Spec Ops The Line Review
An interesting story and unique setting do just enough to elevate this otherwise unremarkable shooter
The Spec Ops franchise dates way back to late 90’s and early 2000’s, when the series saw the release of a number of titles, though none went on to become either critical or financial successes as much as the publishers have liked. With 2012’s Spec Ops: The Line, the franchise seeks to reinvent itself with a completely new direction and developer. Even so, the game went through a lengthy and troubled cycle after being announced in 2009, but has now finally seen the light of day. You can expect plenty of shootouts and a unique setting, mixed with an intriguing storyline and dark thematic elements. In a rare case, The Line is competent shooter you’ll remember for its plot rather than the decidedly average action.
The Line has little to do with the previous titles, so there are no plot elements to hold new players back. You arrive in the fictional version of Dubai, like its real-world counterpart, an extravagant and prosperous city in the United Arab Emirates. But things aren’t how they used to be. Due to reasons unknown, the worst series of sandstorms in recorded history began around the city, eventually devastating it and leaving a thick wall of sand between it and the rest of the world. This natural barrier prevents any communications with the outside world, thus leaving our arriving trio of soldiers on their own.
The team, consisting of player-controlled Martin Walker and his two squad members, are sent to Dubai in order to confirm the statuses of Colonel John Konrad and 33rd regiment, who were originally sent to the city in order to evacuate civilians. They haven’t been heard from for weeks, until a recent transmission stating that the evacuation failed and the regiment was lost. Upon discovering the source of the transmission to be a fake, the team sets out deeper into the city. There are a number of side characters you’ll come across, all with their secret agendas, though it all seems to be a bit over-complicated and confusing with too many double-crosses to count and some big holes in the plot. The game even throws in a few choices, but sadly these have little effect beyond how the next scene plays out. In fact, some scenes have so much impact that players may expect to be given a choice, but in reality it is a linear sequence used to advance the plot.
Perhaps most interesting element of the campaign is the ending – it’s something we’ve seen before in a certain cult favorite movie and a recent video game. To say any more would be to spoil the concept, however it does make for a memorable conclusion and it’s the best execution of this plot mechanic yet seen in the medium, thanks to steady buildup and well-written dialogue. It also makes for an intriguing second playthrough once you know the twist, adding a new layer of uncertainty to the story.
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