So, in January of 2013, I played Special Operative: The Safety Line and wrote something I had very little confidence in. A game I claimed to probably never play again, but that’s what I get for writing comments early in the morning. For whatever reason I did one better, bought a PC copy, and decided to play through it because… I guess I felt like it. Hopefully I can better deconstruct the game, even though I should make it clear that no matter how hard I may try, I still don’t quite get it.
Spec Ops: The Line Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Xbox 360, PS3
Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: 2K Games
You see, I don’t really get the appeal of military… anything aside from jackets, and some other miscellaneous bits of clothing I think look cool. It is something I’ve felt very disconnected from, and that also applies to video games as well. Never played much in regards to military shooters, and the only one I have even the slightest bit of interest in is because it is supposedly a very good game that influenced quite a few others (Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare). As such, any form of references to military fiction, themes, and the like were largely far too high above my head to get the full gist of what this creatively subtitled game.
That said, Spec Ops: The Line is about a group of three military men who are sent to clean up Dubai after a sandstorm demolished it, leaving thousands in need of help, and the last people who tried to help all lost contact with the outside world. It is sadly most of what I was able to grasp about the main plot, as why exactly certain people were here, what they were doing, why they were doing it all amounts to general confusion on my part. However, even looking at a plot synopsis I am a bit confused as to the details beyond what is abundantly clear. The main characters are effectively weapons of mass destruction that only proceed to make a bad situation far, far worse.
While having good intentions, I can’t distinctly remember a good thing done done by these seemingly archetypical military men, with the leader of the bunch, Walker, being particularly destructive as he casually executes people and seems to have little remorse in murdering citizens. That’s before the game actually does take the hundreds of people murdered by Walker and company into consideration, where I believe the game is attempting to make some grand statement about the modern military AAA games that were popping up like ducks around the time of release, but the level of impact dealt by the actions seemed rather lacking to me. I’ll admit that I am very much desensitized to… quite a lot actually, but as the story came to a conclusion like a wounded animal breathing its last breath, I was confused as to what its overall “point” was.
Yes, yes, that war is a super nasty thing, and not something to be glorified, but there is a certain breed of message, perhaps based on a revelation about the main character himself, that felt unsubstantial to me. Not that it was absent, just that there was not a lot of attention paid to it, probably because I would be shocked if I found out that 2K Games was fully aware of what the game was trying to be from the get-go, and okayed every decision without a second thought. I understand forgiving issues that could have happened with the game’s development, but the story of Spec Ops: The Line is one I feel could be far better consumed by not touching the game, and instead reading about it, which is absolutely not a point in its favor.
The gameplay of the title sadly does not help much in that regard either, but not from basic fundamental flaws. Sure, I learned to utterly loathe the lack of a health bar as I played through his military cover based shooter, but I was actively upset when I was reminded of a few choice section in the game, if only because of how obnoxious they are on the normal difficulty. To the point where I would have bit the bullet and played on easy, if not for how demeaning the description for the difficulty was when the game suggested I play on it after dying ten times. I refer to the particular instances as The Battle, Parking Lot, Yacht Storm, and the Final Battle, all of which are something of a test of one’s patience as memorization is key, and bullets cut through Walker like… bullets.
Combine this with the gameplay only adding a bit more evidence to the title’s ultimate claims, and possibly some surrealism by really improbably spawn points, I would actually not really recommend playing it. It is competent, shooting things feels good, as it should given its themes, but none of its accessory mechanics feel all that well used. You can bury enemies to death in sand at a few select points, squad members can be ordered to kill targets, but they are pretty disposable otherwise, and there are a trio of grenades that are in place to likely add to the dehumanization of American soldiers, at least 200 of which were gruesomely murdered in my playthrough.
And boy was the murder… kept pretty clean all things considered, at least when looking at it compared to some of its peers. Sure, there are a handful of morbid scenes, but for the most part any screenshot from the game looks like it is from the type of game Spec Ops: The Line would have you believe it to be based on the cover. The key differences is just how messed up the main characters get as they gradually descend into a metaphorical hell and a shade of insanity, and how the setting of Dubai allows for some lovely looking set pieces that I appreciate on several levels. Much like I do an often eccentric music selection that I sadly do not get all that much in regards to what is being referenced, as my knowledge peaked at knowing why Jimi Hendrix’s cover of the American national anthem meant anything. Beyond that, I’m just left with a soundtrack that often intentionally negates the levity of situations by making murder time be fun time.
Spec Ops: The Line is a game I am not entirely sure if I believe is not doing its concept justice, or I am just missing quite a bit of what the game is trying to say, as it is not for me, or some bullcrap like that. Because of it, I find it hard to fully recommend the game, plus it wasn’t special when looking back at its fairly short and frustration filled campaign aside from its story. As I said earlier, I feel as if a good write up can do the game better justice to the game than the game itself. It’s an odd feeling of respect and apathy, but that’s what I’ve got at the end of the day, that and a game I have no reason to own two copies of, when I really mean it when I say I do not see myself ever returning to the Morality Line just to see it be destroyed once more.
By no means something that must be played, but not entirely worth pushing aside forever. The title is ultimately above average and keeps the good balanced with the bad by a noticeable enough margin to still be worth picking up.