Spec Ops: The Line Preview (PC)

When I first saw Apocalypse Now, I had the unfortunate pleasure of watching the Director’s Cut with all of the additional scenes added back in – not a smart move when it’s already late at night. Even though it was torturously long, and the new scenes didn’t quite fit with the flow of the film, I could see why my friends had all recommended it though – it was a very good and very emotionally provoking film. Plus Michael Sheen’s permanent state of mild bewilderment amused me. Imagine that kind of emotional rollercoaster as a videogame though, what would you get?

Yeah this bit is pretty messed up...
Spec Ops: The Line is a reboot of the classic Spec Ops franchise that was around in the 90’s, and does its own interpretation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (the same book that Apocalypse Now was based on). It’s an odd thing really, as this game was first announced way back in 2009, and despite having an Xbox 360 multiplayer beta, it dropped off the radar for a while. Still it’s turned up again now and by the looks of things it hasn’t changed that much. Set in Dubai, in the Arab Emirates (after it was destroyed by a freak sandstorm), The Line is a very story-driven first person shooter about a team of Delta Force operators sent in to the city to find out what happened to a missing American Infantry Battalion after a distress call was received.

We were lucky enough to get a pretty extensive hands-on session of the game, and go through the opening section of the story as well as some other levels. The first thing that hits you is how… atmospheric, everything is. Yager weren’t kidding when they said they wanted this to be an atmospheric game. Everything from the design of the levels, to the background noise and music, to how the story unfolds before you is very deliberate and crafted to draw emotions from you. We won’t go into any details but there will be some moments that make you stop and pause, which is still fairly rare for a videogame.

Spec’s Ops core is third person shooter, but it also has squad-based elements as you do play as a team of Delta Force operators. The squad-based elements however aren’t the main focus – everything to do with the squad is more contextual and optional in a lot of cases. On the easier difficulty levels we imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to just ‘solo’ it, as far as this game allows you to. The team members have seemed to be pretty useful so far, acting on their own but not stupidly, helping you take out enemies if there’s a lot, and they will readily shout out advice and directions at certain set-pieces. The squad mechanics are more basic than most, but there’s enough there to make good use of them and they do come in handy.

Something that we didn’t get to see at all though was the multiplayer. Now, as we mentioned earlier there was a multiplayer beta back in 2010, however the developers have confirmed that the online mode has been completely re-worked since then – so if you remember that beta you might as well forget it. No idea on what that entails as they’re not talking about it right, but considering how little the singleplayer seems to have changed over the past couple of years, we wouldn’t have been surprised if multiplayer had been a major focus. Hopefully they’ve got something good cooked up.
So is this bit, actually

Despite The Line being the latest in a long line of military shooters, even third-person or squad base military shooters, Yager so far seem to be making good on their design goal of having a compelling narrative. Again, it wouldn’t be right of us to go into specifics, but there’s some good (and by good, we mean emotionally rich – it’s actually pretty messed up at points) stuff here and we just hope the conclusion to this game beats Apocalypse Now’s rather unsatisfying end. Hopefully it won’t be delayed any more either. Spec Ops: The Line is due out sometimes this year on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.

Most Anticipated Feature: The story and where it leads. There’s some intriguing stuff here.