Late Reviews; Spec Ops: The Line
During the occasional Steam Blowout sale, I saw so many popular titles that were reasonable bargains: such as Deus Ex: Human Revolution and LA Noire.
But I found a stick in the mud, and the video game that stood out was Spec Ops: The Line. After hearing all the controversy surrounding the video game's questionably violent and dark tone, I decided to give it a go. Besides, I have a natural love for video games with heartfelt narratives that move the player emotionally (Metal Gear Solid Fanboy).
Well, this video game did way more than that.
With such a compelling and character driven story that adds so much to the shooter genre, I found myself teary-eyed in the arid wastelands of Dubai.
The game focuses heavily on the main protagonist, Sergeant John Walker and his squad mates, Adam and Lugo, who flew to Dubai to investigate after the banished 33rd Unit of the United States of America took over Dubai under strict orders from Lieutenant John Conrad, leader of the "Damned 33rd". The voice acting is beyond stellar, adding a whole new layer of emotions to the whole visual and audio narrative. The eclectic soundtrack enhances the dark nature of a bleak Dubai, where all hope is lost as ragged bodies of innocents filled the streets.
What stands out the most in Spec Ops: The Line is the visual style of Dubai, as sunlight pierces through the barren sand-covered city with remnants of a lost world of beauty and elegance as the vibrant colours of majestic hotels stand out from the drab sand blanket. Powered by Unreal Engine 3, Spec Ops is truly a feast for the senses.
Sadly, the gameplay is bare boned, with the average cover shooter styled gameplay, similar to Gears of War.
Thankfully, there are streamlined controls for extra features such as giving simple commands to squad mates. What makes the game special is the powerful narrative that is nearly extinct in the "shooter" genre. The twist ending in the Spec Ops affects each player emotionally, giving players a guilty conscience as we perform despicable acts of violence, such as killing innocents "by accident" with white phosphorous.
With symbolic images of children being burnt alive, the video game dares to tell a story that has not been told before in the shooter genre. Small and subtle details, such as the protagonists dialogue evolving as they begin their descent into madness, having them blurt out curse words in a fit of rage adds even more realism to the whole experience.
Lastly, the interaction between Walker and his squad mates is realistic and down to Earth, showing movie-quality interactions within a team of soldiers. With a simple morality system, the game stands out from the shooter genre without conforming to the typical action packed shooter.
This video game tells a tale of sadness with a hint of truth, showing us what American soldiers go through emotionally. Instead of glorifying violence, the game reminds us to put the controller down and stop playing other shooter games that promote terrorism and war (Ahem, Call of Duty).
As much as how the gameplay detracts us from the complete emotional experience, the narrative is a force to be reckoned with and is arguably one of best video game narratives of all time, standing proudly next to the video game legend that is Metal Gear Solid. I give Spec Ops: The Line a 8/10.