Spec Ops: The Line Demo Impressions

Shooter fatigue has set in. All of the time I’ve spent playing Call of Duty or Battlefield or Ghost Recon or Gears of War or whatever other shooter game I’m forgetting about has put me at the end of my rope. If a shooter is going to impress me now, it either has to play radically different or tell a story that will interest me so much I can’t stop playing.

I’ve played the Spec Ops: The Line demo three times. Not because it’s radically different, but because I can’t get enough of this tale of civil unrest and conspiracy. Here’s the short version: a major sandstorm whacks Dubai, turning the once-luxurious city into a ghost town. During the evacuation US Army colonel John Konrad (Heart of Darkness, anyone?) defies a retreat order and stays to help people get out, backed by the 33rd Infantry under his command. After Delta Force receives a rather disturbing distress call from Konrad calling the evac a “complete failure,” Captain Martin Walker (the player) and two squadmates head in to find the missing colonel.

Here’s where things get interesting: EVERYONE is hostile to our three protagonists, refugee and 33rd Infantry soldier alike. What’s gotten into our soldiers that they’re fighting against our Delta Force? Why are they even remaining in this desolate city? What’s going on here?

That’s what makes Spec Ops: The Line so intriguing to me. I want to know what will happen. It’s not going to play any differently from other shooters, and the demo makes that apparent from the get go. It plays well, don’t get me wrong, but it’s no different from other third-person shooters out there (especially apparent after my time with the Ghost Recon Future Soldier beta). Running, shooting, taking cover, throwing grenades, and more are all controlled in familiar ways, allowing players to get into the game quickly and seamlessly.

While controlling Spec Ops: The Line may be ordinary, the environment is brand new. Even though it’s covered in sand and destruction, the skyline in Dubai is still breathtaking. One part of the demo took me to a door leading to a roof, and when I went through the entire city was there for my viewing pleasure. The demo also shows off how the player can use the sand to their advantage: at one point enemies have gathered underneath a glass pane holding back a mountain of sand. Shoot the glass and the enemies are buried, but what’s impressive is the way the sand falls from the broken glass to the ground below. Pick up a handful of sand and run it through your fingers: Spec Ops’ sand moves the same way. The sand graphics might be the best in video games this side of Journey, and they add to the game’s already impressive technical offerings.

Spec Ops: The Line isn’t revolutionizing the shooter genre; I’ve shot a gun like this before. However, this game is more interested in telling a story worthy of your time, and based on the demo I’m ready to sit down and listen. Here’s to hoping the narrative is as good as advertised when Spec Ops: The Line hits stores on June 29th.

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