Spec Ops: The Line – A Game of Real Consequences and Higher Stakes

There’s a moment in Spec Ops: The Line, when you realize that the developers at Yager Development wanted to strive for something a little different from your typical third-person shooter. It doesn’t come from the few-and-far apart Dubai sand storms or uses of sand hazards that were the big selling point for this game. Nor does the key difference come from the glossy eyed, expressionless faces of the soldiers – predominantly shown in medium to wide shots to avoid close ups.

Spec Ops: The Line sidesteps the pitfalls of the traditional Real American Hero tale, which usually show why America kicks butt all over the world with perhaps the occasional mole. This soldier’s tale – about life after disaster – hones in on the singular character of Captain Martin Walker, his relationship to his teammates, and the suffering people of Dubai. There may only be a handful of choices for players to make throughout the story, but each decision creates a stronger emotional attachment between the player and Walker. Spec Ops: The Line is a game of real consequences, where the stakes are high, but not because you’re trying to save the world from terrorists. Black and white decisions don’t exist. You want to see where Walker’s grey journey goes and if he’ll be able to save Dubai working off shear will power.

Spec Ops: The Line takes place six months after a catastrophic sandstorm has destroyed the landscape of Dubai. The prominent country has now become a set of splintered refugee camps. Walker and his team have been sent into Dubai on a search and rescue mission. They’re not going in to rescue some key diplomat VIP, who has been kidnapped, but rather to access the situation in Dubai, following the sand storm and help evacuate the survivors. After his helicopter is shot down, Walker’s rescue mission turns into a search for the truth.

This third-person shooter offers a standard set of firearms. Although ammo may not be prevalent, there are always weapons to pick up from fallen enemies. Arms are drawn from typical cache of weapon categories: handgun and short-range weapons, shotguns, rifles, sniper rifles, heavy arms and grenades. Some of the weapons have a fair amount of distance on them, despite being designated for short range. When I ran out of sniper ammo, I found that I could snipe someone in the distance just as well with a strong handgun – I just needed to unload two or three more shots. The shotgun may not have the same fictitious distance, but it still had a longer range than you would find in another shooter. Players can also shoot blindly from behind cover.

When you start the game, you are introduced to sand as a major gameplay mechanic. Players may get caught in a sandstorm and have to continue to fire blind through enemies. Gamers will also have to shoot out windows so that the sand behind it empties out onto enemies. These moments are not frequent enough to be memorable. In real life, Dubai sandstorms may not happen every five minutes so when it happens in Spec Ops: The Line, it feels slightly tacked on. What is nice about the sand is how it affects the look of your team throughout the game. Walker’s men become progressively more bloodied and covered in sand to the point where it looks like the sand has been baked into their skin. It’s a great visual to see, especially set amidst the devastated landscape of post-storm Dubai.

As the sand grows into these characters’ skin, you also feel it reflected in the character voicing. The CG models may lack emotion, but the actors really added several layers of depth to these characters. Walker’s team consists of Lugo and Adams. Lugo is annoying and carefree at first, but his personality slowly and organically changes. It provides a nice juxtaposition to Adams, the more stolid soldier who is all about the mission. As the future of the refugees turns critical, the tension between this trio escalates to feature-film quality drama. Secondary characters really have a place in this world, right down to the wacky radio DJ, giving you the unwanted play by play.

The few helicopter turret scenes work well within the story. Nothing is worse than hopping into a helicopter to shoot down five-to-ten air and land targets and then hopping right out. Yager brilliantly lets gamers unleash some severe turret action in a later scene so that players can really embrace the power of the helicopter turret.

The game uses metal music as the audio bed for several scenes. The harsh sounds feel odd at first, especially if you’re thinking that this is a typical “war shooter.” It’s not, which is why the metal tracks actually augment the heart-pumping adventure as troops close in on you.

There are four levels of difficulty in Spec Ops: The Line, and the AI enemies provide consistent challenges throughout. Probably the most inconsistent AI characters are your teammates. On multiple occasions, I caught Adams and Lugo shooting at a wall. Luckily, you can assign specific targets to your team so that they actually focus their attention on living enemies. As you progress through the chapters, you’ll also find enemy soldiers wearing more hefty armor as well as a “heavy” soldier, who is walking around in a thick iron-like suit. One thing I would have liked to see more of are the kamikaze knife enemies. These characters have no use for cover and just rush at you recklessly. It would have been nice to see multiple enemies like this on more occasions as long as it didn’t become gimmicky.

The multiplayer modes have a standard array of Deathmatch and objective missions. The maps with sandstorms offer a nice variation on typical shooter maps. The storms happen more frequently within a game since the multiplayer gameplay doesn’t have to consider “realism” as much. Objective games offered the most fun with variations on king-of-the-hill, capture the flag and territories. Throughout campaign chapters, players will find themselves zip lining from one ruined building to another, but doing so in multiplayer will result in a shorter life expectancy.

Overall, Spec Ops: The Line is a fantastic shooter, with an engrossing single-player campaign. After you finish the game, you can play through each chapter individually to see how different choices play out. Purists who like to replay entire games to see multiple outcomes may not like this, but it worked for me.

Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line
Genre: Action / Adventure
Platform: XBox 360 (Also available on PS3)
Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: June 26, 2012

Rating:

8.5 / 10

‘Spec Ops: The Line’ Release Date Announced (PS3, Xbox 360, PC)

2K Games has just announced that Spec Ops: The Line will hit shelves in North America on June 26, 2012. It will be available internationally on June 29, 2012.

