Wot I Think – Spec Ops: The Line

I think I'm getting the hang of this

Yager/2K’s deceptively dull-named third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line goes on sale in the UK today, having been out in the US since Tuesday. Alec crept into the heart of its ravaged Dubai, never to be heard from again – save for these blood-soaked notes.

I’ve been rolling my eyes during Spec Ops’ promotional campaign. Name-checking Apocalypse Now, promising to debate the nature of war, having the player reflect on what it is they’re doing when they go bang-bang-bang at all those digi-men? Come on. How stupid do you think we are? It’s a game about American soldiers shooting people in the Middle East, and we know full well what that means. Even that outrageously bland name – ‘Spec Ops’, for heaven’s sake – suggests it’s tied firmly to the mast of the dudebro, crusades-mindset hollow heroics that characterise the current glut of military shooters.

Being as openly pop-cultural and action-orientated as it is, it’d be insane to file Spec Ops anywhere near Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness in terms of documentation of the darker parts of the human soul, but that it comes anywhere near meeting its grand promises has me saluting it in great respect. It is a game about playing a US soldier marauding through a desert setting and shooting almost anything that moves, but it genuinely made me feel awful about doing that. Importantly, this was deliberate on the game’s part.

The Apocalypse Now overtones are overt – you’re wading into a land of strife in search of a missing high-ranking military man (‘John Konrad’, none too subtly), and before too long it becomes apparent that something darker is going on. But never mind the plot itself, which ultimately comes across a little over-compressed and confused, Spec Ops’ primary triumph is all about the overarching tone. That tone is doubt. Terrible, terrible doubt.

The game quickly moves on from having you shoot Middle-Eastern folk to battling US soldiers – ‘the Damned 33rd’ – apparently gone native, thus neatly avoiding the creeping jingoism of so many other modern combat games, but works hard to sow discomfort in other ways. From throwaway chummy lines (‘I can’t take your last gum, dude!’) between guys you’re creeping up on with murderous intent to the spoken anxieties of attacking erstwhile allies from your two near-constant AI companions, there’s a spectral question mark hanging over every bullet you fire. That these soldiers will shoot you on sight provides a logical answer to that question mark, but I for one kept hoping for an opportunity to talk it out.

There’s are two good reason that doesn’t happen. One relates to a decision made by Konrad, the 33’s commander. The other relates to an action taken by you, Delta Force captain Martin Walker, which I cannot in good conscience reveal but makes for a shocking moment which the game is chillingly unflinching in depicting the consequences thereof. The 33rd, and the few remaining civilian survivors of Dubai, react to it in understandable fashion: you are an enemy.

Ah, Dubai. It’s Spec Ops’ second trump card. What a setting it turned out to be – the closest humanity has come to building a real Rapture, a gleaming, desert-bounded, bastion of capitalism, pride, opulence and folly where morality is as gossamer as the sparkle of sunlight on sand. Spec Ops paints a Dubai where the feared financial and social collapse the real state is currently working hard to stave off has already happened, and at alarming speed. Ozymandias’ hubris writ city-sized, as towering glass sculptures gleam incongruously from sand-strewn floors, shattered speed boats litter the desert, masked soldiers guard skyscraper-sized aquariums and huge posters advertise a perfect life of sunshine and consumerism in the midst of all this fire, blood and drought. The fierce wind and the dwindling water supplies have the few remaining survivors living on borrowed time – are you there to help, or something else?

Surprisingly little time in spent in the drab yellow-brown setting we’ve come to expect of modern combat shooters, and instead the game goes all-out to startle and unsettle, juxtaposing the crumbling glamour with open horror and freakish political graffiti. It is, unsurprisingly, a straightforwardly linear experience, though it tends to offer cover-strewn arenas rather than cramped corridors, but it works hard to make its settings distinctive, colourful and that affecting blend of grandeur and fragility. Again, it’s BioShock’s fallen utopia Rapture, but based on something like reality rather than a science-fiction fantasy. This is, essentially, a post-disaster setting, not a warzone. The warzone is you, and the hail of death you summon around you.

As a combat game, Spec Ops is less successful. It’s a cover shooter which posits you as a relatively fragile creature rather than the walking bullet-soak of Call of Duty, but frankly its cover system isn’t anywhere near refined enough. It’s too easy to pop out, too hard to roll between walls and all too regularly you’ll suddenly find yourself standing in the open as half a dozen assorted snipers, shotgunners and machinegun turrets swivel to look at you. Enemy numbers are high, battles long and checkpoints often far apart, which means some frustrated repeats of the same skirmishes, especially in the late game.

It does ask if you’d like to drop the difficulty down the notch after a few successive failures, which always makes me feel faintly insulted. ‘No, I can do this, dammit!’ It needs slightly better cover systems to justify its waves of foes, but caution and patience will tend to win out eventually. The trouble there is that, in the latter of the game, there’s such a desperation to find out what’s going on and what’s going to happen that I wanted to rush through many of the fights, which inevitably spells doom.

The actual shooting – the sense of feedback and fragility – ain’t half bad, and that the odds seemed so heavily and stressfully stacked against even added to the sense of spiralling chaos, of being in an overwhelming and awful situation rather than a heroic one. It is, on a superficial level, a generic cover-based military shooter, and that’s going to understandably turn a lot of people off. It is, at least, pointedly aware of the bloodthirsty absurdity of what a shooter is, offering acid mockery on the loading screen, escalating Walker’s actions and mid-combat barks to crazed, crack-voiced blood-hunger as the situation unravels and forcing the player to witness the gruesome aftermath of violence.

It does this to a possibly counter-productive extent, where joy or satisfaction in the triggerhappy activity of action videogaming is hard to come by. Someone involved in this game was having a spell of disgusted self-reflection as they made it, I suspect. I felt troubled as I played. Spec Ops wanted me to feel troubled. That is a mighty strange thing to pay for and to want to keep playing. Yet I did, and I am glad I did. This is not, though, a game played for pleasure as such.

It should perhaps be seen through the prism of Modern Warfare 2’s notorious No Russian level, which was a smug and poisonous display of developer power, but this has far more finesse. Spec Ops wants to lay horror at the player’s door, and is very careful about the choices it offers you in terms of how you treat the occasional civilian survivors you encounter. Never sadistic indulgences, they’re a disturbing test of what kind of player you want to be and of how much you’ve been paying attention. Despite the often overt linearity, Spec Ops has also managed to brew the special sauce of appearing to offer choice where there really is none.

With much of the narrative flowed into the game proper rather than partitioned into cutscenes (though there are nonetheless a fair few of these), there are key moments where I felt I had taken actions which led to certain consequences, rather than having those consequences forced onto me. They were, of course, but between the sustained uncertainty of why I/Cpt Walker was even in Dubai at all and the increasingly horrified backchatter of my two squadmates, I felt the crushing weight of responsibility and blame on my shoulders.

It is a sharply-written game. The narrative itself feels choppy and the main reveal perhaps has a few too many plotholes, plus it certainly uses ratatat swearing as a crutch, but coupled with strong performances the tight, unpatronising dialogue realises the fear, confusion and desperation that the tone and situation of the game depends on.

Most of all, Spec Ops’ uncompromising gaze into the heart of darkness left me feeling abjectly awful, as though I’d been somewhere intrinsically rotten and done worse things in it. I almost can’t believe this got made, let alone released by a major publisher. That’s exactly why it impressed me so much.

This is a game where the man you’re shooting at might shout ‘murderer!’ at you with clear distress, and that makes for a sobering look at yourself in the mirror of the mind’s eye. I do wonder with some discomfort whether repeatedly placing a cursor over pretend men’s heads and pressing fire is truly an appropriate medium for the questions Spec Ops poses (and only poses – it does not lower itself to answering them), but perhaps doing, rather than merely watching, is a necessary evil on the path to understanding. One thing’s for sure: I feel sick at the idea of playing another shooter any time soon.


  1. gwathdring says:

    Wow. I’m surprised and intrigued. I’m going to have to put this one on my list.

    • Deathmaster says:

      Your.. suicide list?

      • gwathdring says:


        • Donjo says:

          Yes. Your suicide list. There’s only one entry in it though.. soooo.. it’s not really a list, more of a note.

      • bhagan says:

        What, like a netflix queue? You watch all of the action movies, all the comedies, and before you know it your list is solely composed of Hotel Rwanda, Stoning of Soraya M, Kite Runner etc?

        • Llamageddon says:

          Thanks bhagan, never heard of those latter two, they are now added to my list on lovefilm, If anyone can suggest 8 more in that theme I can make a “suicide list” :D.

      • gwathdring says:

        Is it like a Bucket List?

    • Vorphalack says:

      To quote Bill Baily, ”things to do before we die. Not while we’re still alive, before we die.”

