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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Review: 'Spec Ops: The Line' - You're Still a Good Person

As the end credits to Spec Ops: The Line fall down my screen, I can't help but be in shock. Slowly lowering my controller to the ground, my mind races, struggling to put together what has just been witnessed.

Everything from war-torn images to the sounds of death are all I can think of. It's now 1:17 AM and while my eyes are exhausted, I simply can't rest. Spec Ops: The Line has destroyed me. The gritty, disgusting story is all I can think about. For the first time that I can remember, a video game has honestly changed me.

There's only one word that can describe what I'm truly feeling:


There are very few third-person shooter war games out there that will be remembered for their story. Scratch that - very few war games in general that can claim such a prize. You're in control of Captain Walker, the leader of a three-man operative group known as 'Delta Squad'. Your mission is to find and rescue survivors in Dubai, a once thriving, wealthy city that's now a victim of war.

Or so you thought. What was originally a rescue mission turns south quickly, leaving Delta Squad at the forefront of a war they never asked to be a part of. A war they are now forced to fight, and have unfortunately taken us along with them.

Where Spec Ops: The Line truly shines is it's gruesome portrayal of war. Rather than simply throwing you and your squad against an endless number of faceless enemies, The Line is almost too quick to let you know who you're fighting. Every bullet you fire will test your morality - your will. There are more than a few life-changing scenes, asking you to make a decision that no human should ever have to make. Amidst the cries for help of the victims around you, and the constant battle of the conscious between your two squad mates, The Line does a phenomenal job of making no choice the "right" one.

Nearly every decision you choose has a fatal consequence. Whether it's an immediate reaction or one that will change the face of the generation doesn't matter. The choice has to be made, and war is never clear cut. Decisions such as which actor in a petty theft deserves to die, or whether or not the command should be given to massacre involved civilians. It's decisions like these that leave you feeling like you're nothing more than a murderer.

Which it clearly understands as loading screens are filled with text that reads, "You're still a good person".

Let me be very clear, Spec Ops: The Line is not a "fun" game to play. It will test your moral compass, make you feel like you were raised the wrong way, force you to make unfair decisions, and then spit in your face. It's a dark, disturbing video game that will make you think twice about what our soldiers are going through.

And if you aren't affected by it's story, then you're most likely a sociopath.

In terms of gameplay I actually found it refreshing. Movements are quick and responsive, with each gun feeling different than the next. The cover system, while certainly not perfect, saved my life more than a few times. You can command your fellow squad mates to eliminate specific enemies, focus fire, and stun a group as well. They are not invincible to damage however, so do be careful when issuing these commands.

Which reminds me, Captain Walker, Lugo, and Adams create what is easily the most believable group of soldiers in video game history. They are brothers-in-arms and clearly understand the meaning to such a relationship. I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but by the end of the game I would have done everything in my power to make sure they came home safe.

It's not just the dichotomy of Delta Squad, the intense depiction of war, or the crisp gameplay that makes Spec Ops: The Line one of the greats mind you. What is clearly an homage to the sounds of Apocalypse Now, Yager and 2K Games created a beautifully haunting soundtrack. Filled with classic rock tunes reminiscent of an anti-war era, Spec Ops: The Line never lets you forget that in war, no one truly wins.

It's tough to explain exactly what makes Spec Ops: The Line as great as it is without spoiling the story. In an age where video games based around war are a dime-a-dozen, The Line truly stands out. Not just in it's presentation, but in the way it handles war as well. It's a must-play game worthy of the attention. Hats off to Yager and 2K Games for creating a game about war that actually feels like war.

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