Spec Ops: The Line published by 2K Games and developed by Yager is their entry into the already over populated genre of the modern military shooter but how does it compare to it’s fellow more experienced squad mates such as Call of Duty and Battlefield ?
After spending a few hours with the game and seeing all it has to offer in both single player and multiplayer there is one clear difference with Spec Ops, this being that campaign was clearly the main focus in this games creation with multiplayer taking the back seat just like the old days in gaming before multiplayer become the top priority amongst developers. Within the first hour of starting the campaign you realise this is a game that is trying to be different both with it’s story and setting. Set in a ruined Dubai recently obliterated by a huge sandstorm you play as Delta Force Captain Walker accompanied by team mates Lugo and Adams sent to investigate the disappearance of the 33rd Marine division and it’s Commander sent into the city with the task of evacuating it’s population. The basis of the story makes a refreshing change from the generic rogue faction threatening war storyline we have become all to familiar with recent games within the genre making it less predictable and more intriguing to follow.
The setting of Dubai is also incredibly impressive staring out across the city from the top of one it’s many skyscrapers and seeing the devastation caused by the sand storm and relentless battles it feels more post apocalyptic than modern day and provides not only a visual treat but also allows for some very unique battles within it’s landscapes. This is possibly the most outstanding feature in Spec Ops as the left over sand and ruins not only provide impressive visuals but are also there to be used as a tool in combat. During many sequences your enemy will be conveniently positioned on a glass roof covered with sand which with a few bullets can be caused to collapse bringing down the enemy and the sand and glass he was perched down on top of his allies. These moments of destruction really can turn the tide of a firefight and although may not be as impressive as what we’ve seen in the likes of Battlefield 3 they do add something rather unique to the game. That being said they do at times feel very scripted with the game making it so obvious that one of these moments can be pulled off they feel more of an necessity for quicker progress than an option and cannot be triggered as freely as the games advertising lead you to believe.
For me however the most memorable and outstanding feature of Spec Ops is the storytelling with most games it is very black and white as to who the good and bad guys making it obvious as to who is doing the right thing however throughout Spec Ops these points remain firmly in a very grey area. Seeing the events of the story unfold through the eyes of Captain Walker you along with him question every enemy encounter whether it be with rebels or branded “rogue” marines as whether or not they truly where the enemy this uncertainty is emphasised more through certain parts of the game where a decision must be made. Decision making in games is nothing new but in Spec Ops there is no clear good or bad option combined with not knowing the full story of the events taken place in Dubai each decision comes down to what you feel is morally right. Very few games create this amount of tension and emotion frequently as after your decision is made you see what potential horrors the consequences have caused making you question if you made the right choice.
Although Spec Ops does have a few original features which are done well there are many areas the game should function well as standard ibut instead fall very short of the quality reached by others in the genre. One of these being the cover system Spec Ops uses a similar one button system seen in the like of Gears of War however it feels rather clumsy at times and doesn’t flow as smoothly as it is needed to. This can lead to many unnecessary deaths caused by you trying to find the right to trigger moving into cover whilst under heavy fire from your enemy, play the game on one of it’s harder difficulties and this leads to many frustrating times. The shooting also feels very underdeveloped with no option to aim down sights and enemies not really reacting to being hit some kills at times feel more achieved by luck rather than skill especially in a long range firefight making the game less appealing to the hardcore shooter fans. Spec Ops also gives you limited control over you AI team-mates allowing you to mark a target with the intention of them taking him down however this does not always happen. I found myself on many occasion marking targets only for my team-mates to either ignore my orders completely or move into the open to take the shot causing them to be downed and me to have to wander into the line of fire with the intention to revive however usually with the outcome of my own death which could of easily been avoided with “smarter” AI.
By the far the most lacking part of Spec Ops however is the multiplayer after only a few matches I just couldn’t play it any more the impressive graphics seen in the campaign have not been carried over to the multiplayer and instead online play has the visuals equally that of past generations. Controls and movement also feel very slow and clumsy which stop the enemy encounters being as fast paced and intense as those in the likes of Call of Duty which will most likely prevent casual players from spending any significant time on the multiplayer making purely for hardcore Spec Ops fans.
Overall Spec Ops is an admirable entry into the shooter genre as with a few unique features it tries to be different which demands some respect however with some poor and ineffective gameplay mechanics, as well a multiplayer that feels as if it where an afterthought in a time where multiplayer seems to be many gamers top priority it fails to equal the standards set by it’s rivals. The campaign may be enjoyable but as a whole the game itself fails to be memorable and will soon be forgotten as it is eclipsed by the years future releases within genre of modern shooters.