Spec Ops: The Line Review

It’s basically Apocalypse now the game…. with Nolan North playing the part of Martin Sheen *rolls eyes*

Spec Ops: The Line is a third-person shooter brought to us by Yager Development and published by 2K Games. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on June 26, 2012 in North America and on June 29, 2012 in Europe.
First off I’ve got to say, I despise games like this, military games are like the kryptonite of video game plots, because you basically do stuff because you’re a soldier and it’s your job, your character has no motivation other than a pay check and a pat on the back so it’s doomed from the start. On the other hand I was pleasantly surprised by this game. I hadn’t looked twice at this when it first came out but I was put on to it by some respected sources and I thought it couldn’t hurt to check it out because it deals with philosophical issues I’m enticed by.

First impressions

The very start of the game is a turret mission on a helicopter, so already I’m not impressed because mandatory turret combat is just annoying and really boring, I don’t know about you but manning a stationary gun isn’t my idea of excitement when I’ve been blessed with legs. Just to point out how little I knew about this game before I bought it, I was surprised when I discovered it was another cover shooter. I absolutely loathe cover shooters, it just seems like the most boring people on earth came together to come up with a way to make gun fights as interesting as an evening with Chris Hansen and what they created was chest high walls, and on that day jumping and shooting with two guns in slow motion going; ‘ahhh’ died.
I like fps games because they’re challenging but covers shooters are just an exercise in turn taking and they’re painfully dull. Regardless the beginning of the game was pretty interesting because it feels a little more like a horror game than an action game, because you’re entering a no man’s land and you feel really unwanted, and that Dubai isn’t a natural place. Oh yeah it’s set in Dubai and you’re on a rescue mission to save survivors from a massive sandstorm that has swallowed the whole city, so it feels a little like the beginning of resident evil 4, your just on a rescue mission and then it goes tits up.

How does thy shoot?

Game play is fairly basic; Wait behind wall, shoot, move to other wall, shoot, rinse and repeat. You can give orders to have people killed if you don’t like shooting people yourself, since you have to aim the reticule over them to have them shot anyway, also oddly you can blind fire turrets which makes it ridiculously easy because you don’t really aim turrets anyway.

I shoot therefore, I am.

So game play wise it’s fairly unremarkable, where it really shines is in its philosophical ideas in regards to combat. We’re used to killing hordes of ‘bad’ Nazis or Russians that eat babies for breakfast and never asking why, but in spec-ops you’re fighting rogue American soldiers and you don’t fully understand why. You fight only to preserve your own life, there is no greater good, no overarching goal to save the world, you just want to live long enough to understand why.
Also there’s this weird bit where the enemy uses white phosphorus and for those that don’t know what that is, let’s just say it’s a very unpleasant way to be burnt to death. You then get the opportunity to use it yourself and it seems like a moral choice. The game doesn’t really have moral choices because it’s about survival but there’s a fine line because we want to kill our enemies but we also understand that they’re people and we empathise with them so we don’t want to make them suffer needlessly. You do it all through a launchable mortar so you get an overhead view like in cod in the bomber, but your face is reflected in the screen and you’re close enough to hear the screams of the men being burned alive so it doesn’t let you make that disconnect between weapon and target. It doesn’t let you distance yourself and then you actually have to walk through the dead and the dying that you created.
Still it’s a little hard to swallow since they make this big deal about all the killing and they feel bad about the genocides they take part in but they still keep killing because it’s a game, you can’t just choose to become a Hari Krishna. It’s a little weird because the plot doesn’t really follow a pattern, there’s not much structure, it’s not really a journey, I don’t feel like much really happened.
It starts to feel like the character you play might be worse than the villain you’ve yet to meet. I don’t really think this game is genius but I really respect it because it’s not just about combat. Cod is just ‘bang bang bang, oh isn’t war horrible bang bang bang’ but this is really quite introspective, it’s not trying to say war is horrible it’s asking us what we think of war and soldiers in general.
I’m not sure it really has a moral message, if there’s anything really to be learned is that people are no better than animals really and maybe sometimes they’re just better off dead. I think it’s hard to make a moral message in videogames because it seems like the way you fix problems is the same way the problems are created, shooting people. How can you stop violence with more violence? All you can really do is just kill everyone and that doesn’t make anything better just quieter.

The Road  Home

I think it’s a great criticism on what soldiers actually do, and what they think they do, they think they’re heroes but they’re just killers.
Overall I think the game wasn’t that spectacular, it didn’t try anything new with game mechanics or have any flashy gimmicks; it was just a game that put more emphasis into character development and asking difficult questions which I think is a good start. It didn’t necessarily answer the hard questions but it’s just a game, you can’t expect it to, but I applaud this game for its balls. We live in this climate of half assed, lazy games with no balls, that are too afraid to actually try to make an impact and this cuts through that.

Pros; Good story/character development, dealt with serious subject matter quite intelligently.

Con; Mediocre game play, a little short, the plot formula was a little unsatisfying.

[xrr rating=6/10] 6/10

Article from Gamersyndrome.com

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