Dubai Or Not Dubai: Spec Ops: The Line Demo

Damn. Face to face with the horrors of war, I'm really pissed some noob stole my kill...

Arriving slightly later than on consoles – boo, hiss – you can now check out the Heart of Darkness inspired shooter Spec Ops: The Line in all its sand-strewn glory. It doesn’t just want you to murder your way through armies of crazy people in the remnants of fallen Dubai, but to think a little while you do. And not simply ‘which gun should I shoot this guy with?’ You’ll get sand in your eyes, sand in your pants, and sand in your sandwiches, but try this demo if you’re still feeling… wait for it, wait for it… Dubai-us! (accepts applause and thrown undergarments)


It’s not a great demo, honestly. That’s not a slam on the action itself, which is solid, satisfying, and a good example of the cover shooter. It’s simply that most of the stuff Spec Ops: The Line is actually selling itself on simply isn’t here – the cool sand mechanics like fighting through sandstorms, moral choices to make and then regret – and the flow is a little broken by jumping several chapters into a situation that hasn’t really been set up to the point where any shit is likely to be given, nor any damns or tosses. But hey. Better that than ruin the story, right?

The action itself does however bode well for the full game. It’s fairly traditional, but well-made traditional, with weapons, a really cool setting we haven’t seen before (and one you’ll often get to go inside in the full game, seeing insane Rapture style decoration that’s been buried under sand rather than water), and very solid writing. At this point, everyone is fairly gruff and professional. As they encounter tortured civilians, wrestle with the decision to deploy phosphate weapons, and start cracking up, you can expect that to change. Certainly, this is no “America Saves The World” style patriotism-fest. Speaking with the writer a couple of months ago, he mentioned that his goal is to have everyone spit on the development team. For the right reasons. And metaphorically, not literally, before you rush over to Yager’s Berlin headquarters with a bottle of Evian.

Please do appreciate the sand effects. Unless you've sat through about three hours of lectures about the stuff, you have no idea how proud the developers are of them.

The full game is due out on the 29th, with its main single player campaign, multiplayer action, and this month’s fourteenth chance to enjoy the vocal stylings of Mr. Nolan North. Download the demo from Steam and prepare to find out that war kinda sucks. (Spoiler warning.)

FUN FACT: A flag flown upside down in a warzone is a signal for help. A flag flown upside down in a British garden is a signal for old ladies to start tutting disapprovingly.


  1. TheManko says:

    I found the demo to have amazing looking environments, but the action and dialogue were dreadful. Especially the weapon sounds are some of the weakest I’ve ever heard in a game. A step down from even Halo 3 which had no impact pea shooter sounds as well. In a game where you shoot a lot I want the sounds to at least be on the level of what we got in games from the mid 90s. How hard can it be?

    • Maktaka says:

      How do they compare to Homefront’s terrible, terrible weapons? Those things felt and sounded like airsoft rifles.

      • TheManko says:

        I never played Homefront so I can’t do a proper comparison.

        • Maktaka says:

          Consider yourself lucky then. The free copy of Metro 2033 I got for preordering was ten times the game Homefront was.

          • Miltrivd says:

            That’s a weird deal, having to buy a crappy game to get a good one :S

      • Spider Jerusalem says:

        it reminded me a fair amount of homefront. but a much less shitty homefront.

        perhaps homefront meets rainbow six: vegas.

      • NYMinuteMan says:

        I really wanted to like this game, but there were too many things that spoiled it for me:

        1. Terrible weapon sounds and feel, as pointed out
        2. Gears of Duty: Modern Bro – dialogue
        3. Stupid squad behaviour during cutscenes, i.g. walking through hostile streets in bright sunlight like it’s nobody’s business
        4. The fact that I shot down the entire enemy airforce and killed at least half of their ground troops during my 30 minutes with the demo.

        It’s a shame, since I expected a more mature shooter, with a focus on story. It seems to be a mediocre third person game with some dark twists.

        • OptimumSlinky says:

          I’ll give you everything except #2. As an ex-infantry officer, the dialogue was spot on for how soldiers talk. The part when the leader asks Lugo if he ever listens to the shit that comes out of his own mouth and Lugo says he prefers not to so as not to ruin his rhythm… Shit, I had at least three soldiers in my platoon in Afghanistan that would have said the same damn thing.

          It might feel generic because the military shooter is so badly overplayed with all of the Modern Warfare clones out there, but the dialogue is probably the most authentic part of both this and Battlefield 3.

  2. Njordsk says:

    I thought it was crap. Sorry THQ, your fiscal year won’t be better with that.

    Only the dubaï setting could be “fun” to watch.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      I’m pretty sure THQ is glad it’s 2K that’s publishing the game.

    • zotiun says:

      Demo looked very pretty but the keymapping was all over the place and prompted with hints for a controller I was not using!

