Just Deserts: Spec Ops Goes Behind The Line

By Nathan Grayson on June 23rd, 2012 at 11:00 am.

No, I don't mean behind this zipline. Though I guess that's also technically true.

For me, Spec Ops: The Line is like watching a child play with a balloon. Like, I want it to be good, and I think it definitely has the tools to do so – but I’m still tensing every muscle and waiting for a deafening POP. Maybe it’s a sign of early onset cynicism, but plenty of other shooters have promised non-black-and-white moral choices and a “true” battlefield experience. Also, while probably purposefully bereft of those things, the demo didn’t exactly make a believer out of Richard. So now, on the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of Spec Ops’ release, 2K calls for another supply drop of big promises. But will Yager deliver?

So, a couple concerns: First up, that moral choice example doesn’t seem particularly gray to me. Who will you side with: the man who stole water – probably out of necessity – or the soldier who indiscriminately murdered his family? Maybe it’s purposefully set up to look simple so that the fully story can fill you with nauseating pangs of regret after you’ve made a knee-jerk reaction, but obviously, there’s reason to be skeptical.

Second, there’s heavy focus on the fact that gunfire isn’t often a one-way ticket to the great beyond for enemies. In Yager’s words, “they’re typically laying on the battlefield, bleeding out in horrific pain and agony.” So we get to see their final moments – which, as I discussed in my Tomb Raider piece last week, is something I’m all for if it’s handled properly. This video then notes that players can react in “a number of ways,” but only goes on to demonstrate hyper-violent executions. It remains to be seen, then, whether or not Spec Ops: The Line has crossed a line from being grim and gritty to out-and-out disgusting.

We’ll find out on June 29. Again, I’d love to see a game finally do this type of subject matter justice, but mournful somberness and rah-rah-rah feel-good fun don’t often mix terribly well.

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34 Comments »

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  1. EPICTHEFAIL says:

    Oh look, another TPS trying to be Mass Effect and CoD at the same time. Protip: it will not work. At least the guns sound a little beefier now, instead of the pop-pop-pop noises in the demo.

    • Smion says:

      Wasn’t Mass Effect basically trying to be a CRPG and CoD/Gears of War already?

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        More like Halo, actually. And Babylon 5. And Revelation Space. And every other sci-fi work in the last 50 years. And every sentence starting with and.

  2. Mr. Mister says:

    Damnit, don’t start a title with “Just”! I almost thought it was followed by “Cause”…

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Ah, knee-jerk hope. I think RPS is trying to somehow harness its power.

  3. YogSo says:

    What? Not even a passing comment about the lead designer’s epic beard? Nathan, you dissapoint me…

    • Bostec says:

      I was looking at his T-shirt more, the spy’s fat brother.

  4. kaoswielder says:

    The aiming and mouse controls are so freaking pathetically disastrous that I stopped playing after 10 mins. It is a horrible horrible port. Stay away from it like a plague unless you have a controller hooked to your PC.

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      Goodtwist says:

      I concur. I uninstalled it after 20 minutes, though.

      • kaoswielder says:

        Makes me wonder how it even got past QA or testing phase unless they deliberately don’t give a hoot about PC players. In game settings, there is a slider (from 1 to 5) for Mouse sensitivity and it achieves nothing at all when you fiddle with it. In fact, shooting and aiming is so bad that maybe it can be used as a measuring stick for future bad ports. Maybe it works better on a controller. I seriously don’t know and can’t prove because I don’t have one. But I am amazed and amused kinda how much of a crappy job the devs have done in porting it.

    • Iskariot says:

      That is indeed worrying.
      Perhaps the final product has better controls.
      I hope so, because I was looking forward to this.

  5. Njordsk says:

    The demo was underwhelming to me. bad aiming made it a pain. And also corridors.

    The setting was cool though, the idea is good.

  6. Ernesto says:

    I think they are trying to pursue a two-fold strategy. To satisfy the simple-minded players they show the ultra-violent-cool-gimmick-endless-shooting stuff. And for the more mature crowd they bring up moral grey areas, Heart of Darkness-type insanity and such.
    I’m skeptical if this can work. Either you get a large audience and an unpretentious game or a smaller audience but a deeper game. Does that make any sense? ;)

  7. TheMusingMoose says:

    It’s at these times that I dislike the Steam purchase system. I pre-ordered the game already, and now I have no way of getting a refund…

    • bill says:

      If only there existed a system to find out if the game was good before buying it….

      • TheMusingMoose says:

        Ah, but I pre-ordered before the demo was released. The game looked much more promising back then.

        • bill says:

          Please look over your statement and underline the logical flaw that lead to your downfall.

        • Kill_The_Drive says:

          You can get a refund for a preorder, just contact Steam support. At least that was the case in the past.

    • Njordsk says:

      indeed you can, just contact steam support and pretend whatever reason. Did it twice, they’re pretty cool.

      They refund on your steam wallet anyway, so the money doesn’t go anywhere.

      • TheMusingMoose says:

        So I need a fake reason? That’s too bad. I sent a request already, but I didn’t include a phony excuse. ;_;

    • Iskariot says:

      Why on earth would you ever want to pre-order a game.
      I have never ever seen a good reason to do so.

      • kaoswielder says:

        Ah. The matters of heart my friend :D Unexplained in any language

      • Eclipse says:

        I did plenty of times to get a discounted price and bonuses. For example preordering Space Marine from THQ store I got a discounted price, that I was able to further lower down by using a coupon, and a free copy of Darksiders.

  8. The Infamous Woodchuck says:

    I see that alot of people deserted the game just minutes after playing it, a shame because i du want to bai the game earlier.

    • Njordsk says:

      Almost missed that. Good one.

    • Araxiel says:

      deserted the game *badum-tsch*

      Nathan’s opinion of this game sands right.

      This game looks more like fast food and not like a exquisit desert.

      If this game does not sell well o PC, it’s just what they desert.

      Go make me a sandwhich.

  9. Shooop says:

    That loud pop is inevitable. The story is excellent, but the game it’s attached to is almost laughably generic.

    I think I’ll just watch videos of other people playing it on YouTube.

  10. SirKicksalot says:

    I would kill the water thief.

  11. Totally heterosexual says:

    If they focus more on the squad leading mechanics i could see this being the new brothers in arms.

    And that would be great since that is exactly what we are not getting from the new brothers in arms itself.

  12. blueagle says:

    The “What happens in Dubai, stays in Dubai” line feels really out of place to me largely because of the seriousness of the story and partially because of the delivery of the line[although i feel like the actor couldn’t have done it much better].