Spec Ops: The Line was admittedly a title I had forgotten about – the last instance I knew of it dated back to a preview in a past issue of Game Informer. With Steam posting a demo a few days ago, I was happy to discover that the game was not in the first-person – much like nearly every military shooter available. With the third-person genre currently (and almost entirely) busy with the likes of science fiction, I must say that the Spec-Ops demo was actually refreshing, and fun enough to have me excited for the final product.
The 30-minute demo treated me to an array of gunfights, beginning on the outskirts of Dubai. Gameplay, much like any Gears-like shooter, is based on environmental cover. You’re treated to the same assault rifles, pistols and shotguns that you’d see in a military game, with a sniper rifle tossed in for good measure. There were a couple minor stealth bits thrown in and while they weren’t bad, the first felt a bit shoehorned as it took place during an already started gunfight. I use the term stealth loosely however, as these were little more than slapping a silencer on your assault rifle.
However, what impressed me the most was your team. While there is your (again, standard-issue) heavy weapons guy and wisecracking scout, they did a surprisingly good job keeping the banter to either cutscenes or lulls in between fights. In the midst of battle, teammates will call out enemies with special weapons (shotguns, snipers), as well as other events on the scene. When these baddies are called, you can issue kill orders to your squad by holding down the right bumper and targeting the problem. In one indoor scene, a sniper gave me trouble from a high perch, pinning me down while I tried to take out his buddies on the floor. I commanded my sniper to take him out, and the action was instant. That gave me room to breathe, necessary for the runner – a certifiably insane specialist in close combat. Letting him get close to you guarantees a death.
Your squad has your back through and through, and will attack without hesitation. In a sense, you’re not left to handle a ten-man army on your own (like some points in Gears). While this may seem invasive, immersion is key here. There are still plenty of other enemies to pick off, and they’ll let you handle some of the bigger guns on the field (i.e. turrets). My only gripe here is that I wish I could make the same praises for the enemy AI.
To close this out, I should make a point that Spec-Ops: The Line has a very gritty, visceral feel to it that doesn’t smell as if it’s been tacked on. The air of three guys against two armies in a certified hell is one of desperation. Hell, though, looks absolutely gorgeous: my laptop had no troubles running the game on maximum settings. The story was only mildly elaborated on through dialogue and cut scenes, and it’s a bit confusing to follow – I found out why I was fighting a fellow army squadron after seeing some information on a loading screen. However, early previews have shown the soldiers making some tough choices that could affect them down the line. I know, I know – that sort of thing can be hit or miss. But I have faith that Yager has managed to pull it off, if the rest of the demo is any indication. We’ll find out come Tuesday, but in the meantime, check this out.
The Spec Ops: The Line demo was played on an ASUS G7SX laptop with an Xbox gamepad. No modifications were made to the laptop. If you so happen to download this demo, for the love of God, watch out for the runner.
Game is due out for XBox 360 and PS3 for $59.99; PC for $49.99 on Steam. Check out the launch trailer below.