      • Siegfried says:

        “while the precious seconds are ticking away tic tock tic tock, quick find me a dolphin”

  2. Birky says:

    I don’t think I’ve every played a straight forward military shooter (except a brief foray into Black Ops which bored me). But from Alec’s write up, I’m a bit tempted by this one.

    • fenrif says:

      Well this is a straightforward military shooter. Only with the pretentiousness of pretending it’s more.

      “hey this guy shot a dog, people who shoot dogs are horrible monsters. Now shoot this dog to progress to the next level”
      *press button to shoot dog*
      “OMG you monster I cant believe you did that how could you, truely this game is an insightfull and poigniant commentary on animal cruelty!!”

      Is about as deep as this game gets.

      • Lagwolf says:

        And as this review quite rightly said the combat is poor. Shooting and the cover system are so clunky that playing the demo was enough for me not to want this game.

      • aepervius says:

        Indeed. I wasn’t concerned by the consequence of my action, because there was no alternative. If it had been path A – “morally high path make game difficult and unsure to win” path B “morally low evil path where you are sure to reach your goal buta re a abstard” that would have been find. But in reality it is single path “do this or don’t go further. At all”.

  3. xavdeman says:

    Ok, who else didn’t expect this? The marketing for this game has apparently been quite bad. I started off wondering about the story, but then the trailers / screenshots started focusing on the weak points of the game: graphically intense shootouts. The graphics seem console-quality to me, the shootouts and lines spouted during them seem to be quite mediocre.
    This review could have focused more on what is, after all, RPS’s raison d’etre: PC gaming. Does it have dreaded mouse acceleration, can you turn on AA, what kind of DRM is it encumbered with etc.

    • elevown says:

      TB did a WTF of this a few days ago- he liked it too for similar reasons-

      I think it had fairly good pc gfx settings but unfortunately it DOES have mouse acceleration that he didnt know of a way of disabling- he was just hoping people figure out how to tweak the .ini or something.

    • JackDandy says:

      These kind of things really aren’t what I’m looking forward to in RPS’s reviews. Games are more then just graphics.

      • xavdeman says:

        DRM and mouse acceleration don’t have much to do with graphics, but they are both major showstoppers for me and lots of other people. Guess I’ll be playing this with an XBOX controller then.

        • drewski says:

          I think you’ve pretty comprehensively missed RPSs raison d’être here.

        • Eukatheude says:

          Nah, it’s perfectly playable with mouse and keyboard. The graphics are console quality but not that bad either, and the cover system didn’t feel so bad to me.

    • mouton says:

      For me, PC gaming is more about maturity, than specs and technicalities. A console port – even if a bit clumsy – can be a great game, surpassing many PC exclusives.

      • Vorphalack says:

        Conversely some potentially great games have been ruined by shoddy ports, badly optimised engines, and crippling DRM. Considering the continued proliferation of all 3 evils, I really don’t think it’s fair to leave that stuff out anymore.

        • Reefpirate says:

          I imagine the port’s quality is somewhat inferred by its absence in the review. If it was a bad port, I’m sure we would have heard about it.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Risky to infer proof from absence of evidence, annoying when the issue could have been settled by a couple of lines of text.

          • mouton says:

            Well, there is always the unofficial demo.

            EDIT: lol, wait, there is also the official demo. So, no real bad-port risk there, really.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Agree with you. Ironically I found the game to be one of the many bad offenders in this area.
            Whether there are demos or not, I find it a bit worrying that we didn’t get to hear about this in detail.

            I respect and applaud the measure by which RPS in their writing creates something well done of their own writing-wise, but a paragraph worth of “All of this is quite terrible” wouldn’t sully the otherwise almost meta writing on what they’ve felt out of the game.

            Did I mention this game is offensively badly done for the PC yet?

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I continue to be stumped by what difference mouse acceleration makes to anything. Why is this so vital? Isn’t this just part of the learning curve of any game? I know I have to take a little while to familiarise myself with motion and momentum (or lack thereof) and so on in a new game; isn’t mouse movement just another aspect of that?

      • Reefpirate says:

        I think people just find it annoying because it gets in the way of getting used to the feel of the game. It screws up the translation from mouse movement to player movement for seemingly nonsensical reasons (the real reason being to accommodate those playing with a game pad).

        • Jay says:

          The game pad thing isn’t strictly true. I remember it as an option in Unreal Tournament, before pads and consoles were even a consideration for most, and plenty of ‘pure’ pc games since.

          It’s still annoying that it can be so hard to disable for people who don’t want it though, especially with recent games.

          • bear912 says:

            Mouse acceleration is also a generally expected feature for any desktop operating system. In fact, when you’re using a point and click user interface, it mostly works really well. You can get the mouse across the screen without moving your whole arm, but you can still click small UI elements with great precision. That’s why (to my knowledge) no operating system I’ve used has it turned off by default. If there were always a strict proportion kept between the distance you move your pointing device and the distance that your cursor moves on the screen, it would, for many or most, be (at least slightly) more difficult to reliably and quickly select the UI elements you intended to use.

            The problem, though (at least the main one), is that it screws up muscle memory. When you’ve got mouse acceleration enabled, you’ll get something like this:

            If the mouse is moving below a certain speed, then for every 1 cm that your mouse moves, your cursor will move, say, 3 cm on your screen.
            If the mouse is moving above that speed, then for every 1 cm that your mouse moves, your cursor will move, say, 5 cm on screen.

            This is a really simplistic model, and I doubt you’d see any operating system use only two tiers of mouse acceleration, but that’s the idea behind how it works, at least as I understand it. As you play a shooter, though, you’ll begin to develop muscle memory, and your brain will instinctively know how far you need to move your hand to turn the camera a certain amount. For instance, having played at a specific sensitivity, with one’s mouse set at a specific CPI, and with mouse acceleration turned off, one will eventually learn that one needs to move one’s hand 6 cm, for example, to turn the camera 90 degrees. The problem with using mouse acceleration for this is that the distance you need to move your hand is no longer constant; it depends hugely on how quickly you’re moving your mouse as well. With acceleration turned on, you might need to move your hand a full 15 cm to get a 90 degree turn if you’re moving your mouse very slowly. If you move your mouse quickly? Then it might only take only 5 cm of physical mouse movement to effect a 90 degree turn.

            That’s why some consider mouse acceleration a problem.

            I’m also beginning to find that people lose sight of why mouse acceleration exists in the first place, blaming its existence solely on consoles (input acceleration existed on PC long before it did on any game console), as if developers forget to remove code designed for controllers; input acceleration does work quite well for shooters when you’re playing with a controller. This is rarely the case, though (as I understand it). More often than a developer forgetting to take something out from the console codebase, it’s simply that they’ve failed to add code to turn Windows’ mouse acceleration off. Now, I could be wrong, as I’ve never worked with input APIs for PCs or consoleboxtoys, but that is my understanding. Perhaps it’s actually a testament to just how well mouse acceleration works for a desktop user interface that so few people realize what it does. Moving to click on an icon with mouse acceleration feels so right to many that they don’t even realize what’s going on in the background.

          • bear912 says:

            Mouse acceleration disrupts muscle memory.
            Some people don’t mind it, some people hate it.
            Mouse acceleration is a feature of every major desktop operating system.
            I use lots of qualifiers. Sometimes.

          • Shortwave says:

            I enjoyed that Bear912, I feel like I probably learned something!
            : P Thanks.

          • Batolemaeus says:

            What bear912 is true, but I want to stress what pisses me off the most:

            Many games don’t let me change or disable mouse acceleration. I want it to be constant between games, but every game has its own interpretation of how the mouse should behave. It’s terrible, because it means I’d have to build muscle memory for every single game..

            I simply can not play first person games with mouse acceleration enabled. It needs to be off. On the OS level I might use some mouse acceleration, but even there I prefer a very sensitive mouse settings over nonlinear acceleration.

          • BubuIIC says:

            Well you can always disable mouse acceleration in windows, it’s not that hard, is it?

          • YourMessageHere says:

            Useful info. I suppose that answers the immediate question; I think my confusion has now evolved into “why are people treating games like this as ones where they need to make the exact same motion so often that muscle memory is an issue?” Of course there’s a lot more going on than just that, but really, muscle memory is something that has application in seriously repetitive, thought-free tasks, by and large, and to call that out as a problem sort of suggests a lack of engagement. I like to be fully engaged by what I play. Surely a game of aiming guns and moving characters requires fairly conscious and dynamic movement based on changing stimuli, rather than repetitive and identical mouse motions?

          • mickygor says:

            Most games have you controlling a camera. Developing muscle memory for orientation is hardly a sign of a poorly designed game.