      Surely it would not have taken that long to replace the hint graphics with ones that related to the current controller :/

      • Alexander Norris says:

        This is a common issue with games that put controller prompts onscreen – you probably had a HID plugged in that Windows or the game mistook for a controller, so it figured you would want to see the buttons.

  3. kaoswielder says:

    I am looking forward to this :) Not for GRFS or any other third person game but exactly the one right here.

  4. BioSnark says:

    At some point, you have to draw the line on this respect and ops generic game names.

  5. MistyMike says:

    This game looks interesting, but let me tell you something.

    Kill.Switch. Kill-Switch. KILL. SWITCH.

    ALL the shooting from cover anybody ever needed.

  6. lurkalisk says:

    Wait… How do you fly a British flag upside down?

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      It’s not as symmetrical as it looks.

      • lurkalisk says:

        Hmm… Yes… For some reason my mind decided to rotate it 180 degrees rather than just flip it.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      it’s pretty easy, you attach it the wrong way up

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Or flags with transversal simmetry. And don’t even get me startred on some unrecallable country whose flag is pure green.

      • Faldrath says:

        It used to be Libya, actually. But they changed the flag after the regime change last year.

  7. SirKicksalot says:

    One of the very rare games where your AI partners are good at killing enemies.

  8. Kresh says:

    “Certainly, this is no “America Saves The World” style patriotism-fest. Speaking with the writer a couple of months ago, he mentioned that his goal is to have everyone spit on the development team.”


    Translation: “We’ve got nothing to make the story special, or good, so we’re gonna go for edgy and, er, something about ‘Murricans being evil. So yeah… hey, did you see those cover mechanics?”

    Been there, done that, got the President.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Uh, no. Not from what I’ve seen at least, which is a good chunk more than this demo.

    • Shooop says:

      Surprisingly not for once.

      It’s like Apocalypse Now on cocktail of steroids and painkillers. The shooting however is bad and they should feel bad.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Er…which President said Americans were evil?

      Because I’m pretty sure the answer is “none, ever.” Doesn’t exactly get one re-elected. Nor would it even particularly make sense to want to *be* President if you believed that.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Unless you meant we had a President who tried to distract the opposition by talking about cover mechanics. Don’t think that happened either, but I really, really hope I’m wrong.

  9. Shooop says:

    Played the demo on a game box. The shooting was yawn-inducing at best. They also have this incredibly meaningless thing where time slows down for half a second when you shoot someone in the head.

    The story will be the only reason to take a look at this interactive movie. Because it does appear to be a pretty good one.

    And nice soundtrack picks. The Black Angels is perfectly fitting.

  10. grundus says:

    I have no words to sufficiently describe how overwhelmingly disinterested I am in this game. Yes, that’s right, I don’t care yet I’m commenting on it to say I can’t put how little I care into words. I have officially wasted your time.

  11. SCdF says:

    Wow. So I couldn’t make it through more than 10 or so minutes of the demo. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really played a cover shooter before (I don’t own a console, I played Gears of War 1 on PC for about 5 minutes), so I genuinely ask: is this demo actually representative of a good cover shooter? Because Jesus they’re dull. It’s basically: run and stick to chest high wall; shooting gallery until everyone dies; run and stick to chest high wall: shooting gallery until everyone dies; run to cut scene; hear fiercely generic “buddy” dialogue (seriously? You’re a gruff white dude who has a serious black side kick and a overly talkative white sidekick?). I miss actually using the environment *naturally* to position parts of it between my character’s squishy flesh and the bad bad guns, instead of this bizarre ‘glue and then everything’s fine’ mechanic.

    • Blackcompany says:

      This is entirely representative of the genre et al. I have played for or five of them for, cumulatively, about 30 minutes. And Hunted: Demons Instead of Robots for hours. And yes, this pretty representative of the genre as a whole.

    • QualityJeverage says:

      As someone who really genuinely enjoys most shooters, no, I definitely don’t think this one is representative of a “good” cover shooter.

      I have ludicrously low standards and buy Call of Duty each year. Even I found the Spec Ops demo yawn-inducing. I may rent it for the Xbox if the writing turns out to be worthwhile. Otherwise it’s a total pass.

      • SCdF says:

        Additionally: you don’t have to do anything in the intro turret / chopper section, you can’t die. This is, imo, a telling sign that it’s terrible. They’re more interested in showing you an action movie that you ostensibly participate in than they are actually delivering a game.

  12. Blackcompany says:

    Tried the Demo. Story intrigued me. Environments were pretty amazing. I actually wanted to play this game.

    But I won’t.

    Two reasons:

    1. i don’t – ever – pay $50 for linear shooters with zero replay value. For that $$ I need replay.
    2. The controls are horrible. Had this been a Crysis style FPS with bodily awareness, I think I would love the game. But this third person stuff…it was terrible. Jerky, difficult to aim, that half-gliding, frictionless walking thing…nope. Not worth $50.

