by Chris Davis
reviewed on X360
The Fate Man Weaves
When it comes to the shooter genre, few mechanics have changed since the early days of Doom and the like. You have an objective to complete, there are a bunch of angry dudes in your way and you have to kill them all in order to advance in the game. Regardless of linearity, artificial intelligence or several dozen innovations increasingly improved over the past two decades, the approach to a game’s story hasn’t really lent itself to being truly exceptional. Every few years we get a Half-Life 2 or a Bioshock that really engages us but when such titles come along they really don’t seem like shooters. No, these titles lean more toward being an RPG as some incorporate that type of game’s gameplay elements. For me, it seems that the shooter really only receives a quality story once in a blue moon on a Friday the 13th of a leap year.
To that notion, 2K Games, the publisher who has been suffering from financial troubles as of late, decided to revive Spec Ops, a relatively mediocre shooter series whose last title came out a decade ago. Development of the game was handed to Yager, a German developer whose repertoire has been exclusively focused on sci-fi titles and hasn’t released a game in nine years. With any revival though there is potential for greatness for both the game and the developer. Does Spec Ops: The Line achieve this or should the series have been left out to pasture?
Paved with the Best Intentions
In the world we live in today the city of Dubai, nestled against the Persian Gulf within the United Arab Emirates, is widely considered to be one of the biggest architectural, financial and cultural phenomenons of the 21st century. Built on the backs of the Arabian oil barons, Dubai is a grand city that’s home to millions and a skyline dotted with skyscrapers and rivaled by fewer metropolises than a man has fingers. Truly, if there was ever a modern day Babylon this would be it and, in the story of Spec Ops: The Line, it meets the same fate.
Six months ago, in an almost biblical manner, a sandstorm of unparalleled size swept through the city of Dubai before stabilizing and creating a sort of permanent “storm wall,” separating it from the outside world and effectively trapping its citizens within its sand-swept domains. A battalion of the US, on their way home from active duty in Afghanistan, attempted to aid in the evacuation of the city but it only ended in failure. All communication with the city dropped off and, in a matter of weeks the world declared the city lost to nature and all of its occupants dead. That is until our story begins when a radio message sent by an American battalion commander named Joseph Conrad breaks through the storm wall, giving hope to the possibility that life still exists in the doomed city. Special Forces operatives Captain Walker, Lieutenant Adams and Sergeant Lugo are covertly sent in to investigate the origin of the transmission and, if possible, rescue survivors.
The story of the Delta force operator’s journey into the remains of Dubai is, simply put, a remarkable one. Though it begins in a very traditional way for the genre it slowly skews in a direction that’s both exciting and enjoyable. Indeed, by the time you have completed half the game you find yourself more invested in the story than you could have conceived of. The game begins to make you question the ethics of a soldier and presents many morally gray choices that have no true right or wrong answer. The game is said to be very reminiscent of the classic novel The Heart of Darkness and while this writer has never experienced this work of fiction, after playing The Line, I’m very much intrigued by the notion of reading it.
Fantastic story, solid shooter mechanics.