by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
Paved with the Best Intentions (cntd)
Nowhere in The Line is this sense of darkness and depravity made more apparent than an event that occurs mid-way through the game. Not to put too fine a point on it (lest I give way to spoilers) but, at this point in the game, the player does a very terrible thing, an atrocity that, although done unknowingly, is easily one of the biggest sins anyone could ever commit. Spec Ops drives the point home strongly, leaving your mouth (and controller) on the floor. This event, however, plays a key role in the development of the player character (Walker) and spurs him on in a quest that yields tremendous consequences for both him and the survivors of Dubai. By the time the game comes to a close you find yourself on the edge of your seat in a way that only gamers who understand the meaning of the phrase “would you kindly” understand.
Though the game ends up being roughly eight or so hours in length you will definitely want to experience the story a second or even a third time thorough to witness all the endings and possibilities that occur. It’s not a story you could ever hope to share with your kids in the room but it is an emotional tale that you will be talking about for some time to come.
Defining the Edge of Morality
As a traditionally-played third-person shooter, Spec Ops: The Line shares very common, run-of-the-mill mechanics and gameplay systems seen in countless others. Like many other shooters it has a strong focus on cover-based firefights as well as AI compatriots who need your help far more often than they help you. You’ll engage most firefights the same way, the enemies offer little in terms of variety and the game has many staple elements such as turret sequences and moments when you are separated from your allies. Despite this, Spec Ops does have a few interesting elements to shake things up.
One of the most touted gameplay elements is the game’s use of sand. Rather than relegate it to being what you are trudging through for the majority of the game, sand can play a a role in combat. Windows and doors holding back torrents of sand can be destroyed to engulf your enemies in it and a well-placed grenade can create a screen of sand by which to stun them. Unfortunately the mechanic isn’t utilized nearly as often as it should be and the moments that they are usable end up being very transparent and seemingly only put there to remind you that it is a part of the game.
Another point of interest, and one that is far more interesting, comes in the form of player choice. At certain instances throughout the game players are given the option to make choices that directly affect both the storyline as well as your relationships with your AI companions. The choices can range in nature anywhere from having to save one person or the other to committing to an action that makes you question your humanity and with no clear good or bad option to be had. It’s a testament to a game when a choice makes you stop and ponder just how to handle a situation the way you would if you were actually there instead of your character and The Line pulls this off fantastically.
Probably one of the most interesting elements, and one that had this author intrigued about the game, is Walker’s descent into madness that occurs throughout Spec Ops. As Walker continues along in the story the choices he is forced to make begin to take a toll on his psyche, making him begin to lose touch with reality. One instance, for example, has Walker reflect on the game’s opening sequence as if he’s done it before, almost breaking the fourth wall for the player. Another has him taking on a tough enemy as a strobe light flashes off and on in a room full of mannequins, the enemy slowly advancing on him and with each flash suddenly appearing at another location.
Fantastic story, solid shooter mechanics.