      • mouton says:

        Personally, I find mouse acceleration very annoying. The only reason for its existence that comes to mind is sheer laziness. I mean, come on, it isn’t rocket science.

      • cassus says:

        To use a very simple example as to why being able to turn off mouse acceleration is key: Lets say you’re playing tribes ascend. In that game, disc jumping (essentially doing a 180, shooting a disc at the ground a meter or so behind you thus pushing you forward by the blast) is something that would be more or less impossible to do with mouse acceleration on. The way it’s done is flicking the mouse super fast, fire, flick back. With mouse acceleration off this is pretty easy because you know how far you need to move the mouse. With mouse acceleration on there is no telling.. Because the distance you need to move it is relative to the speed and vice versa, which means you have to have some form of bionic arm with perfect precision to consistently pull it off.

        Same holds true for MMO’s where doing the run, jump180cast180back run move is essential for kiting monsters or players becomes impossible. Macs don’t have a way to turn off acceleration, so no matter if the game has an option you’re screwed. At least as far as I could figure out at the time.

        Hope that clarifies why it’s a bad thing for a lot of players :)

        • YourMessageHere says:

          So basically, you’re saying acceleration is bad because it makes rocket jumping hard? My answer to that has to be: good. Rocket/Grenade/Miscellaneous explosive projectile jumping is purely an exploit and shouldn’t exist, in my view. Or rather, it should be very effective at propelling your corpse in the intended direction.

          ‘Scuse me, I feel a minor game design flaws rant coming on: I’m no MMO player but from what I’ve gathered, kiting is just another way in which MMOs have evolved a playing style completely divorced from common sense (cf. that article RPS linked to last Sunday Papers about the MMO virgin playing SWTOR and recording his impressions). In any case, both ot these arise from features that basically ought not to be there if the game were trying harder to be logically consistent and less robotically gamelike – gamification for its own sake, using the characteristic limitations of a simulacrum of behaviour against the simulation itself, when often those limitations are no longer needed and simply included because the players expect them. /rant

          • bear912 says:

            You say rocket jumping should not exist?


            Just wait until I rocket jump into your window and rocket jump your slumbering body into oblivion. Then we will see who’s right about rocket jumping!

          • Eukatheude says:

            “So basically, you’re saying acceleration is bad because it makes rocket jumping hard? My answer to that has to be: good. Rocket/Grenade/Miscellaneous explosive projectile jumping is purely an exploit and shouldn’t exist, in my view. Or rather, it should be very effective at propelling your corpse in the intended direction. ”

            I really, really hate to be than one guy writing that one kind of comment.
            But this truly smells of “i can’t do it therefore it’s cheating”. They are not bug exploits, they were intentionally put into the games. Mastering rocket jumping, bunnyhopping etc. is something that gives games like Quake the depth they have.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        I don’t even know if its the mouse acceleration or what. After all, there is also “smoothing”.

        But there are classic games like Painkiller or Hard Reset, where I feel like when I point at something, my mouse goes there AND JUST THERE and right away, and then there are console ports, where aiming kind of means “slop around on the screen +-20 pixels to where things are supposed to be aiming at now” and almost dragging through mud.
        Sometimes it even feels like it is wavering, i.e. there is no clean X and Y.

        If you’ve played across a range of FPS vs console ports, you’ll recognize just by how aiming at something feels which is which many a time, even if nobody told you beforehand what game you’re sitting at.

        • jnk says:

          Yeeash tell me about it. I just had a lan. PC exclusive and console ports shooters were played. Generally speaking all of the console shooters felt like driving a motorboat, sort of drifting towards the targets and hoping to somehow lance it.

          All the PC only shooters were fast and brutal on the other hand and you knew where you were aiming.

    • malkav11 says:

      Really the only issues that I’ve had with it from a porting perspective were:
      1) Several of the default keybinds are insane. I have concocted a workable layout, however, and you certainly can rebind keys.
      2) When the game -does- go into cutscenes, they are clearly prerendered at console resolution and are kind of fugly compared to the real thing. I don’t know why games do this and I wish they would stop. I mean, if you’re going to do like Squeenix or Blizzard and make super elaborate CG amazements that could never run in real time on a contemporary machine, knock yourself out. But prerendering in-engine cutscenes is maddening.

      I did originally think that all the onscreen button prompts were 360 prompts in a shockingly lazy move (which also made it really hard to figure out how to play given the aforementioned bizarre default binds.), but it turned out I’d left my 360 controller plugged in without noticing it, and the game properly reverted to appropriate mouse and keyboard prompts that adjusted to my custom binds when I took that out.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      The game is a shining beacon of an example of everything that is wrong with ported shooters once more.

      Mouse aiming, even at speed 1 is imprecise and jitters. Mouse acceleration cannot be gotten rid of.
      Health regeneration, 2 guns with quickswap, no jumping but leaping, as hard on rails as possible, checkpointing, eternal load times for no apparent reason when reloading the same spot you just died at and encrypted ini files.

      Recommending this game is wrong and offensive to any PC gamer in my opinion and anyone who enjoys a good shooter for the sake of the actual gameplay and shooting.

      The backstory and blabla did not pull me in and just seemed more of an excuse to hunt collectibles and have teammates, but maybe I’ve just been exhausted by “War, its such an evil thing” plots.
      I didn’t feel to be made awful to shoot stuff, but maybe that’s because after around 90 minutes I was so utterly disgusted by the game’s play and interface that I just stopped wasting lifetime with it.

      • drewski says:

        I’m not sure what shooters you’ve been playing, because I can’t recall a Western AAA shooter in the past…decade?…that doesn’t to some degree glorify war.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          I am not sure I understand how you came from my comment to yours.
          Unless you are addressing “War, its such an evil thing”? And countering with “But they all glorify it”?

          What I meant was that the actual conflicts are portrayed as bad – but the way our heroic actors move and play in it then ofc ends up being necessary, heroic, etc pp.
          Still the actual dying of people and so forth gets its due “Ooooh, thats not nice”, even in the CODs etc, because, why, otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it right. They, too, try to have their “Ohnoes, he’s shooting a friend in the face / ohnoes a betrayal / ohnoes, nukes!!!” moments, etc.
          Then its back to shooting people in the face casually yourself.

          • drewski says:

            I think you’re rather comprehensively missing the point of this game.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            No, I’d actually rather carefully point out that we must divide the bits some people want to play vs the “games as an art and communication medium” crowd.

            If you sell me a shooter that plays crap AS A SHOOTER, someone should point that out when reviewing it.

            That it may or not do something for people who want to be told a story and go to “shoot to kill people dead” formats instead of RPGs, adventures and VNs is a different part entirely.
            Whether or not it succeeds there however is fairly irrelevant to someone looking to have a good time shooting at stuff, because it isn’t the “yea yea, I’m supposed to not enjoy this, boohoo” stickwaving, but the “Can’t aim worth shit with this interface” stuff that puts them off I dare say.

  4. CaspianRoach says:

    You know what baffles me the most? How amazon has a sale of this game for 50% off STARTING TOMORROW. link to neogaf.com

    What is this I don’t even

    Is this the biggest spit in the face of those who preordered the game or what.

    • ArtVandelay says:

      I thought it was quite shocking myself. Maybe 2K just really needs some money.

    • SirKicksalot says:

      That’s just how 2K rolls since last year. Great deals both before and soon after release for many games.

    • woodsey says:

      If you’re pre-ordering games on PC these days, you’re doing it wrong.

      • Jay says:

        There’s almost always significant discounts very shortly after release, this case sounds extreme but it’s not really that different from the usual state of affairs, especially for a relatively mid-range game like this. What difference does it make if it happens a week or two earlier, really? If it scares people off pre-ordering, good, it’s a silly practice anyway.

      • phylum sinter says:

        …unless you know about greenmangaming – i’ve seen as much as 40% off preorders there, usually one day sales. I don’t know how they do it, to be honest.

        • Vandelay says:

          Stores often include extras with pre-orders too. Not just scummy store specific DLC, but things you would actually want. For example, I got a copy of Max Payne 1, Max Payne 2 and LA Noire with my Steam pre-order of Max Payne 3 for £30. The £15 pre-order of Torchlight 2, with the original game thrown in is a good deal too.

          Also, if you look outside of Steam, it is pretty normal to be able to pre-order games for £20-25, which will be the same price as the post-release reduction.

      • CaspianRoach says:

        It is sad how expression of loyalty became an expression of stupidity. Oh well at least with Borderlands 2 you get a Mechromancer DLC as a bonus for preordering.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      I pre-ordered Spec Ops (I actually bought it from Get Games before its Euro release date, but being a Yank I got to take advantage of the regional schedule), only to find out literally ten minutes after clicking the Purchase button that it was going to be on sale at Amazon for twelve dollars less than what I paid for it. Needless to say I wasn’t too thrilled about that. Honestly, the deal I got wasn’t too bad, so I suppose I can’t complain too much.

