Blowin’ through my mind.
Here’s a game that has taken me completely by surprise. I’m sorry, but I’ve never even heard of a Spec Ops game prior to The Line, and this one certainly wasn’t on my must-play list. I’ve heard Daniel talk about it before, but with a name like Spec Ops: The Line, I couldn’t have possibly yawned any louder. So when I went to my appointment this weekend at PAX East, I admit, I was expecting a cookie-cutter shooter with little to capture my interest. I don’t care for military shooters, mind you.
Spec Ops: The Line was one of the highlights of the event for me—in part because I wasn’t expecting it, but also because it was good. Really good.
The demo started off right: tons of action. My character was manning a chain gun aboard a helicopter that was flying through a dilapidated city-scape, filled with towering buildings in ruin. Meanwhile, other helicopters were flying aside of me trying to shoot me out of the sky. But I wasn’t having that. I blew their shit up.
Since I didn’t know why these buildings were destroyed, I again assumed wrong. I thought, “Great, another post-apocalyptic shooter." But the world hasn’t ended, just Dubai has. It’s been wiped out by a catastrophic sandstorm. Like any population that is in disarray, warlords and refugees abound. Everyone else has fled—everyone except the brave 33rd Infantry and US Army Colonel John Konrad. Konrad is believed to be dead, until a faint distress signal is discovered. That’s when Captain Walker and his squad of Delta Operatives are sent to locate him and any survivors.
Upon inspecting the area, freshly killed corpses are discovered… it’s a trap.
Hostiles are everywhere—now’s a good time to kick the tires on Spec Ops: The Line. Guns have a great feedback to them, and aiming is buttery smooth. Enemy AI was on-point, making for an intense firefight. This is a squad-based shooter, so as the Captain, you can prompt your comrade to attack or provide cover. There's a nice balance of exploring, rappelling, and kinda-sorta-platforming mixed in with the gunplay, which is the obvious star of the show here. Each setpiece is action-packed—exactly what you want in a shooter.
Although the gunplay was deeply satisfying, I was most impressed with the lighting. Being in a sand-covered Dubai, the environment is a dry, sun-scorched desert. Sun gleams over the horizon in almost a blinding way. You could almost feel the heat rising up off the hot sun. You can see it, too. The sand didn’t have that fluidity seen in recent games, like Journey, but the sensation of heat and the beating of the sun were spot on.
As much as I enjoyed this particular demo, I still have some fear that Spec Ops: The Line will suffer from being a bit generic, as it seemed to struggle to with its identity at times. With a market that’s so flooded with shooters, it’s going to have to do a little more to capture the attention of Call of Duty players. But really, don’t make the same mistake I did and write it off before you get a chance to play it. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised.