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Review

Spec Ops: The Line Review

  • Game release: June 25, 2012
  • Reviewed: June 26, 2012
  • X360

A striking vision of a devastated Dubai plays host to murky morality and banal gunplay in Spec Ops: The Line.

Spec Ops: The Line is a game rife with contrast. In the sandstorm-wracked city of Dubai, refugees huddle in crude shanties erected in the opulent atriums of luxury hotels, and soldiers construct rough outposts in swanky rooftop clubs. On these makeshift battlefields, most of your time is spent casually gunning down hundreds of enemy combatants, but your squadmates still argue passionately over the value of one anonymous virtual life. Mechanically, Spec Ops is an utterly commonplace third-person shooter, but narratively, it strives to raise philosophical questions and put you outside of your comfort zone. These contrasts create some intriguing moments, but they are too often muddled by mediocre execution.

The environmental design is one of the highlights. A fierce sandstorm has left Dubai with an entirely new geography, one defined by sliding dunes and sandy canyons. Trapped by the swirling debris, the citizens are forced to create makeshift shelters amid the towering skyscrapers, carving out settlements in the luxurious wreckage. Walk just past the glittering peacock statues and extravagant mosaics to find rickety cots, shabby walls, and dirty sheets.

A battalion of American soldiers have taken up residence here too, following their failed evacuation attempt, and their military outposts add an ominous air of conflict to the landscape. The artifacts of the aborted exodus tell a story too; cars are abandoned, belongings have been left behind in a hurry, and desperate pleas for help adorn the walls.

These striking scenes are punctuated by the politically charged graffiti that some stranded artist has created around the city, anonymous accusations that target the suffering of the people (smiling images of hotel guests with their eyes hollowed out) and those who helped exacerbate an already bad situation (a skeletal news anchor holding a smiling yellow puppet). The disparate architectural and artistic threads intertwine to create a fascinating landscape, one that is a pleasure to explore despite the merely decent production values.

Even the interiors overflow with visual details.

Unfortunately, no such creativity is found in the actual combat. Gunplay in Spec Ops: The Line is a simple matter of taking cover, popping out to shoot enemies, and advancing to more cover from where you will shoot more enemies. The guns you fire are a fine military array of assault rifles, shotguns, sidearms, and heavy weaponry. The enemies you fire them at return the favor vigorously but lack the kind of artificial intelligence that can liven up a firefight. There are a few neat opportunities to destroy barriers or ceilings and let the environment kill your foes, but the bulk of the time you're serving up headshots to anything that moves (and getting a nice slow-motion flourish for your troubles).

This humdrum gunplay is paired with slightly clunky movement mechanics, which might see you failing to sprint on cue or melee attacking a low barrier instead of vaulting over it. Spec Ops does not compare favorably to its genre peers when it comes to maneuvering around the battlefield, but these shortcomings are rarely an issue in the single-player campaign. In the competitive multiplayer modes, however, they become a hindrance exacerbated by your relative fragility. Some interesting map layouts, a light class system, and a nice array of objective-based modes can create some fun conflicts, but the creaky locomotion makes it unlikely you'll feel invested enough to make a significant dent in the bevy of unlockable weapons, perks, and gear options.

The campaign itself can be completed in under seven hours, and the journey you undertake is inspired by the novel Heart of Darkness, in which a man journeys upriver into the jungle to seek a powerful and enigmatic character who may or may not have gone off the deep end. In Spec Ops, you play as Walker, one of three Delta Force soldiers who arrive in search of Colonel Konrad, an American commander who took his battalion to Dubai against orders in hopes of saving the people trapped therein. It quickly becomes clear that the situation in the city has deteriorated drastically, and there are numerous factions struggling for survival.

Though your mission is to rescue survivors, the first humans you encounter are hostile. A failed attempt at communication leaves you no choice but to fight back, and this pattern repeats throughout much of the campaign, establishing one of the main narrative contrasts of Spec Ops. You're there on a rescue mission, but you just can't seem to stop killing people.

There's beauty in destruction.