      These kinds of pricing schemes are becoming more common. Batman Arkham City was available for 50% off two days after release, and Civ V Gods and Kings is already seeing a deep discount. I’ve been arguing for a long time that the publishers are going to take regular advantage of the fact that video gamers are becoming more savvy when it comes to buying their drug of choice.

      We can expect to see a lot more of this in the future.

    • Shortwave says:

      Ouch… : /

  5. Totally heterosexual says:


  6. Torgen says:

    From this review and the one at PA Reports, it seems that the emotional impact of this game is such that the technical minutiae aren’t foremost in one’s mind when telling others about it.

  7. abandonhope says:

    Wait, so I want this? How did this happen?

  8. obie191970 says:

    I’ve read 3 or 4 reviews on this and each one has talked extensively about the depression that sets in while playing. I think it’s amazing to make a modern day FPS pull that kind of emotion. This obviously isn’t the cheap Russian airport trick going on.

  9. rockman29 says:

    Always was confused when PCGamer was talking all positive about this. Or maybe it was some other site. I mean… it’s not going to happen. It’s a shooter first. Anyone who couldn’t see that at first is just crazy.

  10. Wild_Marker says:

    Well I played it and finished it. And I can say this review is spot on. I was surprised that it didn’t mention that it has multiple endings. And not just “press here to ending 1 or press here to ending 2”.

    But yeah, for those who got tired of “The brave gung ho american marines of freedom vs ethnic terrorists” this will flip over your head. It looks just like that on the surface and then you realize it’s not that. It’s ABSOLUTELY not that.

    • MommaB says:

      It’s just another shooter that tells you you are an asshole for doing the mindless shooting. It just found another way of shocking people, doesn´t make it good. And Dubai was there for effect, it´s not looking to spur on some kind of deeper debate. I think people look too much into it.

      • Malk_Content says:

        What does the original intention of the game matter if it’s execution is making people talk about it this way? I mean we deride games for the opposite, or trying and not real succeeded, so surely we should point out when something good happens regardless of whether or not you personally believed it is how the devs intended it.

  11. mazzoli says:

    “Spec Ops’ uncompromising gaze into the heart of darkness”

    I see wot you did there…

  12. Mungrul says:

    Special note for those interested: While Steam is selling it for £29.99, Green Man Gaming are selling Steam keys for £24.99.

  13. Fumarole says:

    Well then, now I’m interested in this game.

  14. Zanpa says:

    “First-person shooter”? It seems to me like it is a third-person game.

    Anyway, I am now contemplating the thought of buying it. Hmmm…

  15. QualityJeverage says:

    I was 100% ready to ignore this game for all the reasons you mentioned. But as I started to hear shockingly positive things about it from a narrative perspective, I decided to rent the 360 version for the week. I’m not finished it yet, and not sure how far I am, but I am endlessly surprised by this game. Walked past the game’s obnoxious display at PAX East every day, resolute in my belief that it could be safely ignored.

    I agree with this WIT just about completely, I’d say. I don’t know that the game is fun, I certainly don’t feel good playing it. I do know it’s important and commendable. I’m glad it got made, and I’m glad I’m playing it.

    • xavdeman says:

      When I read lots of positive comments on VG247 I thought there was some guerrilla marketing agency active who was posting all these comments in a last ditch attempt to secure some sales. But in Alec I trust, so I will go and see for myself.

  16. McDan says:

    This has turned my slight interest in the game to something I’ll probably get now. Because it’s not just another shooter, thanks Alec.

  17. Dominic White says:

    This strikes me as a perfect rental – not really an option on PC, but I have both of the key consoleboxes to choose from, so I’ll put this at the top of my Lovefilm list. Strikes me as the kinda thing you play through once and probably don’t have the emotional energy to go through again, anyway.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      Amusingly, in my city at least, renting games period isn’t really an option anymore.

    • drewski says:

      I’ll probably grab it for consolebox too. Maybe not as a rental, but definitely at a discount.

      I want to reward big publishers for making unsettling games.

  18. MistyMike says:

    What’s this ‘mouse acceleration’ you pc-gamer types are going on about? If the mouse is accelerated it means it moves faster… sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?

    • Misnomer says:

      There can be a bit of confusion of terms. Mouse acceleration can often refer to the game multiplying your motions with the mouse to equal faster movement in game as you say. That is not universally objected to (although many PC gamers prefer raw mouse data input to the game so they can create a universal sensitivity in all games through third party or hardware solutions). So on your idea…no acceleration is not always a bad thing.

      What gets PC gamers up in arms is what is often called mouse smoothing. This makes it so that your small gestures are highly sensitive and your large gestures are slow. The idea is to prevent you from turning a 360 when you want to be looking at a different guy. The problem with this is that it prevents you from turning a 360… or doing other more complex motions known and loved by PC mouse users.

      I believe mouse smoothing/mouse acceleration is a derivative of stick smoothing used in console games… that in fact makeit possible to aim and turn around 180 without confusing the two in your thumb’s muscle memory for that tiny a movement.

      At worst PC it results in a cone of sensitivity, at best it results in a “less jerky” mouse movement that looks natural in third person but is VERY annoying when you switch from a game without it (which is most core PC games) because you feel like a large man is holding your hand on the mouse while you play.

      So there are is a lot of word confusion which I might have only added to here (HELP!), but you can see the different concepts at work.

      • xavdeman says:

        mouse sensitivity as in more dpi = good (you can always tone it down)
        mouse acceleration (faster movement, same surface traversed equals more on screen movement) = bad because it fucks with muscle memory and precision.

        raw mouse input (game doesn’t add any multipliers) + 0 mouse acceleration = ideal.
        For more information: link to donewmouseaccel.blogspot.nl

      • Vorphalack says:

        At worst it actually causes the cursor to keep moving after you have stopped moving the mouse. That cursor drift is absolutely infuriating when trying to get any kind of precision, which is the greatest natural advantage of the mouse.

      • MistyMike says:

        So it’s essentialy leftover code in a shoddy pc port. Thanks for the explanations!

        • xavdeman says:

          I found this definition of “enhanced pointer precision” (aka mouse acceleration) in the readme for MarkC Windows 7 Mouse Fix:
          “With ‘Enhance pointer precision’ enabled, slower mouse movements make
          the pointer go extra slow and faster mouse movements make the pointer go
          extra fast. It is not linear and not straightline.

          This is annoying, because where you are aiming at depends on how far you
          move your mouse, and also on how fast you moved the mouse to aim.”

          I hope this explains why “we” detest mouse acceleration, and you are right, it is often leftover from a shoddy port. Max Payne 3, while great in many respects (original multiplayer modes, animations), also has this enabled by default (and pre-thelatestpatch) you couldn’t disable it. So it’s more prolific than you probably think (and the fact that Rockstar Games added the option to disable it means at least part of their userbase is annoyed by it).

    • LionsPhil says:

      For clicking around on the desktop, you actually want your mouse input to be meddled with, so that you can quickly flit from one side of the screen to the other, but can also precisely click on individual pixels. Every decent GUI environment does some kind of mouse accelleration. If it’s done right (and WIndows does it pretty well), you won’t even really notice that it’s happening.

      When the mouse is controlling a 3D viewpoint (e.g. a FPS), this is maybe less desirable because it’s a different kind of motion and different kind of feedback, hence the desire for the game to be written to use raw, unmeddled-with mouse input. Something like an RTS, though, should probably let the OS do its job.

      (I’m not entirely sure why it comes up in the context of console ports, unless someone’s overloaded the damn term to mean something completely different.)

      • Cooper says:

        Nope. not if you have a decent dpi on your mouse.

        The kind of thing that article talks about is necessary if you have a shitty mouse. Not otherwise.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Oh, I’m sorry. I guess HCI engineers don’t know jack shit vs random people on the Internet who use their PC hardware as dick extensions.

          • Toberoth says:

            But isn’t he right, to an extent? I’ve been using my 1800 DPI mouse in Windows with mouse acceleration turned off for years, and I’ve never had any problems either with accuracy in small movements or speed in large ones. My crappy old Microsoft mouse before that, on the other hand…

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      To be specific, the mouse acceleration in Spec Ops is horrible, and it’s my only complaint about the game. Users have been reporting that the acceleration resets itself every time you restart the game, and I can personally vouch that fiddling with the mouse settings has absolutely no effect on the multiplayer portion — it’s one setting and one setting only despite what the game is telling me. I’m getting my ass handed to me in MP because the acceleration/sensitivity is too high and I can’t change it.

