PAX East 2012: Spec Ops: The Line Hands-On
During PAX East I was given the opportunity to play Spec Ops: The Line, a game that seems like it’s been on the “coming soon” list forever. With the games summer release date steadily approaching I was excited to play this game but in all honesty went in a little cautious. There are plenty of military shooters both first and third person out there and it’s very easy to make a mediocre one. What does Spec Ops: The Line do differently to stand out from the crowd, and does it offer something worth experiencing? Read on to find out.
The first thing you’ll probably notice about Spec Ops to stand it out from the crowd is the setting. The game takes place in the strikingly beautiful city Dubai which is known for two things: the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) and the rampant sandstorms that strike the city. In the setting for the game a particularly devastating sandstorm hit the city and left it in ruins, causing almost everybody to evacuate. A few people stayed behind either by choice or necessity, one of them being US Army Colonel John Konrad, and it’s your mission to go in and get him.
The demo we played was early in the game setting up the mission to find the missing Colonel and dropped us into Dubai. Things started off slow as we walked around and did the requisite control tutorials but things escalated quickly when we came across a group of people aiming assault rifles at us. This is not something I took kindly to so a few bullets later and these men were down, but this is when the picture started becoming clear.
With Dubai in ruins and those who stayed behind left to fend for themselves it’s become a veritable warzone. As we progressed towards our target we came across increasing amounts of opposition in varying battlefields. Things felt natural and while there were a lot of chest high walls strewn about for cover they felt like an actual part of the world for the most part rather than walls that had all been conspicuously cut down to the same height.
The atmosphere of the game is one of its strongest points. Even in the desert the environment is incredible looking and I can’t think of a single other game that compares to it as far as setting goes. Throughout the game it was tempting to just wander around and look at the surroundings and take my time to absorb it all in. One of my favorite setpieces took place around a downed aircraft with enemies fighting on the wings and from inside the actual plane.
One of the most interesting things in the game is that the sandstorms aren’t entirely scripted and can appear at any time. Not only this but they actually drastically affect the battle by opening or closing different paths and making it harder to see your enemies or making it harder for them to see you. As you would expect this opens up some nice options for different tactics in an ever changing fight.
Spec Ops: The Line certainly stands out from its competitors and offers some neat mechanics that make for an engaging experience. The shooting was very solid and the squad mechanics were incredibly responsive. When I told my guys to take somebody out they did it and when I told them to flank they were on their way. With great visuals that had a very cinematic feel to the entire experience, Spec Ops is something to keep an eye on for sure.