Sometimes, you are given a choice. Try to rescue the potentially friendly operative, or save two innocent civilians? Who is guilty, the man who stole water for his family, or the soldier who administered harsh justice? There are no right or wrong decisions, just a difference in who dies and how. These moments shine a spotlight on your squad chatter as Lugo and Adams chime in on the situation you are presented with. They generally argue different sides and react strongly to what you do, but your character's response is almost always to bully them with talk of "doing what's right" or "doing what you had to do." Then it's back shooting the guys who are shooting at you and exchanging profanity-laden victory shouts. The moments meant to encourage reflection fade to the background, drowned out by the overriding narrative justification of self-defense.

There are some story moments that make an impression, however. There's a humorous homage to the similarly inspired movie Apocalypse Now, and a number of licensed songs are piped in to the battlefield to set an appealing fatalistic tone. Both of these examples are the work of the mysterious Radio Man, a disembodied and incongruously jocular voice emanating from speakers rigged throughout the city. Other moments force you to look at the horrors you've wrought, but these often feel cheap because you so rarely have a choice in your action. It's not until late in the campaign that Spec Ops gets more daring and disruptive with its storytelling, but by then it feels like too little, too late.

The disconnect between the gameplay and the narrative elements of Spec Ops: The Line is numbing, which makes it more difficult to contemplate the murky morality of war in the way the game wants you to. There are some intriguing things to be teased out of your adventure through the lovely ruins of Dubai, but the contrast between ambition and execution makes the experience as unsteady as the shifting sands.

The Good
Engrossing amalgam of art and architecture
Memorable moments, both humorous and shocking
The Bad
Stiff movement mechanics
Relentless killing overrides moral dilemmas
6.5
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Spec Ops: The Line

About the Author

/ Staff

With his Apple IIGS as the spark and his neighbor's NES the fuel, Chris Watters' passion for gaming caught fire early. Years later, you can find him aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent while desperately avoiding sunburns.

Discussion

0 comments
Steadyeddy23
Steadyeddy23

Sickening to think that this reviewer gets paid for this.I can only hope people are not put off by the score because this is a must play game that one will always remember.Its a breath of fresh air in a stagnating industry.

MrAVKV
MrAVKV

Pathetic review. The reviewer obviously missed the point of the game entirely.

hahamanin
hahamanin

i just finished the game and came here to point out...how wrong this review is...gamespot reviews are done for me

doremonhg9x
doremonhg9x

Terrible, just terrible. Someone fires this guy for god's sake please. This game truly stands out with its deep, emotional story that will keep you questioning for a few days, or maybe weeks about its intention.

1wikkid1
1wikkid1

So the question I came here with is still not answered... this review spends way too much time discussing the same thing in a half dozen different ways. 

Is this an open world game or is it the usual corridor, hallway, staircase, type of shooter? From the screenshots I've seen it seems like it could be open world, like STALKER... I'd actually be interested in trying this one if it is.

Assemblent
Assemblent

Wow, I always knew I couldn't trust reviews, mostly on gamespot unfortunately, because I love this video game website, but this one here, really opened my eyes for good. I say this because I always give the benefit of the doubt to reviewers, because, well... they are paid professionals and I'm merely a fan, but...

Wow, what a shallow review. As shallow as the 9 scores for games like BF or COD that keep giving you the same washed out formula and this masterpiece where Apocalypse Now in our days meets memento with, killer action (though generic, true, but it's a part of the story and not merely a way to make you a juggernaut with level ups, perks and upgrades) lots of memorable moments and an outstanding soundtrack.


If you more than anything like an action videogame with beautiful graphics, a killer story that ressonates in your mind and makes you question the world (makes you think), with killer action that is rooted deep in the story and isn't just there to give you the common upgrades and a good story mind f**k this game is for you.

