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Spec Ops: The Line: Premium Edition

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Yager Development
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Third Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

There are countless war games out there, but very few of them are actually about war. Most of them simply use the backdrop of a real or fictitious war to deliver a military shooter experience (and nothing else) to the gamer. Spec Ops: The Line is like most other shooters in basic ways, to a fault, in fact. However, it's not like most other shooters in its depiction of war and what it does to people. Amazingly, this third-person military shooter's story is its strong suit. By a large margin. It's thoughtful, provocative, and deeply disturbing.

Spec Ops: The Line certainly shows you things you're not used to seeing. Dubai is a beautiful city, and seeing what happens to it in this game is completely horrifying. Though the city has been ravaged by sandstorms and war, you still get glimpses of what the city was. The action looks good; enemies animate and die naturally, though the gore effects are extremely weak. But let's just say that being burned alive by white phosphorus is not the way I want to go out. Spec Ops: The Line looks good overall, provided you don't look too closely. Several of the textures are zoomed in on by the game's cinematic camera, which no doubt reminds the player that he or she is playing a game. Captain Walker and his team become more ragged, beaten up, and sandy the further you go, which is a nice touch. And without giving any spoilers, some of the visual effects near the end of the game are jarring in all the right ways.

At first, I jokingly referred to Spec Ops: The Line as "Nathan Drake Drops a Million F Bombs." But then I took a step back and reminded myself that I'd be hurling them as frequently (if not more so) than Captain Walker if I was in his boots. A lot is riding on the delivery of the voice talent; the script is deadly serious and contains very little humor. Nolan North is instantly identifiable in most of his leading roles these days, and so he is here as Captain Walker. Christopher Reid and Omar Abtahi voice your companions. There are a few interesting picks, too; Bruce Boxleitner (Tron) voices John Konrad and Jake Busey plays The Radioman. There's a lot of licensed music in this game, and I'm extremely proud of 2K and Yager: not once did I hear Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" in any of my time with the game.


It's been six months since a series of cataclysmic sandstorms brought Dubai to its knees. The haves have utterly abandoned the have-nots, leaving them to die torturously slow deaths. However, Colonel John Konrad, leader of the 33rd Battalion (colloquially known as "The Damned) entered the city with his men to assist the people. However, when the government ordered them to abandon the city, Konrad and his men deserted. Dubai has been declared a no-man's land, between the storms, the violence, and the utter lack of credible information regarding the situation. However, a mysterious message from Konrad escapes the city. So the U.S. sends in a trio of Delta Force operators: Captain Martin Walker, Lieutenant Alphonso Adams, and Sergeant John Lugo.

Gameplay-wise, Spec Ops: The Line isn't interesting. It is a linear, boilerplate third person shooter that breaks no new ground whatsoever. You run, take cover, and shoot. Throw in a liberal dose of forced-walk exposition/story development scenes and a few on-rails watercooler moments, and you've got a game that is in many ways, painfully standard.

So what is it that makes Spec Ops: The Line so interesting? It's the bleak, horrific subject matter. For starters, most of your enemies are American soldiers who are simply following orders. This may upset some. There are also load screens that ask questions such as "How many Americans have you killed today?" Stuff like this pushes it beyond anti-war sentiment and into tastelessness, but it doesn't pervade the game.

At certain points in the game, you are forced into truly awful scenarios in which you must make choices. These aren't decisions that are obviously good and bad; these decisions all result in something awful happening. What's really neat is that the game doesn't pause and give you a number of options; you have full control over Captain Walker in these scenes. A few endgame revelations takes the sting out of a few of these choices, but they are still powerfully unsettling.

Spec Ops: The Line has a multiplayer component, but in a genre populated by Gears of War 3, I don't see it lasting at all. It's got your standard spread of game types: Deathmatch variants (Chaos for Free For All, Mutiny for Team Deathmatch), Conquest variants (Rally Point for King of the Hill, Uplink with a more strategic element), and a Warzone-type game (Attrition). Buried is the most interesting game type here; your team must destroy the other team's Vital Points, then their High Value Target.


Spec Ops: The Line doesn't give you much responsibility; Adams and Lugo may be under your command, but they can usually take care of themselves. Keeping Walker alive is usually a matter of finding the right kind of cover for the right kind of situation; after all, most of the enemies only want to kill him, it seems. If you find yourself pinned down, it's always a good idea to have one of your squadmates target one of your tormentors. Once you give the order, the enemy is usually on the ground in seconds.

The hardest parts of Spec Ops: The Line have to do with the inevitable instances where you must wrestle with the game's sticky cover system. Grenades are often your worst enemies here, and if one tumbles over to your side of the cover, you have to cover a good bit of distance rather quickly. The killzones for grenades are rather large, and getting out of cover is often problematic. It's something you'll learn to get used to.

Game Mechanics:

In terms of the actual shooting, Spec Ops: The Line doesn't feature a single iota of innovation. It's got aiming down the sights and shooting dudes in the face. It's got grenades: frag, sticky, and stun. It's got a barebones command system that indicates targets to your squadmates. It's got a roadie run and cover system that differs from Gears of War's in that you don't have to hold down the button to sprint. If you've played a third person shooter sometime over the last five years, not much will surprise you about Spec Ops: The Line.

Environmental awareness is rewarded in this game. The sandstorms that tore the city to pieces have left an exorbitant amount of sand all over the city. Tons and tons of it threaten to crash through ceilings, windows, and ventilation systems. A well-placed series of shots can result in enemies being crushed by avalanches of sand. This is a novel way to dispatch your foes, though you don't get too many chances to use it.

If you're a multiplayer fan and pre-ordered Spec Ops: The Line, you received the Premium Edition. This version comes with the FUBAR Pack: a code that gives players double experience for a week, an AK-47 assault rifle at Rank 1, some multiplayer bonuses for the Officer Class, and a Clan Accessory Pack. It's easy to see why these kinds of "Special Editions" don't cost any more than their regular counterparts.

If you're looking for a fresh shooting experience, Spec Ops: The Line doesn't deliver. However, if you're looking for the videogame equivalent of Apocalypse Now, here it is.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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