Game Impressions Daily: Spec Ops: The Line

Welcome to Game Impressions Daily, a look at games and how our opinions of them change over time, even while in the midst of playing them.

Alright, so to start off: I know what I'm getting into with Spec Ops: The Line. I suspect that pretty much everyone playing the game nowadays kind of does. Does that mean that my experience will be diminished over those who got to play the game "pure," not knowing the depths that laid in store for them? I can't answer that question, but I can at least come at the game from the perspective of someone just waiting for shit to get crazy. Honestly, I didn't have to wait as long as I thought I would. Aside from the very "dudebro" on-rails helicopter sequence at the beginning, the game never feels like it's attempting COD-style spectacle, even to lull you into a false sense of security. Playing even an hour of The Line is enough to convince anyone that they're involved in something different. There's a sort of grim brutality to the gameplay: limited ammunition force you to close in to switch weapons or result to melee, enemies don't always die right away enabling you to finish them off, if you wish, in brutal fashion, and even a that even just a couple of hours in, the pile of corpses, both the ones that you see and the ones that you create, has grown to uncomfortable levels. Of course, the real reason that anyone is still talking about Spec Ops is the story. Pretty much right away, the tone and setting of the game help to set it apart from other brown shooters that have been released over the past several years. Sure, it takes place in a desert, but it takes place in Dubai, one of the most prosperous cities in the middle-east, now layed low by natural and, you quickly find out, man made disaster. The city, now cut off from the rest of the world, lends to the feeling of isolation, as if the two men that you learn to rely on in combat (through simple squad commands), are the only people in the world that you can trust. This is further emphasized during the short time I spend separated from them during one level. I suddenly felt trapped and easily surrounded by the enemy, almost overwhelmed, and a little bit frustrated: I think that was the point. The game design supports the story so well that its a shame that the mechanics don't fare better. The shooting and cover mechanics are competent and functional, very much in the style of Gears of War, and utterly bland. Weapons generally lack weight and impact and the vast majority of battles take place behind one or two pieces of cover each. You only really need to move when you run out of ammo, and when you do have to go for melee, the act feels so ineffective that I started to wonder if I could even kill an opponent with it.