      The devs hardlocked the .ini files too, so there’s no deep fix for any of the game settings. Seeing as how Spec Ops is an Unreal-based game, this is a bit offensive to me.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        And by hardlocked he means encrypted. It is a classic dick move, and even more so given the as already stated atrocious ingame options are pretty much “‘shitty, crappy, bad’ and ‘unchangeable anyhow'”.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Yes, encrypted. I emailed 2K specifically to ask them about the .ini files, but have yet to hear back from them. My guess is that they’ll capitulate eventually and unlock the files so users can play around like they can with every other UE3 game out there.

          I’m still boggled as to why they encrypted them to begin with. It seems like a pretty douchey thing to do.

          • Vorphalack says:

            Because, piracy?

            Seems to be the reason for everything from game breaking DRM to what flavor donuts they get at the office these days.

  19. jimboton says:

    Edge review got me curious so I downloaded the demo from steam. 30 minutes of purebred console ‘popamole’ TPS gameplay later I find that I already feel sick at the idea of playing through another shooter. I guess I won’t need to buy the whole game then.

    • elevown says:

      Did or did you not read this article? What makes this game unique and important and have impact acording to the reviews is its narative- the gameplay is described generaly as fine but nothing new.
      You are not gonna see any of this hard hitting meaningful dialouge and narative/plot in a 30 minute demo!

      So if you are interested in some grim ‘apocalypse now’ kinda thing asking difficult moral questions of you etc then it may well be something to buy.

      If you just wanna shoot shit in the head then no- maybe not.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        Don’t try to suggest anyone who doesn’t buy into this is some kind of violent neanderthal. Some people buy games so they can actually play a decent game. Not because they want to be told a story. Everything I’ve heard about this game suggests that, as a game, it’s not very good.

        • malkav11 says:

          It’s a perfectly solid shooter, gameplaywise. Nothing particularly original, and I personally don’t get all that hot and bothered over shooting your basic soldier enemies with assorted real world firearms, but it all works. The setting, story, and themes are what elevate it past pedestrian military shooters.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            How can all these extraneous features ‘elevate’ the game? They should only exist as a context for abstract game mechanics. Whenever they’re put in front of actual game design, it’s a clear sign that the designer has failed. Not that you’d be able to tell the difference. “Perfectly solid shooter”. What have you been playing all this time?

          • drewski says:

            Each to their own, but I personally have no interest in polished “abstract game mechanics”.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            “Polished”. Another word that should be banned from games discourse along with “clunky”, “immersive” and many others.

            The only thing you should do is understand that game mechanics mainly constitute a game, though they do require a context (and you seem to miss that from my comment). If you’re interested in linear emotional narratives, you shouldn’t be looking for them in this medium.

          • drewski says:

            I can look for, and find, whatever the goddam hell I want in games, thank you very much.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            If your argument is so weak that you have to resort to ‘matter of opinion’ comments, you probably shouldn’t post anything to begin with.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            @ drewski: Hear hear. Agreed 100%.

            Seems that Doesn’tmeananything has named him/herself well. I think that’s ironic but I’m not sure.

          • malkav11 says:

            But it is? The guns, they work. They’re not all that interesting unless you get really hot and bothered about real world guns, which I don’t, but when you point them at men and pull the trigger, those men hurt and subsequently die, with appropriate animation and blood FX. They have differing range profiles, damage, some can be silenced, some scoped, some reload immediately and some go a bullet at a time. The cover, it works. Some of it is destructible by enough gunfire or heavy enough guns. You can blindfire or lean out to aim. When running, you will slide into nearby cover. Sometimes there are environmental hazards, such as explosives or sand-filled objects that can be cracked open by gunfire to devastating effect. There are three types of grenade, frag, stun, and sticky, and the exact path of the grenade throw will be shown before you commit to the throw. The two explosive types will also kick up large, blinding sand clouds if they explode on sand. The enemies have competent AI that will flank, take cover, close if they have a close range weapon, and be directed to various sniping points if they have sniper rifles or RPGs. Your squadmates will also take cover intelligently, actually kill enemies on their own, and can be manually commanded to throw stun grenades, snipe particular enemies, and even heal each other. Etc.

            Aside from the sand stuff there’s nothing particularly original about the shooting mechanics, but it is a fully functional, competent shooter. It’s not trying to innovate in that respect. If you don’t care about story or setting, then that probably won’t be enough for you. That’s fine. But please don’t attempt to dictate what the rest of us should care about.

          • YourMessageHere says:

            I was keeping out of this, but really. To call setting, story, and themes “extraneous features” is just unbelievable. They are far more important to this or any other entertainment medium than anything else. And as for “They should only exist as a context for abstract game mechanics. Whenever they’re put in front of actual game design, it’s a clear sign that the designer has failed.”, well, I’ll charitably assume you’ve not realised that those things are the whole point of this game, and have been since early development, from what I’ve seen. Without them, you might as well be playing Pong or Tetris. ‘Hey, I bought this book; no idea what it’s about, what happens, where or when, or who wrote it, but it has a lovely cover, the binding is really classy and the typeface is really pretty!’

      • RegisteredUser says:

        If this were a different genre, people would be taking this apart more I think.

        If say a terrible Command&Conquer came out, that had terrible controls, no grouping, no unit balancing and overall sucked to play, but had 7h of cutscenes that totally present this awesome story/dilemma/whatever dude, would the GAME then get good scores?

        Point is here that just because they integrated a possibly to SOME great story/dilemma/ambiguity in a less disjunct fashion than classic map-then-cutscene, the playing of the bits you actually get to play is boring, standardized console crap and not outstandingly enjoyable at all.

        And to some, that is a major point to highlight before putting down 40+ bucks. You know, whether they might like the game as a game.

    • Walsh says:

      Demo isn’t really indicative of the game. In fact, the demo ends before the first ‘plot twist’.

  20. YourMessageHere says:

    Wishlisted – I’ll have to have a look at this. It sounds exactly like what I’ve been hoping would happen to military shooters for ages, except in third person, which is a shame as I don’t usually like that. However, since I’ve been playing Saints Row a lot recently, it shouldn’t be a problem (other than presumably frustrating my urge to play as a different character every time I start the game). It’s like the world wants me to play it, anyway; one of the first things I did with my new kindle is download and start reading Heart of Darkness, as it was free and I’ve been meaning to read it for years, and just yesterday I found and bought Apocalypse Now Redux for £2.50.

  21. cairbre says:

    I cant believe it got a good review I almost fell off my seat. I saw this and went whatever now I am downloading it. If the demo is good I will buy the game its €49.99 on steam which is steep and I was thinking of buying max payne.

    I trust RPS so I am going to give it a go. They released a demo too which is nice and it shows the deveopers must of some confidence in their game.

    • xavdeman says:

      Well, the demo is said to be atrocious. And I wouldn’t buy it at €49,99, especially since a nice fellow commenter pointed out it is getting a massive 50% discount on Amazon soon. link to neogaf.com

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Don’t listen to what people are saying here.

      When they say the demo is atrocious, they mean to say that the way the game plays is atrocious.

      The demo only doesn’t seem to have the here so made to be ultimate and precious “zomg what a plot and story!!!!” stuff yet.

      As an indication to how terrible controls, shooting, blandness are, it does what it is supposed to do: it makes you shy away in shock of just more console shlock.

  22. Gap Gen says:

    Second screenshot from the bottom: “Walker was a terrible healer”

  23. cairbre says:

    I can’t buy dollar stuff here in Euroland. Steam in Ireland it not cheap except for the sales which are of course great. I love steam and its handiness but I hate buying full price games off it.

  24. Stevostin says:

    TPS ?
    k thx bye.

  25. Bushcat says:

    Whatever.Meer needs a pay rise.

  26. RPSRSVP says:

    Wot is this? Is this the same game as the Steam demo? So a few hung men and a brutal execution here and there is enough to overcome all the game’s flaws? By… making the player feel bad about clicking the left mouse button? I take it you never shot a dog in Deus Ex or completely skipped hundreds of games that had consequences and resulting emotions as part of a bigger picture, not just as a method to distract from the numerous flaws of a dime a dozen, generic corridor, 3rd person cover based shooter ?

    • Jay says:

      Or maybe they got more out of the actual game than someone would get out of a five-minute demo? It seems with stuff like this, extended play would be crucial to the experience the game attempts to provide. Which may explain the disparity of opinion between those who played the game and those who just played the demo.

      Maybe not though. I can’t be sure until I get around to playing the whole thing for myself.

      • RPSRSVP says:

        Those would be very valid remarks except the demo itself presents issues that cannot be offset later/earlier in the game. I am familiar with a few examples of demos failing to present the game properly or overselling but I don’t see that happening here.

