The latest game in the Spec Ops series, Spec Ops: The Line, is developed by Yager Development for the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about the Spec Ops series, however, as the last title, Spec Ops: Airborne Commando was released way back in 2002 and was hardly a blockbuster title. The Line is the first of the series to be developed by Yager and is the ninth game in the series. If you decide to check the others out, you will need to dust off the old Playstation as it’s going to take you back a long way.
Spec Ops: The Line is a third person shooter with a focus on squad-based tactics, where the player must give commands to AI controlled squadmates to fire upon specific targets or move to certain locations. This is good news to fans of games like the Brothers In Arms series. It’s been a while since we’ve been given a chance to flex our tactics muscle (it’s next to the strategy bone, look it up). Conversely, it won’t be as appealing to Call Of Duty fans who prefer to shoot first and ask questions later - if anyone’s still alive.
Players assume control of Cpt. Martin Walker, leader of Delta Force’s Bravo team, a group of elite troops who specialize in covert ops. Your current mission takes you to sandy Dubai to rescue a stranded U.S. Army Colonel. The city has become a ghost town: skeletons of skyscrapers reach up into the heavens and the discarded shells of vehicles are battered by sandstorms and bleached by the hot sun. In short, Spec Ops: The Line takes a somewhat darker approach to war. The men you control look exhausted and afraid, the environment itself being as much of a threat as the hostile troops you face.
Spec Ops: The Line boasts some utterly jaw-dropping environmental effects. Being set in a harsh desert environment, the game will feature punishing sandstorms and whirlwinds, which will shift the position of the sand beneath your feet. With the movement of the sand, objects to use as cover will be revealed and hidden and alternate routes will become available. Another interesting touch is the fact that destructible landscapes will allow you to shape the battlefield as much as the weather does.
Picture the scene: you’re fighting an enemy squad in an underground tunnel. Above their heads you spot a skylight, completely covered in sand deposited there by the wind. You instruct your men to fire upon the skylight, breaking it and burying the enemy under tonnes of scorching earth. Combine this with the fact that it can happen both ways and you’ll really have to have your wits about you during any given fire fight. It all stands to reinforce the fact that war isn’t just about who has the bigger gun, it’s also about knowing the terrain, being prepared and planning ahead.
A question of morality
The game’s official website states that moral choices will play a big part in the game, where the player will be tested by “putting them in the middle of unspeakable situations where unimaginable choices affecting human life must be made”. Interesting stuff. Not a great deal of information has been released about the choices specifically, presumably because it would reveal too much about the storyline. Judging from the serious approach and fantastic quality of the environments seen throughout the rest of the game, they should not simply amount to the pathetic moral choices seen in Army Of Two: The 40th Day, where either choice you made didn’t have any serious repercussions.
Interestingly, a cooperative mode has been hinted at for the story mode, which is a great addition to tactical shooters in my opinion. Two heads are always better than one at forming strategies. How this will work when it comes to moral choices will be something to watch, as when the time comes, who’s to say both parties will make the same decision? In Army Of Two; The 40th Day the moral choice was decided by whichever player entered the command first, much to the annoyance of myself, as I didn’t want to shoot the tiger (spoiler alert). Playing online with strangers is fine, but I wouldn’t want them making my decisions for me.
One to watch
All in all, Spec Ops: The Line looks to be a fantastic title, squad-based tactical gameplay set in dynamically changing environment sounds like a winning formula in my book. Throw in some cover mechanics, different classes, cooperative gameplay and moral choices and this could be one title you won’t be able to put down. Published by 2k games, look out for it some point later this year.