|Spec Ops The Line is a third person cover based shooter that is a reimagining of the classic Heart Of Darkness tale. Having played through it on my own and again with a friend who doesn't like to think about these things, it's a multi-layered game in which an intelligent player can absorb the imagery and think about what they're seeing and doing but someone who just wants to shoot things can also do that.
The plot is thought invoking and full of plenty of twists, some more predictable than others but the moral choices system isn't as deep as it could have been with the developers taking choice away from you in the truly important sequences. Sadly I can't talk any more about that without giving away huge spoilers but suffice to say that it only feels like a cop-out in one sequence about half way into the game where you can't say no despite the area having the feeling of a choice.
Level design has some outstanding points while other areas are as bland as can be while progress through an area is usually strictly about moving forwards there are often side routes that allow you to flank enemy emplacements or have a little lateral movement in a firefight. Enemies however aren't very bright and the AI only seems to perform a couple of manouvres and their appearance and the positions they initially take up appear to be entirely scripted throughout the whole experience with most enemies simply sticking to the points the developers assigned to them. Oftentimes this works well but other times it's noticably artificial and breaks the immersion somewhat due to their behaviour being noticably artificial.
While on the topic of level design it's also worth noting that the sand mechanic was massively overhyped before release and in reality it's usually as simple as shoot a window for sand to tumble out/fall down and kill whoever's in the vicinity. It's a little shallow yes, but it's also a lot of fun to drop ten tonnes of silica ontop of a couple of screaming guys waving AKs at you.
As you've probably guessed the graphics are mostly alright with some inconsistencies in texture quality here and there but nothing too bad throughout. THe abundance of brown and grey is slightly overbearing but in this case it does help emphasise the hopelessness and very grim tone of the story and a thoughtful player can appreciate how it adds to the tone but the average player might find it a little too generic.
Similarly, the weapon selection is as limited as the colour pallete with only a couple of weapons of each type available to the player. Thankfully these weapons are variants that players will pick a favourite from and find most comfortable to use. There's no alternate attachment loadouts for weapons here, each one has its own attachment and that's as far as it goes but sometimes it's nice not to have to worry which underbarrel attachment goes best with which sight to make the weapon most efficient or powerful or whatever. It's just grab a gun and shoot the bad guys and that's fine by me.
Sound design is an achievement in some areas and a letdown in others; an excellent soundtrack is blasted from speakers in the game world and some genuinely funny and human dialogue is present but offset by limp gun sounds and the occasional line that sounds like the voice actor just didn't care that day. There's one notable line like this that appears right at the start of the game (and in the demo) where the actor for Lugo sounds like he has a sore throat all of a sudden.
In closing, it's a solid game in most aspects that can easily hold its own against similar games. The story shines for those intelligent enough to appreciate the finer, subtler nuances and easily ignored for those who just want to shoot men. Sound design is good but has its moments of mediocrity and the graphics are a veritable cornucopia of brown. Gameplay is basic but solid and it's nice to play a character who's capable of keeping a good grip on his weapon when you fire more than two or three rounds at once. Despite limp sounds the weapons feel solid and powerful and enemy deaths have a sick satisfaction to them, especially the executions, but combined with the tone of the story they can make you feel like the bad guy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.
I came out of the game feeling like I'd been a terrible person throughout and when it was all over I stared at the title screen thinking about what few points had gone right and what had gone wrong, the plot twists and reveals and just how much I wanted to go again and try to do things differently when given a choice. Definitely a good thing.
Pacing keeps up a good clip throughout.
No slowdown on a decent system.
Great story that doesn't outstay it's welcome.
Can be finished in about 4-5 hours on easy.
Moral choices are mostly arbitrary.
Levels are mostly a slightly bendy corridor.
Inconsistant levels of quality in sound and graphics.
Mediocre, mostly dumb AI.
Please note that I did not play the multiplayer aspect of the game at all and cannot comment on its quality or experiences. Sorry!