It’s rare that I buy a game within its first six months of release these days, and rarer still that I play it through to its conclusion in the same time frame. Steam sales have conditioned me to wait for anything I’d like to go at least 75% off, and then to buy it for some non-specific future date when I have TONS of time to do nothing but sit on my keister and game the days away.
This will presumably be in the retirement home, at which point I hope I can get a computer that still runs Windows 7.
Half Life 2 Ep 3 MAY even have been released by then.
But I digress.
Anyway, I was compelled to buy Spec Ops: The Line during a recent Amazon sale because, well, partially because it was five bucks but largely because it’s become one of those games that people try to get you to play while trying not to spoil, which is pretty unusual for something that looks – on the face of it, and for about the first hour – like a pretty standard military shooter with your manly trio of manly mans going into a ruined future Dubai to rescue doomed people from a Colonel who was initially assigned to rescue them himself but has pretty clearly gone off the reservation.
That was a single sentence. Somewhere, my high school Honors English teacher clutches her forehead at an sudden and unexplained headache.
As the game progresses, of course, this black-and-white ideal becomes more and more grey. Your characters make bad decision after bad decision, generally with no choice in the matter, and the oft-repeated goal of rescuing the civilian population becomes more and more ironic.
There are a few spots in the game where you can actually make a decision for yourself. Most of these have you picking the lesser of two evils, to be sure, but they do give you at least a moment’s peace.
So I guess I’m trying to say that the devs get full points for making a heck of an engaging story.
Also worthy of top marks: Dubai itself. You’re coming into the city after it’s been hit with a disastrous series of sandstorms, and your running firefight through the former playground of the super-rich is made all the more memorable by, oh, using sand-filled supercars as cover or fighting yacht-to-yacht through a plain covered with grounded pleasure boats. Occasionally you’ll wind up in some place the sand hasn’t yet gotten to, and the transition from post-apocalyptic nightmare to, oh, the opulent lobby of a gilded hotel borders on the surreal.
It’s a bit like being in line at Disneyland, really. You walk down a very linear path and occasionally get to see cool set pieces designed to make you not pay attention to the fact that you’re standing in a line where your only options are to constantly shuffle forward and occasionally lean up against a stanchion to rest.
Mind you, Mickey isn’t ever going to pop up out of one of these set pieces and fire an RPG at you.
I came close to closing this post and then realized that I hadn’t actually addressed the game playing part of things. Story and set dressing aside, the actual game is about shooting mans that are shooting at you, and it’s a generally satisfying game in that regard. The creators went down the list of Standard Shooter Types and picked out “third person shooter”, “carry two weapons + grenades”, “cover system”, and “squad commands”, threw them into the Development Oven for 3 months at 350 degrees, and what came out was a satisfactory shooter pie. Sure, the crest is kind of burned around the edges and the latticework top is skewed in places, but it tastes pretty good once you get it on your plate.