Welcome to Dubai, the real star of the show with Spec Ops: The Line. An unusual setting for a military 3rd person shooter, Dubai offers a sense of personality not always present in the genre, and is the biggest reason why this game is worth a shot, even five years after launch.
Spec Ops: The Line was a game released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, and was recently made available on Xbox One backwards compatibility. Inconspicuous by name, Spec Ops was released at a time when the majority of shooters were chasing the Call of Duty trend. Spec Ops offered something unique. Sort of.
When it came to the core gameplay, Spec Ops was a very typical 3rd person tactical shooter. Use of cover, squad commands and a “stop and pop” style of gameplay were core to the experience, and the game did little to differentiate itself from the crowd. The gameplay was serviceable at best, but that isn’t why I’d consider Spec Ops an “awesome unknown”.
Spec Ops: The Line will be remembered for its unique setting and harrowing story themes. A ravaged Dubai hit by a series of devastating sandstorms, now taken over by rogue squads of U.S special forces. Dubai is the biggest character the game has to offer. Its vast desert plains and decaying skyscrapers offer a unique playable space for a 3rd person shooter, with a much-needed change of mood from others on the market such as Gears of War and SOCOM.
Let that take nothing away from the game’s characters, however. You play as Captain Walker, and spend the game with squad mates Adams and Lugo. What starts off as a mission to re-establish communications from within the Dubai storm wall, turns into a mess of defying orders, killing civilians and questioning your own morals about war and the actions you take. One scene in particular stuck with me, which involves a chemical weapon causing seemingly unnecessary damage to the “opposition”. Spec Ops also shows the strain a mission like this can put on your squad, and whether you consider each other friends by the time you reach your goal.
Spec Ops: The Line is one of the only games that has made me ask why I’m doing a specific task and if the level of force required is truly necessary. It will test the bond of your squad, your morals of war and the implications one order can make on a huge group of civilians. Throughout the game, you are left to make important choices that affect the outcome of the story, and these choices are made right up to the final cutscene, which asks the player to make a penultimate decision. Spec Ops: The Line may seem generic by name, but it certainly isn’t by nature.
Available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC from here.