Without spoiling much of anything, It was just so cool to shoot down enemies inside a skyscraper in Dubai while The Black Angels - Bad Vibrations was rockin' on the building's speakers.

scrkpr
scrkpr

Still the dumbest review on Gamespot, in my opinion. It's not one of those reviews where the opinion differs between you and the reviewer; this guy just plain didn't understand the purpose of the game. It completely went over his head that the mindless shooting IS the moral dilemma of the game. Thanks to this guy, thousands of people probably didn't get to play what was, in my opinion, the best game of 2012, and one of the best war games of all time.

Jacen22
Jacen22

What a terrible review, well done @ChrisWatters you have outdone yourself. This guy gives black ops 2 an 8.0 and says it has a great scripted campaign. Really? Killing off the main character every couple games is"Great scripted campiagn"? He completely misses the whole point of morality in the campaign and misconstrues it with "urrr....there's a lot of killing n' stuff.....urrrr...overrides moral durrrrrrrrrrrr...no."

As for game play they were not looking to reinvent the wheel, what do you want them to do add super powers? Its a 3rd person cover based shooter, granted the cover system is a little glitchy at times. It was still competent enough to progress through the campaign.which is probably the best campaign I have ever seen in a shooter. Kevin VanOrd should have reviewed this game, the man understands importance of a great story and would be able to figure out the the heavy moral dilemmas the game puts you thorough. But instead we get the COD fanboy blast anything with gravitas and substance while churning out 8.0 and 9.0 for those turd ops.

EDIT- Sorry, just needed to vent a little. I apologize if I offend but I haven't been this emotionally immersed psychologically and moved by a game before and I think everyone needs to really play this game and your review hurts the chances of people trying it out and thus the never ending loop of derivative cod games will continue.


ianfenny
ianfenny

Idiot! The relentless killing is the point of the game. IT IS the "moral dillema".  Its meant to make you feel sick at the end & question all the other "reward for killing"you've done in countless other games. 

strawberry9
strawberry9

I'm sorry Chris, you fucked up on this one. You completely missed out on the point of the story lol

randyfitzps3
randyfitzps3

I can't say anything that hasn't been said about a million times already about this game, but I will say that every gamer owes it to themselves to play through this game twice.  For me, it was simply mind-blowing.  Amazing music, horrifyingly beautiful scenery, and an incredibly thought-provoking story.  It's an incredibly dense narrative, and there's a lot there if you're willing to really explore it.

And seriously, the controls are perfectly competent, and the gameplay isn't terrible.  A bit generic maybe, but I thought that kind of aided in helping the player draw parallels between this game and the bajillion other military-themed shooters out there these days.  In any case, the game isn't long enough for it to ever become tedious.

But yes, multiplayer is garbage.  Don't bother.  The single player devs pretty much disowned that portion of the game, and with good reason.

popeyfolger
popeyfolger

another really bad review well this game is far from perfect In my personal view this is an 8 to 8.5 the controls are good not great and rarely did i have any hiccups. My complaint would be that it's a little easy for those of us that like a challenge even on the hardest level.(though it maybe intentional to feed  into the story) Despite that I think the  music score,narrative,  and ending were all fantastic and i consider myself a fairly harsh critic on games. Although I would say it's not a game for everyone a 6.5 seems a little low for something as unique and well done as spec ops the line.


wavelength121
wavelength121

Great review, ignore the studio plants in the rest of the comments, you hit the nail on the head Chris. If the game fails to wow you, to pull you in, then it fails, period. There is no "getting it".

EnforcerWRX
EnforcerWRX

Mr.  Reviewer, I just bumped into this review after completing this game a couple days ago.  You completely missed the point.  This review is a classic example of how some people just don't get this game.  This isn't supposed to be a shooter who's competition is MW or BF.  This is a game that uses its "almost too generic" pace to reinforce the narrative.  You "almost" got it a handful of times but more times than not, you missed the point.  The "execution" as you call it was done on purpose.  This game is engaging but its not supposed to be mind numbing stupid fun.  Bad reviews like this ruined this game's sales potential.  Shame on you.

fend_oblivion
fend_oblivion

"This humdrum gunplay is paired with slightly clunky movement mechanics, which might see you failing to sprint on cue or melee attacking a low barrier instead of vaulting over it."

