Spec Ops: The Line - Trying Not to Be a Typical Shooter

Rather than relying solely on set-pieces, Spec Ops: The Line uses strong subject matter to engage the player.

Chances are you've read or heard about Joseph Conrad's famous novella Heart of Darkness. The story is quite well known and has been used as the basis of a number of different mediums, including the incredible film Apocalypse Now. When we initially heard about and saw footage surrounding Yager and 2K's upcoming game, Spec Ops: The Line, the connection was made. We spent some time with a few chapters of the upcoming game, and while references to the novella and film are visible, Spec Ops: The Line looks to change the way people approach war-themed tactical shooters.

You'll play as Captain Martin Walker, the leader of a Delta reconnaissance squad that has landed in Dubai and is out to retrieve the thought-to-be-missing Colonel John Konrad. Konrad had been in Dubai six months prior, leading his 33rd team as part of a humanitarian relief squad. Back then, the city was ravaged by constant sandstorms, and the evacuation of its citizens was required. But due to various constraints, not all of the citizens were able to be removed safely, and Konrad took it upon himself to ensure that those left behind were not left to die stranded. He and his squad lost contact with others, and it was feared they may have perished because of the conditions. After six months of silence, a radio transmission was picked up, and a retrieval mission was sent to find the source of the message.

Walker and two of his squad members land in the outskirts of the city and begin their trek to find Konrad and/or any other surviving members of the 33rd. As they make their way through the city, they encounter many challenges, both human and natural, in the hopes of retrieving Konrad or at least figuring out what has happened to the area over the last six months.

The Line plays like most third-person shooters. You use cover and a plethora of different weapons as you make your way through the various areas. Walker will be able to issue commands to his two partners, but these commands are basic functions like focusing fire on a specific target or throwing grenades and flashbangs. While the commands are pretty minimal, both accompanying soldiers are smart enough in the battlefield that you rarely have to tell them what to do.

What the heck happened here?

Where The Line hopes to differentiate itself from other wartime shooters is in the narrative. Because it borrows elements of Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now, the developers are looking to capture the audience not with the various firefights you'll encounter, but by the way this journey and the surroundings begin to alter your psyche.

The weather will alter the way you approach certain areas. Since the city has been all but destroyed by the sandstorms, moving around areas will be difficult, and many times, the Delta squad will need to find alternative routes to use. At the same time, the weather will play into how to deal with foes in an area. When a sandstorm does occur, you'll have to try to battle not only foes that come your way, but the reduced visibility. In these scenarios, making quick decisions and finding safe areas will be vital to your survival.

The narrative will also change the way your characters progress through the game. While The Line's story is going to be a linear experience, there will be times when your decisions will transform the way the characters react to one another. In one area in particular, there will be a situation in which Walker will have to make a choice in regard to keeping one of two people alive. In most people's eyes, there may be only one or two possible outcomes, but in fact, there are four choices, and your decision here will cause characters to react differently. This is just one area where choice comes into play, and it is expected that there will be other situations where choosing one action over another will alter the progression of the story. On top of that, because these soldiers are in a dire situation, the problems they encounter may cause their relationships and their feelings about the situation to change. These psychological changes will surely cause a tense finale.

Visibility will play a big part in the combat.

The time we spent with Spec Ops: The Line allowed us to play through five chapters of the game in the first half. We got a rundown on the events that happened during those parts of the game we didn't play, and they did feature a lot of areas of interest and situations where the characters faced dire scenarios. Spec Ops: The Line looks to use its narrative to differentiate itself from other shooters, and from the time we spent with it, that seems to be the case. Spec Ops: The Line will arrive on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in early 2012.

Written By

Former GameSpot Associate Editor, current Content Manager for EA SPORTS.

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Discussion

97 comments
santinegrete
santinegrete

I'm glad to inform you this isn't your typical shooter. Hell, the over emphasis on the story is not only atypical on a shooter, but the story also is, not only in the genre but in all gaming. This game shows maturity, growth, in this media.

