Shooters have become the staple of the video-games industry. It’s understandable that so many go unnoticed, thanks to the main shooters released every year. Which is why many will probably not know about 2K’s Spec Ops: The Line. This latest shooter effort from Berlin based developer Yager Development, could end up being the one that breaks this tradition.
Don’t expect the typical shooter experience from Spec Ops: The Line. It might look exactly like the million shooters already out there, but it feels completely different in practice. One of the best features in the cover system – which is probably one of the best cover systems of this generation.
The exceptionally well integrated controls means that it’s really easy to adjust. Getting into cover is as easy as pressing one button, near a surface that can double up as cover. Pressing the run button and holding the right stick in a certain direction, while in cover, makes it possible to quickly move to another cover. It’s possible to jump over just about every low platform too. It’s incredibly simple but effective at ensuring the cover system is effective.
Being in cover doesn’t always mean that the main character, Captain Martin Walker, is safe from harm either. Enemies are relentless, and will try to flush out the characters, by either throwing grenades or trying to flank them. Some of the enemies in later stages even have access to weapons capable of destroying weaker cover sections.
In fact, the enemy AI means business when it comes to the various gun fights. They adapt quickly to any strategy employed, and will take every chance to try and outwit the player. It’s refreshing to play a shooter where AI enemies behave similarly to human players. The attention to detail is nothing short of incredible. Sometimes it feels horrifying to see an enemy bleed out to death or get blown up into a pink mist of flesh, but that’s the harsh reality of being in war.
Fortunately the two soldiers that accompany the player’s character, have also been blessed with the same advanced AI programming. Leaving them to their own devices works, but it’s the squad command feature that makes it commendable. It’s possible to either highlight a target or give orders, by pressing one button.
A prompt will even appear on-screen highlighting the need to press the same button, so the team mates can fulfil certain commands – such as throwing a flashbang grenade. It makes for fairer fights since the opposing forces often outnumber the brave trio.
It’s not a shooter without the fire-power, and Spec Ops certainly has a lot of weapons. Some of the weapons even have secondary functions, such as a silencer or even explosive rounds. Each weapon reacts differently and has unique uses.
Ammo for guns is scarce, but it encourages players to become resourceful, by grabbing weapons off dead enemies. It also means players will want to use squad commands more often, rather than just copying the Rambo films.
The mechanics when throwing a grenade have improved since the demo. It’s a lot easier to throw a grenade now, since the animation for it doesn’t feel as long. Pressing and letting go of a button will instantly throw the grenade.
It’s also possible to cancel it by pressing another button. This all happens so quickly that the enemy soldiers barely have time to hit the player. There’s various types of grenades to use over the course of the game too.
Level design is fairly simple considering that there isn’t a lot to explore. The development team attempts to stop it becoming repetitive, by successfully introducing new ideas.
The setting does wonders for making it exciting to explore each new area. It’s not exactly every day that it’s possible to see what a post apocalypic Dubai looks like.
All that sand isn’t there just to probably get in every body orifice either. It’s also used to take out enemies, by breaking structures(mostly glass) that are holding it back. The art direction is actually quite imaginative, thanks to the unique Arabic designs seen in luxurious buildings, that now lie in ruins.
One of the main reasons why Spec Ops feels so different to other shooters is the story. It’s not the typical story where everything goes according to plans. The soldiers in Spec Ops react like human beings, with flaws and all.
They often make the wrong choices, and there are consequences as a result. There are even sections where the player must make excruciating decisions. Some of them even change how the story plays out. Even the enemies aren’t made to look like the stereotypical bad guys.
Nothing is ever truly black and white in the world of Spec Ops. Spec Ops contains the sort of dialogue that will make the player question what is happening on screen. But it also contains plenty of comical moments, where the characters sometimes even joke about how video-games are perceived in modern society. It’s the sort of thought provoking dialogue, that is rarely seen in a an industry focused with big explosions and human superheroes.
The multi-player for Spec Ops has been developed by Darkside Game Studios. It basically consists of various playlists, with different objectives for each one. Interestingly enough, some of them require the player to move up in rank, before being able to use them.
It’s an interesting way to keep players motivated. Ranking up will also unlock other rewards, such as new faction loadouts(classes) and new character titles. Fortunately going up against someone with a higher rank will not mean guaranteed defeat.
Multi-player is designed so that all players are still evenly matched. All it means is that those with a higher rank, will get access to even more content. Anyone else can think of it as an incentive to continue playing.
There’s quite a few maps to play in, and each has its own unique attributes. There’s even a map where a passing sandstorm frequently makes it difficult to see in the distance This isn’t exactly a ground breaking multi-player experience, but it has enough depth to keep players busy for a while.
Spec Ops’s campaign mode lasts a lot longer than the average shooter. Those that have finished it can attempt to find all collectibles(excellent source of back story) and even tackle the tougher difficulty settings. Not only that but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience, thanks to the many story twists and engaging combat mechanics.
It also helps that it has one of the most inspiring soundtracks in a shooter. It’s a refreshing experience in a genre that was in dire need of a new direction. Spec Ops: The Line is a shooter that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss out on.