Sunday, 16 April 2017

Review No. 129 Spec Ops: The Line - PC (18+)

Strong Points:
Tactical gameplay
Interesting take on the shooter genre
Good voice acting
Intel fills in more of the world
Team AI can do things on their own...
A mature, complex story
Title screen degenerates as you do
Context-specific speaking parts
Loading screens

Weak Points:
Odd pacing
Difficulty spikes
Can be confusing in terms of story and what is a choice
Searching for intel becomes a bit out of character with the game later on
...but they sometimes take a long time to complete an order
You won't feel good while playing

Major spoilers ahead:
In-depth Review:

Release Dates:
North America: June 26th, 2012
World Wide: June 29th, 2012

Controls: can be changed in game
WASD: move
Spacebar: cover/sprint/context actions
Left Ctrl: crouch
Left Alt: walk
Mouse: look around:
Left Shift: melee/(hold) vault
R: reload/(hold) pick up
E: switch weapon
Left Mouse Button: shoot
Right Mouse Button: aim
Q: throw grenade
Middle Mouse Button: (single player) command squad/(multi-player) medic and officer abilities
C: (single player) toggle secondary fire
Mouse Wheel: cycle grenade type
X: (multi-player) officer supply drop
F: (aim mode) toggle camera
I: (single player) show intel
F1: (multi-player) show scoreboard
Esc: menu

The opening of this game is just like any other shooter of the past decade. Big guns, big action and big survivor rate of your characters when your helicopter crashes through the sand wall in a post-apocalyptic Dubai. You shoot in self-defence, there's an air of camaraderie and Lugo's cracking (some pretty good) jokes every where. You are the good guys, the heroes and you will save the people of Dubai from the Damned 33rd. Don't worry guys, this will change soon.

The gameplay is a solid, cover-based third-person shooter. The cover mechanics work really well, and I had little trouble getting into the various types of cover in the levels. The separate heights and fragility of the cover add more tactility to the game, as does the team commands. The team commands consist of sending your two team mates to either shoot at specific enemies, revive each other or, in certain circumstances, flash bang the enemy. I really enjoyed sending my teammates round to defeat snipers etc. and would've preferred even more versatility in terms of commands. Also, as the other soldiers are AI, they can sometimes take quite a while to perform a command so be mindful.

Weapons are again, your typical shooter weapons of Rifle, Pistol, Sniper Rifle, Shotgun etc. but with gun specific secondary attributes, there is enough variation to make the weapons interesting. You will also tend to run out of ammo often (especially in harder difficulties), so again, be mindful of when to shoot - this isn't your typical shooter affair (as you will find out). The environments also allow for more tactics with additions such as sand pressed up against glass that can be broken, engulfing enemies in sand, sandstorms obscuring vision and the ability to stun enemies using sand via grenade explosions.

As you play, you may notice a transition into a darker tone. A really dark tone. The American flag becomes more broken on the title screen, the conversations become angrier, the executions more brutal and the tips in the loading screens break the 4th wall, asking if you 'feel like a hero?'. This slow transition works well for the game, and the short length of the game allows you to realise the transition and not forget the beginning by the time you have gotten to the end of the game. Choices help to further the tone, even if they have little impact on gameplay as a whole. The choices usually make you choose between two people, and some of these choices are tough - really tough. However, I started questioning what was a choice and what wasn't, staying in the same area for a while deliberating, only to find out it wasn't a choice. I recommend going with your gut instinct and if that's not a choice, then go for your next choice - don't keep deliberating as in real-life you can't just restart.

Now, the endings are confusing, to say the least. There are 4 endings in total with each one leaving you and the world slightly different than the others. I chose to shoot Konrad and let the army evacuate me, basically making my character believe wholeheartedly that he is a war hero and is justified. This may have been due to me playing on hard-mode but I didn't feel like I breezed through killing everyone, making the choices, at least in the eyes of Walker, slightly justifiable and so I chose that ending. Also, don't expect to make sense of the game on the first playthrough as while the idea of hallucinations was a really interesting twist, some parts of the game don't seem to make sense anyway, even with that addition. A second playthrough is necessary!

The voice acting was top-notch, adding another stellar character to Nolan North's impressive resume and the music was great at making the world believable. Mostly composed of rock music, it was contrapuntal to the gameplay and helped to make the game unnerving. Graphics wise the game is average for its age, with realistic enough people although the location, while certainly impressive to begin with, craved some variety.

Lastly, the technical aspects of the game were variable, with some bugs making you miss enemies and audio and massive difficulty spikes breaking the immersion of the game slightly. Near the end, when you have to protect Adams I found myself dying repeatedly, so much in fact, that I ended up not caring about the amount of people I killed, I just was happy that I beat the darn level. I don't think this is what Spec Ops wanted me to think, to be honest...

Conclusion: an interesting, if slightly flawed look into the shooter genre and our own psyche. Pick it up but have something light to do in-between.

Rating: 78%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

Note: I haven't played the multiplayer or co-op yet, mostly due to the lack of people to play with, but I have checked what's in it and a general shooter multiplayer does seem slightly at ends with the ethos of the single-player.

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