Late to the Party: Spec Ops The Line

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written by Justin Prince (@Prince_Justin)

It’s about time I played this game, but understandably it isn’t a surprise why I passed it up. The main reason I picked this game up (per se) was because it was a FREE download for PlayStation Plus subscribers, I kind of regret not picking this game up at launch, but hey… better late than never right?

The Spec Ops series played a large role during the PSX era of consoles and late 90’s PC gaming, the first game (Rangers Lead The Way) being released in 1998 for Windows machines and the first console game (Stealth Patrol) released in 2000 for the PlayStation console. The series would continue to thrive, eventually releasing a game for the Dreamcast, but becoming notably absent on the PlayStation 2 or Xbox consoles.  With a good decade since Airborne Commando, the last PlayStation era Ops game, resurgence was a good thing for the franchise. Though the first couple Windows releases were well received, the console iterations in the franchise were looked at as more “budget” shooters, failing to draw away gamers already playing games like Medal of Honor. Then again, shooters were never really that “big” of a thing yet on console gaming… that wouldn’t happen until the next gen (which Ops was absent from). Anyway, back to the topic at hand… Spec Ops: The Line.

I’m still so very amazed with what developers can do with games these days, the narrative and scope of games have far exceeded what I though was possible. Before, a story based game was relegated to the RPGs and Adventure games, shooters were usually devoid of story. I mean even the first Halo game was very light in the narrative, opting for the plot device of the silent protagonist. This game is far from “silent”.

"Spec Ops: The Line has your foes and the player character crossing that line making you as the player not just hate your enemies, but also feel a strong disdain for yourself"
Captain Martin Walker amongst the ruins of what was once Dubai

Captain Martin Walker amongst the ruins of what was once Dubai

You play as Captain Martin Walker, leading a three-man team with Lieutenant Alphonse Adams and Staff Seargant John Lugo. Your mission is to extract Lieutenant Colonol John Konrad and Infantry Battalion “the Damned 33rd” from a Dubai that’s been ravaged by record sand-storms, leaving the city of decadence reclaimed by the sand it stood upon. It doesn’t take long for you to realize this isn’t just a rescue mission, but something much darker that affects the player character as much as it can affect you… the player. If you thought the “no Russian” level (from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) was controversial, some of the moments of this game will make that feel damn near like Hello Kitty Adventures (not sure if that’s a real game… but sounds damn near like one). The Line is a major plot element of this experience, with the player being forced to cross that “line” during several moments of the campaign, all in the interest of survival. The environment around you is pretty much a city reclaimed by the desert. Fancy hotels and city streets that once bustled with so much self-indulgent excess is now littered with death and disaster around every corner. This makes for some interesting firefights; you are able to use the environment around you to your advantage, for example shooting out a buried skylight to send a torrent of sand down on your foes. While sparse, the world around you is beautifully constructed, and a top-notch voice cast featuring the likes of Nolan North, Bruce Boxleitner, and Jake Busey (just to name a few) round out this solid gaming package.

a city of decadent excess... claimed by the sand it stood upon... 

a city of decadent excess... claimed by the sand it stood upon... 

What I Thought:  Can we say Apocalypse Now redux? There are many similarities you can draw from the plot of Spec Ops: The Line to the overall narrative of the Francis Ford Coppola film about the expression of inglorious war. I’m still reeling from the ending, which is apparently one of four possible ways the game can end, I will need to play it again to try and see if I can get the other three endings. The gritty realism of this gameplay experience was complimented quite well with how disgusted they made you feel about war. This wasn’t a story about heroism or the glorious film-like depictions of war… if there was ever a game to be used as an example of not glorifying the act of war, it’s this game. The gameplay was tight and it was never a problem issuing commands to my squad or finding cover, switching from defensively finding cover to offensively emptying banana clip after banana clip into your foes is snappy and responsive. The game is essentially a third person cover based shooter with squad mechanics, not the most interesting description, but the story of the game is what gives this steak its sizzle. This game faced serious controversy, primarily the “white phosphorus” scene and the plot development of having to mow down waves of US soldiers as the primary antagonist. As far as reviews are concerned, it’s been favorably reviewed across many outlets… that fact alone makes me wonder why I waited so long to pick it up.

My Two Cents

BLOODY FANTASTIC! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this game, and primarily loved how they handled the use of controversial subject matter, while many other games (primarily military shooters) will have your enemy committing heinous acts that are commonplace among those who lack a sense of humanity. Spec Ops: The Line has your foes and the player character crossing that “line” making you as the player not just hate your enemies, but also feel a strong disdain for yourself and what you were capable of. It’s the game the Ops series has needed for a very long time, I had a blast… you should play this game, but be warned… “subtle” is the furthest descriptor one can give the violence depicted in this game.

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ED NOTE: Curious about the White Phosphorus scene? Watch this video clip, and be warned that there will be some spoilers...