CylonRaider01
CylonRaider01

Finnaly something that gets 9.1 GS score (FPS type) and looks good.

mordekai18
mordekai18

man I tell you 2012 is that year for games!

manhunted
manhunted

ive heard that on one level in a frantic bid for escape, you are required to dress in drag after a lengthy battle in order to get into the ladies toilets in a nightclub. Unfortunately there is, as ever, a queue..... You are subsequently bullied by two drunk 40+ year olds who call you a slapper and then offer to share a cubicle with you, which you agree to do as the enemy are systematically sweeping through the night club. Apparently, the subsequent embarrassment of 'Big Ron' the spec ops hard man forces him to mimic having a wee in front of the two woman. Eventually the terrorists eneter the ladies toliets........ also in drag; owing to there being a pain in the arse bouncer on the door and start looking for you. Your escape apparently requires a tampon, three racoons and the gentle insertion of hamster up your bum....... Thanks to these fresh rumours, i will be buying this game!!!!!!!!!

Meteora1991
Meteora1991

@Emp-Naval Agreed , thats why i dislike games like BF3, medal of honor and MW3 , its always USA vs Muslims/ Arabs making us look bad like it isnt already enough how the media screws with our reputation

Meteora1991
Meteora1991

this game wont holdup im sure + i have a feeling this will b banned in UAE + not only that it wont holdup, its also not interesting

cp198108a
cp198108a

To comment back on Emp-Naval, i can imagine that some are kinda offended by the way games sometimes add the stereotypical bad guys, and sinds kuweit and irak gamedevelopers seem to jumped in to put arabic countries as the baddies, but even so i think you should remember its just a game and not represent the reality. In the old games most of the times the bad guys where either russians or some evil minded germans. I probly not have to remind you of the many games there are representing germans as the bad guys, and i can def imagine some germans are kinda offended aswell or at least not feel comfortly always getting reminded about the things that happend roughly 70 years ago. So i understand what you mean. To the story of the game , i think it def got potential, i know alot of the younger gamer generation likes FPS more the TPS shooters. But to all the grew up in the time when the first Wolfensteins and Quake,s hit the market FPS,s where big but after awhile i can help myself seeing way to many FPS games and now i kinda like the TPS,s more but again thats my personal opinion, and not reflects the general opinion.

Emp-Naval
Emp-Naval

I really don't like it when american put us -arabs- in games... I know it's supposed to be US soldiers vs US soldiers or something like that, and I don't know how do this game's developers present us, but I hate the stereotypes games spread about us... Just felt like ranting it out...

Darryl_Green
Darryl_Green

This game may have some potential, but then again they're trying to sell the game narrative too hard.

slonekb05
slonekb05

Just the fact there selling " were not a typical shooter" so hard is alarming. Sounds like rage's sell , and if you played that im sure you were disappointed like most. Want this game to be good, but i have a good eye when i see game play. To me looks like nothing special.

botsio
botsio

this game looks promising.judging by its contents its set to bring something new to the table with regards to TPS.we wait and see hoe it goes.

Gamer_4_Fun
Gamer_4_Fun

Again Nolan North! Dude, take it easy! Everytime I hear your voice I am reminded of Nathan Drake, not Desmond or any other voice over he does.

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

warhawk-geeby
warhawk-geeby

Sure as hell looks promising I'll give it that. We'll see, it's about time shooters became more than just 'point and click'. They've been dumbed down too much nowadays, this looks to freshen it up :)

johnny_pay
johnny_pay

the game looks good and i preordered for only £4.99 MUAHAHAHAHA, gotta love game

Georg_Maximus
Georg_Maximus

Y'know - every time they're trying to tell some gripping narrative through a shooter gameplay, the final product seldom lives up to either standard. It's often "generic shooter meets cliché story" at the end of the day. Which is a pity, as both Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness are indeed towering monuments within their own genres. I would rather see a subtler gameplay than what shooters generally has to offer, with less explosions and fancy weaponry to make room for the actual story in all its facets and levels. The developers of The Line should have understood that a movie like Apocalypse Now is not about war and firefights, but about a journey into the darkest corners of evil itself. I wish a game like this could have been more like Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, that focusses more on how you move through the levels that the actual fighting. It's very interesting that they try to make a game version of Joseph Conrad's novel, but I just don't believe that a shooter provides the best way of telling the story.

