• Spec Ops: The Line review

    This isn't a new release, but doing a review this late in the game (no pun intended) can't hurt. Is Spec Ops: The Line just another 3rd person military game, or is there more to the story?
    If you've read my post in the "2012 Video Game awards" thread in the forums, then you'll already know that this game was my most surprising game of 2012. That vote, for me, is with merit, but before I get into that lets discuss what went wrong with this game.

    psychostats-so2_360w-jpgLike any 3rd person shooter games, this one has some game mechanic issues that degrades the game a bit. The cover to cover system is flawed, but it works. The game contains your typical mechanics for cover systems like switching cover (like switching from the left side to the right side of a doorway), sliding around corners, and even has a well done push cover. Instead of just detaching from cover your player will crouch run forward and automatically attach to the next cover you run into. The feel of the cover system is very well done; it is exactly what I would expect from a military shooter. However, there were multiple times where I had trouble moving my camera around in cover, and my player popped out of cover because the camera was positioned in front of my character.

    Another typical issue that this game has is that your AI allies are kind of dumb. I found myself dying a lot just because the AI didn't kill the flanker that I couldn't see coming. There were instances of me pushing a flank and having the AI players push as well right into the bad guys, just so they kept by me. There were also plenty of times that they ran out of cover to kill someone or heal someone after I issued the order.

    psychostats-so5_360w-jpgI need to take this time to ask you not to get excited about the "orders" in this game. They are far from perfect. Spec Ops uses a one-button command for orders. Holding the orders button brings up a red reticle, and you have to point at an enemy you want killed. However, you can't tell your AI allies how. In fact, you can't tell them anything; no flashing and clearing unless it pops up on the screen, which is rarely, and no orders to flank machine guns or groups of enemies that are focused on you instead of them. Every kill command is either a direct assault or a sniper shot for enemy AI that are far off. This game would have benefited from even the simplest commands like "Wait", "Flank", "Hold for my fire" etc. Things I assumed would be a part of a military shooter.

    My last, and most irritating, flaw in this game is the inability to throw back enemy grenades. This game requires you to use cover more so than any other game I've played, and coming out of cover for a few seconds will result in a quick death (especially in the harder game modes). Unfortunately, you have to come out of cover to run away from grenades sometimes because the cover isn't large enough to just move along it.

    psychostats-so2_360w-jpgNow that that's all out of the way, let's talk about the things that make this game special.

    As far as game mechanics go, the sand is by far the coolest feature. You can make sand fall on enemy AI by shooting windows above them that are covered in sand, and the same thing occurs with various vents throughout the levels. Throwing a grenade in sand acts as a stun grenade, blowing the sand up in the enemy's faces causing them to be open for attack. Throughout the game you'll also encounter sand storms that lower visibility and forces you to carefully take your shots.

    The game has a difficulty curve that I really enjoyed. As irritating as the game was at points, I had to admit it was challenging on "Hard" (that's not even the highest difficulty), and it gave a great sense of satisfaction when you finished a section. As I mentioned earlier, the higher the level gets the more you have to rely on cover to finish it. On the hardest difficulty, being out of cover for more than 2-3 seconds will get you killed. Yet on easy, you cannot use cover very much and still make it pretty far. If you want a good challenge, play on the harder difficulty; if you're looking for a casual play and are just interested in the story, then I'd stick with a lower level.

    psychostats-so1_360w-jpgThe game also contains a two player co-op mode, which I have yet to play. I can't say if it's any good, but if it's basically playing the game with a friend, then it should be well worth a play through. This game screams for military tactics that the game just doesn't allow with AI partners, but with a friend, this game could potentially be much more fun.

    But the most stand-out feature of this game isn't a mechanic; it’s the story.

    The characters and story play a prominent role in the game, and by the end... I won't spoil it, but you'll question your actions and it'll leave you with a moral confusion that you'll never see coming. In all my years playing games I don't think I've ever had a game touch me so profoundly as much as this game has. Throughout the whole game your AI squad question every action taken in the game. Constantly reminding you that you are firing upon American soldiers just like you. It's almost unbearable. You're cursed with this idea that you have to kill these American soldiers for your own safety.

    psychostats-so4_360w-jpgThe game is littered with images of death and the violence of war to a degree I've not seen in any other video game. The death and violence imagery is not done in a gory "hey here's some dead bodies and blood for the hell of it" way but in a thought provoking way that made you think about what you are doing as a player and the effects of your actions. It's a moral slap in the face to a player, but it's what makes this game so much different from other shooters. There was a point in the game where I was so frustrated at the difficulty of the AI. When given the opportunity to kill hundreds of them with just a few mortar rounds, I was actually kind of excited. I felt some relief to be able to get them back for all the deaths they have caused me. However, after I finished them off, the game made me walk through the destruction and death that I just dealt, and right then, I felt sick that I took so much enjoyment out of what I had just done. It was the moments in the game like this that I remember most and is the reason why this game stands out.

    Recommendation: Buy it, and be prepared.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Spec Ops: The Line review started by Adretheon View original post