Opening with a helicopter gun-battle is always a bold move, one intended to reveal to the audience exactly what a game is all about. Thankfully though, Spec Ops: The Line is no one trick pony, bombast and Hollywood be damned, it also plays host to some tactical battles, using squad instruction to help the player out in the battle, giving its very own edge in the war on other third person shooters.
You see, despite there being a plethora of games of this ilk out there, Spec Ops contains enough unique aspects to make it truly…dare I say it…exciting!
The broken sounding US national anthem is the first thing you are greeted with, followed by a visual flare not often seen in a shooter, it’s hard not to fall almost immediately in love with how it looks. Of course it retains the realistic imagery you’d expect from a game set in the real-world realm, but from the moment you set foot into the Dubai desert, trudging into enemy territory to try and rescue soldiers, you’ll see more than just the dull colour palette.
The bright red bloody visuals combined with genuine tension let you know that you’re somewhere you’re not welcome, but you’re not alone. With squad-mates on hand, you can tactically out-flank the enemy to give yourself an advantage, one which you’ll need as you can soon become overrun with enemies, pinned into cover until you can find a way to return fire. Simply telling your squad to attack a particularly aggressive enemy A.I. character will cause them to either gun them down, or perhaps even snipe them from a distance. It’s incredibly satisfying and allows you to forge onwards, deeper into enemy territory.
Something which stands out very early on, is the care that has been taken toward narrative. Concious of the real-world setting, the interaction between enemy soldiers and your character, Captain Martin Walker, voiced by Nolan North – and yes, he sounds like Drake – is handled with care, feeling very immersive in the process. The earliest exchange between friend and foe, a stand-off type situation comes after an uncomfortable journey through the desert, trying to find out what is going on, before coming across the enemy, genuine tension is broken when the firefighting starts and you’re dropped back into the combat, tasked with gunning down the enemy.
Third Person Shooter’s live and die by how they play though and despite the default controls bucking trends ever so slightly in how you approach cover – a separate button for vaulting rather than pushing forward and the button used to enter cover – the game feels responsive and snappy; exactly as you’d hope. Throwing in a few slow-motion room-entry scenes for good measure, hostage situations feel different from the norm because of the – and here’s that word again – tension that you should feel, yet this is something that so many other titles miss the mark on.
Other than the slow motion, the gun-play feels solid with some excellent sound effects. A muffled headshot sound is something I’ve never noticed before, but gives a real feeling that you’re targeting a different body part, not just spraying wildly into a ragdoll body. Movement feels great too, sprinting from cover to cover between barrages of enemy gunfire is exciting. Attaching a silencer to an automatic weapon to remove enemies before they’ve seen you is yet another changing of pace which keeps things fresh.
It is incredibly hard to stand out nowadays, with big hitters like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier doing so well in the charts, but Spec Ops has real character, that good old fashioned je ne sais quoi that means you can’t keep your eyes off of it for long. Couple all of the above with plenty of collectibles (with full audio logs too) and a multiplayer mode, the final release is shaping up very nicely indeed.
Regardless of the Third Person Shooter market being over-crowded, Spec Ops: The Line is a game that should definitely be on your radar, executing successfully in so many areas where others fail. Gorgeous visuals combined with a careful attention to audio detail and excellent controls mean that 2K games should have another hit on their hands.
Spec Ops: The Line is due to be released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC on June 26th, 2012 in North America, followed a couple of days later, on June 29th, 2012, in Europe. Be sure to check back to GodisaGeek.com for the full review of the game.