Thursday, July 24, 2014

Spec Ops: The Line (PS3) Review

Lt. Walker and his two men, the whole of Delta Squad, have been sent into Dubai on a rescue mission in Spec Ops: The Line.  Since it's a modern day military shooter set in the desert, you might think it will be a bland mess of brown and gray.  Thankfully, this isn't the case as the creators put a lot of color into the game.  There are lots of posters, fish tanks and other scenery pieces that really make the game look good.  Some of the textures can be muddy, but the Delta Squad members look great and will actually change throughout the game.  On the flip side, I don't think the music is that good.  Most times it's some kind of techno-Bollywood mix that just didn't sound good.

The gameplay is a fairly standard cover-based third-person shooter, and ranges from average and functional to sometimes frustrating.  Sprinting doesn't require you to hold the button, which I wish could be turned off, and some surfaces/walls didn't allow you to take cover on them.  This wouldn't be too bad, but you can die quick, even on the 'normal' setting.  However, so does most enemies, so the health actually evens out.  Vaulting over things was also finicky, and would require you standing still at the right angle to do so, and ended up being not fluid at all (see Gears of War for an example of how it's done right.)  Occasionally I had trouble distinguishing if a guy running up or far away was my squad mate or an enemy, but that could easily be an issue on my end and not the game's.

The usual arrays of tricks are present- blind fire, grenades and alternate fire for each weapon- and work fairly well.  Grenades are actually really effective, but come with a cost.  If they explode near sand or other similar surface, they will kick up smoke, making it harder to see in the area.  Annoying, but a nice little touch.  Pretty much all of the weapons are useful and kill quickly, so no worries if you are stuck with a particular gun.  There are some that are better, yes, but none that are just flat out bad.  I frequently ran out of ammo, but guns are scattered around well enough that I was never without methods of attack.  Plus, you could order your squad to shoot enemies if you are really low on ammo.

While the gameplay is average, the story is anything but.  It's really well done, engaging, well acted and overall I'd say it's great.  The main three characters are voiced very well, as are the other two characters of "Radioman" and Konrad.  What other game has Kid from Kid and Play and Captain Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) in it?  Besides the voice cast, the story itself is engaging.  I don't want to spoil much, but it's very far from a stereotypical war game, and has a few turns you might not see coming.  Plus, the writers intentionally left several points open to interpretation, so there are a few valid theories as to what all is going on.  Awesome stuff and after learning a thing or two I wanted to run through the game again.

There are 15 chapters in Spec Ops, and they go by pretty quickly.  The game doesn't count any time accrued if you reload, which makes the playtime look a little less than it actual is.  My file's time was almost 5 and a half hours.  After that, I spent an hour or so more going through the other choices in the story.  If you are intent upon getting all of the trophies or achievements, you'll spend more time with the game and go through it at least twice.  The achievement/trophy list is a very standard one with no surprises.  Some for story progression, choices, weapon kills and completing the game on the various difficulties.  There's also a multiplayer mode, but I didn't invest any time into it.

While the third-person cover gun play of Spec Ops: The Line is average at best, the story and voice work more than make up for it.  The way the game plays out and the themes it covers are very well done and I'd recommend playing the game just for the story.  Just put it on easy and have some fun.

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