In a gaming world where shooters are perceived to be dominated by those with a first-person viewpoint, once in a while a third-person shooter comes along that not only surprises gamers but proves that a third-person shooter deserves your gaming time. Spec Ops: The Line is one of those games. It is a shooter that, much like a well-known modern first-person shooter, takes place in fictitious circumstances that can exist in the real world.
The game isn’t perfect, but provides a solid experience that shooter fans are looking for. You are tasked with the typical get from point A to point B, take out the bad guys, and along the way make some moral decisions. However, the difference in this game is that the decisions aren’t always about fighting the forces of evil. Some of the actions taken in the game might even leave you speechless. The further you get in the game, the more difficult it will become to make a prediction on how the story will end, especially on your first playthrough.
The actual gameplay forces you to take advantage of both a fairly robust cover-mechanic and elements in the environment, that will alter how you take out your enemy. Utilizing your cover and commanding your squad-mates to focus on a particular enemy, while does help in clearing out a difficult enemy or group, occasionally results in your AI partners running into the line of fire instead of safely flanking while you provide cover fire. Another helpful cover-based mechanic is the ability to duck down while using a turret. No longer are you forced to either take damage or get off of the turret, when you can now duck down and blind fire until it is partly safe to continue mowing down the opposition.
The enemy does their best to use cover, and will try and flank if given the opportunity but usually aren’t very smart about it. They will pop up out of cover for what seems like an extended period, giving you enough time to throw a few bullets their way for the kill. Also, while the game does try and make it pretty obvious, there are certain points where the enemies will just seem to keep endlessly spawning, until you hit a destructible object in the environment that cuts off the flow of enemies coming at you. In other locations, the AI enemies will spawn, but won’t move until you cross a certain point. Another flaw you’ll find is that it is sometimes a little too easy to simply cross a certain checkpoint to progress without taking out a bunch of enemies. Whether or not this was intended could be argued for in either case.
On the PS3 version, the controls follow the standard L1 to aim, R1 to shoot, with the triggers used for throwing grenades and commanding your squad. On occasion, the d-pad and triggers are completely disabled essentially making the game a little more challenging, but effectively convincing you that a bug does exist. While the bug only happened rarely and randomly, it is hard to say if this particular bug affects only the PS3 version, but exiting to the XMB and re-launching the game fixed it every time. Aside from that, the controls are tight and responsive. You may run into the occasional spot where you would think you can jump over or use for cover and can’t, but it doesn’t take anything away from the overall experience.
The graphics look good, and the environments really set the right mood for the story being told. As you progress in the game, physical damage is evident on both the faces of the characters as well as in the motion of their movement. Enemies, even from a distance, are easily distinguishable from the desolate, desert environment, so you’re almost never wasting time trying to figure out if you’re shooting at an enemy or some inanimate object. Don’t get too comfortable with that thought, however, because the game does a great job at playing tricks on you.
The audio in the game is another element that is really well done. The soundtrack is fitting, and there is a DJ in the story that will play songs that will make you smile for how perfect it is for that moment. The voice acting is comprised of an all-star cast with big names like Nolan North, Christopher Reid, Bruce Boxleitner, and Jake Busey. All of them do an outstanding job, and really help create that feeling that you’re watching a blockbuster action movie. Of course, it’s not all seriousness, as a few jokes are thrown in the dialog here and there, and one in particular pokes fun at the game itself for the way some of the sequences are shown.
The multiplayer delivers a standard progression system that is becoming popular in recent shooters, with experience getting earned and additional upgrades possible the more you play. There are various classes and weapon loadouts, among two distinct factions with a unique class that gives gameplay boosts for their respective teams. It has several modes to appease shooter fans, including the favorites like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and a capture type mode. The multiplayer is set apart from other modern shooters with the ability to alter the maps during a match. Certain areas can be changed by shooting out a section that can cut off a particular route with sand, provide for some newly created cover, or even take out your enemies that are trying to hide behind cover. The ability to send or accept invites is right on the front the multiplayer menu, so getting in and setting up a match is fairly easy.
PSN Trophies are strictly earned for accomplishments in the single player campaign, with absolutely no Trophies available for playing the multiplayer. This could hurt the replay value, as it gives the PSN Trophy collectors out there no reason to give a first look at the multiplayer. On the other side of that, there are varying difficulty settings to play through the campaign on, and a decent amount of in-game collectables that contain audio recordings that give additional insight to the story. In addition, on subsequent playthroughs, you can make different moral decisions that will slightly change the outcome of certain scenarios, but won’t greatly impact the overall direction of the game.
Overall, Spec Ops: The Line provides a quality shooter experience that is more than what it appears to be on the surface. The story will surprise you, and both the single and multiplayer modes have enough content to keep you busy for a while. Third-person shooter fans, as well as just shooter fans in general, shouldn’t miss this game and all of the modern military shooter goodness it provides.
*2K Games provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy on the PlayStation 3 platform.