Just wanted to throw up a quick impression of the Spec Ops: The Line Demo for the 360 as I just got around to playing through it this evening.
As just a quick reminder from the start, I played this demo on the 360, not the PS3.
Spec Ops: The Line - Demo Impressions (360)
It's been 10 years since Gotham Games brought Playstation 1 owners the latest rendition of the Spec Ops franchise "Airborne Commando". Though not a critical success it emphasized a more tactical approach to video games. Unlike modern day run and gun shooters such as Call of Duty the Spec Ops franchise has praised itself on being just a little more realistic in nature. While some faint echo of that tactical nature is present in YAGER's newest release "The Line" you can definitely feel the modern day military shooter being impressed upon you as soon as you start up the game.
The demo to The Line begins with a heavily scripted helicopter mounted mini-gun chase sequence where the player, commanding Captain Martin Walker (Voiced by Nolan North) of a small three-man Delta Force unit shoots droves of enemy-filled Mini-Bird Attack choppers out of the skies over Dubai. These helicopters miraculously crash into the biggest, explosive set pieces on location and many a near miss later your chopper is finally downed after flying into a sandstorm.
Cut to a different chapter of the game where Walker leads his three-man team through a sandstorm to the outskirts of Dubai. The games narrative explains that they have been "unofficially" sent into Dubai to search for survivors after an apocalyptic scale sandstorm tears through the city. As the game progresses from a gridlocked corpse and sand-filled highway to the tops of skyscrapers the narrative explains that a civil war has broken out between the survivors of an American Army unit and the survivors of the city. Each side being puppeteered by a nameless DJ on the radio who seems to have a personal connection with Captain Walker. Once the CIA gets involved it turns into a modern day version of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" and the player learns that they must track down the Colonel leading the rogue Army unit before all out civil war threatens the entire region.
The game play in the 360 version of the demo is action packed, without much down time. Enemies attack in droves and the action moves horizontally and vertically as the player attempts to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy. Your three man Delta team consists of a light-machine gunner carrying an M249 Squad Automatic Weapons (SAW) and a Sniper. The player can carry up to two weapons as well as a selection of grenade styles from stun to frags. Silencers are available (by hitting the D-Pad UP) but are unnecessary in the demo. The gun play is satisfying, and different weapons behave as they would in real life. Players who pull off heads hots are rewarded with a split-second of slow motion but not enough to pull off anything exciting. Perhaps this well be more impressive in the retail version. Executing downed enemies is akin to a Gears of War style curb stomp or a bullet to the forehead. The animations repeat extremely quickly and I only noticed 3 distinct executions during my play through of the demo.
During most firefights there is usually a key moment where shooting a weak looking piece of glass will introduce the enemy to the games highly acclaimed sand-physics. Either drowning enemies in sand or causing them to fall through floors to their deaths. The same happens to the player during scripted events in the demo and it's satisfying to watch and engage in. Unfortunately the game's acclaimed sand physics also mean that there is sand everywhere, from inside downed planes, to the tops of buildings, it's everywhere. This makes the entire game brown. The color palette is extremely limited and environmental effects are limited in the demo release. I found the most exciting visual aspect of the demo to be the lens flare from the glaring sun. Otherwise the game seemed lacking in graphics department especially where anti-aliasing is involved. Most characters and environments are covered in the dreaded jaggies that PC gamers fear.
Other than graphics, and gun-play, the game uses squad tactics surprisingly well. Controlling your team-mates with a click of the Right Bumper will cause them to react accordingly to the situation and either use long or short range tactics as well as flanking. Path-finding was average and my team-maters were able to flank enemies that had me pinned down a few times during my play-through. Downed allies can be healed by the "magical" adrenaline filled syringes that most modern day video game soldiers carry around in their pockets and health is regenerating. The games difficulty on Normal was well balanced and while I didn't die, I found myself flanked and pinned down in various situations which was satisfying.
Overall "The Line" felt more like an average military shooter from today's game libraries than what it's predecessors used to feel like. I don't think I'll pay full price for this one when it hits store shelves June 26th of this year.
Game: Spec Ops: The Line
Console: XBOX 360
Length: Approximately 25 Minutes for Demo Completion