strothers101
strothers101

Looks pretty good to me but as we found out with the latest iteration of modern warfare looks can be deceiving. Hope it doesnt end up being another generic shooter.

liffaman
liffaman

looks amazing... the animation looks a bit stiff sometimes i hope its because its not done yet!

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

I am looking forward to this one because I've wanted to visit Dubai ever since I saw an article about it in a travel magazine. It's too hard to comment on the story at this point. Apocalypse Now is a classic, but many other stories of similar premise are just corny. If the environment is refreshing and the gameplay smooth, it'll still be worth it.

Dark_December
Dark_December

Hmm. Looks like Uncharted to me... especially the shooting part. And the pole gymnastics.

acc999
acc999

environment looks good, and story is interesting, I hope it will be a good game.

splinter10
splinter10

@Broly3k9 lol and your the local expert?? A reconnaissance team is usually a group of four to five heavily armed men; usually because they'll be behind enemy lines, which this game clearly show they are. And where in my comment did I quote a movie?? lol I think you need to go to bed mate. Rest your head.

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

The only way for them to deliver a true new view of third person shooters is if the history is good as they claim it is. If not, then it'll be just another shooter like many that came out this year.

Hm1911
Hm1911

@Broly3k9 new info, never heard of it. but why would they trace bullets anyway?

meyh100
meyh100

6.5/10 if the reviewer is nice :P

obikwan03
obikwan03

following this game since 2010 I expect alot..

S-181
S-181

never really been interested in third person shooters

Gooshnads
Gooshnads

I dont think the gameplay will be anything astonishing. I bought the story narrative until they said that they take the player to somewhere games haven't done before.. There ARE dark, realistic games.. I don't know what they are speaking of tbh. Idk, i'm keeping an eye out. I hope it doesn't disappoint.

DemBonez88
DemBonez88

3addid - there just predicting the near future

3abbid
3abbid

yet again another game ,were the U.S manages to kill all arabs and save the world........f*cking great game!

oflow
oflow

crying about unrealism in saints row is funny.

PeterDuck
PeterDuck

@Broly3k9 I should have been more specific. It is UNREALISTIC to see every bullet fly out of your gun (Saint's Row 3 ahem ahem). I know when I am talking about thank you very much.

Hm1911
Hm1911

OMG!!! Conrad, Heart of Darkness, and choices in the game!!! This game is gonna be great and brutal for sure

kex72
kex72

Gee wiz! This game looks like the bees knees

JudgeSim
JudgeSim

looks like a typical shooter

neogeta8
neogeta8

This could be something well worth buying. As long as the gameplay and AI matches the proposed, indepth narrative, I'll be keeping an eye on it.

Germandude2
Germandude2

I've been keeping a close eye on this one for a while now, it looks pretty amazing. I hope they're almost done with it.

shaze8
shaze8

COD should try something like this.

lethal_intake
lethal_intake

Well I'm all for a good story but will the gameplay be as good. I really don't wanna play this if the AI isn't any good.

WarpedCore
WarpedCore

Me like! This is looking to be the new thing for Shooters. To me, it seems to be on the same page of a Mass Effect storyline. Decisions to make, personalities. . .morals on the line. Love it! Just no Blue chick to shag!

gotrekfabian
gotrekfabian

Nice to see shooters trying to do something different from the norm. They tried horror and open world which worked pretty well, let's hope this will take us down another avenue which will freshen up an otherwise stale market that pumps out year on year identikit games.

Flav44
Flav44

Looks promising!