Spec Ops: The Line, as we discerned from this review, paints a picture for you to look at. You gaze at this picture and keep wondering what possibly went wrong and why has the city of Dubai transformed into the cesspool of inhuman cataclysm that it is. The game moves you with its intricately woven story which keeps asking you unsettling questions from time to time. And then it pushes you right into the conflict and prompts you to play your way out of the tangles you’ve found yourselves in. But as one would guess, the situation keeps getting graver by the minute, and the tangles, more snarled. That being the overall ambiance that is left on your minds by this title, let us throw some light on whether it’s worth your money or not in terms of other aspects.
The Dubai from Spec Ops: The Line is in a despicable shape. Dust and sand storms have ravaged it completely, turning its skyscrapers into nothing but barriers to keep the sand away from the dark aisles of its remains where some of the surviving human population finds shelter in. A battalion named The Damned 33, led by war veteran John Konrad has volunteered to rescue the survivors, but the US army hasn’t heard from them ever since they entered Dubai. You play as Captain Walker, who along with Adams and Lugo, has been tasked with accessing the situation and establishing contact with Konrad, under whom he has served in the past. Alighting in Dubai is easy for this three-man squad but the nightmarish circumstances that follow are a far cry from what they were expecting. Soon finding themselves killing US soldiers, rescuing CIA agents and witnessing and being responsible for brutally traumatic human rights abuses, this team is shell-shocked.
Unraveling bit by bit, the narrative of this game has something for you on every corner. Without taking any sides, it immerses you so much that into Captain Walker that you‘re forced to introspect the decisions made by him. The pursuit of John Konrad completely takes over his mind, and he becomes obsessed with Konrad’s mysterious existence to the extent that he’s willing to risk the lives of him and his squad-mates in order to find him. The Apocalypse Now blueprint works brilliantly, while traces of Fight Club can also be spotted in this story. Yet, in spite of these inspirations, the game maintains its originality with utter substance. There’s a catch though; the campaign’s quite short in length to last you a good deal. There’s not much to jump into it twice as well. To say the least, with its awesomely engaging plot, immersive characters and unforgettable visuals, Spec Ops: The Line leaves you wallowing for more.
You shoot your way through Dubai using an assortment of weapons, but the ammo there is scarce. Your firefights are every now and then punctuated by sand storms that make it hard for you to spot your foes. These little additions are accompanied by the same tried and tested third-person shooter formula as far this title’s gameplay is concerned. Apart from gunplay, there’s a broken melee option which works just 50 percent of the times you try to use it. The explosions of grenades and other combustibles look ugly to say the least. Forget particle effects, these detonations echo of games from the previous-gen consoles. But the fact that their impact spans a much larger area than their blasting radius is quite humorous to look at. The cover system is sticky and annoying and accompanied by other abrading aspects like no reload while running and no weapon upgrades, it hinders the gameplay experience considerably.
Spec Ops: The Line gains a lot of points however for its level design. Its sprawling non-linear battlefields are set in the ravaged malls, hotels, museums and open dunes of Dubai. And it’s the design of these environments that resonates brilliance. This game’s art has been worked upon a lot. Visuals of skyscrapers entirely submerged in sand, an underwater zoo in the midst of it all sprawling with live fishes and those of distant skies transitioning themselves into orange sand are hard not to gape at. The graphics however deserve little or no praise at all. If the mediocre effects are to be forgotten, this game features textures that have a mind of their own, as during gameplay and cutscenes alike, they render themselves poorly; sometimes not appearing at all. Music is another theme borrowed by the developer from Apocalypse Now. But it feels right in place each time, and the solid voice-acting performances are worth mentioning too.
The excellent story of this game could definitely have served as a nice outline for its multiplayer, but the developer has chosen to stick to the basics. Some life into the multiplayer matches is brought by the neat maps that carry over the clever level design from the single-player campaign. And with all this, does it really compel you to remove those BF3 and MW3 discs from your systems and jump into the online confines of this one? No, it most definitely does not. There’s not much in it for the game’s multiplayer to reel you into it.
Final Word: Spec Ops: The Line is not a feel good game; it’s an unsettling one on the contrary. It easily manages to infuse you into the character you play. And the unnerving scenes that you witness in Dubai are all the more disturbing. But you still keep going to find out the truth behind the mysterious occurrences in the city. The campaign is short but a hard-hitting one. And issues like texture pop-ins and cover and melee disasters fail to impress. Here’s our score for the game.
Replay Value: 7/10
Overall (not an average): 8/10