        I have quite a backlog of games here, was driven to try the demo but definitely not to buy the game. And other than for the gamers that have not been exposed to/have forgotten about “memorable in game shockers”, I don’t see what it’s about. I’ll give youtube a shot to see what the fuss is about. In a way, I would like the game to prove me wrong, if for no other reason then because I feel certain it’s not worthy and would totally welcome surprise in the current PC scene.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          Don’t worry, you are correct with your initial estimation RPSRSVP.

    • zerosociety says:

      The demo, strung as it is out of a bunch of short bits from the first maybe 10% of the game and seemingly cut to avoid spoilers, has very little to do with what makes this game good. It’s a trailer. That’s all.

    • drewski says:

      Good thing this is Wot Alex Thinks, and not Wot You Think, isn’t it?

    • Jimbo says:

      I think I have ‘A Few Hung Men’ on dvd somewhere. ‘You want cock? You can’t handle the cock!!’ Great movie.

  27. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “Enemy numbers are high,” Fine! “battles long” No problem! “and checkpoints often far apart” Oh ffs…

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Don’t worry, near uncontrollable mouse aim and pretty low ammo capacities make up for this!

  28. malkav11 says:

    I was simultaneously anticipating this, and dreading the inevitable disappointment when it turned out to be generic military shooter with 2.5 “moral quandaries” shoehorned in to try to stand out from the crowd and a thoroughly squandered setting.

    And then it turned out to actually mostly do it right. I was shocked. It’s not perfect – a little uneven in places, a little too reliant on old shooter standbys like turret sequences and vehicle rides with unlimited ammo, and it’s not as subtle with certain things as I’d hoped. E.g. the automatic squad barks and incidental dialogue that repeats during combat based on the situation was touted as reflecting the increasingly desperate and battered mental state of the spec ops team. And it does. By flipping a “get crazed and sweary” switch after the shocking event mentioned in the review. A little more binary than I’d hoped. Perhaps it goes another step before the end, as I’ve not quite reached it. And that event didn’t quite resonate with me. Although there are moral choices in the game, that one is forced on you and while fictionally I suppose it makes sense, in terms of actual game experience the situation in question seems no different than the last combat set piece where my team gunned down ninety guys in steady onrushing streams. (Maybe not ninety. But still. The odds are ever long and the combat prowess of shooter protagonists unrealistic.)

    But the setting is phenomenal, the writing mostly strong, and the steady descent into madness quite effective. Your original objective is so easily compromised, and after a while the proper goals and the means by which to get there seem entirely impossible to discern. Certainly there are no real allies in the sand-choked Dubai of The Line. Only players in a game whose rules and purpose are hidden.

  29. zerosociety says:

    So I finished this yesterday. (And, for the record, was blown away.) An hour or so later a friend of mine sent me the “Meet the Pyro” video which I hadn’t seen yet.

    And try as I might, I really couldn’t enjoy it. The particular flavour of comedy violence bringing up what I’d seen and done hours before.

    On a side note, one thing I did really enjoy mechanics wise is when you keep dying in one place, not only does it ask about changing the difficulty, but before that is slowly ramps up the ammo you’re starting with and sometimes drops new weapons nearby as you keep restarting a level. Just a subtle little push forward in a game that does pin you in some really overwhelming firefights.

    It’s not perfect, the cover system is wonky, but the shooting is satisfying. However, it’s quickly made its way into my favourite games list. Though, one I’m in no hurry to replay…

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I have really no idea how you came to “the shooting is satisfying”. Honest to god, I can’t relate to this even in the slightest.
      Did you play with a mouse?

      • drewski says:

        Maybe he just likes different things to you.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          Just because he may or not get different impressions than me doesn’t preclude me from wondering just how on earth how he got there and asking about it.

          Would you rather have me shouting insults directly because there is no way possibly someone could have a different taste than me???

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            Every other post you’ve written here has been highly passive-aggressive, so why not just man up and admit that anybody who enjoys Spec Ops is a moron with bad taste in video games? That’s what you’re itching to do, isn’t it?

          • drewski says:

            But you’re not asking him how he got there, are you? You’re saying you don’t have the “slightest idea” how he could possibly hold the opinion he gave.

      • malkav11 says:

        I know I did, and I haven’t had any problems so’s you’d notice with “uncontrollable” aiming.

      • zerosociety says:

        Yep, played with a mouse, I got this on PC specifically to avoid playing with a gamepad. There’s the now common couple of minutes of getting used to the mouse smoothing but after that I found the gameplay very enjoyable.

        Except for the times where the cover system went haywire on me. (One fight in particular made me ragequit.) It did nothing new or particularly interesting mechanics-wise save the minimalist slowmo effect.

        I come to games for 2 things: story and gameplay. If the story is good, I’ll look over minimal gameplay niggles. But I really enjoyed the story and I felt they did some really clever things that could only really be done in a video game. (The bit towards the end where your loading a saved game is incorporated into the level design, for example.) I also have a real soft spot for unreliable narrators. For me, THE LINE filled the niche that I was hoping (the incredibly disappointing) MAX PAYNE 3 would fill as a solid combo of manshoots with a well executed story.

  30. heyincendiary says:

    That’s great though, amirite? I mean, I never really got over that “games aren’t art” thing, so it’s what’s on my mind. But like, imagine if the only things available to read were rewrites of “The Help” and “Fifty Shades of Grey”. It’d be abhorrent. Literature’s only artful because of stuff like “1984” or “Gravity’s Rainbow”, the really icky stuff.

  31. Juiceman says:

    The single player campaign in this game is definitely not one to miss. Maybe I’m biased because Heart of Darkness is a personal favorite, but I thought they adapted it really well. The combat isn’t ground breaking, but the story is really why I played it. Not to mention Dubai as a setting was simply fantastic. This is one I would advise playing before you pass judgement.

  32. Runs With Foxes says:

    All the reviews of this game seem so reluctant to talk about actual gameplay. There are only a couple of paragraphs about it here, and the rest is all Setting, Theme and Story.

    The takeaway from Spec Ops is that if you slapped Conrad on top of Call of Duty, the emotionmen would start singing its praises too.

    • jaheira says:

      Presumably that’s because Setting, Theme and Story are the parts of the game he found most interesting. Who are the “emotionmen”?

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        Those strange men who have emotions. Goddamn’ freaks.

        • Doesn'tmeananything says:

          Those people who desperately try to salvage any kind of emotion from and establish an emotional connection with a bad game, meanwhile basing their critical approach solely on that, definitely are.

    • drewski says:

      Yes, the lesson to take away is that if Call of Duty had good atmosphere, story, moral consequence and thoughtful writing, it would have good atmosphere, story, moral consequence and thoughtful writing.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        And still be a bad game.

        • drewski says:

          I guess that depends what you want in a game.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Good design?

          • drewski says:

            If the only aspect to “good game design” to you is clicking on things, I feel sorry for your brain.

            “I’m not going to read the greatest book ever written! I don’t like the way the paper feels!”

          • Vorphalack says:

            If the ”clicking on things” is made so needlessly frustrating that it precludes any enjoyment I might get from the story, I wont be buying the game. Doing a straight comparison between books and games is simply stupid. Narrative is only one part of the gaming medium, where as it is everything in a book. Game play must be given equal weight, as that interactivity is what makes gaming unique. If the game play is weak, you would be as well to save your money and watch a youtube long play instead.

          • Lagwolf says:

            Well seeing as it is a game… good game-play would be an obvious choice. I am all for good plots to games, but recently there have been games that have ok plots but awful game-play (Max Payne 3 for instance).

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            If the only aspect to “good game design” to you is clicking on things, I feel sorry for your brain.

            Are you a real person?

            It’s like you have absolutely no critical awareness of the medium.

          • drewski says:

            Strange, I’m wondering the same thing about you.

        • Lhowon says:

          “… atmosphere, story, moral consequence and thoughtful writing” aren’t part of good design? That’s an interesting definition of game design you have there.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            We’re talking games here.

          • Lhowon says:

            I just don’t buy the distinction you’re drawing. Those things directly contribute to the experience of playing the game, and if that isn’t relevant to how “good” the game is I don’t know what would be. If a review of STALKER, say, failed to talk about the atmosphere, it would be laughably inadequate.

            The alleged style/substance distinction is rubbish.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            The atmosphere in Stalker comes directly from gameplay. The game could be set anywhere, as long as the setting complemented the mechanics well. Within the story of Strelok there’s a player-driven narrative which is possible due to the dynamic nature of the world (also emphasised by some mods). It does not rely on cinematics and scripts after scripts to stay affecting.

            Whereas here everything is external, tacked upon horrible gameplay.