 

^ I had this problem too when I played the game at first. Then the game tip showed up and said that you have to hold down, not press the melee button to do a vault. Never had a problem since.

I_are_Cake
I_are_Cake

I have Adblock Plus so Watters doesn't get the hits he wants.

KeeseKiller7
KeeseKiller7

Many of the reviews I've read just miss the point. They look at this game too objectively. Like any other shooter.

To me, gameplay can be all but completely ignored for this review. Because really, that's not what it's about. You have to let yourself be taken in by the psychological experience. If you don't, you just can't enjoy it.

vault-boy
vault-boy

Just finished the game and its not that hes being to harsh I don't think. He just doesn't get it.

johnwohl
johnwohl

I think this review kind of misses the point of the game.  It's not a simple shooter.  The gameplay mechanics and tropes from the genre are purposefully there to make you think.  You are engrossed in this super serious narrative and yet you are mowing down people like it was "a game".  The simple spawn points, clunky controls, and things like that are built in to reinforce the disconnect you feel from what you are actually doing.  It's not made to be fun.  It's made to be a slow slog through waves of people you are killing without so much as a second thought.  I think if you play through the game with the expectation of a COD clone you will be dissapointed because a fun, straightforward shooter is not the point of this game at all.  Its more of a psychological story that you have to pay attention to.  If you are paying attention it makes you very uncomfortable and at times makes you think about why you play shooters in the first place.  That said, it's not for everyone.  If you don't have the attention span for it, you won't get it, and you won't like it.

RC444o
RC444o

Yes, this game has been unjustly underrated by quite a few reviews I've read. It's a great story even though the multiple endings were a bit anti climactic. I agree with reviewer that the "relentless killing overrides moral dilemmas", but what the heck . . it's a shooter at heart and the game is action packed and full of intense firefights. I didn't find the mechanics stiff at all but on the contrary they were a bit loose, but totally manageable. The cover system worked very well and was absolutely essential to survival. Great graphics and audio. Multiplayer was actually fun, but it's good to see games like this whose Campaign is it's strongest part of the offering. I've played through it three times already and would at least rate it an 8.5 if not higher.

abhirajgoldy
abhirajgoldy

most under-rated game of the year for me,many negative points he mentioned are not even negative, even games like RE5 & GOW series have stiff movements mechanics,i respect the reviewers personal view, but it made this game looks bad (6.5 is considered pretty lame to be precise) in fact the game is quite good in all aspects

brain20035
brain20035

@Chris_Watters

You are a strong man cause you denied what is right in front of your eyes and that is a GOOD game!! I think you should lower the bar a bit. The things you mention about the game, I agree with them for the most part but if this was a call of duty game would you have rated it this low??

Wensea10
Wensea10

Sure this game borrows from other known games; however, it is still seriously enjoyable!

suplax
suplax

Another failure review from gamespot.

I bet this dude didn't even played the game through the end.

sheytoonak
sheytoonak

the design is similiar to the " bullet storm",all missions in desert is boring,the idea behind the game is good but has not fulfilled perfectly.choosing between good or evil doesnt change the game's course noticeably.but i think it deserves 8 atleast

hamebone123
hamebone123

great story, good combat, cool soundtrack, and nice graphics make this a pretty good game for me....others may disagree but i don't care. we all have our own idea of what makes a good game and this one is good on all levels to me. when it comes down to it, you have to go on what YOU think and not base your decision on what someone else thinks about it because they may judge games based on other means then you do...... but that's just what I think

guildclaws
guildclaws

6.5???? seriously???? c'mon the game deserve better than that

LiK
LiK

Just finished it and it was awesome. Totally disagree with this review and the score. Too harsh, son.

DrStrangeKid
DrStrangeKid

Personally, I'm rather amused by the game-play that seems- from this review and some other scattered comments- to be the downfall of Spec Ops. This is aside from the multiplayer to which I'm completely overlooking and ignoring at this point. It's a clunky, albeit standard cover-based shooter to which the mechanics, above all things, is familiar. 

