Spec Ops: The Line - FUBAR Edition
Developer: Yager Development (singleplayer) /Darkside Game Studios (multiplayer).
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: 2-8 online multiplayer
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Spec Ops: The Line is best described as a third-person cover shooter with hint of squad-based tactics on the side. The player controls Delta Force Captain Martin Walker (voiced by serial videogame voice actor Nolan North) who is sent to Dubai to rescue a personal hero of his, a U.S. Army Colonel named John Konrad, who remained behind after most of the population were evacuated after catastrophic sand storms hit the city and rendered it a devastated, sand-clogged metropolis under martial law. You soon get attacked by a band of rogue civilians and then find that the US military unit sent to impose martial law is out of control, and anyone with a weapon is the enemy.

Coming from Yager, a developer who I haven’t seen or heard anything from in 9 years or more (they did a futuristic air combat game imaginatively called Yager on the original Xbox) Spec Ops: The Line is driven by its heavy plotline, and cut-scenes are extremely frequent. The combat is intense and the game forces you to make some moral decisions along the way (and annoyingly there’s usually a trophy/achievement for doing both), although as to whether they’re as “gut-wrenching” as the publisher’s spiel makes them out to be is up for debate-some are the right thing to do, some are the sensible thing to do, it would seem that the decision make no difference to the way the game plays out whatsoever.

There are 24, mostly impossible to miss, collectibles to find in the form of Intel, and these items fill in a lot of the back story. I mentioned earlier that Nolan North supplies the voice for the playable character Captain Walker, and I found him instantly recognisable as Nathan Drake (from Sony’s Uncharted games). Now I’m sure Nathan dropped the odd F-bomb during his three adventures but Walker and his cohorts seem to go through the game eFFing and blinding all the fucking time, almost to the point of amusement on my part-and (I’m told) I swear and cuss a lot. Yes, the plot is surprisingly dark and adult in nature and you may well expect men in a combat situation to use less than polite language from time to time, but with dialogue this profanity-laden I wouldn’t have been surprised if the game had been titled Fuckin’ Spec FuckinOps: The Fuckin Line – Fuckin FUBAR Edition. Fuck..

To keep the complaints department going some nice weapon effects (shattering glass looks amazing, you can blow enemies heads clean off and atomize them with grenades) and ragdoll physics are countered by some of the most insipid explosions I’ve seen in a full-price game from a major publisher-they’re SO tame and non-explosive in appearance that they look like they’re either Beta version “placeholder” quality, or straight out of a Mario game.

I’d also like to make mention of one particular sequence in the game that I thought was daft beyond belief, and quite possibly irresponsible. A shootout with a heavily armoured gunner (like a Juggernaut in Modern Warfare 2) has such a bizarre, flashing lights on/lights off sequence that it’s likely to cause an epileptic seizure, even in people who haven’t experienced them before.

Your AI buddies aren’t indestructible as in most games and you can heal your wounded squad mates with a quick jab of adrenaline, and the AI is competent and you’ll see them take down enemies unprompted from time to time, but then you’ll also see them ignore obvious targets unless you command them to target them too. You also must be careful which enemies you designate for your squad mate’s attention as sometimes they will get too far advanced, and both get downed leaving you in an impossible position of having to do a hero run to save them with no chance of survival as they won’t crawl to cover or supply suppressing fire or anything useful like that.

Scattered throughout Dubai are superbly modeled vehicles, both military and civilian, and it’s a surprise that none are drivable, although you do get to gun on a couple of helicopter rides which are possibly the game’s most visually impressive and exciting sequences.

The game brings a few new ideas, the best of probably set pieces where you can use the sandy environment to kill multiple enemies with avalanches, usually by breaking glass that’s holding tons of sand back. Another idea I haven’t seen before is the ability to flip turret machine guns around to face the other way-hwo many games have you come to an emplacement gun and found it useless because it’s pointing the wrong way and won’t traverse to point in the direction of the enemy?

There’s not as much stealth as I'd have expected from a game with this title-in fact, there was one hilarious moment when I equipped my suppressor and shot two chatting guards silently, at which point Captain Walker yells THREAT ELIMINATED! at the top of his voice to his two squad mates who are 6 feet away! This struck ne as being so funny that I had to reload the checkpoint and show someone else, but he didn’t do it again, apparently I’d been spotted by the two guards in the first attempt. As soon as I'd gone down the stairs my two squad mates reveal opposition to the mast enemy anyway so my initial attempt at stealth was pointless anyway. There is a section that rewards you with an achievement if you show some restraint and stealth, but it's completely optional.

Spec Ops: The Line's multiplayer mode supports to 2 to 8 players. Playing is either Exiles or The Damned there are disappointingly only six maps to play on, based on locations from the campaign. Game modes include Chaos (straight deathmatch), Rally Point (King of the Hill), Buried (destroy vital points to cause sand avalanches and reveal the HVT), Mutiny (team deathmatch), Attrition (team eliminator with no respawns), and Uplink (hold the central zone while keeping the uplink online to score points.) As is common in multiplayer modes now you can choose class (from Gunner, Medic, Breacher, Sniper and Officer) and loadout, and unlock more weapons, perks, kit customisations and team buffs as you level up.

If this sounds fully-featured then, well I guess it is, but the multiplayer game looks so inferior graphically to the campaign mode that it's hard to believe they’re related. It’s the norm for multiplayer maps to have less detail than campaign story levels but these maps are so low detail that it looks like a budget multiplayer title. The characters’ movement is so unrealistically sudden and fast that hitting an enemy with a sniper rifle is only going to happen with the doziest of enemies. Looks-wise the playable characters in the multiplayer game don’t really match up to those in the solo campaign either, they move in a less realistic way and when playing you feel like you’re ‘floating’ rather than running around. It's no wonder the online mode requires no access code, but at least you'll be able to try if you rent the game or buy it second-hand, and I suspect there’ll be a lot of used copies available soon. There is bonus content coming in September (in the form of a co-op challenge mode) and that could add some life to the game, but despite some obvious effort in places this particular multiplayer mode feels like a tacked-on afterthought compared to the likes of Gears of War 3 and Ghost Recon Future Soldier.

Spec Ops: The Line has an interesting plot that takes inspiration from current events, adds a 100-year sandstorm and then gets a bit weird and Apocalypse Now-ish toward the end. The overall impression it left on me was that I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, I expected the game to feel a lot more epic and free-roaming. What we have here is rather pretentious, mostly good-looking and sounding, but incredibly linear and unremarkable cover shooter, with few genuine surprises or innovations, but at least you’ll learn what “Cognitive Dissonance” means along the way.

Best Bits

- Good-looking and well animated.
- Very effective cover mode mechanic and accurate aiming.
- A by-the-numbers plot turns out to be something more.
Worst Bits

- Feels very linear and scripted.
- Disappointing multiplayer mode.

by: Diddly

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