Steampunked: Spec Ops The Line

LogoOk, so I’m not really BREAKING the rules more like bending them here.  I said I would be doing this alphabetically, and I will, but I also said I’d do about one a week and here we are one day later so you’ll forgive this little transgression.  I was looking for something to play the other day and asked Mike for his recommendation to which he told me to play through Spec Ops The Line.  I had played the demo before and really liked it but I never got around to playing the full game.  I picked this up during the last Steam holiday sale I believe but it has been sitting there ever since, today I finished Spec Ops The Line and boy what a ride it was.

Game: Spec Ops The Line

Developer: Yager Development

Release: June 26, 2012

Genre: Third Person Shooter

Rating: 5/5

If you liked: Apocalypse Now, Call of Duty, Gears of War

The horror... the horror...

The horror… the horror…

Spec Ops The Line is the latest in the Spec Ops series though it doesn’t actually follow any of the previous games in the series.  What they did was loosely adapt Joseph Conrad’s novel “Heart of Darkness”, a book that I hated, into a third person action shooter.  Much like the Coppola film “Apocalypse Now” the updated version of the story is much more enjoyable.  You play as Captain Martin Walker sent into Dubai after a debilitating sandstorm has destroyed the city.  You are tasked with finding Colonel Conrad who was supposed to be evacuating the city and bring back any survivors you can.  The story quickly spirals out of control and to reveal much more about it would ruin the amazing single player campaign.  Seriously, this game is pretty much based entirely around the strength of its story mode and it is well worth the ride.  The gameplay is fairly standard for a third person shooter but the twists and turns the narrative takes make it feel fresh and interesting and towards the end extremely dark.  While most shooters are happy to let you mow down endless hordes of faceless enemies, Spec Ops The Line at least asks the important question: What is the life of a man worth?

Views like this NEVER get old

Views like this NEVER get old

Graphically the game is stunning.  While the character models and animations all look good, they are fairly standard as far as current generation graphics go, but the environment vistas are simply amazing.  From the beginning of the game to the end I never stopped dropping my jaw when I would emerge from a building or over a sand dune to see the drowned city in all its twisted glory.  Action set pieces are appropriately huge and accentuated with nice explosive lighting and smoke effects.  There are also times where you will be fighting through sandstorms with limited visibility and have to use enemy muzzle fire to spot where they are shooting you from.  The use of sand in the game is very well done, the sandstorms are reminiscent of Uncharted 3, and you can even use it to drown your enemies by shooting out windows holding back tons of the stuff.

Drop a ton of sand on your enemies by shooting out the windows

Drop a ton of sand on your enemies by shooting out the windows

Speaking of Uncharted, this game does star Nolan North as Nolan North, so if you’re put off by the sultry golden tones of the man then be prepared for that.  North does put in a great performance here though as a man who starts out as a simple soldier on a mission and slowly spirals deeper and deeper into his own dementia.  The real standout however would be that of freaking Jake Busey as Radioman.  All through the game you will be taunted and harassed by a man over the radio, and Busey’s performance is second to none.  From simply calling you a killer and insulting you to singing a version of “What You Gonna Do” about how you’re gonna die when they come for you in the middle of a gunfight his character and delivery is just brilliant.

The lighting and effects are stunning

The lighting and effects are stunning

What Radioman REALLY brings to the table though is the games AMAZING score.  I mean seriously, Spec Ops The Line has literally the greatest musical score of any shooter I have ever played.  While you’re treated to the normal interstitial pieces of music you would expect from an action shooter game it is accentuated with licensed songs that are used in the most perfect way.  From the iconic Hendrix version of the “Star Spangled Banner” in the opening menus to a shootout in a Dubai nightclub while Deep Purples “Hush” blares over the radio all the musical choices are spot on.  My favorite moment of the game came later in the story when you are being hunted by Conrad’s troops through some building rooftops and Radioman begins playing Martha and the Vandella’s “Nowhere To Run”.

The city has been utterly devastated

The city has been utterly devastated

Setting the game in Dubai was an interesting choice from the outset as the city is both visually and architecturally interesting and the environmental artists really took that to heart.  You aren’t simply running around in a desert (though there are sections like that) but you’ll see beautiful hotels, clubs, homes, and even a giant aquarium.  You’d think a game based on a giant sandstorm would fall back on the current gen color scheme of brown and brown, but with the architectural work and different buildings the designers were able to throw in a vivid color palette and keep the game visually interesting from beginning to end.

Despite the sand swept setting the environments still show a lot of color and visual interest

Despite the sand swept setting the environments still show a lot of color and visual interest

I really cannot recommend this game any higher.  The single player is worth the entire ride.  It is on the shorter side, but most shooters these days are, but if it ever goes on sale for $20 or less the story mode is worth that alone.  If you are a PS+ member the game is currently free as of March 2013 so be sure to download it and play through it.  Most of the images here come from the first section of the game, before things start to get really crazy as I don’t want to spoil the ride for anyone, but suffice it to say things get much crazier as the game goes along.  This was a game that kind of went under the radar but really shouldn’t be missed by anyone.

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