Game Review | Spec Ops: The Lineby Theodore Geektasm / 20.07.2012
A mother and daughter, melted together in a white phosphorous attack. Ragged Emiratis sucking on bullet holes of an overturned water truck, destined to die of thirst anyway. Broken highways lined with American soldiers swinging from light posts. These are just some of the beautiful scenes that await you in Spec Ops: The Line, a game made by sick bastards for equally sick bastards.
The latest installment in the long-running Spec Ops series offers perhaps the grittiest portrait of violence and the chaos of war currently seen in the gaming market. It’s simply delicious – dark, bewildering and gory. Any title that allows you to slaughter US soldiers by the dozen gets a blood thirsty ‘hooah!’ from us. The macabre story, a freestyle adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness, is the game’s main strength, putting it way ahead of other third-person shooters. The dialogue (especially the half-sane cackles of The Radioman), the decisions put in front of the player and the raw, no-bullshit-no-glamour nature of the tale make Spec Ops a highly enjoyable, if very short, ride into madness.
Playing as Captain Walker, the head of a three man Delta team, you enter Dubai, laid waste by monstrous sandstorms 6 months prior. Your mission is to locate Colonel John Konrad (see what they did there?), the commander of the 33rd Battalion of the US Army, sent to evacuate Dubai. The Colonel, as it happens with most military types when given a bit of free reign, promptly went rogue with the whole battalion, turning Dubai into a fucked up no-man’s-land, full of joyful horrors and executed civilians. Walker and his two sidekicks now have to sort out the mess, with pesky CIA agents stirring up trouble left right and center, but, as it also happens with most military types, end up causing a tremendous amount of chaos and innocent deaths. Which is where the fun lies.
The game mechanics are as tried and tested as an AK-47, working on the shoot-cover-flank model established back in Gears Of War days. The player can assign targets for his two buddies to take out, but the tactical element is severely lacking, resulting in short but vicious firefight with little replay ability value. The arsenal on offer is equally slim – three assault rifles, a couple of SMGs and some heavy weaponry. Not much to go on. And let’s not even get into the multiplayer side of things. Dreary stuff. Spec Ops: The Line, essentially, offers absolutely nothing new in terms of gameplay.
Yet the game remains a hella lot of fun – the smoke-a-joint-and-murder-civilians-in-the-dark-by-yourself kind of fun, which, arguably, is the best kind of fun there is. The atmosphere is spectacular. From the light effects to the level design, trekking across the rooftops of a destroyed Dubai is a treat (yet one can’t help but wonder what the game would look like running on Frostbite 2, the beast of an engine that fuels Battlefield 3). Thumbs up must also be given to the soundtrack – full of rock ‘n roll oldies and other great songs to kill by. Spec Ops: The Line might not be the new Half-Life or Skyrim, but it is definitely worth the time.
*Fancy blistering your thumbs with your own copy of Spec Ops: The Line? The good people at Megarom Games, have given us 2 copies to hand out to the Mahala faithful (1 x Xbox, 1 x PS3). You see that comment board down there? Tell us the best way to kill a US marine and we’ll swing the two best comments some freebie love! Winners announced on Thursday, July 26th.