Don’t be fooled by that line, here in Yager’s revival of the Spec Op’s franchise the emirate of Dubai is anything but welcoming.
From the minute you start the game its hard edge shows, there’s no sound at all until you actually opt to start playing and from then on you are thrown headlong into one of the most frantic, unforgiving and truly adult themed third-person shooters of this, or any generation.
Playing as Captain Martin Walker and his two Delta Force operatives, Adams and Lugo, you are sent into a post natural disaster(s) Dubai to seek out Colonel Konrad and, if possible, evacuate any survivors you encounter.
It doesn’t take long to figure out that finding survivors is going to be unlikely. The once opulent playground of the rich and famous lies destroyed around you, ultra- modern architecture protruding from a blanket of sand after millions of tons engulfed the region during numerous storms, and your recon/rescue mission soon spirals out of control into a series of gritty, unnerving scenarios which will leave their mark on the you, as well as Delta.
While story is Spec Ops: The Line’s greatest strength, there is a lot more to the game. Fire-fights feel tense and grime, with aggressive and varied enemies forcing you to think tactically and utilise the environment around you. Destroying windows to unleash a wave of sand upon your enemies or commanding your squad to flash or snipe tricky enemies all comes in handy. The gun-play is fluid, with all the weapons feeling solid and different from the last, and with ammo being so scarce in the sandy wastes you are constantly encouraged to switch your play-style up.
But the narrative really does steal the show here. Walt Williams Heart of Darkness inspired story coupled with Nolan North bringing his “A” game in voicing CPT Walker, really leaves its mark on the player, exploring themes most “adult” games shy away from. As you battle through waves of relentless enemies and destructive sandstorms to progress deeper into Dubai, North’s portrayal of Walker deteriorates from cocky wise cracking GI following orders to a desperate broken man battling with himself. The game also features an element of moral choice at various points, however, rather than impacting upon the story as a whole, the outcomes are a little more subtle.
As you’d expect with any war themed third-person shooter, Spec Ops: The Line features a multiplayer component. Developed separately by Darkside studios it offers the usual deathmatch inspired modes across six maps, along with three objective based modes in Buried, Uplink and Rally Point, each a variation on the attack and defend model. However it’s all pretty uninspired and will offer very little to players looking for something more than the usual unlocking of new weapons and perks to keep them interested
The campaign does have its problems too. At times the visuals are stunning but character models are basic and up close. The controls too can be niggly, with some commands being tied to the same buttons and no button for evasive action, it can leave you dying in tight spots. However, Spec Ops: The Line’s biggest downfall is its huge difficulty spikes, especially towards the end. Even on the lowest difficulty you can easily find yourself dying repeatedly in the same section due to the developers effort to attain that gritty realistic atmosphere. However, when you are only able to soak up a small amount of damage when faced by dozens of the most relentless and aggressive troops in a game, it can leave you overwhelmed and frustrated.
In summary, Spec Ops: The Line is a provocative title, often breaking the fourth wall and at times seemingly making statements about violence in videogames themselves and the impact they have. However, despite its few negatives the well written campaign offers serious players a mature experience, exposing you to dark and disturbing themes that are often unsettling. Whilst not for everyone it will certainly leave its mark on those willing to try it.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PC Release Date: 29/07/2012
Disclosure: Spec Ops: The line was purchased by BlueWolf. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.