          • hello_mr.Trout says:

            “The game could be set anywhere…” – not sure i agree with you about this. part of the appeal (for me at least) was the whole eastern european architechture + grimdark CCP disaster/radiation hell – exploring the specific world they made was a huge part of the appeal! altho, on rereading your post a few times, perhaps i have missed the point you were making/got sidetracked (sorry if that is the case).

          • Lhowon says:

            “The atmosphere in Stalker comes directly from gameplay. The game could be set anywhere, as long as the setting complemented the mechanics well.”

            That’s just not true, not even remotely. The Zone is an integral part of what makes STALKER uniquely atmospheric. Remove the bleak, decaying Ukrainian landscape and you’d have a very different game experience. Which is my point: sure, you could put STALKER’s mechanics in any vaguely open-world setting you liked, but it would not be the same experience. Which is why talking about such things as atmosphere is entirely relevant to a review.

          • Jim Rossignol says:

            “The atmosphere in Stalker comes directly from gameplay.”

            No, it doesn’t. It comes from a combination of elements, including audio, visuals, pace and the mechanistic elements operating in unison.

            You could white-box Stalker, replacing all visual elements with cubes, and all audio with bleeps. You might have the same “gameplay”, but you would not have the same atmosphere.

            When framing your arguments, you are consistently reducing games to their “gameplay” because you believe that is what is unique to games. That’s true. But that’s not all that games are. And you are missing that. Games are *everything*: music, architect, visual design, story-telling, sportmanship, physics, puzzles… That is why they are so interesting and exciting.

            Judge games on their entire package, not just “abstract gameplay”, whatever that is.

          • Gap Gen says:

            PC Gamer banned the word “gameplay” at one point because they thought it was poorly defined, if my memory serves me.

          • MommaB says:

            @ Cap Gen:

            Reason PCG doesn’t mention gameplay is because these titles do not contain any

          • Gira says:

            No, see, the issue with every games reviewer these days and apparently a large amount of games consumers is that none of you seem to be able to distinguish between “game” as referring to a boxed product in a store with cutscenes and cover art and little promotional figurines, and “game” as in the mechanics and systems that define what we refer to as “gameplay”.

            As far as I can tell, Spec Ops: The Line is a completely puerile, barely-interactive failure of a game. It’s a corridor shooter, where your primary act of agency is pressing “play” and watching the setpieces unfold. It isn’t much of a game, and the fail state usually only occurs when you deviate from that cast-iron path in any way, shape, or form.

            That’s not “making a point” through gameplay – that’s hobbling gameplay so you can “make a point” with your fucking cutscenes. And you know what? Whatever – maybe the cutscenes are fantastic. Maybe they’re genuinely artistically worthwhile. I doubt it, but hey, I haven’t played it. But it seems to me, given how absolutely impoverished the underlying game of Specs Ops: The Line is, that I would get 99% of my enjoyment out of it by watching all of its setpieces on YouTube.

            And that’s the problem – there is no connection between what the player is doing and what the cutscenes are telling them. Sure, you say, you’re in a shooter shooting people, and the cutscenes are telling you it’s bad to shoot people! That’s real Cinematic Emotion!

            But it isn’t, because the player had no choice. In order to advance the plotline that tells the player they have done the wrong thing (the only plotline), they have to do the wrong thing. Do you not see the problem there? That the entire storyline of the game exists to basically criticise the player for playing the game they paid for, even though they have absolutely no control over how they play it?

            That’s not making a point. That’s not a game. That’s window dressing.

            Don’t highlight this thing as some kind of step forward. Just don’t. It’s an illusion, because the underlying game is just the same old shit.

          • Skofnung says:

            “The atmosphere in Stalker comes directly from gameplay. The game could be set anywhere, as long as the setting complemented the mechanics well.”

            What a ludicrously awful statement.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Now I see why these people didn’t like DXHR.

          • Runs With Foxes says:

            Games are *everything*: music, architect, visual design, story-telling, sportmanship, physics, puzzles… That is why they are so interesting and exciting.

            Judge games on their entire package, not just “abstract gameplay”, whatever that is.

            This attitude is what brought us to the current situation where so many of the most popular games arguably don’t qualify for inclusion in the medium. Where a tepid shooter like Uncharted gets lauded because It’s Like Watching A Movie. Given your taste in games, and the kind of game you’re making right now, I’d expect a more critical attitude from you. Don’t you remember 10 or 15 years ago when there was a prevailing attitude in PC game criticism in particular that cutscenes were unnecessary and any use of them was criticised as laziness? How far we continue to fall.

            What this attitude tells developers is that they can churn out some derivative trash, but just so long as they rip off some classic literature along the way, we’ll don some tweed and wax lyrical about the ~emotional potential~ in our glowing review.

            Wouldn’t you agree that one of the major problems in games criticism is an embarrassing poverty of critical vocabulary? That is, the vast majority of critics are actually incapable of explaining why an engaging game is engaging? They can piggyback on decades or more of film and literature criticism, but have absolutely no idea how to explain a game’s design.

            How many critics are capable of explaining the appeal of Stalker without limiting themselves to the visuals and the audio and how they create atmosphere? Worse, how many actually dislike Stalker because … well, just because. Not enough cutscenes? Not enough fully voiced romanceable characters? Ask Walker, maybe. I’m guessing he still hasn’t played any of them.

            Your attitude that Games Can Be Everything! backgrounds systems design in favour of surface fluff, and actively hinders the progress of advancing the fields of videogame design and criticism. Instead of intelligent discussion about the medium, we have genuinely interesting games dismissed with nebulous accusations of being ‘clunky’ and ‘janky’ and ‘iffy’, because without a deeply affecting story and emotional character arcs to latch onto, reviewers are lost in this medium they’re supposed to be experts on.

          • Jay says:

            “Instead of intelligent discussion about the medium, we have genuinely interesting games dismissed with nebulous accusations of being ‘clunky’ and ‘janky’ and ‘iffy’, because without a deeply affecting story and emotional character arcs to latch onto, reviewers are lost in this medium they’re supposed to be experts on.”

            Got any examples of unjustly ignored games to back that up with?

            Edit: I’d just add that it seems odd to be bringing this up here of all places. RPS is as close to being a champion of ‘janky’, unusual games as I’ve seen, what with their love for deeply flawed, ambitious efforts like Boiling Point, Precursors and Pathologic being a large part of the reason I got into them.

    • bill says:

      You need someone to explain shooter gameplay to you?

      • Doesn'tmeananything says:

        Yes, please. Because it seems that many people, including Meer and the majority of the commenters here, either cannot see past the window-dressing of story, tone, etc., or strongly believe that it is a crucial part of any game, while labelling core gameplay as superficial.

        Yet again a linear, dull and incredibly mediocre whack-a-mole gets a pass and sometimes even lauded just because it exists under the pretence of being mature, completely neglecting the strengths of the medium.

        • Totally heterosexual says:

          Gameplay does not always need to be “good” in the sense we know. In this case it seems to be used as thematic tool to help the narrative and apparently does it pretty well.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            Games are defined by their interactivity. Therefore, gameplay has to reflect that. What we see here is an entirely linear endeavour in a static world with an atrocious level design and where player actions are limited to snapping to cover and waiting until an enemy pops up his head. So I can make an assessment that as a game, Spec Ops: The Line fails completely. It doesn’t matter what kind of Apocalypse Now induced vomit covers it, or what irrelevant tone-setting methods the devs resorted to.

            If gameplay was abused in such a way, then you have to wonder what stopped them from making a film.

          • Totally heterosexual says:

            Again. The gameplay is being used well as a tool for the narrative. Something that no other medium can do.

            Also “the interactivity” technically comes from just being able to pop out of cover and fire a gun. SO the game does have that and if you rwead the review you would know it works out pretty well.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            No, the gameplay exists out of narrative. It’s only tool for it in the sense of progressing it forward, which is hardly the case of being used well.

            And if you read the article, you’d see that even Meer finds it hard to praise the interactive sections:

            “As a combat game, Spec Ops is less successful. It’s a cover shooter which posits you as a relatively fragile creature rather than the walking bullet-soak of Call of Duty, but frankly its cover system isn’t anywhere near refined enough. It’s too easy to pop out, too hard to roll between walls and all too regularly you’ll suddenly find yourself standing in the open as half a dozen assorted snipers, shotgunners and machinegun turrets swivel to look at you. Enemy numbers are high, battles long and checkpoints often far apart, which means some frustrated repeats of the same skirmishes, especially in the late game.”

            Since when does being passionate classifies as a cunt behaviour? You may be surprised when you’ll talk to real people.

        • Jimbo says:

          I hate dull, linear whackamole gameplay as much as anybody, but a game’s overall quality is not strictly limited to the quality of the gameplay. ‘Game’ is typically used to refer to the whole experience now and has been for some time, and you can still craft a good or meaningful experience even with mediocre gameplay. It’s possible to create something which is more than the sum of its parts.

