by William Thompson
previewed on PC
Squad based or go it alone
I often find it difficult to feel any connection between my avatar and that of other team members when playing squad based shooters. You can order other squad members about and can often build up their stats in the hope they can help you out in your goals. But there is often little need to choose which of your squad members you bring into missions, as ultimately it is YOU, who has to do the bulk of the work. This is even more prevalent when it comes to boss battles – you’ll never see one of your squad members take it upon themselves (or at your request) to take out the enemy strongman without your help. So in the end, these squad based shooters become simple third person shooters with the added frustration of having to organise the rest of your squad.
Spec Ops: The Line will be attempting to rectify the situation. Set in Dubai, a city devastated by a catastrophic sandstorm, the brutal surroundings of war and desolation may be able to bring some emotive responses to the genre. Playing as Captain Martin Walker, your Delta Recon team has been sent in to Dubai after a distress signal was received from somewhere in the city. Could it be from the 33rd Infantry division headed by Col. John Konrad – the team that has not been heard from after they went in to help evacuate the city? Tasked with locating any survivors, including those of the missing American troops, Captain Walker and his small squad will discover that all is not what is seems in the isolated city.
Spec Ops: The Line is said to have a number of moral implications thrust upon the gamer, allowing you to often have to choose between what you believe may be the lesser of two evils. If this is the case, and the game functions in various ways due to your decisions, Spec Ops: The Line could well improve on the squad based formula. It will also help to make the game seem less linear than other squad based shooters.
Fighting rogue American soldiers may also give gamers a sense of anguish, having to battle the same soldiers for who they have gone into Dubai to find in the first place. From what we know of the story so far, it appears as though those soldiers and their commanding officer have indeed crossed The Line. So rather than thrust you up against the stereotypical bad guys of Nazis, aliens or Middle Eastern terrorists, you will be killing your own. Having this sort of moral dilemma may further enhance the single player storyline.
Not only will there be enemy forces to contend with in Spec Ops: The Line, but the natural surroundings, including sandstorms are also said to hinder your team in the goal of locating survivors. Obscuring your vision and that of your enemy will no doubt be an annoyance, but a realistic one that will further improve the dour feeling of the storyline. The smattering of damaged walls and other areas of cover are also available, allowing your squad to hide from opposing forces.
Player models are nicely animated with fluid movements around the strife torn city. The visuals seem to match the dreary backdrop of the war. The oranges, yellows and browns of the sandy location are prevalent. The destruction of Dubai seems to be well depicted with fallen buildings, damaged roads and various city landmarks strewn across the desert. With so much sand and fallen obstacles around, it almost looks like the scene from Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston’s character stumbles across the Statue of Liberty on the beach.
The audio from what we’ve seen of the game so far, looks to be pretty good. The developers have been able to secure the services of Nolan North (best known as Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series) as the voice of the chief protagonist Martin Walker. With the game being a shooter, we can no doubt expect the usual weapon effects and explosions to go along with the quality voice acting.
Although many games have a multiplayer component built into them, it is often the case that gamers will test them out and then cast them aside, as the online multiplayer modes can become a monotonous affair of the usual capture the flag or deathmatch variants. Spec Ops: The Line will definitely come complete with a multiplayer mode. How it will attempt to sway gamers away from dedicated online shooters remains to be seen. It will be tough to transfer the emotive story of the single player game to the online modes.
With comparisons to classics such as Apocalypse Now, the emotive story of Spec Ops: The Line should be enough to draw in a number of gamers. The cut-scenes within the game will no doubt be used to help the flow of the story as is the case of many games. The cover system and the control of your squad will hopefully improve on previous titles in the genre, allowing for a less linear scope. The online multiplayer will certainly add a little depth to the game, although how much remains to be seen. But with quality visuals and voice acting, an ever shifting environment and a poignant story, Spec Ops: The Line may be worth a look.