec Ops: The Line represents a strong shot at great storytelling in an over-used genre. Military shooters as of late have been anything but spectacular in the arena of plot line and subtlety. Spec Ops: The Line plays against the norm.
All it takes is a little patience. This title and its basic mechanics may feel old and tired at first, but the campaign swells and builds into one of the best of this year’s offerings.
Spec Ops: The Line as a shooter.
As a shooter, Spec Ops: The Line simply isn’t all too interesting. It’s an absurdly linear romp through wave after wave of enemies touting far superior aiming and infinite ammunition.You, the hero played by Uncharted‘s Nolan North, will work monotonously through bad guy after bad guy in the same brown environments over and over again.It’s not that good, quite honestly. As a standard shooter, it offers up nothing unique. Your cohorts are rather terrible in combat, ammunition is constantly in short supply and the gunplay is boring.
In fact, I found myself toying with the idea of dropping the difficulty to easy so I could push through the boring bits in a faster, more efficient way. Fortunately, the 15 chapter campaign picks up its narrative pace around the eighth chapter. Despite the repetition and familiar mechanics, I stuck with normal long enough to be entertained by the plot.
Spec Ops: The Line as a story.
Don’t come for the gunplay; I really can’t put it any better than that. Spec Ops: The Line is a rigid shooter. It’s formulaic, it’s tired and it’s old hat.
As a story, though? Spec Ops forces players into the boots of a murderer. The murderer thinks he’s right, but players know he’s not. Once the gunplay gets out of the way, Spec Ops becomes a game about the importance of killing (and not killing, for that matter).
This game is based on Heart of Darkness, a novel from the early 1900s. Knowing the plot of that tale, or the plot of Apocalypse Now, will actually ruin a bit of how Spec Ops: The Line weaves its story. A small group of soldiers heads into Dubai in order to lead an evacuation. It turns out, however, that another group of soldiers has gone seemingly mad and has set up a city of their own within the chaos. That’s where my description stops.
Because, it’s there that this game splits apart and does its own thing. At first, I was disheartened when I learned that Spec Ops: The Line was based on Heart of Darkness. Knowing the plot of one meant knowing the plot of the other; or so I thought.
The storyline here is incredible. It’s among the best the military genre has ever known. While games like Call of Duty and Battlefield might set the bar low for plots set in combat, Spec Ops: The Line goes above and beyond. This game is a surprise, and it’s important.
Deciding to buy this means you’ll need to know what you like.
If you’re the type of gamer who only cares about fun and action, Spec Ops: The Line may be too dry and boring for your tastes. Like I said, the gameplay here is formulaic at best.
However, if you champion story over all else, Spec Ops: The Line is a winner. This is a brilliant stroke of storytelling, despite its genre, and it hopefully heralds the coming of higher standards in blockbusters.
This game also offers a multiplayer component. Cooperative DLC is coming, but the current mode sports six competitive maps, loadout unlockables and a slew of challenges. It stands as a mere distraction, unfortunately, and should not sway your decision either way in regards to picking this title up.
Buy this one for its story; doing so will spurn no regrets.
We purchased a copy of Spec Ops: The Line for the Xbox 360 with company funds. We played the title until completion before starting our review. We also spent several hours in the multiplayer mode. Confused about how we score games? Read more here.