Hey, watch the friendly fire
After playing a handful of 3D/adventure games, one's focus often veers from realism and leans towards sheer power - jeez, this bazooka just doesn't seem to the trick, if I could only find the hand-held A-bomb. Spec Ops, developer Zombies' latest creation, is a nice break from the fun but incredibly unrealistic games that the 3D genre has thrown at us gamers. The game incorporates impressive, 3D-accelerated graphics, mission-based action and extremely realistic gameplay whose only major drawback is its lack of any multiplayer support.
Spec Ops is one of the most realistic games in its genre (3D/adventure) around, almoset to the point of being a simulation. The game lets you command two rangers through five different missions ranging from the snowy mountains of North Korea to the steamy jungles of Colombia. Rather than just working your way from point A to point B and killing everything in sight (as featured in so many of our cherished 3D shooters), missions are divided up into three or four phases, each with a specific goal. Players must learn to disarm planes, kill opposing leaders, disable missiles, rescue hostages and other "special" operations.
At the start of each mission, you must choose two rangers that feel right for the job. Different types of rangers with different specialties are available throughout different missions. Some examples of different rangers are machine gunners, snipers, grenadiers, riflemen, and close quarters. All rangers have their own unique supply of weaponry and supplies, including grenades, satchel charges, mines, medikits, and different guns. Binoculars, scopes, and night vision goggles can also be used to snipe unaware enemies. All in all, Zombie did an awesome job including a number of useful supplies and ammunition, making the game feel VERY realistic.
While all this realism is a good thing and helps Spec Ops stand above other mediocre 3D games, it does have its drawbacks. Probably the most evident is difficulty. Players must learn that the 'ol "kamikaze" technique, which usually involves running straight at an enemy with guns blaring, just doesn't work. Diving, crawling and hiding are among the many useful techniques that will help players work around those "sticky" situations. Oh yeah, and a couple more reminders that many (including yours truly) seem to forget: ammo DOES run out, guns DO need to be reloaded, shooting a good guy is BAD, etc. Basically, it's a safe assumption that you will die often and, while all missions are fun at first, they DO get old after about the third time around. In other words, while initially playing the game is damn enjoyable, don't expect much replay value from it.
Graphically speaking, Spec Ops is stunning - at least for all those fortunate to have a 3dfx accelerator (if you don't have a 3dfx card, just go ahead and skip this next section, most if it won't apply to you). The game runs a standard overhead camera (resembles the camera angle in Tomb Raider). All backgrounds and terrain look marvelous, especially with nice "extras" like rain, snow and fog. Colored lighting as well as transparent smoke is noticeable after explosions from hand grenades and satchel charges. For those night-time missions, go ahead and throw on your night-vision goggles to illuminate the area. All objects (namely other people) look very realistic, having a high polygon counts as well as realistic textures. Characters have somewhat smooth animations including diving, rolling, crawling and running. Basically, anybody with 3dfx should be impressed.
All in all, Spec Ops is an innovative, well-thought realistic break from the existing plethora of extremely non-realistic games. Anyone with the horsepower should really check it out. Unfortunately, the lack of any multiplayer options (cooperative mode would have REALLY kicked ass) and minimal replay value might keep Spec Ops as a "one night stand" for many people (translation: after the game is beaten, it gets thrown into the closet for the next couple years). But don't let that stop you from sniping them baddies.