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Spec Ops: The Line Preview

by Diogo Miguel April 17, 2012

[hidetext]There’s so many shooting video-games out these days that it’s difficult to stand out at launch. Many developers have focused on including unique features such as powers that slowdown what is going on screen. This has in turn made each shooter released even more complex than the previous one.[/hidetext] Specs Ops: The Line is another shooter from 2K but does it have what it takes to stand out?

Spec Ops is set in a fictional not too distant future, where Dubai has been wiped out by a sandstorm. A group of soldiers trying to evacuate the city suddenly goes missing. A message from one of them (Colonel John Conrad) changes all of this and a new team is soon sent on a rescue mission. It might sound familiar to some and that is because it is based on popular film “Apocalypse Now”.

Don’t expect generic dialogue where soldiers constantly boast about the size of their guns though. The story is moved forward whenever the soldiers chat amongst themselves. It’s not all serious though since a few jokes are heard on a few occasions.

Main story is explained properly during lengthy cut-scenes that tend to act as a brief update on the current situation. Spec Ops provides a cinematic experience right from the very start. The team has just made it to Dubai and is on route to the landing destination. It’s up to the player to take down some enemy helicopters. But it’s all done in such a manner that it ends up being a memorable opening.

Making use of the turret to take down helicopters is tricky at first, but easily mastered after a few minutes. There’s no real danger of dying either and it makes for an interesting way to introduce the player to Specs Ops. One of the first distinct features players will notice, once on the ground, is the cover system. This is perhaps one of the best cover integrations that anyone will find in a shooter.

A small nudge of the left analogue stick and a press of a button results in the character sticking to cover. Then it’s also possible to move to another cover with ease by tilting analogue stick and pressing a button. So simple and yet it manages to turn Spec Ops into a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The main reason is that it responds efficiently when it’s required to take cover; which is vital when under heavy fire.

A narrative and combat trailer.

In between all the shooting and cover antics are set pieces put into place to make Specs Ops less repetitive. It’s certainly fun to press button prompts and see the team use a rope to go further down. Set-pieces are also used to gain advantage in battle. An initial confrontation prompts the player to shoot a certain place, so a heavy load of sand will literally fall down on a group of enemies.

Such ideas work well and make the shooting sequences more tactical. The two other soldiers are not just there to make conversation and look pretty. It’s possible to give Lugo and Adams a specific target to concentrate fire on. It soon becomes a valuable resource when facing multiple enemies and it works. It’s a fantastic way to make use of the friendly AI since they won’t run amok without a goal.

It isn’t a shooting game without the guns and there’s plenty of them to pick from. Standard equipment is a pistol and rifle gun, but others can be found in places. It’s just a demo but a rocket launcher was found and it did a lot of damage as expected. Each weapon has a different feel to it and it’s up to the player to adapt. Shooting feels accurate and it’s extremely easy to spot targets.

Another way to defeat enemies is to execute them when near them. Grenades make an appearance later on. What is odd though is how it literally takes a couple of seconds to throw the grenade. This often results in the grenade bouncing off the wall, if the character is put back into cover too quickly. A minor setback that merely requires adjusting to the realistic throwing motion, so the grenade will land on the desired location.

Oddly enough enemies don’t take a lot of shots to fall dead. This is possibly due to an attempt at ensuring it’s relatively similar to how it works in real life. The same applies to allies that get shot a few times. It’s possible to revive allies but the same doesn’t apply to the main character. There’s many checkpoints to ensure that lost progress isn’t an issue. Different factions end up fighting each other on a few occasions. This gives the soldiers an opportunity at surprising them from behind. It’s all about tactics and making the most of the surroundings for cover and getting the upper hand.

The setting provided some interesting sights throughout this small glimpse at the world of Spec Ops. There’s literally tons of sand everywhere implying that Dubai was hit by a truly devastating sandstorm. It’s hard not to think of those poor soldiers, trying to get sand and dust out every body orifice for weeks, when it’s over. Vehicles of various sizes are found scattered in the city borders. High class apartments, that only the elite could afford to live in, are now vacant and in need of an extreme makeover. Such a setting is a far cry from the typical war torn locations that similar video-games are set in.

What is fascinating though is the attention to detail both in combat and the surroundings. Enemies within grenade blast radius will vanish in a pink mist of human meat and heads literally pop when hit by a sniper shot. It’s all aesthetics but it doesn’t make it any less important when compared to other features.

Funnily enough Spec Ops doesn’t rely on any gimmicks, such as an invisible shield or a time traveling gadget. It’s also not aiming at being a realistic experience. But it still works when putting all those features together. It’s nice to see developer Yager Development focus on practical features, like the superb cover system. The post apocalyptic setting also makes for an interesting storyline.

Spec Ops: The Line is definitely worth keeping a close look on over the next few months.

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