The Spec Ops series hasn’t seen a new entry in over 10 years, long enough that many people assumed that it was a completely new IP when Spec Ops: The Line was first revealed two years ago. However, given its unique setting and inspired story (influence by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, which itself was adapted into Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now), Spec Ops: The Line represents a new beginning for the series, despite it’s seeming genericness on the surface.
Set in the city of Dubai (which many may recognize from the recent Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) in a near future where a devastating sandstorm turns the city into all but a wasteland, Spec Ops: The Line stars game voice-actor superstar Nolan North as Captain Martin Walker (who, incidentally, looks, sounds, and talks exactly like Nathan Drake), who has been sent in with his squad to track down rogue Army colonel John Konrad (a reference to the game’s Heart of Darkness origins).
At first glance, Spec Ops’ gameplay seems like a run-of-the-mill, cover-based first-person shooter. However, a few things make it immediately stand out. Roaming the abandoned streets of Dubai is memorable, and a few environments set in skyscrapers lets the player see the whole city. In many environments, sandstorms will randomly kick in, dynamically changing the battlefield and requiring new tactics from the player.
Gameplay feels good and responsive, and weapons have a kick and recoil that feels appropriate. The Line also features a simple but effective squad system. By holding down RB, players can tag specific enemies for their two AI-controlled squad mates to take out. If one of your squad mates is taken out, you can press RB with the cursor aimed at him to have your other squad member heal him, or just go heal him yourself.
Another cool feature is the incorporation of slow motion. Whenever the player scores a headshot, or quickly takes out bunch of enemies, the game will briefly go into slow motion, giving the player a quick advantage and just looking plain cool. This stylistic choice goes a long way in making the game feel less generic, while simultaneously making it feel like a Hollywood blockbuster.
As a huge film buff, Spec Ops’ tangential relationship to Apocalypse Now is enough to make me interested. Now that I’ve seen the game in action though, it’s quickly looking to have the potential to be one of the best shooters of the year. Be sure to keep an eye out for Spec Ops: The Line when it releases for PS3, 360, and Windows this June 26th.