Spec Ops: The Line Preview

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After an extended hush between 2005 and 2009, Take-Two announced the continuation of its long-running Spec Ops series in the form of Spec Ops: The Line. Headed by Yager Development, the third-person shooter made an impression through its dynamic terrain and unique setting of Dubai, but aside from a few gameplay videos, little was known about the game early on. After being pushed out of 2011 and given some extra polish time, the sandy adventure has finally come out into the light. A solid summer release date as well as a hefty demo has revealed much about what The Line is all about, and we’re happy to report that there’s more than just sand in this ravaged city.

It may be the ninth game in the Spec Ops franchise, but Yager has started anew with the plot and cast of characters in The Line. Captain Martin Walker, voiced by the prolific Nolan North, has been sent with an elite Delta Force to the now-dilapidated city of Dubai. While once a beautiful scene, terrible sandstorms have buried the majority of the city in sand, forcing the inhabitants to evacuate. Well, most of them. U.S. Army Colonel John Konrad remained in the city with his soldiers to help the Dubai Denizens escape, but after weeks of silence, was considered lost. A distress signal from the Colonel spurs Walker and his team to conduct a rescue mission, but it doesn’t take long to realize that Konrad may have had his own selfish reasons to stay in the crumbling city.

The demo, available now on both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, contains an extended sequence ripped right from the single-player campaign introducing the basics of the squad-based, responsive gameplay. Before the player has a chance to take control of Captain Walker, though, helicopters must be shot down. A standard on-rails event where you use a minigun to ice every hostile plaguing the air is the first interactive experience the demo introduces, setting the tone for the remainder of the sample. Bombastic and satisfying, Spec Ops: The Line is a tightly woven series of big moments and fiery gunfights. Explosions lead to shootouts, which lead to bigger explosions.

This linear nature creates a drought of player interaction in some areas, as you’ll spend time idly watching Walker and the crew rappel down walls and zip line from building to building. Yet, the brilliant lighting and crisp textures in the environment make it difficult to complain. The Line is a sharp looking game, and its use of sand as both a spectacle and weapon is an impressive feat. Uncharted 3 was the last game to pack so much sand onto a single disc, but Yager may be upping the ante in the city of Dubai.

Though full of set-piece moments, there’s plenty to shoot on this rescue mission. Third-person combat in The Line feels quick and gratifying, and the squad commands add an extra level of complexity to help flesh out the moment-to-moment instances. The ability to target an enemy for your two allies to concentrate on opens the battlefield to a variety of tactical options, while silencers allow for momentary stealth sequences between the chaotic battles. You’ll feel outgunned and outnumbered in most skirmishes, but with one or two well-placed bullets dropping the aggressors, situations that seem dire from a distance become more manageable when taken one man at a time. Combat is all about getting from cover to cover – picking careful shots and using squad mates to your advantage.

It’s difficult to not just look at Spec Ops: The Line and discard it as a standard, third-person shooter in the vein of Gears of War, but the well-cast characters, comical dialogue and tactical use of the environments allows the game to separate itself from an ever-increasing crowd. Sure, grenades and assault rifles are still the main means of attack, but shooting the glass out of a well-placed bus filled with sand will cause more than a few headaches for enemies in the vicinity. Sand doesn’t come into use too often in the demo, and the promising class-based multiplayer won’t be playable until the game’s June 26 release, but the unknowns should excite interested gamers even more in the final product coming to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. What’s available in the demo has us impressed, and with so many third-person shooters on the market today, that’s a pretty impressive feat.

Does the city setting and use of the elements have you interested in this shooter?  If so, you can secure your pre-order of Spec Ops: The Line today!  Let us know what you think of the title in the comments, or discuss Spec Ops: The Line in our forums.

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