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Spec Ops: The Line first appears to be another all too typical 3rd person
triple A shooter, with little emphasis on narrative or characters and far too
much work on making explosions look pretty. And indeed, that's exactly how this
game is advertised. What I was unprepared for, however, were the mental
challenges you have to overcome in this game.
Taking cues from the well-known book ‘Heart of Darkness’, Spec Ops is a
gripping, terrifying descent into the heart of a hellish Dubai and into the
minds of the soldiers themselves, forcing you to make painstaking moral
decisions and forcing you to deal with the consequences. Be warned, this game is
psychologically disturbing; more than once I have physically walked away from
my computer based on the outcomes of a decision I had made.
I was thoroughly impressed with Spec Op's mature writing, especially
concerning the psychological effects of war and the character arcs within, even
when it was causing me to get up and walk away. Perhaps not as open-ended as
I would have liked, the narrative culminates in a spectacular fashion and
actually made me want to drag myself back through the story to see what I could
Dubai makes for a pleasant change of scenery, favouring sand-filled buildings
instead of bomb-shelled ruins, and using the environment to your advantage is a
welcome feature. Visually, it's quite stunning and is bound to put your gaming
rig through the ringer, if you can forgive some facial mo-cap discrepancies.
Where this game disappoints, however, is the gameplay.
3rd-person-low-wall-cover-based-shooter is a bland and overdone style at best,
and shoddy gun/movement systems leave you wanting more out of the execution. The
sheer lack of ammo keeps the shooting aspect lively at the least, but the
‘tactical shooter’ element, the AI, is unresponsive and just short of
Gameplay forgiven, Spec Ops: The Line is a fantastic, gritty and
virtually-unexplored psychological take on the horrors of modern warfare in the
gaming industry, and should be congratulated on its narrative and writing.
Definitely not for young eyes and minds.
Mighty Ape is 100% New Zealand owned and operated