Review: Spec Ops: The Line dares you to cross it

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It’s time for me to review a game that’s a bit more involved than those I’ve been assigned before. Spec Ops: The Line is a Mac game that puts you in the boots of Walker, a Delta team leader on a mission to do some recon. Unfortunately for you the mission gets complicated quickly and you set off on a secondary mission to make contact with and rescue Colonel Konrad.

Here’s where things go a bit pear shaped. As you try, and fail, to make meaningful contact with any of the locals, the shooting begins. The only choice you seem to be left with is to kill anyone who would like to stop your personal use of the local oxygen supply. Sadly, this seems to be everyone you encounter. You and your teammates start to wonder about who you are killing and whether you have you gone over to the dark side. This is the heart of the narrative and the focal quandary of the game; “What is the line, where is the line, and have I crossed it?”

Spec Ops: The Line

Due to the deeper than usual philosophical element of this otherwise mostly ordinary shooter, there is plenty of narrative between action sequences. Some of it is filler between checkpoints, some is background information, and some is provided by picking up pieces of “intel”. Since the game is programmed to take you to a specific place, most of the information is for your knowledge, not necessarily for decision making.

As for the game play aspects, the visuals are very detailed—including blood spatter, so this isn’t exactly a good game for the younger players (it’s rated M for a reason). You get stunning dessert vistas (albeit of a ravaged Dubai), rich renditions of expensive hotel interiors, gritty and unsettlingly realistic survival encampments, and lots of san. The sounds are realistic, and I recommend playing with headphones or a good set of speakers to help pull out the details in the audio. Some of the songs used for the soundtrack are also interesting choices musically, like the Jimmy Hendrix version of “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Hush” by Deep Purple.

The controls are your stock WASD keyboard and mouse combination. The game does seem to get a bit twitchy when using the left shift for “hurdle obstacle.” There were enough instances of the command being interpreted as “elbow-punch the air in front of you while taking enemy fire” that it got a bit annoying (hellooooo previous checkpoint…). The game could also use some additional tutorials for the newbies to get used to stuff like squad commands as well as the basic navigation and weapons use/swap.

Spec Ops: The Line

Now for the hard part of the review—the summary.  Spec Ops: The Line plays relatively well and has a compelling story line. Due to the structure of the game, you are left with almost no other choice but to proceed, which seems to be part of the game’s plan to make you really think about what’s going on. In the end, you may hate yourself a bit for identifying with the main character, but that may only mean you are a normal human being. There is plenty of narrative to create a fleshed-out story, action scenes which end up being a lot of shooting from cover (a bit stock, but there you are), and some good visuals.

Spec Ops: The Line

The estimates for game completion seem to run from about 6 to 8 hours so it’s a decent amount of play time for the price ($29.99) for a game of this type. And with additional difficulty levels you can experience even more gore and drama.

I guess my final word on this one is it is a good game with some disturbing and thought provoking elements, but there are some refinements which could make it better.

Appletell Rating:

Spec Ops: The Line review

Buy Spec Ops: The Line

Category: Third-person shooter
Developer: Digital Tribe Entertainment
Minimum System Requirements: OS X v10.8.0
Price: $29.99
Rating: M
Availability: Out now

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