Y’know, other than the amount of dissatisfaction when you realize that you are not putting out anything that people actually care about. The feeling of not having much to say is the worst part of my self imposed hobby/job. Its not just that people have said a lot after it was given a far closer look, and I’m late to the metaphorical party. It’s because how they clearly have more experience, since I’ve never even touched what one would consider to be a, “Modern Military Shooter”. So I’ll try something less conventional, and structure this review in accordance with how I was introduced to this game.
Spec Ops: The Line Review
Release Date: 26/06/2012
Platforms: Xbox 360(Reviewed), Playstation 3, PC
Developer: Yager Development, and I guess Darkside Game Studios, but they did the “cancerous multiplayer”
Publisher: 2K Games
I first remember seeing Spec Ops: The Line at the Spike VGAs in 2009, as a modern military shooter, a genre that I have next to no experience with, unless you count a few hours of Team Fortress 2, or Metal Gear Solid. Where the only unique feature was how the sand looked kinda neat. Yippee. But then the game, whose title I could not remember was actually released, and to a surprising amount of praise for its unique take on the genre, and advancing the medium as a whole, but not enough for really any awards. And to seal the deal, the most prominent portion, the multiplayer, was apparently cancerous according to the lead developer, which made picking up this game something that was certainly on my radar. That, and Extra Credit’s far superior examination of this suckerpunch deconstruction of the medium, which I will hardly talk about, since I do not want to give anything away.
The actual title picks up telling the story of badness going down in the Middle East, specifically the overly extravagant and impractical looking Dubai. And a small group of American troops, led by the main character, who is known as Walker, need to go in and fix this badness. Well, that is the case for the beginning of the game, where it is a pretty standard gung-ho third person shooter. With the most unique part being how I died approximately three times every other firefight because I did not understand how the health system worked when I could die after 1.5 seconds. Along with how you’re an army of three, and you’re fighting up to eight guys, with more spawning in all the time. With the only salvation being found in chest high walls.
However, everything from the very meh feeling gameplay. Which I could describe in one sentence: Third-person cover based shooter with two weapon slots, and that unbar health bar, where you can tell two ducks to shoot a guy by pressing RB. To the sense of unreality with the enemy movement patterns. The game did something I haven’t felt since Deadly Premonition, have issues that actually managed to enhance the experience of playing it. Even from a developer who only made one prior title, this was announced nearly three years before it released, there would be no excuse for such a very… uncanny feeling title. More specifically, everything feels like it is made of plastic, like someone wanted to make a game based on the feeling of playing with GI Joes. Which would’ve been alright, except for how much it blends its sillier moments, namely whenever you get a turret. With the realization that you can barely even remember why you were even here, or why it mattered. And how horrible it looks with no context. You’re going to a destroyed city in the middle of the desert and murdering anything because it made your crosshair red.
However, here it grabbed my attention, and not only because I suck at actually playing it. Because of how everything seemed to be placed too exactly, and too polished for aspects like this to not go unchecked. But I did not really have much of a reaction to the game, until it demonstrated how it was the Bizarro Telltale’s The Walking Dead, where instead of making choices, and needing to live with the consequences. You need to do horrible things and acts that could easily be considered war crimes, but there is no one other to blame than yourself for playing the game.
While you are often given choices that were presented more organically than any game I can recall seeing on the AAA market. Namely how it is not a menu option. Instead, there are opportunities where the game is structured in a way so that the options a player would think of would be catered to. Even if they don’t add much to the grand scheme of things, they certainly managed to serment how there was clearly a lot of work put into this game. Even though those sand physics were barely an afterthought, with their only use being to bury baddies alive in sand at contextual points.
However I can’t help but feel a bit let down by the conclusion for this tale. Now, I do not believe that I am mentally capable of even comprehending the act of war, or what it would even mean to be a soldier. But none of the options given for the branching ending felt like it maintained the most reaction that I would most likely see the tattered Walker do. After the game keeps on cracking and showing how everything is not normal, it seems to just conclude on a very, “Oh, I guess that’s the end” note. Yeah, there’s one excellent line, but as a character, I wasn’t be able to care about Walker, because he apparently had too much testosterone to she a single tear. Which I just classify as utterly inhuman, regardless of him being a soldier or not. That, and he looked like he was edible by the end, and it is hard to care about old lunch meat.
I certainly respect Spec Ops: The Line, but in terms of actually enjoying it is at a bit of an impasse. With enjoying meaning that I experienced a positive emotion while playing it, even if it was more cold depressing introspection while wondering what exactly the licensed soundtrack symbolized, other than the ever present uncanny atmosphere. And as much as I love that, I can’t help but feel a bit ill upon realizing everything that I have done. Although it is certainly not the normal reaction that I have after thinking about the true weight of a slime while I had one kill its weaker brothers. No, its a feeling that I would most aquae to having feces stuck in your hair. Through both the visual design and the off-putting combat as well as its story, obviously, the game manages to craft one of the most unconventionally great experiences I have seen from the medium. It’s just that I don’t have a massive emotional reaction to this stepping stone in the medium of gaming. If only because my mind is not really able to grip upon the weight of death, war, or even the actual power of a bullet. Although I oddly get self-worth, torture, and rape. Yeah, I’m weird like that.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.