“Spec Ops: The Line is 2K Games’ first foray into the military shooter genre,” said Christoph Hartmann, president of 2K. “We’ve created a unique game that explores the dark realities of war and places players in difficult situations where the line between right and wrong becomes increasingly blurred as players fight to survive.”

If you pre-order Spec Ops: The Line, you will receive a free upgrade to the premium edition, which includes the FUBAR Pack and additional multiplayer enhancements.

Check out the rundown of preorder bonuses:
– Twice the amount of experience points will be awarded during the first week of play, enabling gamers to expedite character ranking;
– The AK-47 weapon will unlock at rank one;
– The “Officer Class” will unlock at rank one. This character class includes several team-based advantages, such as reducing damage to teammates and increasing the effectiveness of other classes;
– Access to the “FUBAR Pack,” which contains exclusive accessories allowing players to customize their characters with unique and visually distinctive items.

Watch our recent interview with Cory Davis, Lead Designer at Yager Development for Spec Ops: The Line.

Spec Ops: The Line on Xbox 360

Spec Ops: The Line on PS3

Spec Ops: The Line on PC

Interview: ‘Spec Ops: The Line’ Lead Designer Talks Characters, Weapons & Environment Hazards (Video)


Cory Davis, Lead Designer at Yager Development for Spec Ops: The Line, talked with BuzzFocus about 2K Games upcoming shooter.

In this interview, Davis discusses the story of Spec Ops: The Line and gameplay mechanics key to the Dubai setting (hands up if you saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol). He also gives a few reveals regarding changing character dynamics throughout the game.

Key Points & Highlights
1:30 – Meet the NPC characters on your team and learn how their personalities will affect the story
3:10 – Davis speaks on the architecture of Dubai and how it will differentiate itself from other third-person shooters
4:30 – The impact of sand on gameplay
5:20 – Davis discusses the technology Yager developed for the game, and the use of the Unreal 3 engine
6:20 – Bending reality with weapon development and the use of sticky grenades
7:40 – Missions that take place in vehicles
8:02 – Sandstorms and Combat variety. Choices that will impact the story
9:10 – Davis’ personal theory on creating a great multiplayer experience for gamers
9:50 – Top reasons to pick up Spec Ops: The Line

Check out the interview below:

Spec Ops: The Line is scheduled to be released on April 30, 2012.

Let us know your thoughts on the game and if you’re picking it up in the comments below.

Spec Ops: The Line on Xbox 360

Spec Ops: The Line on PS3

Spec Ops: The Line on PC

E3 Impressions: Spec Ops: The Line

At E3 this week, 2K Games showed off Spec Ops: The Line. The game is set in a future Dubai, after the region has been hit by several severe sandstorms. But this extreme premise isn’t simply there for the sake of back-story; gamers will actually be able to use the sand as both offensive and defensive weapons.

Spec Ops: The Line feels like a mix between Call of Duty: Modern Warfare in art design and Gears of War in gameplay. The art design features very realistic and grim backdrops. Gamers will see such atrocities as people hung in the street. Also, damage shows up in your HUD in the form of blood. Sniping briefly takes you out of the realism. When you zoom in on your enemies and snipe them, their mutated heads will explode like a watermelon. Expect a moderate amount of blood to rain through the brown sand. The game also uses some shaky cam cinematography to show off the gritty Dubai streets.

You will also have a few moral choices to make throughout the game that will affect the story. Much like other combat simulators, you’ll also have the ability to do issue some basic platoon commands to your team.

specops-1

The gameplay is very fluid and is what makes the game fun. One of the best maneuvers you can make in The Line is no-look firing. After you take cover, you can shoot your enemies with your gun without actually peaking out from cover. As an added bonus, the game can use sticky grenades (Halo fans will love this).

The voice acting appears to be top notch, a common theme among premium titles. However, just like in Gears of War, one of your troops is the stereotypical African American voice that curses any chance he gets. When asked if he wants morphine, he’ll respond, “I don’t need that shit.” Later on yells “It’s all bullshit.” (Just like Cole in Gears). Outside of that, the preliminary dialogue and story are actually quite good

Spec Ops: The Line will have a cooperative mode that plays within the framework of the story, but the actual campaign will be strictly single player. Given the similarity to Gears of War, we were hoping for the ability to run online co-op, but the lack of said functionality isn’t a deal-breaker.

Spec Ops: The Line releases sometime in 2011 on PS3, XBox 360 and PC.

E3 Impressions: Third Person Shooters To Look Out For

2010 and 2011 will be bring home gamers a few irresistible third person shooters that may just give the much anticipated Gears of War 3 a run for its money. In the coming months, you should keep your eyes peeled for Spec Ops: The Line from 2K Games, BulletStorm from EA, Vanquish from Sega and Dead Space 2 from EA, all games we checked out at E3 today.

Just so we get this out of the way, the graphics on all of these games were, of course, visually stunning. These next-gen games for Xbox 360 and PS3 simply do a lot of things right we’re willing to bet that they will at the top of many a gamer’s wish list throughout the coming year.

Bulletstorm and Spec Ops: The Line focus on core third-person shooter gaming, with Spec Ops seemingly having a stronger story to back it up. Bulletstorm, however, introduces an electro-whip that will add some new dynamics to military combat. Vanquish is an arena-game lover’s dream. Endless enemies await in this sci-fi shooting fest.

But nothing rocked our socks more than Dead Space 2, which follows in the footsteps of its predecessor by being both creepy and awesome, all in one. EA showed off the heavily anticipated sequel at the Sony Press Conference on Day 1 of E3 and most left the presentation highly impressed. DS2 seems to have a boost in the graphics department and the story looks promising again. Check out a trailer of the game below:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTpKbPGo5ok[/youtube]