Spec Ops: The Line (2012 PS3 game review)

spec ops posterSpec Ops: The Line was recently added to the instant game collection for playstation plus users, which is basically a list of downloadable free games. Honestly I only played this because it was free. I knew nothing going into the game.

I was surprised upon starting the game to find that it’s in 3rd person. I had thought that it was going to be in 1st person. I like both 3rd and 1st person games, I was just surprised is all.

With a name like “Spec Ops: The Line” I was expecting a generic war game. I was dead wrong. This game is anything but generic. It’s true that it takes place in a conflict that is now familiar, but it is handled differently. The environments are handled gracefully and certain set pieces and locals are just gorgeous. The graphics are nothing revolutionary but look great all the same. There is however quite a bit of texture popping.

In the game you play as an american soldier. You think your enemy would be locals, terrorists, “bad guys”, no. You are fighting other american soldiers who have gone AWOL and have turned against you. That is a very original twist on an old formula. This is also the focus of the story, and it is a very interesting one at that.

The main character in Spec Ops is voiced by Nolan North. The same guy who voices Nathan Drake, and pretty much every other 3rd person BAMF there is. It’s not surprising at all that he is innolan north so many games. He is probably the greatest voice actor working in video games. The character of Nathan Drake is so memorable and well constructed that for the first bit of Spec Ops I felt like I was playing as a Nathan Drake who made a few different career choices. North does a great job of separating himself from the role. The character comes into his own once the game gets going.

North’s character is really well constructed. He goes through a very slow progression throughout the game (Which you have some control in.) Which adds depth and drama to both the character and to the overall story. The character at the end of the game is almost unrecognizable compared to him at the start of the game. As his character arc unfolds there are some intense moments of exceptional strong voice acting. North is great at conveying strong, genuine emotions through his voice. I’ve heard that all of the voice acting for the game was recorded in chronological order one single day, which if that’s true makes it all the more impressive.

All of the main characters are very well constructed and acted. The performances and writing are solid, so much so that the characters carry great emotional weight. This is how you build characters. Other games should strive for the cinematic quality of Spec Ops.

The story has a very Apocalypse Now feelingapocalypse now

The game play is top notch 3rd person action. The cover system can be a bit finicky at times and the running can be awkward, but other than that, the controls work perfectly. The action is exciting, fun, and does not get repetitive. There are many different weapons that all feel unique and have their own benefits. I’m glad that most current games tend to have worked in brutal melee combat. Spec Ops has a slight difference when it comes to melee. The actual melee is lame. You just knock the guy over, but then you have finishers, which are brutal as hell. There are good amount of these and vary depending on what weapon you are carrying.

A shootout taking place in Dubai seems as though you would get tired of staring at sand for hours. Fortunately the locations are excellently handled. There are deserts, but there are also hotels, aquariums, night clubs, and much more.

It annoys me when games cheap out on gore. When a bomb goes off people explode Goddamn it, not fly through the air intact. Spec Ops does not cheap out in any way and is truly harrowing in key moments in the game.

There are some truly great set pieces such as running through a crumbling building while a helicopter flies after you shooting, while at the same time a man over the radio plays the song Verdi Dies Irae and sings along to it. One of the greatest gameplay and music collaborations since I burnt down a pot field with a flamethrower while listening to hardcore electric reggae in Farcry 3.

The music in the game, both pre-existing and original score are great and fit the tone wonderfully.

The game has multiplayer, but it is really just a side attraction to increase replay-ability. It’s pretty much throwaway.

The gameplay and visuals are good, but the story is the strongest aspect of the game. Which really blew me away considering I thought it would be the weakest. The title makes the game sound spec opslike a generic war shooter. It’s the worst title for a great game. I’d hate for people to not play the game based on the title. This is one case where you definitely should not judge a book by it’s cover. The story from beginning to end (especially end) is superb and is really great emotional ride. You’ll be surprised how engrossed you get in the characters and the choices that they have to make. A true cinematic experience inside of a very fun action shooter. The only major problem really is that the game is very short. Only about 6 hours. I generally think that a game need to be at least 8 hours, but I don’t honestly think it should have really been any longer. They could have inflated the story to accommodate more action, but that would lessen the overall experience.

The game touches upon some very deep ideas and has strong messages of it’s own. Spec Ops: The Line has great writing and voice acting, and makes for a great experience. Definitely worth at least one play through. I hope more games like this will follow in upcoming years.

 

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