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SPEC OPS THE LINE
SPEC OPS THE LINE REVIEW
Date Played Apr 2015

Spec Ops The Line is one of those games that inspires people to wax eloquently about the story. It's supposed to get you thinking about the morality of war and touts itself as a "provocative and gripping modern military shooter that puts the player in the middle of unspeakable situations where choices affecting human life must be made". That's an arguably false statement, but more about that later.

Spec-Ops has a good story if you don't try to analyze it too deeply, because, in the end, I'm not sure it all hangs together. The location of the game is Dubai where six months previous to the time line a cataclysmic sand storm devestated the city. Most of the population died, including American soldiers sent in to help with the evacuation. When a mysterious radio signal is picked up, a Delta Force team is sent in to find any survivors and evac them, but instead, they find they have wandered into the middle of an ongoing war.


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You play as Captain Martin Walker, accompanied by his two AI team mates, Lugo and Adams, who urge you to retreat and report to command when your squad meets with unexpected resistance. However, as their captain, you decide to press on by infiltrating deeper into the city, where you discover some oddities about the situation. American troops, the CIA, and hostile armed survivors are all fighting each other as well as shooting at you. Walker starts to become obsessed with solving this mystery and elects to keep moving forward.

The graphics are fairly good, if not great, and I liked that the environments weren't all dark and gloomy. The visuals can be very detailed at times and often quite eerily beautiful for a destroyed city covered in sand.

The mechanics are also good and your AI teamates perform very well, although contextual movements don't always work 100%, which can sometimes get you killed. This is particularly evident in the melee, which doesn't work well on the rare occassion when the enemy gets too close. The game is linear and moves you from one combat engagement to the other, and even though the enemy AI are not particularly all that smart, this potential advantage is often nullified by their sheer numbers and dead-eye shots.

Weapons are pretty deadly and there are tons of different miltary guns you can pick up on combat fields, which you will probably change often enough due to ammo shortages. It's not exactly sparse, but sometimes you do run out. In addition, there are ammo and grenade boxes in various locations. All of the guns are fairly effective and there are three types of grenades, which are not in huge supply. There are no vehicles to drive in this game. Collectibles come in the form of Intel, but there is usually a maximum of 2 in a level and sometimes only one or none.

The game is not overly long, although there are 4 or 5 slightly different endings. It took me about 10 hours, which is short for me and means shorter for others because I take it slow in all my games, exploring every corner I can.

Although Spec-Ops has an engaging story that is somewhat arguably touted as having RPG elements, there is very little other types of non-combat interaction. It's basically a first-person shooter. There are very few occassions where you can make a choice and those choices have no effect on the course of the game. As such, they are entirely meaningless. The game forces you to do certain things and choosing any other option is an illusion. If you try to pick anything outside of the mandated course, you will just die.

The game is also somewhat controversial due to the developers underlying agenda. There is deliberate user provocation, which they use to make a political statement about war and violence in video games. However, not just in a general way. Loading screen messages are directed at the player and are not the game recaps common to games. In an interview with Walt Williams, the lead writer, he states the following: about player choices "It's the choice of, Do I want to play a game where I do these things, or do I not like to play that? Turning off the game is a valid player choice". However, for me, rather than make me think deeply about the real horrors of war, I found the messages condecending, morally judgemental and worse, hypocritical, coming from developers who had just taken my money in order to promote not playing what I paid for.

The story deoes purposely crosses some moral lines to push their point. The writers maintain that they wanted to present the player with choices, but in the end there was in fact few choices, because the word choice implies at least 2 options. But this is also a case of the method justifying the means gone wrong. If they felt that strongly about war and violence in video games, they shouldn't have made a violent game in the first place. In this regard, the message is a miserable failure as no one who plays these types of games would think that deeply about playing a game they paid for. It's also a lot of propaganda, being particulaly directed at Americans.

Despite mostly positive reviews, the game was considered a commercial failure, although over the years users continue to give it a very positive rating. But moreso for the story than any innovative gameplay.

Game Issues Experienced
I experienced no technical issues.

Note: A two-person co-op mode was added later, but not for the main campaign. It has its own missions.
Development Note
Spec Ops is actually not a new franchise, however the last game was published for PlayStation in 2002 and for Windows in 2000. Since then, the IP had languished till Spec Ops The Line was proposed to 2K by Yager in 2006. Work started in 2007 with the intention of developing a game that explored the effects of war and the psychological changes that some combatants may experience. It is therefore not a typical military shooter.

Although, upon release, the game was generally praised, it was a commercial failure. In a later interview, the lead designer partially blames 2K for their insistence on adding a multiplayer mode, which was farmed out to Darkside Studios and ended as a low-quality Call of Duty clone. He goes on to state that it sheds a negative light on all the meaningful things they did in the single-player experience. On the other hand, he praises 2K for allowing them to push the dark-themed narrative to its limits.

A sequel is highly unlikely, but the development team is not disappointed as working on this game was emotionally challenging for them. Yager went on to work on Dead Island 2, but parted ways with the publisher Deep Silver when respective visions for the game couldn't be reconciled. They are now working on a combat flight simulator called Dreadnought to be released in 2016.

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GAME INFORMATION
  • Genre: Third-person Shooter
  • Developer(s): Yager Development
  • Publisher(s): 2K Games
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, OS X, Linux
  • Release: June 2012
  • Mode(s): Single-player, Multiplayer
  • Media: Download, DVD
  • DLC Available: Not on PC. see Steam Community
  • OS: Windows XP SP3
  • CPU: Intel Core 2, 2.0 GHz, AMD equivalent
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Hard Drive: 6 GB free space
  • Video: 256 MB, Nvidia GeForce 8600, ATI Radeon HD 2600XT
  • Sound: DirectX compatible
  • Shader Model: 3.0
  • Input: Keyboard & Mouse, Controller
  • DRM: Steam
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  • Version: Steam Download
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K; 3.40GHz
  • Ram: 8GB
  • Disk Drive: DVD/CD
  • Video: ATI Radeon HD 7870 2GB
  • Shader Model: 4.1
  • DirectX: 11
  • Input: Keyboard & Mouse
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