Spec Ops: The Line Preview (PS3)

June 14, 2012Written by Paulmichael Contreras

In a world filled to the brim with modern combat first-person shooters set in the Middle East, how do you set yourself apart from the rest? In the case of the upcoming game Spec Ops: The Line, 2K Games thinks crafting a third-person shooter set in the distant future will help it stand out in a sea of browns and grays. We went hands-on last week during E3, and have a preview for you right here.

In Spec Ops, you play as Captain Martin Walker, who is voiced by none other than Mr. Drake himself, Nolan North. North does a commendable job of making Walker sound like a rough, seasoned veteran, though your ears will do a double-take when you first hear that slight tinge of our favorite adventurer in this game. You start out in the middle of the desert, just outside the city limits of Dubai after a massive series of sandstorms has decimated the region. Blown-out vehicles are strewn about the wasteland, with seemingly no other humans in sight. You’ve been sent in to retrieve one Colonel John Konrad, who was staying behind with his men to help citizens who could not evacuate the city in time. At least, that’s the story the Colonel is sticking with – it becomes evident through the trailer shown at the end of the demo that all is not as it seems in Dubai. Expect to see numerous twists and turns throughout the narrative as the story unfolds throughout the campaign.

One aspect to Spec Ops that Yager Development hopes will help it stand out is the dynamic environment. This will include such things as dynamic weather. While that might not sound too exciting at first, think about where the game takes place. The Middle East sees countless sandstorms every year, and in the world of this game, it has devastated the area of Dubai. So while you’re fighting, a random sandstorm can come in and either help or hinder your progress as you neutralize enemies. Alas, there were no sandstorms during our playthrough, so it remains to be seen if this feature adds a real new dynamic to the scenarios that will be played, or if it just a bullet point for the back of the Blu-Ray case.

One nice set piece that we did encounter during our playthrough involved sand. At first encounter with some of the local militia who appear to run the area, one of your squad mates tries talking a few of them down using their native language. While this exchange is going on and quickly deteriorating, another squad member notices a bus behind a handful of these militiamen that is full of sand. Once the talks between the two groups devolves into gunfire, you have a quick few moments to shoot at the windows of the bus, which releases a mountain of sand and buries your enemies, leaving only one or two others to quickly dispose of. It’s a neat mechanic, but this was the only time we saw sand play a role in taking enemies out. Where the game goes from here with the environment is anyone’s guess.

The rest of the demo played like a fairly standard third-person shooter. It was slightly reminiscent of SOCOM, though thanks to the sprinting mechanism it also felt like Gears of War. Your character, Walker, was more like those from SOCOM, however – it only took a few bullets and suddenly, you were close to death. Enemies also went down in only a few good shots, as they should. Utilizing your squad was a breeze, as you could initiate a flashbang on an area or tell a squad mate to focus on one enemy in particular. Squad AI seemed comparable, though when one member went down the other would rush right over to resuscitate him, usually resulting in a swap of positions – one squad mate would get revived, and the other doing the reviving would get taken down in the process! Thankfully, this only occurred once or twice in our hands-on time with the game.

Spec Ops as a series has never seen immense success, either critically or commercially. After a long hiatus, including skipping an entire generation of consoles, could the current generation of consoles breathe some life into this series? From what we played at E3, the game has some chops with an intriguing, sandy environment. But there is nothing really ground-breaking here. The combat is something we’ve seen a million times over, and although sand could introduce a cool, menacing mechanic, we only saw one demonstration of that, and it only buried a few enemies. We’ll reserve final judgement until the game is released, but until then get ready for yet another shooter in the desert. We would love to be proven wrong, and await with bated breath to see what surprises Yager Development and 2K Games have in store for us.

Spec Ops: The Line is set to release on June 26th in North America, and June 29th in Europe.