deactivated-5ffc9b71f33ff's Spec Ops: The Line (PlayStation 3) review

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An anti-war saga in a sea of military shooters.

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War is hell, if you didn't already know this. Hatred erupts into a firestorm of death, leaving behind only tears and destruction. It’s what breaks humans down into a blanket of depression for years to come. In the midst of military shooters arises a different type of story that doesn't praise war but expresses the discomfort of being in war.

If you haven’t already had the story spoiled for you, you might be in for a big surprise. What starts out as a typical modern warfare scenario quickly turns into something dark and horrible. This is the best part of Spec Ops: The Line. The game wants you to question your own actions and put you in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. It does this pretty well for some while others it just doesn't work at all. The first playthrough, I was a bit shocked and slightly disgusted at what was presented in the game. There’s some disturbing imagery that’s presented pretty violently which has caused players to even quit playing, especially late in the game.

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The problem I had with the story is that while it does a great job at presenting an alternative modern combat story line that’s a great advocate for anti-war, it felt a bit forced. The imagery is very disturbing but you don’t have any alternative in how you go about your mission. You’re going to be forced to do the things that disgust you. It loses a lot of it’s effect when your lead to do something and you’re just “following orders”. I also don’t look at civilians, soldiers, or any bad guys as being human too. They’re polygonal figures that represent human beings but their soulless bodies are nothing I can get truly emotional over. This is just my opinion, of course. It just didn't do as much for me. It’s not changing my mind on how I view war games or any violent video games. Because it’s just a game with a pretty good story.

I think everyone that plays the game will agree the story is great, but that doesn't make a video game and especially of the shooter variety. It’s about gameplay more than a story. If you read a book with a fantastic story but it’s poorly written, then that’s a bad book. If you watch a movie with a fantastic story but it’s poorly acted and directed, then that’s a bad movie. Video games are no different. A fantastic story with bad gameplay is not a good game. That said, Spec Ops: The Line is just not that good of a game.

The biggest problem lies within the most idiotic AI I've seen in a while. If the enemy AI isn't baffled on how to get to cover correctly, then your squad-mates are probably making perilous decisions. The kind that gets them killed. The kind that makes you restart checkpoints over and over because they’re too stupid to not stand in front of an enemy with a shotgun during a reload. Every now and then, the AI will show off some impressive flanking maneuvers that overrun you but it’s far and few between.

Watch the trailer,
Watch the trailer, "Cold and Grey"

On harder difficulties like Fubar (very hard), you’ll spend a good chunk of your time dying. Skill or no skill, you’re going to die and watch that load screen over and over. Since the game is based around a cover system similar to Gears of War, you can either blind fire or pop up to take a shot. If there’s a good group of guys around, just forget about it. You’re going more than likely die because all of the enemy units have 100% accuracy on your head right when you pop up. You have to use commands for your squad-mates to attack enemies and just pray they don’t stand there taking hits.

There’s a lot of luck that goes with the game. If you’re careful and taking your time, that doesn't mean you’re going to achieve victory since there’s issues with auto-aiming enemies, bad squad AI, and grenade spams. It’s achievable to beat the game on any difficulty, but there’s a lot of frustrating moments that aren't even your fault.

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While there’s a lot I hate about this game, there’s still some other benefits besides a story. The atmosphere is nice if you like war-torn cities. Dubai is where you’re going to be doing all of your killings and it’s very apocalyptic looking. This is best witnessed on the PC since the textures are much cleaner looking.

Since the game is a shooter, it’s a good idea to talk about the shooting mechanics. There’s not a lot of recoil or aiming issues in the game. It’s an unrealistic third person shooter that manages to stay fun if you’re not running into the above issues. You’ll constantly change out different types of weapons from shotguns to RPGs. All of the guns are fun to shoot and give a satisfying generic action feel. It’s arcadey and I liked that. But again, I can’t express how much the shooting is bogged down on higher difficulties due to generic AI scripts.

I wouldn't recommend buying the game. It’s worth a rent if you’re interested in a different take on war in video games. There’s just way too many problems to recommend buying a short game with so many gameplay issues just for a twisted war story.

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