Video game corner: Spec Ops: The Line

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By Willem Weinstein

This game was actually released quite some time ago, but I want to review it anyways because I not only enjoyed it, but I also think its message is really important.

Spec Ops: The Line, developed by Yagger Development and published by 2K Games, at first glance appears to be a standard issue modern warfare knockoff, with the typical modern military shooter mechanics and style.

I was ready to judge it solely based on its box art, which depicts a lone soldier standing in front of dust and a battle of some sort. If you’ve ever played a video game from the modern military genre, you know that this is about as standard as it gets, bordering on the edge of copyright.

I normally avoid games from this genre of shooter because they set a bad precident for the gaming industry as a whole, as well as the image of the gamers themselves.

But once I actually sat down to play Spec Ops: The Line on the advice of some people whose opinions I trust,  I discovered what it actually is: A tightly controlled examination of the shooter genre as a whole from the perspective of an interesting and unique main character suffering from PTSD.

It provides a hard hitting look at what it actually means to play these types of games in comparison to what it would be like to fight the kind of battles these types of games depict in the real world. This juxtaposition sets Spec Ops: The Line apart from other games in this genre.

Plotwise, you and two AI partners are stranded in a fictional location, resembling Dubai, after a major sandstorm has hit the city. Your primary job is to evacuate any and all surviving civilians.

I don’t want to spoil the narrative of the game, so I won’t go into plot details, but I will talk about the mechanics. The combat features are fun, although they can get repetitive.

I believe that this is done intentionally in order to show the player that what they’re doing in this game is, essentially, just repetitive and monotonous ,killing with  very little reason or provocation for committing these atrocities.

The game also features an interesting sand mechanics, in which players can shoot out a window in order to cause a small sand dune to fall, giving a new tactical advantage; however, these instances are generally simple set pieces and don’t appear often enough to become all that integral to the overall gameplay.

Spec Ops: The Line is exactly the type of game the industry needs. It’s refreshingly original and painfully self-aware, often speaking directly to the player on a real emotional level, which is virtually unprecedented for this kind of video game.

If I can offer any criticism, it’s that the game isn’t all that fun to play just because of the emotional toll it takes on its players.

Despite this,  it is certainly extremely engaging and stands out to me as one of the most memorable and immersive games I’ve played in recent years.

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