    I will, however, likely pay $10 – $20 for it one day on sale. No hurry.

    • Kyrius says:

      But it’s $37.49 on steam… not $50…

    • Lagwolf says:

      Yep, that pretty much sums it up. It is another interactive movie game (ala MP3) with hand-holding all the way through and on rails. Looks great but dull game-play & you can only carry 2 weapons.

  13. TwwIX says:

    I remember playing the Xbox 360 multiplayer beta of this game about two years ago. It appears that the singleplayer is just as generic and lackluster as its multiplayer component was back then. Eh. If you want a cover/squad based PC shooter, get Mass Effect 3 instead. Even Max Payne 3 does cover based combat better than this does. Along with more streamlined controls and key mapping.

  14. MeestaNob says:

    All the previews talk about this like it’s one of the most interesting things coming out this year, yet the demo shows it to be a generic cover shooter from the console cloning vat. A bit confusing, this.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      The story has potential. The action is a regular cover shooter.

      • Aardvarkk says:

        I found myself being drawn into the story. Also I noticed the sand piling around the outside buildings, almost to the top of some. It wasn’t overt, but it was a detail I enjoyed.

  15. The Infamous Woodchuck says:

    but..but, what if im an indonesian, we’re at war with poland, i need help and i saw a bunch of friendly troops over the horizon, if i wave my flag upside down, wouldn’t they shoot at me?

  16. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    I’m trusting RPS on the story bit, which didn’t show much in the demo, but I have to say I found most about everything that did show very bland. The voice acting was not bad in itself, but it felt disconnected from what was actually happening, and the voice of the main character doesn’t fit his body, at least in my opinion. The weapon sounds were weak, as someone said higher up, and the other sounds too, and also the mixing itself. Graphically it looks fine, and about what you would minimally expect these days.

    The controls were a mixed bag. They made a certain kind of sense, but the console heritage really shone through. (Especially with the button promts not actually showing the keyboard and mouse bindings.)

    Overall felt pretty generic and uninspired. For me to get into this game the story will have to be really good.

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      Also I hate it when games muck about with the camera when sprinting.

  17. Aardvarkk says:

    “Certainly, this is no “America Saves The World” style patriotism-fest. ”

    I might buy it for that reason alone.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I can get behind that. Guess what, America – most of the rest of the world don’t actually want to be you. Can we have a military game with no Americans (and preferably no Russians, at least not as baddies) in at all?

      Risibly simple-minded patriotic shit notwithstanding, American military-issue guns are really, really boring to me now. Every time a game foists an M4 on me I feel like just giving up (and hey, what’s that in the screenshot above? Thaaaats right). They’re not good, they’re not cool, they’re not new and they’re not even pretty. There’s a whole world of guns out there. Make it stop.

      • Davie says:

        The first thing I did in the demo was drop my M4 for a USP, because they at least look nicer.

  18. PoulWrist says:

    It’s a midway decent port. The game runs well and looks decent. However, the controls and interface leave much to be desired.

    For instance, I have my xbox controller plugged in always. It detected this and used the Xbox icons all over. This is positive. However, I did not want to play with the controller, but my mouse and keyboard. It offered no “disable” option for the controller, and kept displaying the controller keys for interactions. This was confusing. It did allow full key customisation. Positive. But I had to go check what keys did what every time something new came up. Also, the controls seemed rather strange. Like how disparate functions seemed to be bound to the same key. Like vault-over/ melee and cover/sprint. I failed to understand how the cover system worked because of these weird combos. But maybe I’m just out of touch with covershooters because I don’t buy any of them for my Xbox :(

    Worst of all, however, was the mouse input. It had that floaty, imprecise quality that almost all console ports suffer from. You know, where it’s like there’s accelleration enabled because of the controller input. I have no idea if disconnecting the controller would’ve alleviated any of the problems associated with it, but I shouldn’t have to dig down behind my case in the wirehell that lives there. But this, this singular problem is what makes the game unplayable. I guess if you are a thumbcontortionist playing FPS on a controller is something you enjoy, and it appears that the vast majority of gamers in the world prefer this, but I’m not, and I can’t abide a game where precision of a sort is demanded but it is omited from the controls. I’m no god at aiming and shooting or reflexes, but I can sense when a controller input is being weird or off.

    It isn’t a game I’m going to spend money on though. It didn’t feel good or interesting from what the demo displayed. Maybe the multiplayer is good, but there the console control problems will definitely be an extreme hindrance to enjoable gameplay, and as such it’s a console game that shouldn’t have bothered coming to the PC in its current itteration.

  19. Metalhead9806 says:

    The game feels too generic. Maybe i’ll pick it out on a Steam sale during the holiday but right now I have other games to play and buy.

  20. Bassem says:

    After Batman Arkham City and Max Payne 3, here is the third game I find unavailable in my region on Steam. I just don’t get the reasoning behind this.