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Spec Ops Walks The Line Between Good And Evil

War really is hell, and here's one shooter that seems unafraid to say so.

On paper, Spec Ops: The Line looks pretty similar to a lot of other recent action games. Third-person perspective, cover-based shooting mechanics, modern military setting. You've seen this stuff before. What 2K Games and Berlin-based developer Yager hope you haven't seen in this sort of shooter are the ragged psychological effects that accrue in a contested warzone, the raw darkness that can form in men's hearts when they cross, well, the line beyond which common morality begins to break down and the soldier's tattered psyche becomes capable of actions that in everyday circumstances would be considered unthinkable. Heavy stuff.
 


You may have heard about The Line's Heart of Darkness-influenced premise, about a team of US military specialists gone rogue in a Dubai that's been nearly demolished by raging sandstorms. Naturally, you're part of the team sent in to find those turncoats, led by Colonel John Konrad, and figure out what drove them to abandon their mission and turn against their former allies. In a category full of alien worlds and nondescript Middle Eastern countries, this setting is enough to catch your eye. The game's Dubai is utterly ravaged by the elements, with sand drifted a dozen floors up in spots, skyscrapers listing perilously overhead, and a ghostly silence that lets you know most of the city's populace is now evacuated, or dead.

It seems like whoever's left in Dubai has a weapon and an agenda. Whatever pushed these guys over the edge must have been intense, because they're up to some ugly business. At one point in the demo, the protagonist Captain Walker and his crack team encountered a raft of dead American soldiers hung from lampposts along the city's ruined streets. Later, one of Konrad's men held a local woman to the ground and began firing his rifle closer and closer to her face, in an effort to make a captured member of Walker's squad divulge sensitive information. You can imagine what the eventual, awful outcome of that situation might be if the soldier didn't cough up what Konrad's men wanted to know.
 


That's assuming you as the player didn't choose to directly intervene before the woman was killed. The Line will give you the chance to choose how some scenarios will play out, but not by handing you a UI prompt that asks you to press A for the good-guy choice or B for the bad one. Instead you'll make these choices with your actions, in real time as the story happens around you. In that scenario with the captured soldier, one of Walker's men had a sniper rifle trained on the shooter's head and exhorted Walker repeatedly to let him take the shot and prevent the woman from dying. How and when you interact with situations like this will determine how they play out, and that can have an effect on the overall course of the game's storyline.

Whatever path you choose, even the straight and narrow one, the nerves of Walker and his men are going to fray over the course of this mission. 2K is talking about how not only the soldiers' dialogue but even things like their contextual animations will become more raw and unhinged as the mission wears on them over the course of the plot. Even things like the ways the soldiers execute melee attacks are subject to becoming increasingly savage over time. Developing your characters through the sorts of technical aspects you usually take for granted in a video game sounds like an interesting technique that could be quite effective if used tastefully.

2K hasn't let the press touch The Line yet, so no early info on how it plays. But looking at it gives you the impression that you have a pretty good idea how it plays already. It's the narrative elements wrapped around that third-person core that piqued my interest during the brief demo I saw. Here's an interview with 2K producer Greg Kasavin with more firsthand detail on that stuff. 
 
  
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
42 Comments
Posted by Brad

On paper, Spec Ops: The Line looks pretty similar to a lot of other recent action games. Third-person perspective, cover-based shooting mechanics, modern military setting. You've seen this stuff before. What 2K Games and Berlin-based developer Yager hope you haven't seen in this sort of shooter are the ragged psychological effects that accrue in a contested warzone, the raw darkness that can form in men's hearts when they cross, well, the line beyond which common morality begins to break down and the soldier's tattered psyche becomes capable of actions that in everyday circumstances would be considered unthinkable. Heavy stuff.
 


You may have heard about The Line's Heart of Darkness-influenced premise, about a team of US military specialists gone rogue in a Dubai that's been nearly demolished by raging sandstorms. Naturally, you're part of the team sent in to find those turncoats, led by Colonel John Konrad, and figure out what drove them to abandon their mission and turn against their former allies. In a category full of alien worlds and nondescript Middle Eastern countries, this setting is enough to catch your eye. The game's Dubai is utterly ravaged by the elements, with sand drifted a dozen floors up in spots, skyscrapers listing perilously overhead, and a ghostly silence that lets you know most of the city's populace is now evacuated, or dead.

