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Spec Ops: The Line review

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towelie 18th July 2012, 18:06 Quote
Demo for this game was great!
will_123 18th July 2012, 18:06 Quote
Don't think it merits £20 in the steam sale after that review....well in my opinion. Think ill wait it out.
fdbh96 18th July 2012, 20:01 Quote
Is that the same screenshot on page 1 and 2?

Not quite sure the game is worth £20 though. Might wait for next years summer sale :)
SMIFFYDUDE 18th July 2012, 21:14 Quote
Is this game part of the mediocre Spec Ops franchise of the late '90s?
Lenderz 18th July 2012, 22:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SMIFFYDUDE
Is this game part of the mediocre Spec Ops franchise of the late '90s?

Yes it is, but its a complete reboot.

I brought this on Amazon.com where it was around £13.00 and honestly I expected a below par cover shooter, man was I suprised. One of the most moving stories I've played through in a game, and that was something I was completely not expecting.

Mechanically its nothing great, it looks ok, it plays ok, but its a very simple beast, but story wise I think its brilliant.
Hovis 18th July 2012, 22:42 Quote
I thought it was a great story let down by being a bit weak as an actual game. The combat just wasn't as gripping as the story to the extent I just wanted to get it out of the way. That's a bad state of affairs, when the core mechanics of the game are a pain. Also the sheer body count rapidly made things feel stupid. Had the game gone with a more restrained system, made a smaller number of enemies that were tougher and not gone overboard with so many scenes it would have been better. The story impressed the hell out of me though and it's a shame that they hyped the link to Heart of Darkness so much, as it would have been nice to find that out on my own.

Spoilers to follow:

I actually liked that if you made the 'good' choice at the Gate assault you could not possibly succeed. It reminds me of the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, you make a fatal choice, maybe the honourable choice, maybe the right thing to do, but you die. Your adventure ends here. In those stories there was no amount of skill and health potions that could turn a wrong move into a win. To look at it as a forced question is I think unfair. The choice is there, you can use the White Phos shells or you can fight with honour, but if you fight with honour you cannot win. To me that is not an unfair choice. I dunno, maybe I'm being a bit meta about it, maybe there should have been an option for an end sequence if you choose to die in that fight. Either way that scene is one of the most poignant I've ever seen in a game. Was like a punch in the guts.

For me the moment that really sold me on the game though, that lead to respect it much, much more, is the part of the game when you find the two men hanging and you are covered by snipers and told to choose one to execute. When I did that I was not in the mood to meekly answer difficult questions, so I thought, what the hell, and I turned my gun on the snipers. And the game rolled with that. I dunno, in retrospect maybe that was the move everybody made, but at the time it felt pretty awesome.
Adnoctum 18th July 2012, 22:55 Quote
Playing it right now (a few hours in), and although the combat is a bit wonky I'm really enjoying it. Well, "enjoying" might be a bit strong because it is incredibly bleak. And "satisfying" doesn't work. "Engaged"?

The first time during combat an unarmed civvie ran towards me in a half lit section and I almost blew her head off was quite disturbing to me. I mean, it was really the first contact with a non-combatant up to that point so you're not really expecting it. But I was in combat so I couldn't stop too much to think about it at the time, but afterwards I could remember the pressure on the mouse before I recognised her.

I must admit that a shooter hasn't provoked as much introspection in a while. As a part of my Steam Amnesty I finally completed MW2 and I decided to do the airport scene. I didn't fire at people (f**k you Jesse Stern) because it made no f**king sense even in the convoluted context of the undercover CIA operation. The fact that it blew up massively in the face of the CIA(although it has been 3 years already, do we still need to use the <spoiler> stuff?) just proved the point that the most sensible thing for the CIA agent to do was hang back and blow away the terrorists in the back. Which is what I wanted to do, but the game wouldn't let you do that.

Getting back to Spec Ops, it is a very linear game for all its "choices" but I think that it doesn't mean they are meaningless. It is just a narrative choice the developers made. It isn't like Deus Ex where options are wide open, these are military people in a chaotic situation. Choices are constrained by morality, orders, duty, means and opportunity.
So far in my play-though there have been few opportunities to make real choices, and these have been limited to micro moral choices (shoot this person or not) rather than macro (do this to save Dubai and the entire civil population, do that to crush all humanity).
Isn't this the kinds of choices that most people would have? Small ethical decisions that are tiny of themselves but which lead us a bit at a time down a road towards a flawed/righteous/ambiguous individual. It will be interesting to see if I make different choices later in the game as the situation implodes.
You may think this is a rationalisation of poor game design choices, and I will reply that it is my considered opinion.

I do like the setting of Dubai and the contrast between the sheer opulence and wealth and the scenes of disaster, refuge and insanity, although there is a slight tinge of same-iness creeping into the game from all the Middle East settings in games lately (having just completed MW2 and MoH - my Origin Amnesty game).

