I wasn't sure what to expect from Spec Ops: The Line. It's been touted as the gamer's alternative to the gung-ho antics of war shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. In Spec Ops, the narrative is the key part of the tapestry which holds the whole game together, or so I believed. Then, I got my hands on the demo. After roughly twenty minutes of gameplay, I will say this right now: Spec Ops: The Line could be the biggest shooter of the year.
The demo starts with a fairly generic rail shooter sequence where you gun down half an army's worth of choppers. You fly into a sandstorm and the segment ends, leading players to an earlier point in time. From here, we got our first glimpse of the city of Dubai. To say the least, it looks like a dump after the sandstorms hit. There are wrecked cars everywhere and wasted bodies lying in heaps, but no one seems to be home. That is, until you hear a faint transmission coming from down the road, straight towards the heart of Dubai. You know that what lies ahead won't be pretty but you forge ahead into the unknown.
You can actually use the sand as a weapon too.
As you've probably guessed the quiet doesn't last for long. I was fighting against local militia forces almost as soon as I had found the transmission source. In my pursuit of the insane Colonel John Konrad and his "Damned" 33rd Battalion I had stumbled upon the opposing survivors of Dubai. Led by a CIA agent, it's clear that these guys don't like me or Konrad's men as US army bodies litter the ground around me. The fight against these survivors takes me into the city and the battle is bloody, bitter, and brutal. I cringed once or twice at the sheer impact that the bullets had on targets. While it's nothing you haven't seen before, it's a difficult choice to make to just go on a killing spree. But the enemies aren't going to wait for you either; they pepper cover with powerful weapons and try to outflank you and your squadmates. It's a minor tug-of-war to see whether you can juggle the enemy forces and your men at the same time.
Time to run!
Your team-members, Lugo and Adams, are both fairly competent. They offer numerous wisecracks and call out useful combat information if you're in a pinch. You can also order them to do different things, like stunning an enemy or healing each other should one of them go down. They're also good at suppressive fire but don't expect them to be nailing hostiles left and right. That's more or less your job.
Conserving ammo during firefights is also a must. It goes by quickly and the weapons you find aren't particularly accurate. The AK-47, for instance, kicks like a mule but can't hit the broad side of a barn. The other rifles and SMGs also tear through the limited ammo you carry like nobody's business so make sure you keep a keen eye for ammo crates and weapons lying around. The combat certainly isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination and having no ammo won't help your situation.
You'll be seeing stuff like this a lot. Get used to it.
Visually Spec Ops is gorgeous. The colors appear saturated and have this otherwordly feel to them. While it's more trickery than anything, I felt like I was definitely an unwanted invader in someone else's backyard. The lighting also shows off the impressive technical prowess that Yager has doctored up in the Unreal 3 engine. Everything looks like it belongs in this war-torn hole. The bodies and spray-painted messages on the walls all seem to indicate that everyone in the city has lost it. What people remain have gone feral, and the brutal action only highlights how graphic the violence and terror is.
The audio is excellent. Those who are fans of Uncharted will instantly recognize Nolan North's talent as protagonist Walker. The other squad members also deliver strong voice-overs and their dialogue is expertly written. Every weapon in the game also has a pleasingly grim quality to it. I felt the bullets each time I pulled the trigger, and that viscerality is important to immersing the player in Spec Ops's broken world.
Situation is pretty FUBAR.
Spec Ops: The Line is shaping up to be an excellent game. There's a staggering attention to detail and the narrative really intends to draw players in. While I didn't witness any of the much-touted moral decisions, I look forward to getting my hands on this game soon. From what I've seen, Spec Ops is shaping up just fine.