It seems like whoever's left in Dubai has a weapon and an agenda. Whatever pushed these guys over the edge must have been intense, because they're up to some ugly business. At one point in the demo, the protagonist Captain Walker and his crack team encountered a raft of dead American soldiers hung from lampposts along the city's ruined streets. Later, one of Konrad's men held a local woman to the ground and began firing his rifle closer and closer to her face, in an effort to make a captured member of Walker's squad divulge sensitive information. You can imagine what the eventual, awful outcome of that situation might be if the soldier didn't cough up what Konrad's men wanted to know.
 


That's assuming you as the player didn't choose to directly intervene before the woman was killed. The Line will give you the chance to choose how some scenarios will play out, but not by handing you a UI prompt that asks you to press A for the good-guy choice or B for the bad one. Instead you'll make these choices with your actions, in real time as the story happens around you. In that scenario with the captured soldier, one of Walker's men had a sniper rifle trained on the shooter's head and exhorted Walker repeatedly to let him take the shot and prevent the woman from dying. How and when you interact with situations like this will determine how they play out, and that can have an effect on the overall course of the game's storyline.

Whatever path you choose, even the straight and narrow one, the nerves of Walker and his men are going to fray over the course of this mission. 2K is talking about how not only the soldiers' dialogue but even things like their contextual animations will become more raw and unhinged as the mission wears on them over the course of the plot. Even things like the ways the soldiers execute melee attacks are subject to becoming increasingly savage over time. Developing your characters through the sorts of technical aspects you usually take for granted in a video game sounds like an interesting technique that could be quite effective if used tastefully.

2K hasn't let the press touch The Line yet, so no early info on how it plays. But looking at it gives you the impression that you have a pretty good idea how it plays already. It's the narrative elements wrapped around that third-person core that piqued my interest during the brief demo I saw. Here's an interview with 2K producer Greg Kasavin with more firsthand detail on that stuff. 
 
  
Staff
Posted by Walker_after_dark

looks cool!

Posted by phrosnite

OMG I missread the title "beyond good and evil" I got so excited X_X

Posted by GJSmitty

hmm kinda interested in this...
Posted by sithy

Me gusta!

Posted by blaakmawf

Would you say that it is Beyond Good and Evil?

Posted by Skillface

Yager bombs

Posted by Capum15

For some reason I read this and Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" popped into my head. Started playing it on youtube and it fit pretty well, I think.
 
The more I read about it, the more interesting this game gets.

Posted by Spartan14003

Greg Kasavin is producing this game? Now I know for sure that this game is going to be a quality game.

Posted by gosukiller
@blaakmawf said:
" Would you say that it is Beyond Good and Evil? "
GODDAMNIT IT WAS GONNA MAKE THAT ONE ARRGGHHH
 
Carry on.
Posted by swamplord666

ooooh now i get the title! crossing the line anyone?

Posted by jkz

I've been really interested in this game ever since I first heard about it in any depth. I'm glad it's getting attention and is shaping up well. 
 
Also, Greeegggg...

Posted by MarkWahlberg

I can't count the number of times games don't let me make the choices I want to. This gives me hope.

Posted by Toxin066

I hope this game is as good as it sounds.

Posted by Gutlieb

I'm looking forward to this one!

Posted by MisterMouse

looks cool

Posted by Lazyaza

Oh nice this is coming for pc too apparently, cant wait.  Sounds like to could be the next Bioshock in terms of giving you things to think about and having morality effect gameplay.
 
I wish more devs would take this approach with games instead of doing the same old 'k bad guys wanna do bad stuff so go kills dem!'

Posted by Battsey

John Konrad huh. I see what you did there...

Posted by RandomInternetUser

Looking forward to this very much.  Every time I see it it convinces me more of its quality.

Posted by bybeach

Greg Konrad
Posted by rugripper40

 2K producer Greg Kasavin .......HELL YEAH GREG GLAD TO SEE YOUR DOING GREAT....and one day you ll be like me...freakin 49 yrs old and still a gaming fool...lol....keep gaming till your brain bleeds.....dude i miss your fantastic reviews bad....this game looks freaking great...hope it pans out
Posted by guzzyla

Greg said that he was leaving Gamespot to work in the gaming industry to make video games and not just review them, He talked about games like he could make them better... HE ROCKS more than JEFF.  I like them both so, keep on rocking guys 

Posted by natetodamax

Sounds pretty brutal. I like the concept of having the story play out according to your actions, rather than pressing this button for the good choice or this button for the bad choice.

Posted by Detrian

As far as shooters go "Things change with your actions" is the new "enemies will flank you".