 

When you think about it and if you just scroll down, the game mostly checks out in all other areas except for the not onto par gameplay. Playing the game, I eventually started feeling like this was intentional. 

 

SPOILER AHEAD

 

While the theme of this war-shooter is essentially survival, what is clearly illustrated throughout the journey is the element of numbness and disassociation towards the violent, ruthless, uncaring environment of a war-zone. I think what the game tries to bring is that this may not only be reflected off the "hostiles" but very much the protagonist, and arguably the player as well. For people who've completed the game, I point to the White Phosphorus segment as a specific instance. For the protagonist, recall Walker's reaction; for the players, white dots from a bird's eye view akin to CoD AC-130 segments were all that they were. 

 

SPOILER END

 

The game was easy to a numbing point: cover, shoot. War is, of course, never necessarily that easy. But, to kill a man, in war, especially as a member of a Spec Ops unit, I'd imagine it to be just as naturally thoughtless as poking my left analog stick to one side to lean out of cover, aiming with my right analog stick, and pressing R1. Like NitehawkFury, I felt pretty much numb when it came to the actual gameplay which makes me wonder all the more whether this was done on purpose. Believing that though, it just makes me appreciate the gameplay all the more.

 

I'd like to think 6.5 is a fair rating if you look at games to be played for fun on top of all things among the other factors. Spec Ops: The Line is not exactly a fun game, but it's definitely a thought-provoking, memorable game that'll leave an impression for quite a long time.   

 

 

NitehawkFury
NitehawkFury

Having just finished the game, I think it's worth mentioning that I'm a little disappointed with Watters' review. While the game is a little clunky, and is certainly not a "top multiplayer shooter" kind of pick, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my praise for the game itself.

 

 

I've played a ton of shooters. It's my favorite type of game, and I like to think that I'm at least fairly good at them. That said, this was the first game where I genuinely felt numb as I was playing the game. The narrative was so compelling, shockingly powerful even, that the achievements, the pop-ups, all the little things that give a shooter its wow-factor - they just felt so shallow.

 

 

This is a game for a particular kind of gamer. It's not for your run-of-the-mill COD fan who wants to feel like a superhero. This is like the strange love-child between Battlefield: Bad Company and Christopher Nolan's Memento, and I was quite pleased with the experience. This is a welcome change from the "gung-ho" hero shooters that I so often end op playing, or the mindless TDM matches that I put hours into.

 

 

It's difficult to fully explain what makes this experience special without delving into heavy spoiler territory, but let me just say this:  If you appreciate shooters, but are looking for something with a little more to chew on than killstreak rewards and ghille suits, I highly recommend this game. And that's all I've got to say.

Clive-Owen
Clive-Owen

the guy replying to every comment with initial capital letters on every word in the paragraphs...

joe_chebs
joe_chebs

Pheeeew?!?!? I was thinking about picking this one up but I doubt anything can top the amusement from all these comments. Don't get me wrong, I love video games but I think some of us need to remind ourselves that they are just games...Still think I'll check this out though.

DJFIZ
DJFIZ

After having played through this game, I give my honest opinion that the ratings given are perfectly fair. It is fun to play for the right type of person, but for others I have noticed that their opinions vary. Though the comments may provide some much needed insight, I simply recommend borrowing it or otherwise simply trying it out before buying.

 

In an unrelated notion to Gelugon_baat, you speak about respecting others' opinions, yet you seem to feel the need to comment on anyone who attempts to give their own input. Both arguments toward this game, being good or bad, are valid. It is simply a matter of opinion. I am no reviewer myself, but your insight on games seems wasted on personal insults directed at people whom you deem to be "FAN"s. You are in no right to dispute anyone's opinions, and the arguments in either way are not "fair game to be attacked".

 

I respect all opinions towards this game, as they provide insight to others who may enjoy or like the same features in a game. Just simply leave the comments to themselves, and we might yet avoid the childish Gamestop conflicts that are arising.

sx360
sx360

VGA this game is bad

 

VaguelyTagged
VaguelyTagged

 " Relentless killing overrides moral dilemmas."

i think the reviewer had a problem understanding a simple fact that each story is set in a different world with different morals/standards. it doesn't necessarily have to live up to our perceptions of morals and such. it just have to be understandable and since it's a game,enjoyable in the context that the game is built upon.

