Spec Ops: The Line
A total downer - and also the best thing to happen to shooters this year
- Bold and thoughtful tone
- Disconcerting setting
- Underneath the dialogue, it's only so-so action
Superficially, Spec Ops: The Line might not be the gold-standard of action games, but it's the bold, thoughtful tone and disconcerting setting that makes it such a welcome relief from all the meatheaded heroics which flood the shelves.
Price$ 99.00 (AUD)
It seems profoundly wrong to be recommending a game which will leave its players feeling depressed and guilty, but that's exactly why Dubai-set third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line is both a surprise and an essential reflection upon what action gaming is.
Documenting three US Delta Force soldiers' search for a missing Colonel in a near-future Dubai which has collapsed into drought, anarchy and environmental disaster, it draws heavily from Apocalypse Now's examination of right, wrong and military might. Even aside from this introspection and a sharp, twisting narrative, the setting alone makes it unusual.
Rather than the swathes of brown and grey which characterise so many modern shooters, Spec Ops juxtaposes its Middle Eastern desert with the grand opulence of Dubai. Sand-locked speedboats, huge sculptures, swathes of gaudy signage for casinos, aquariums and seven-star hotel provide vibrant colour amidst the eternal sand that has broken into this ruined city. That this is a metaphor for the folly and brutality of high capitalism is a given, but it's also an unusual, mesmerising and unsettling backdrop for the action.
As for the action itself, it's a cover shooter in the Gears of War vein, requiring you to shelter and take shots carefully rather than wade invincibly into the fray like a Call of Duty-style Arnie. Twitchy controls, unforgiving enemies and high headcounts mean it can be punishing to the point of frustration. Your character, grim jarhead Captain Martin Walker, has an infuriating tendency to flick out of cover, while checkpoints are so far apart that long, difficult fights require repeated do-overs.
Fortunately, the tone and dialogue make up for a multitude of design sins. This isn't a game about feeling like a hero, but about feeling the human cost of warfare. While the plot itself drops a few balls, Walker and his two (AI-controlled) squadmates' reaction to the horror they witness and sometimes cause is far more powerful.
Why they're there at all is in increasing doubt, and the trail of destruction they leave behind them may be making the situation for Dubai's thirsty, sandstorm-battered survivors far worse than it already was. The inter-squad chatter sows doubt and remorse, while hard decisions - both scripted and chosen - have terrible consequences.
It doesn't shy away from showing these consequences in gruesome, haunting detail, but with the intent of eliciting an emotional response rather than being the sneery gore-porn that so many action games seem to be currently embracing.
As such, Spec Ops tunnels into the mind and lodges there, spreading discomfort and despair. It becomes a game that isn't played for fun, but to incite self-reflection and to feel yourself in the shoes of its troubled characters - forever striving to do the right thing but spreading disaster as a result.
It is going to dissatisfy players in search of a stop-gap until the next Call of Duty, or who object to having their emotions toyed with when they're only there to shoot pretend men. Multiple endings and a few lynchpin decisions do allow the more brutally-minded player to avoid moralising, while the taxing nature of the later conflicts offer a rare-for-the-mainstream challenge - but don't expect to be praised for your actions come the dark resolution. Spec Ops wants you to think before you shoot, even though shooting is invariably your only option.
Join the newsletter!
Why virtualise your NAS environment?
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Oppo A73 review: The budget smartphone that sets the bar for 2018
- 2 Oppo R11s review: The iClone you know and love, but not quite the one you deserve
- 3 Blackberry KEYone Black Edition review: What the original KEYone should have been
- 4 Samsung Gear IconX 2018 review: The path of least resistance makes for an easy upgrade
- 5 LG V30+ Review: The videographer's smartphone arrives
- Assassin's Creed: Origins's Discovery Tour mode shows how great educational games could be
- This week in games: Final Fantasy XV adds Half-Life's star, Blizzard hosts a Warcraft III tourney
- Walmart has the Intel Core i7-8700K for just over $300 today
- Massive EA Origin game sale slashes prices on Battlefield, Star Wars, Mass Effect, and more
- Smartphone sales grew last year despite historic quarterly decline
PCW Evaluation Team
The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
- Sony a7R Mk III review: The strongest case yet for ditching your DSLR
- Oppo A73 review: The budget smartphone that sets the bar for 2018
- Oppo R11s: Full, in-depth review
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- FTSenior Project Manager, Business Operations ImprovementsOther
- CCTechnical BA - BI/DatawarehouseNSW
- CCSenior Functional ConsultantNSW
- FTTalent Acquisition Specialist - Large Blue Chip clientOther
- CCSystems AnalystACT
- FTBusiness AnalystOther
- FTBusiness AnalystOther
- FTJava DeveloperVIC
- TPSystem AnalystACT
- TPManager, IT and Digital SupportVIC
- TPMicrosoft Dynamics DeveloperQLD
- FTProject Manager - SAP Asset ManagementOther
- FTSenior .Net DeveloperOther
- CCDigital Project ManagerNSW
- TPSenior Project Manager | Process & SystemsQLD
- CCHadoop DeveloperQLD
- FTSoftware Engineer (C ++, Java)Other
- FTBig Data ArchitectOther
- FTSenior Project AnalystOther
- CCBusiness Process AnalystNSW
- TPAgile CoachNSW
- CCWintel Server & SOE EngineerNSW
- FTMotion Graphics Designer / VideographerNSW
- FTSenior Technical Business AnalystOther
- FTDesktop Support Engineer - OnsiteOther