I like the fact that (so far) the bad guys are American and not the same old Russian, North Korean, anonymous Middle Eastern types. For f**ks sake developers, put some imagination into your bad guys!

Picked it up for $25 on Amazon on speculation alone (I don't often do that) and was amply rewarded because is worth every cent. Paid a similar amount for MW2 and regretted it.
ev1lm1nd666 19th July 2012, 01:03 Quote
Played it a few weeks ago and despite the "me too" attitude towards other games' gamplay mechanics, it's a bloody good game. Yes, it can become frustrating (I spent a whole afternoon on the invincible wave of enemies or gas the buggers bit) but it does reward you. I think this game should be bought for the story telling alone, it's gotta be the best one in an FPS I've seen in a long time...
Lenderz 19th July 2012, 09:32 Quote
I had a another think about this game after posting last night, and have come to the conclusion that one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much is that my expectations were effectively managed, I brought it on a whim without knowing much about it, expecting a poor cover based third person shooter to waste some time on.

Because it was cheap, and because its marketing was poor I didn't know to expect the story I got from it, and I liked the fact that many of the moral choices were "bad choice or worse choice" it felt right for the mood of the game.
CardJoe 19th July 2012, 09:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hovis

I actually liked that if you made the 'good' choice at the Gate assault you could not possibly succeed. It reminds me of the old 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, you make a fatal choice, maybe the honourable choice, maybe the right thing to do, but you die. Your adventure ends here. In those stories there was no amount of skill and health potions that could turn a wrong move into a win. To look at it as a forced question is I think unfair. The choice is there, you can use the White Phos shells or you can fight with honour, but if you fight with honour you cannot win. To me that is not an unfair choice. I dunno, maybe I'm being a bit meta about it, maybe there should have been an option for an end sequence if you choose to die in that fight. Either way that scene is one of the most poignant I've ever seen in a game. Was like a punch in the guts.

REPLY

I get what you mean and had it been slightly different, I'd agree. But there's a difference between a CYOA book and the game...

In a CYOA, when you make a bad choice and die, it's simple. It tell you how you die and says: YOU'RE DEAD. It's then implicit because of the book format that this was a result of your choice and there was no way the choice could have gone differently. It's A or B, where A equals immediate death; no confusion that you might have won out if you'd played a bit better, or that it's a bug when the abseiling ropes don't appear.

(That's another thing that bothers, actually. The choice is very literally: KILL EVERYONE WITH GUNS or KILL EVERYONE WITH BOMBS. There's obvious avenues and alternatives (Stealth it! Go around!) and yet these aren't even mentioned or dismissed despite being reasonable things for Riggs and Lugo to bring up. I mean, look at why you're at The Gate anyway - because someone mentioned it. There's no reason to assault it that the others know of, let alone kill EVERYONE there, but...)

I also don't buy the reason that it's supposed to be an unfair fight. Why would it be? Because there's a lot of them? Even by that point in the game you've killed a larger crowd than that ten times over! It's not an unfair fight and everything about the way the game is balanced, the way your health regenerates and the way you're pitched constantly as an unstoppable hero supports the idea that this isn't really an impossible battle. It's the equivalent of Rambo killing an entire film full of people and then, at the climax, refusing to attack an enemy base because there's one guard at the door.

Anyway, where CYOAs differ is that there's also a skill and complexity question in the game. I know lots of people who did the exact same as me; tried to fight fairly, died, got rebooted, tried again. Because there's no explanation or further urging - you have a choice, but it's not a choice, but nobody tells you - you get caught in a loop. I mean, the game has a built-in system (which I really like) for handling similar player difficulties. If you die over and over in that space it will say "You're dying a lot! Want to lower the difficulty just to get through this bit?" Why not adapt that idea to give players who make this mistake into a more forceful clue? There's no way that, when they were playtesting, nobody made that mistake.

Worse, the idea of there being no choice is consistent through that section too. When you DO finally give up and grab the White Phosphorus and you're scanning the area? It's pretty bloody clear that those people at the end are civillians and, by that point, there's only two guys left to kill - which isn't much compared to the HUNDREDS you've already killed. My immediate reaction was to not bomb them, try and quit out or just wait for the camera drone to fall to Earth...but, no. You still don't get a choice. The game won't continue until it's FORCED you to use chemical weapons first on soldiers, then on civilians.

Then, the payoff that it's shooting for after all this is: "OMG! You chose to bomb innocent people! Why didn't you just go around? You're a murdering psycho!"

**** that.
CardJoe 19th July 2012, 10:18 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adnoctum
Playing it right now (a few hours in), and although the combat is a bit wonky I'm really enjoying it. Well, "enjoying" might be a bit strong because it is incredibly bleak. And "satisfying" doesn't work. "Engaged"?

The first time during combat an unarmed civvie ran towards me in a half lit section and I almost blew her head off was quite disturbing to me. I mean, it was really the first contact with a non-combatant up to that point so you're not really expecting it. But I was in combat so I couldn't stop too much to think about it at the time, but afterwards I could remember the pressure on the mouse before I recognised her.