EXxile
EXxile

@Assemblent I just started playing this game last night, and I've already put a few hours in and I couldn't agree more. I am absolutely loving it so far.

doremonhg9x
doremonhg9x

@scrkpr I do think that I have to agree with you on what you said above. I played this game in a computer shop where everything is so noisy that truly enjoying everything this game has to offer is impossible but the experience that it gives me IS unforgettable.

CyrenII
CyrenII

@Jacen22 Agreed. Completely. Kevin should have definitely reviewed this game. What an awfully inaccurate, pathetic review :/

Jacen22
Jacen22

Haha, cool man you won't regret it. I played the game on PC (with xbox controller) and the graphics were great. Hope you got a deal on the game it's on sale today on Steam for $7.49

G-Man4ever
G-Man4ever

@Jacen22 Sir, based on your reply i have purchased the game. I did it for the story and scenery. If it fails, i will hunt you down and rename your dog to "Sniffles". you better have a dog.

J_Snake
J_Snake

@popeyfolger I'm getting it for free Wednesday on PS+ :) I'm very much looking forward to the story. But the gameplay seems, eh.

I_are_Cake
I_are_Cake

 @johnwohl Spec Ops: The Line actually has some of the most satisfying & precise controls that I've played in a 3rd person shooter since Gears of War & the Mass Effect sequels.

1234ritchie
1234ritchie

 @johnwohl I disagree that the game is purosely clunky, I think that is just an issue with the fact the game has such strong competetion to be compared with. I also did find the game "fun" albeit morally taxing at points. It was fun but you knew that this was a front for a dark and different tale which was both gripping and shocking.

What I do agree with is that some people missed the point of the copious amounts of killing and that many expected a run-and-gun affair like Bad Company/ CoD etc. I loved it. The story left me gripped like reading a book and I actually liked the endings.

Lionman363
Lionman363

 @DJFIZ Gelugon_baat is known for his persistence and his arrogance. Almost any comment he lays his eyes upon that disagrees with the reviewer with any form of insult, he will feel instantly compelled to reply to using his fancy range of vocabulary and subtle insults, likely in a means to reassure himself that he is an intelligent person.

 

I understand that some people take reviews too seriously since they are all personal opinions, but constantly replying to and insulting people, calling them "FANS" and accusing them of taking part in something he himself considers to be a fad, is nothing but pure arrogance and hypocrisy. However, judging by comments he has posted in the past, he will deny any criticism geared towards him and will probably continue to babble on about how right he is.

Alinooridinho
Alinooridinho

 @Gelugon_baat  Im not a reviewer to Write A Review But You Should Notice That  When You Cant Judge Some Thing With Justice You Should Not Judge About it. I Think That  the difference Between Users Score  And  reviewer  Shows  Every Thing.Instead Of Criticizing Others Find Out Whats The Problem With This Review.

Lionman363
Lionman363

 @Gelugon_baat This is a commercial product that doesn't require justice, yet you consistently defend one single reviewer from the people who disagree with him over the said game. That sounds like a very vain attempt at gaining justice to me.

Alinooridinho
Alinooridinho

 @Gelugon_baat Don't Get Angry...It seems That You are FAN Of  Gemespot .You Have a lot to answer For This Review, My Friend.

Sorry If i annoyed You With my Comments.

Alinooridinho
Alinooridinho

 @Gelugon_baat As You Said Insults Wont Change Any Thing.

It  doesn't  Need Justice?! What's Your Problem With This Game?I Want Some convincer  Reasons.

Spec Ops: The Line

  • Xbox 360
  • PlayStation 3
  • PC
  • Macintosh
Conflict rages and morality is murky in this third-person shooter set in disaster-struck Dubai.
ESRB
Mature
All Platforms
Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language
Check out even more info at the Spec Ops: The Line Wiki on Giantbomb.com