Sunday, 15 July 2012

REVIEW: Spec Ops The Line

The thinking man's Call of Duty ...

I must say, I'm always dubious about war games that try to emulate Call of Duty but after playing the demo of this game, I found that it was a third person shooter that looked quite cool and was nothing like the Call of Duty games whatsoever. But now, after finishing the game, I found it to be quite a deep and somewhat profound study on war that is the complete antithesis to everything Call of Duty is about.

Firstly, on a completely aesthetic standpoint, the game looks pretty good - but not great. The haze of the sun and sand works well, but it's nothing to write home about. It does have its moments but never was I truly thinking it was a step up - it's definite proof that we need a new console to start pushing boundaries. However, some of the set pieces were impressive and I loved the design.

The control system though is somewhat irritating. Often, I find myself sprinting to standing and trying to find cover and trying not to die, it makes for a completely annoying, rough ride that could have done with being a bit more refined. Five years ago, I might have let a control system like this get by, but not nowadays. Also, the team squad based techniques are good, but somewhat pointless. It feels like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the game.

The AI had its moments but what was really annoying was when your AI team-mates would be dying asking for your help and they have run off ahead or stayed behind leaving you, through no fault of your own, to have to save them. It could be argued this is somewhat 'realistic' but, it's not, it's a mistake in my eyes I'm afraid.

That's the surface stuff, which can all be forgiven when it comes to the story and other nice little details that they've thought about. If you don't know already, The Line is set in a post-apocalyptic Dubai. The city had undergone a huge sandstorm and the 33rd battalion, under a General Conrad, were told to evacuate the city. However, there was no trace of the survivors or the 33rd. They then get a message saying that the evacuation was a failure and the losses heavy, so Walker and his two squad are told to recon the area and report back. But then, it all goes a bit wrong...

The game is loosely based on Heart of Darkness (Conrad being an obvious indicator) and therefore of course, more importantly, Apocalypse Now. Once you enter Dubai, you see that it's a complete war zone between the locals and the 33rd led by Conrad who have now taken over the city. You also see that the CIA have got involved to keep things under wraps so a full scale war between America and UAE doesn't break out and soon you find yourself being targeted by everyone in this crossfire.

The Line is essentially a commentary on the full horror of war. Your squad are not happy that they keep delving further when they should just leave and report back. They are, after all, killing American soldiers. After a traumatic event, events start to spiral out of control and, as a result, the game becomes a piece about Walker's fragile state of being. His actions, and ultimately your choices, soon put him on a path that he cannot recover from. This isn't a gun-ho ballsy Team America piece, in fact it's shows how disgusting, futile and ultimately evil war is - even by trying to become the hero you become the enemy. There is no such thing as a 'good guy' in war and, even as you battle your way through the game, by the end the city is in complete ruins. To justify war, you've had to destroy everything.

It's an introspective piece on Walker, a friend of Conrad's, who blames the General for all the evil that has occurred but as the game progresses you physically look worse and worse. Also, the little quips and in-game dialogue gets more heated and more desperate and it's a beautiful touch to the disintegration of Walker's mind. Even the menu appears different each time you turn it on, from the upside down flag, to a man keeping watch, to him dead with the city on fire, to an empty desolate space depending how far you have progressed in the campaign. Depending on what you do, you will get a certain ending of about five, none of which are 'good'. My one for instance ended with the city alight and completely destroyed - the result of me trying to do what was right.

All in all, The Line is about how far a man will go to prove his worth not only to other people, but more importantly to himself. We like to believe we are good people, but are we? Or do we just blame our bad decisions on other people? It's completely downbeat, it's horrific and no way do you ever feel like a hero. Instead you come away feeling slightly disgusted, slightly awkward and like you've just screwed everything up. It doesn't help that loading screens have strange messages like 'How many Americans have you killed today?' and 'You're still a good person.' I never got a chance to play the multiplayer mode but if you like a good action piece with a bit of gritty, harsh character assassination then it's definitely worth playing.

Rating: 7.5/10

1 comment:

  1. I usually rent my games first to figure out if I really want to spend all that money on a game that will just end up collecting dust on my shelf. Your review of 7.5 made me at least want to check it out further. I did add it to my Blockbuster@Home game queue so that I can try it out first hand before I decide if it’s worth buying. I got my first opportunity to see this game in person at a co-worker’s house from Dish a few days ago and noticed for a military shooter, this is pretty groundbreaking. I’ve been reading reviews online for this game for a little while and from what people had to say, it’s not a bad game at all if you’re into multiplayer games.