Spec Ops has been around for a long time now but, unlike many other military shooter franchises, this one has been passed around like strep throat. Many developers, under many publishers, have tried to make the Spec Ops combat experience compete with other titles of the genre, such as Ghost Recon or Rainbow Six.
Spec Ops: The Line, the latest to attempt this feat, makes its point of difference the use of environmental changes to affect player progression and choices made throughout the game.
Spec Ops: The Line takes place in Dubai, which has been unfortunate enough to be almost entirely buried in sand as a result of catastrophic sandstorms. As a result, you will be battling in strong winds and grabbing onto various objects during firefights lest you get blown away [Pretty much like having a gunfight in Wellington - Ed.]
Delta Bravo - lead by Spec Ops Captain Martin Walker (portrayed by none other than Nathan Drake himself, Nolan North) - are sent into Dubai, to see if they can find any survivors. Not only that, but another military outfit defied orders to return to base and stayed behind before the storms hit, and they have not made contact since...
Dubai is known for its many expensive and ambitious building projects, and in Spec Ops: The Line you will find yourself moving from grand hotels, through glass skyscrapers and wealthy business districts, as you attempt to take shelter from the sandstorms which have left the city a desolate and dry landscape.
There are opportunities to shoot out the glass in these buildings, which leads to sand pouring in and onto your enemies, burying them. These aren't scripted sequences; they happen during firefights in realtime and can be a bit of a surprise, to both the player and the enemy.
Spec Ops: The Line features a ‘tagging’ system for dishing out ‘tactical commands’, which allows you to give your two spec ops pals priority targets. Simply aim your reticle, press a button, and then your buddies will do the work for you.
Your squad has what's called ‘situational awareness’, which affects how they achieve the goals you assign them with the tagging system. For example, if you target an enemy who is in the distance, your sniper squad mate will set up shop with his rifle, line up his infrared and then either: shoot the target directly, shoot a nearby gas cylinder, or even shoot the conveniently placed debris, causing it to fall right on him.
Similarly, if you tag a guy behind heavy cover, your gunner will throw a grenade or set up a position to suppress them so you can flank the unsuspecting enemy, or simply run at them with all his bulking might to stomp them to the ground.
Once outside, however, random sandstorms can prevent you from calling out to your squad mates, stopping you from dishing out tactical commands. Instead, you are forced to hold your face in shelter, to prevent chewing on grains of sand, while struggling to walk and being battered by high winds as you struggle to see your objective.
There really isn't anything else quite like it.
Will Spec Ops: The Line bring the franchise into new light with a new campaign, new characters, and new mechanics? Or will it stay buried under its competition? There's not much of a wait to find out, as it's out next Friday; keep it locked to NZGamer.com for the verdict soon.
The Good: Where there is sand, beaches and babes follow...
The Bad: ...No beaches OR babes...
The Ugly: ...Only guns, gangs and gunfire.