E3 2010: Spec Ops: The Line (Impressions)

by: Chuck -
Spec Ops: The Line is going to do for sand what BioShock did for water. Maybe I’m fishing for a pull quote here but Spec Ops is the first game to feature sand as one of its main game play elements. There are a number of ways that you can actually use the sand to kill people but let’s talk about the back story of the game first.

Set in the near future where Dubai has been wiped out by a large sand storm, Spec Ops: The Line has you leading a commando squad of three people into the city to rescue a colonel who went missing on an earlier mission. Your mission also goes south in a hurry as you’re caught between the survivors, the looters, and the other forces trying to take control of the city. From what I saw from the demo there’s more than a strand of two of Apocalypse Now woven into the plotline as well.

The game is a third person shooter but the focus of the action is up-close quarters combat and not the ranged combat. You’ll be forced to use cover in the game as getting caught in the open is going to lead to a near instant death and re-start. You have two squad mates at your command and you can either choose to use them tactically or let them roam on their own. The weapons we saw were standard modern shooter fair (shotguns, grenades, rifles) but we were promised that more exotic weapons would be available in final version of the game.

Graphically the game looks amazing and is helped tremendously by the locale of the game. Dubai is the first really new modern city that’s been built in ages so the tall glass spires contrast well with the desert surroundings and the destruction that’s happened with the storm. The rest of the characters are also rendered well.

The sand dynamics make the game though as we got to see the team escapes from a buried hotel by shooting out the windows of a buried hotel and escaping out the window after the sand rushed into the room. We also got to see a squad of enemies crushed by a wave of sand after a retaining wall behind them was destroyed by a grenade. It’s a fairly unique dynamic and I’m interested to see the other ways it’s used in the game.

The game has a gritty look and feel (no pun intended) as the game will force you to make some difficult decisions along the way. Do you allow a suspect be tortured and hope he gives up the information you need or do you step in and stop it based on moral grounds? These decisions are built into the game so don’t expect to see a prompt to make a decision (much like how BioShock 2 did it) Spec Ops:The Line will have branching story lines and multiple endings which should offer some replay ability once you’ve completed the game.

Spec Ops:The Line will also have a separate co-op campaign and multiplayer action but details on those will be released before the game ships in early 2011.

I’m interested to see if 2K Games can keep the dark tone of the game up for the entire game without getting too depressing (nothing like exiting a tunnel and seeing a road with bodies hung from light poles all the way down it) but so far the game looks pretty solid and I’m a big fan of forcing the game to make decisions without showing them a prompt that you are doing so.

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