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Spec Ops: The Line (PS3/Xbox360/PC)

Azriel Delacroix

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Introduction

Welcome to Dubai ladies and gentlemen; a glistening desert paradise on the shores of the United Arab Emirates that's just teeming with life and beauty! Or so it would be if a massive cataclysmic system of sandstorms hadn't buried the city alive, along with its denizens. Enter the 33rd Division of the United States Army - dubbed the Damned 33rd, sent on a mass evacuation and relief effort as requested by the United Nations and accepted by the US. However after six months of going into the storm all contact with Dubai and the Division stationed there has gone silent, and no one knows what's happened due to the storm wall surrounding the city.

The sandstorms never let up, and buried the city even further.

More than you or I could ever realize...


This is the premise of Spec Ops: The Line, and while it is a questionable set up in some regards it remains at its base a simplistic one. The game opens up with three Delta Force Operatives chosen to go and look around the ruins of Dubai after getting a signal two-weeks ago from the area; the signal appears to have been sent out by the Damned 33rd Division themselves, the lost Division sent out on their mission six months past. With Command sending you out into what is considered a no-man's land, what awaits you is a mind altering journey that takes pleasure in pushing you through some seriously dark turns here and there.

This game could constitute itself to be of the survival horror genre rather than the modern day war simulator by how it conducts its behavior- but for the most of its story, its gaming mechanics, and variety of settings it's just your unique third-person shooter. Yup that's right, this isn't a first-person we're dealing with here!

Story

A strong aspect that sets apart Spec Ops: The Line from most modern day war shooters is in fact about how story driven it is, and how well paced it is! This is a kind of story-telling you don't see much of now-a-days in the genre of shooters and it is damn refreshing to see it! As I've noted in the introduction of this review, the story of Spec Ops: The Line comes off as dark, sorrowful, and overall pretty heart wrenching. It's got certain quirks to its tone, and there plays a very key role in its implementation in certain sections. For instance: In the game you will have to make certain choices at points in the story, and you never know how your choice now might affect what's to come in the future. This keeps the player on their toes, and sets up some good replay value at the end of it all.

A good example of this was when I personally played through it, and I did what I thought would be the moral high ground over the course of it, but it then turned out I just went and screwed everything up further for Dubai. I felt like a d*ck afterwards, and the feeling of doing what I did in game really got to me. Even the messages in-between spawning when you die taunt you of this! One of them clearly, and deliberately read "Do you feel like a hero yet?" and then another one came and said "If you were a better person, you wouldn't be here."

This game gave me the chills when I went through its campaign, and I do recommend it highly. Especially since the month is October and it's time for Halloween. If you want to experience some psychological horror this month, then this is the game for you!


Game-Play

Game-Play that goes hand-in-hand with its overall plot is never a bad thing, and no example shines brighter than the experience I've had with Spec Ops: The Line! It's a Third-Person Shooting carnival of explosions, precision shooting, and even a bullet time mechanic to admire yourself exploding someone's head like a melon! You can lose yourself easily in the fast paced and heavy combat, it's a natural environment for shooting people, and things. The beautiful thing about the way you fight enemies is your choices of how to do it; if you're a real hardcore gamer with no tosses to give, you can go right in and slaughter everyone! If you're the passive-aggressive type, you'd be happy to know that thanks to the sandstorms of Dubai, piles of sand are everywhere and enemies will be stupid enough to be in front of, or underneath destroyable objects that you can shoot to bury them alive. Saving you time and ammo.

It's also a very frustrating game at times, the enemy AI is well-programmed and can be vicious to play against. I myself have died over fifty times in the span of the game, and over fifteen in certain chapters or sections of those chapters. The game even mocks you for it! During the loading screen if you've died multiple times, it will say "Hey, are you dying a lot? You want me to turn down the difficulty for you since you're kind of sucking?" - Well Spec Ops: The Line, you can take that attitude and shove it! Win or Lose, I am getting through this without lowering the difficulty you smug prick.

I feel like I should also mention the competence of your companions, who's AI is also well-programmed in making things a bit easier on you. They'll kill off enemies instead of leaving you to do the work all yourself, and I've found that handy in situations where both of my guns were empty. There was some ammo in front of me, and too many enemies in-between with assault rifles. I didn't have any grenades either, so I just patiently sat there and gave my companions orders to kill who I needed to until I could get back in the fight myself.

You don't necessarily need to micromanage your companions, they can pretty much handle themselves. The only point where you'd feel obligated to do so is when they're both out for the count and you need to heal them. Granted you could order the remaining one to heal the downed one as well, but then you'd have to deal with getting a hot lead sandwich expressed delivered to your face. Your call.

Oh yeah, and ammo is scarce in this game. It's how I ran out of bullets in the first place. It's either shoot well or you die. It's a hard lesson learned in this game.

Graphics

Surprisingly enough for a game that takes place in a desert full of sand, and with howling sandstorms sprawling across its story, Spec Ops: The Line has a lot of color to offer. In some of its more engaging environments, they pop out well. Bloom is used to highlight the burning desert sun in some sections, shadows and lighting effects emphasize more ominous terrain. The color palette for Spec Ops: The Line has a wide range, and the architectural designs for some of the buildings I think brings to life the city of Dubai's state in this game.

In Conclusion...

It's a harrowing experience of a shooter and a thought provoking (if not horror inducing) thriller of a story. The character arcs are amazing and full of surprises, the plot just gets thicker and thicker, and it's about as good as you can get when looking for an alternative shooting experience.

This game is Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now, and Full Metal Jacket rolled into one wild ride of a video game, and does the exact polar opposite of what modern day war games do now. Instead of making you feel like a hero, it makes you question yourself. Instead of glorifying war as some kind of heroic fantasy, it serves you a spoonful of harsh reality. This game is something else, and I highly recommend it for the art piece that it is.

Thanks for playing, and good-bye!

Play me off Jimi Hendrix!

 
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