Spec Ops: The Line on PS3, Xbox 360, PC

June 30, 2013
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Spec Ops: The Line couldn't have been less interesting to me pre-release. A

military third person shooter set in the Middle East starring Nolan North as a

white dude with a shaved head? Lord spare me. But then, reviews started coming

out, claiming that the game had a spectacular plot, wonderful characters, and

excellent acting. I set my sights on the game, but still felt skeptical. In wait

for a price drop, the game appeared as a free download for Playstation Plus, and

I decided to finally pick it up. After completing the game, I had no idea why I

had waited so long to play this wonderful game.

The Line starts off as your typical dude-bro military shooter. Captain Walker

and his troop members Adams and Lugo travel into Dubai to investigate

"insurgents" who have overtaken the battalion known as the Damned 33rd, a group

led by John Konrad. These men were the first into Dubai in an attempt to rescue

civilians from a series of sandstorms that had killed and trapped many citizens.

Walker and his men defy their original orders to go deeper into the city and

investigate just what happened while Dubai was cut off from the world. They

progress through Dubai, and are subject to one of the most brilliant

deconstructions of modern gaming I've ever seen.

I can't stand most modern shooters. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor,

and the countless imitators all bleed together as generic, boring, blatantly

stupid games. Every plot is "Hoo-ra! Shoot those ambiguously foreign terrorists

before they destroy America!" every environment is as brown as dirt, every game

has the same cast of boring, loud-mouthed American badasses. Spec Ops begins

with basically all of that. Generic character archetypes, from the no-nonsense

leader to the annoying "funny-man", a desert setting, and the shooting of

masked, Middle Eastern men with rifles. Blah, blah, blah. I actually stopped

playing for about a month before I started over and gave the game another shot.

The beginning of the game is a very slow burn, and is far more appreciable once

you get to the end.

About mid-way through the game, the story takes some very interesting turns,

turns I refuse to spoil in this review. Suffice to say, the game near-directly

calls out the modern shooters I hate with a passion, and cleverly satirizes

every trope in the book. The dialogue is all-around excellent, but the combat

and enemy dialogue is particularly good. Several sequences have enemies just

talking before you engage them, and it builds excellent sympathy for what are

usually faceless, nameless bullet sponges. The combat dialogue of Walker, Adams,

and Lugo also changes over the course of the game, making them feel like more

desperate, more beaten up, angrier characters. Very rarely, you have the option

to make choices through the narrative. These aren't moral choices in the vain of

say, Mass Effect, but are more like The Walking Dead, where the lines are

greyer. I also enjoyed moments where the game gives you a "choice," but puts you

into an impossible situation so you are forced to make an "evil" decision.

One consistent thing through the game is the gunplay. SO:TL plays like a generic

third-person shooter, and that might be my biggest complaint about it. You run.

You go into cover. You shoot. You occasionally throw grenades. It all works

perfectly well, but it's never outstanding. I frequently felt bored when nothing

story related was happening, but it honestly might be intentional that the

gameplay is so joyless.

The graphics are mostly like the gameplay, simple but effective. Characters look

fine, but the brightness is so harsh a lot of the time that people look like

they're glowing. Animations look rushed and simplistic. The environments,

though, are usually very pretty, making the best of it's surprisingly unique


All-in-all, Spec Ops: The Line is a surprise more than anything. It's surface is

bad, but like a Hostess Snowball, the core is incredible. This is not the best

looking game of 2012. This is not the best playing game of 2012. This might not

even be the best story of 2012, what with Persona 4 Golden and The Walking Dead

coming out that year. But, if you're as disgusted at most modern military

shooters as I am, this is definitely the most worth-playing game of 2012. Heck,

even if you aren't, just give it a shot. I swear you will not be disappointed.

8.5 out of 10

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