Posted by Brackynews
@MarkWahlberg: They always give us the choice to switch them off.
Posted by Lies

You may have heard about The Line's Heart of Darkness-influenced premise, about a team of US military specialists gone rogue in a Dubai that's been nearly demolished by raging sandstorms. Naturally, you're part of the team sent in to find those turncoats, led by Colonel John Konrad 
 

Posted by EthanielRain

Sounds interesting, although the example given of influencing how things play out very much sounded like "push A for good guy decision, do nothing for bad guy decision" (tell the sniper to take him out to save the woman or do nothing and let her die).

Posted by actionTACO

o wow, press RT instead of A to make the good-guy choice.  what staggering innovation will they come up with next! 
 
*waggles wii-mote to chop col. kurt... errr John Konrad with a machete. Tool tip pops up.* 
"The Horror meter has increased! Watch out! As the meter increases, your teammate attacks become more brutal and excessive!"

Posted by StevieQ
  1. GREG!
  2. I hope he wasn't just blowing smoke when he alluded to one of my Top 5 books of all-time, Heart of Darkness. Could make an extremely interesting narrative inspiration.
  3. FUCK THAT HELICOPTER!
  4. Game looks great, graphically and the shooting looks pretty intense.
  5. Get me this beta!
Posted by Stonyman65

Sounds like Apocalypse Now... I'M IN!

Posted by snoopdye

Damn, it looks pretty and Kasavin makes it sound badass. Count me in.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos
@Lies said:
" You may have heard about The Line's Heart of Darkness-influenced premise, about a team of US military specialists gone rogue in a Dubai that's been nearly demolished by raging sandstorms. Naturally, you're part of the team sent in to find those turncoats, led by Colonel John Konrad 
  "
^.^
Posted by xxizzypop
@Capum15: Anything involving shooting and morality sound good when set to God's Gonna Cut You Down. I'd like to see someone dedicate a youtube channel to making game trailers just with that song. I'm pretty sure I'd be equally interested just about every time. Bonus points for Katamari Damacy. 
 
On-topic: I am officially intrigued in Spec Ops for the first time since PlayStation 1 days. 
Posted by Fjordson
@Battsey said:
" John Konrad huh. I see what you did there... "
Yeah, I chuckled when I saw that. 
 
The narrative inspiration that this draws from Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now has me intrigued. I'm down for a modern day military shooter with a single player story that's actually worth a damn (looking at you Call of Duty and Battlefield).
Posted by actionTACO

"i love the smell of sand in the morning" -lt. murderblud, spec ops: the line

Posted by fillmoejoe

There are some mechanics that sound cool like your squad deteriorating as the game progresses.

Posted by Cramsy
@actionTACO said:
" o wow, press RT instead of A to make the good-guy choice.  what staggering innovation will they come up with next!  *waggles wii-mote to chop col. kurt... errr John Konrad with a machete. Tool tip pops up.* "The Horror meter has increased! Watch out! As the meter increases, your teammate attacks become more brutal and excessive!" "
Did you actually read it? Brad said explicitly that this game doesn't have ' A for good B for bad' type of moral choices. 
Posted by Jimbo

It's a total cop out if they limit the effects exclusively to superficial things like takedown animations.  
 
This is gaming, it is defined by interactivity.  If you want to make a statement that cannot be made just as easily in any other medium, then let the effects spill over into the gameplay.

Posted by actionTACO
@Cramsy said:
" @actionTACO said:
" o wow, press RT instead of A to make the good-guy choice.  what staggering innovation will they come up with next!  *waggles wii-mote to chop col. kurt... errr John Konrad with a machete. Tool tip pops up.* "The Horror meter has increased! Watch out! As the meter increases, your teammate attacks become more brutal and excessive!" "
Did you actually read it? Brad said explicitly that this game doesn't have ' A for good B for bad' type of moral choices.  "
Yes I did. He said that the game doesn't have 'A for good.. blahs blah bla' and then proceeded to give a scenario that was exactly that.  In fact, after reading it again, you're not even taking the shot yourself, a teammate is.  So, I was actually wrong, it won't be Press RT to make the same dumb binary choice that every game that touted INTENSE MORAL CHOICES as a selling feature has had. It will just be press A to be a good guy.
Posted by BraveToaster

meh

Posted by DoubleKR

" ragged psychological effects that accrue in a contested warzone, the raw darkness that can form in men's hearts when they cross, well, the line beyond which common morality begins to break down and the soldier's tattered psyche becomes capable of actions that in everyday circumstances would be considered unthinkable."
 
it sounds deep like the movie or book called The Road. this could be a promising experience that might just enlighten the average gamer. can't wait.

Posted by DoubleKR

maybe even Tears of the Sun.