I must admit that a shooter hasn't provoked as much introspection in a while. As a part of my Steam Amnesty I finally completed MW2 and I decided to do the airport scene. I didn't fire at people (f**k you Jesse Stern) because it made no f**king sense even in the convoluted context of the undercover CIA operation. The fact that it blew up massively in the face of the CIA(although it has been 3 years already, do we still need to use the <spoiler> stuff?) just proved the point that the most sensible thing for the CIA agent to do was hang back and blow away the terrorists in the back. Which is what I wanted to do, but the game wouldn't let you do that.

Getting back to Spec Ops, it is a very linear game for all its "choices" but I think that it doesn't mean they are meaningless. It is just a narrative choice the developers made. It isn't like Deus Ex where options are wide open, these are military people in a chaotic situation. Choices are constrained by morality, orders, duty, means and opportunity.
So far in my play-though there have been few opportunities to make real choices, and these have been limited to micro moral choices (shoot this person or not) rather than macro (do this to save Dubai and the entire civil population, do that to crush all humanity).
Isn't this the kinds of choices that most people would have? Small ethical decisions that are tiny of themselves but which lead us a bit at a time down a road towards a flawed/righteous/ambiguous individual. It will be interesting to see if I make different choices later in the game as the situation implodes.
You may think this is a rationalisation of poor game design choices, and I will reply that it is my considered opinion.

I do like the setting of Dubai and the contrast between the sheer opulence and wealth and the scenes of disaster, refuge and insanity, although there is a slight tinge of same-iness creeping into the game from all the Middle East settings in games lately (having just completed MW2 and MoH - my Origin Amnesty game).

I like the fact that (so far) the bad guys are American and not the same old Russian, North Korean, anonymous Middle Eastern types. For f**ks sake developers, put some imagination into your bad guys!

Picked it up for $25 on Amazon on speculation alone (I don't often do that) and was amply rewarded because is worth every cent. Paid a similar amount for MW2 and regretted it.

You raise some really interesting points there. And that first story you give? That's great and I had a very similar response. THAT'S a way to make players feel guilty and considerate (and there are some choices later/earlier in the game such as Gould or the Civvie which have a similar effect. It's bits like that where Spec Ops does really well.

When I talk about meaningless though, I mean it in a literal sense. The supposed payoff of what the choices are trying to achieve is a meaningful point, but the choices often force your hand towards options you want to resist and that forcing defiles the meaning that's being shot for because it's that which makes the subsequent message meaningful.

In the story you give, for example, you take a meaningful message away from your choice/instinct to kill. If the game had slipped into slow-motion and refused to continue until you'd shot that person, would you still have felt guilty? Probably not, or not to the same degree. You wouldn't have hated yourself for doing something bad, you'd have hated the game for making you.

Deus Ex is an interesting game in that regard, I think, because it handles these choices very well by presenting both many of them and a series of motivations to apply to each. The classic (and actually very chaotic) scene where you have to kill Lebedev, for example. You can do a bad thing because you have to, a bad thing because you want to or you can rogue and do the good thing for both those reasons too. You can even do both or nothing. It's a very powerful set of choices and all of them are valid within the narrative.

Spec Ops, however, gives you less choices and still insists that only one of them is valid - which detracts from the narrative for anyone who doesn't immediately make that correct choice. You have to do the bad thing, purely so the game can make you feel bad about it.

(Worth pointing out that Deus Ex isn't perfect either. I have a friend, Ben, who when he first played it decided that he wanted to stay with UNATCO for the course of the game. Even when he found out they were the bad guys, he still rationalised it as that they were doing it for the right reasons. He didn't want to even take the endings which align with that view (Illuminati), he wanted to support Bob Page and stay at UNATCO. The game wouldn't let him. He hated it. The difference between Spec Ops and Deus Ex there though is that you have to be much more of an outlier to reach that point in Deus Ex.)

You point about the scale of the choices? I agree completely. That's one of the many things (no matter how much I poo-poo the choices in the game as a whole) which Spec Ops gets totally right. You don't get an option to save the city or not, you get a series of choices about to follow orders or not. That is brilliant.
Griffter 19th July 2012, 15:09 Quote
i completed the game, and for me its was a breath of fresh air in many ways, due to the story arc, the cover system was great, cant understand why some say its twitchy. the ai of ur two friends was a delight all the way through, helping me out a number of times by killing enemies 1 sec before they killed me while i was running or reloading.

i agree with with choices not being too clear having me shout at the monitor just give me red blue or green why dont you :P

at the end, it looks like gears, but one u play it, it for some reason feels completely different and unique. well that was my view. refreshing.

read many reviews and they all start with its just like gears but then go on on how different it is.

i played it on PC, hard level. perfect level for experienced players where if u die its not becos of difficulty spikes but what u did. which will make u try again with a smile.

well that my 2cents.
mybadomen 30th July 2012, 02:31 Quote
Loved it not much more to say! Great Game play Great story!
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