… Ya’ know, it just struck me as I was preparing to write this that it might be a bit disrespectful, almost sacrilegious, to be playing Spec Ops: The Line over the Memorial Weekend. Given that the holiday is meant as a time of remembrance for the men & women who’ve died for our country while The Line has been praised as the antithesis of the over-the-top heroic patriotism depicted in most modern military shooters, it almost seems rude. But to be fair, from what I’ve played the game seems less about bashing the military & more about the horrors of war & the atrocities humans can commit on one another.
If you’ve read much of my previous reviews, you’ll probably note a distinct lack of shooters. They aren’t exactly my favorite genre. I have enjoyed shooter from time to time (titles such as Halo, Doom 3 & Painkiller) but I’ve noticed that the types I seem to prefer are the less realistic ones. I’ve never had much interest in the ultra-realistic military shooters that make up most of the FPS genre recently. Despite my respect for the soldiers, I’ve never been one to fawn over the military in general. Plus, if I wanted to join the military I would’ve joined the military. Instead, I prefer games that stray a bit from reality.
I’ll admit I decided to rent this game after I watched the Zero Punctuation review of it. Mr. Yahtzee and just about every review I read since praised how The Line seems to go out of the way to torture not only the player-character, but the player as well. I’ve deliberately avoided any spoilers about the plot, but every source agrees that the game weaves a dark tale about what happens when the lines start to blur, as they tend to do in real life. I don’t think I’ve reached the turning point where the PC, Captain Walker, begins his decent into madness, but it’s been an interesting start. What begins as your typical 3rd-person shooter where you’re killing Middle Easterners quickly shows signs of something sinister when we see that the man leading them is not only an American but with the CIA. It’s a short time from there that we start killing American soldiers. And while it’s easy to write that off at this point that they’ve gone rogue, their treatment of the refugees & the fact that they’re even shooting at other members of the US military doesn’t bode well, especially when they seem to assume they’re with the CIA.
I think the game actually expects me to be a right-wing nut job because it gave me a rather long opportunity to shoot a suspicious soldier (who unshockingly betrayed me but I figure it’s just as easy to kill him later as now & at least I won’t feel guilty if he shoots me first). I wonder if the plot will have the same impact on me as it will the target audience, the sort of trigger-happy shooter fans who are use to being able to kill in a game without consequence. I can only play the game honestly (meaning make the choices it presents as I feel I should) & react to it.
So far, the gameplay’s standard. I’m not a connoisseur of shooters, but the game works. Thanks to Mass Effect, I do have experience with cover-based shooting. You hit A to take cover, take aim when the cost is clear & shoot people. Pretty standard. I do like the little touch how when you’re running for cover you slide into it. It’s not a huge thing & you have no control over it, but it makes the combat seem more realistic. However, I don’t like that you can only carry two guns. You can switch them out for other guns from fallen enemies, but I always end up debating if I should keep what I have & hope I get more ammo or switch for something else (also, the sub-machine gun sucks). Walker has two men in his recon unit: Lugo, a white, wise-cracking sniper, & Adams, a black man who is your go-to for explosives. Poor Adams doesn’t seem to have much of a personality, but I like Lugo. The exchanges between the men are interesting. You can order them to attack a specific enemy, but you can’t order them separately & I typically just use Lugo to take out distant enemies that I can’t get a good aim at with my rifle. There are grenades & mini-gun sections, which are pretty standard, but I do like that you can take cover while still using the mini-gun. Also, because the area is under siege from a sandstorm, there are sections where you can break glass to drown your enemies in sand.
Since I’ve got the holiday weekend off once I get off work today, & I have the house all to myself, I hope to finish The Line soon. I think it’s fifteen chapters, & I got to chapter five after about two hours, so I don’t think it’s horribly long. It’ll be interesting to see if I’ll be shocked by the game’s story since I have some idea what to expect going into it. Hopefully it lives up to its reputation. I’m looking forward to an interesting if uncomfortably ride.