The Spec Ops series has been around since 1998 and was released mainly for the Dreamcast, PC and Playstation with most of the games being developed by Zombie Studios. The franchise has seen its share of successes especially with the first two games. Later sequels would become budget priced shooters and received little fanfare as a result. The series would go on hiatus for 10 years with the last installment being Spec Ops: Airborne Commando which was released back in 2002 for the original Playstation. The Playstation 2 version of Spec Ops would eventually be canceled. It’s 2012 and in comes Yager Development with the latest iteration in Spec Ops: The Line. Does this latest entry revive the once popular franchise after the long wait or is this one MIA? Read the review to find out!
At the start of the game Delta Operatives Walker, Adams and Lugo are aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk while engaging several enemy choppers. Along the way there is a major sandstorm that hits the city and in the process causes their chopper to crash. Suffice to say things don’t start off as planned. Dubai was once a symbol of wealth and opportunity is now a desolate and lonely place. As you play along you will notice that the struggle for survival isn’t the only priority in this once wealthy city. Power and control is up for grabs and everyone wants a piece. Dead corpses, graffiti, visions of past actions and tough moral choices help push the dark story which is really well done. The journey was actually inspired by the novel “Heart of Darkness” which was written by Joseph Conrad in 1899. Here is an interesting tidbit. The developers actually traveled to Dubai before making the game.
The game utilizes a third-person cover based system that is similar to the one that is found in the Gears of War series. The levels are very well designed as well. Chunks of concrete, destroyed vehicles and walls can all be used for cover which comes in very handy. Certain cover can be destroyed which forces the player to keep moving. You can carry two weapons at once along with a grenade. You can also perform a melee attack. You can even finish off enemies when they are down on the ground. Commands can be issued to your squad to kill targeted enemies. Of course, injured squad members will need to be healed if they get injured. Powerful sandstorms make vision almost impossible during intense firefights. The game features 15 chapters and an epilogue. I was disappointed that I managed to beat the game in just 4 hours and 42 minutes. The targeting reticule gets shaky and makes precise aiming a major pain when trying to shoot enemies from a far distance. From a close distance that isn’t an issue.
The squad and enemy A.I. are both impressive. Enemies will use cover and flank you. They will move out of the way when you throw a grenade. They are very aggressive and will take you down quickly if you aren’t careful. Some enemies wear armor which makes it tougher to kill them. They also love to throw grenades so watch out. There is even an enemy type that is reminiscent of those found in Call of Duty World at War that charge at you with a knife. Your squad members are very smart with the way they take cover and shoot. You can even give them commands to kill certain enemies by targeting them. As good as the squad members are they will get hurt and will need to be healed like I mentioned earlier.
The game uses the Unreal Engine 3 and it looks really good. Character models are impressive as are their facial expressions. The damage that the characters accrue throughout the game looks pretty convincing. Cutscenes look good. As you play the game you will see dead corpses, executions and mass graves amongst the decaying city of Dubai. Despite this the game doesn’t have a boring or brown colored palate. There are many areas that are colorful and vibrant. The ominously sand blasted city is given some life thanks to emphasis on sunlight and the crystal blue sky which is a visual treat. There are even sections that feature strong sandstorms. You will come across lavish lobbies, open walkways and extravagant elements that were once commonplace in Dubai. They definitely make for some really good gameplay environments. As I mentioned earlier there are several areas in the game that has the player fight enemies during a heavy sandstorm which isn’t easy getting used to but is very impressive looking nonetheless.
I also enjoyed the game’s audio experience. The sound effects are excellent with great set pieces that further immerse the player into the game. Bullets crush glass, destroy cover and thump sand. The way in which sand blasts and wind howls is amazing and it leaves a tingling feeling in the player’s ear. Weapon sounds are awesome. The game’s soundtrack is comprised of mostly rock themed tracks that do a great job of complementing the action. The game features some impressive voice work from some great actors such as, Nolan North, Christopher Reid, Chris Cox and Steven Walters to name a few. Radioman does the game’s narration by way of loud speakers and uses humor, taunts and music while the player is engaged in battle. I also enjoyed the banter amongst squad members.
I really enjoyed playing Spec Ops: The Line. It does borrow the cover and shoot mechanic from the Gears of War series which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The game features a good story that is dark and gritty. I liked being able to give commands to my squad members to take out targeted enemies. The game was very short which, was disappointing. The shaky aiming mechanic was my major issue. The graphics were impressive. The audio experience was solid thanks to the terrific weapon sounds and solid voice acting. The enemy and squad member A.I. was well done. I didn’t get the chance to play the multiplayer so I cant comment on that. I was really pleased with Spec Ops: The line and I would recommend it to anyone who likes playing a solid shooting game.