          Gameplay is one strength of the medium, but so is agency. It’s possible to create a sense of responsibility for one’s actions which is hard to reproduce in passive media. The controls not being slick or the gameplay not being innovative doesn’t necessarily prevent that sense of agency being created and used to good effect.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            Games should be criticised as games. You may be surprised, but there is a language for critical study of games. And game as an experience is used by those who deny that and keep whispering that games can be anything in their pillows at nights.

            There can be no equal relationship between gameplay and set narrative in the context of a game. When narrative is put in the foreground, then a game gets invariably trumped by literature and cinema. When there’s a focus on gameplay, then that’s at least a good start, considering the state of the industry at the moment.

            And applying the term ‘agency’ in this case is something to eschew since it doesn’t mean initiating an action within simulated environment to receive a unique consequence; it’s more akin to turning a page or pressing Play button when watching a film on dvd.

          • drewski says:

            Cinema can never make *me* feel bad about *me* killing people, because I’m not doing it.

            Games are the only media that can make *my* interaction with the content meaningful, because they’re the only one that’s interactive.

            The mechanics of the interaction may be flawed, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have an experience.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            “Games are the only media that can make *my* interaction with the content meaningful, because they’re the only one that’s interactive.”

            You’re right, but not in the case of this game.

            It doesn’t matter what you do because ultimately you’re simply progressing the story forward. Any choice you make cannot be meaningful simply because of being set in stone.

            Many people expressed their dissatisfaction with gameplay here (and the article touches upon that a bit), and when narrative is hindered by interaction – to whatever small degree it’s presented here – that’s just the clearest sign that’s something is wrong with the game and the industry.

            And what, you’ve never related to fictional characters?

          • Jimbo says:

            “Games should be criticised as games.”

            Then we -and by ‘we’ I mean ‘you’- need to come up with new language in order to differentiate between games in the traditional sense and games in the modern sense, so they they can be discussed more effectively. When (almost) everybody else uses ‘game’ in this context nowadays, they are referring to the whole thing, not just the gameplay element. Majority rules on language, and the majority has long since decided that’s how it is.

            Criticising a hybrid interactive / passive experience exclusively on the interactive part would be ridiculous, which is why nobody does that. I only need to whisper ‘games as an experience’ into my pillow, because that’s already how everybody is treating them – I don’t need to convince anybody. You on the other hand, can shout “games as games! >:(” into the wind as much as you like, but you’ll still be ignored.

          • drewski says:

            I relate to fictional characters, sure, but I don’t feel anything personal when they do something immoral.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            @Jimbo As I said, there’s already a good critical basis for games studies. You may continue to treat games the way you do, but I think you should marvel at the level of your cultural impoverishment at one point or the other.

            @drewski Okay, thanks.

          • Jimbo says:

            “You’re right, but not in the case of this game.”

            Your argument started as a blanket statement about games in general and you’ve now walked it back twice to talking specifically about this game. I wasn’t defending Spec Ops, I was pointing out that your dismissal of all non-gameplay elements as no more than window dressing was fucking crazy.

            When Talkies came out you were probably the guy sat there complaining that they should still only be judged on the pictures.

          • Jimbo says:

            “You may continue to treat games the way you do…”

            Ok! Me, the rest of the community and the entirety of the game press and game industry will continue to do just that, thanks! Enjoy your culturally enriching discussions you have with uhh… yourself? That guy down at the Games Workshop store? I’m sure I’m really missing out.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            It’s a terrible game, so inductively I applied that to games in general. I see no problem with that and if I contradicted myself, feel free to show some particular instances of that.

            You now present set narrative centric approach to design as evolution, without pointing out what is wrong with ludologists’ approach and calling it ridiculous and fucking crazy.

            I don’t know what to say.

            Although it is surprising to see this desire for games to be recognised as a mature medium and at the same considering any kind of academic dissection as nerd-talk.

          • Jay says:

            “Many people expressed their dissatisfaction with gameplay here..”

            Having a look back over these comments, it seems more like the same 2 or 3 people replying to everyone with what is essentially “how DARE you like this?” followed by a disproportionately aggressive long-winded argument.

            People are allowed to like stuff you don’t, y’know.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            No, those who criticised the gameplay came up with valid, argumented reasons. The only retort they got in response is this extremely weak ‘but it’s, like, your opinion, man’, same as yours here.

          • Jay says:

            That doesn’t change the fact that ‘many people’ were more like ‘two people’, or to be more specific RegisteredUser and yourself. Replying to just about every positive comment. Like you couldn’t get past the fact that people enjoyed the game, to the point where they must be objectively wrong for doing so.

            Your opinions might have been valid. The way you offered those opinions made it impossible for them to be taken seriously.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            Alright, if that’s what you want to latch on. There were 4 people, including Meer and excluding myself. Not much, but it’s not a solitary stance.

            “Like you couldn’t get past the fact that people enjoyed the game”

            I wouldn’t post anything if that wasn’t the case, would I. And I keep doing that, more so because I’m yet to see a coherent rebuttal that also doesn’t boil to ‘let’s agree to disagree plus stop being passionate about the medium you’re interested in’.

        • bill says:

          So, if you know what the gameplay is like, why on earth are you complaining that the review doesn’t spend enough time explaining what the gameplay is like?

          Like you, I’d imagine most people on here have played a few shooters and know what to expect. We don’t really need mr Meer to trot out another description of how it plays (you especially, as you already know it’s bad). We want to know what, if anything, makes the game worth playing.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            Oh my God.

            Nothing makes a game worth playing more than its gameplay. Because that’s what you do in the end. You interact with a system.

            That’s why the description of how it plays should be priority whenever you make any kind of critical appraisal.

            Also going by your logic, there’s no good or bad shooters.

          • Jay says:

            If you’re going to insist on arguing pure mechanics, the ‘game’ part of FPS/TPS is very slight stuff. You could model a functionally identical experience by having the player move around a 3D space, clicking on a series of moving boxes that would sap your health if you didn’t click them in time. Everything else, even the fact you have guns at all, is just window dressing when you get right down to it.

            Theme, setting, visuals, even sound design can be entirely more important than that in shaping a player’s experience. And a good or bad shooter depends on a whole lot more than how easily you can put a cursor on something in the minds of most people.

          • Doesn'tmeananything says:

            If you’re capable of abstract thinking, then use that to analyse this game. You’ll see that the best you’ll be able to say about it is that it’s shallow.

            High level of abstraction only impedes the player’s cognition within the simulated system. It does nothing to impair the actual gameplay. Put some of the best of the genre into abstract environment (which for some reason means VR simulation for people here, so I’ll just roll with it). Say, Doom wouldn’t lose its fantastic level design along with characteristic weapons and monster attack patterns that in turn create unique combat situations. The system would be less intuitive from the start, what with all these textureless boxes everywhere, but that’s it.

            “And a good or bad shooter depends on a whole lot more than how easily you can put a cursor on something in the minds of most people.”

            And it should be, otherwise it’s a shooting gallery. But to place theme, setting, visuals, etc. on the same pedestal as gameplay is an egregious error, since it invariably strips the latter of any complexity, and that’s detrimental to the overall experience because in the end you play the game.

          • malkav11 says:

            All I can say is you and I look for very different things in our gaming. It is important to me that the gameplay not be sufficiently bad that it distract from other aspects of the game, but a game that is pure gameplay without theme, setting, story doesn’t appeal to me at all, no matter how good that gameplay may supposedly be as a pure ideal. And I’m far more likely to play something like Spec Ops: The Line, where the gameplay is competent but largely unimaginative and setting, themes and story are unusual and intriguing than I am to play something like, say, Counterstrike, where the shooting has been honed to a fineness but there’s little narrative content and what there is is purely pro forma cops and robbers stuff. (Terrorists and counter-terrorists, in this case, but it’s the same sort of thing.)

  33. TsunamiWombat says:

    I’m pretty shocked. I was expecting the dude-bro shoot-o-tron 9000. I guess i;’ll have to look into this.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      The parts you get to actually play(its filled with “force you to slow-walk because EXPOSITION SHEEEYEA” and scripted events, riding 100% rails) appear to be just this.

      RPS has complained about every single fault this game has in other games; I have no idea what happened that its being so incredibly omitted here and its worrysome.

      • bill says:


        If I write a review of a bruce lee movie I don’t complain about the minutiae of the plot.
        If I write a review of romeo and juliet and juliet I don’t compare about the poor fight scenes.

        Not everything has to be mentioned in every review. Not every game has to be compared on the same criteria. Not every flaw matters to the same level in every game. Things are not absolute. There is no spoon. Etc..

        • Doesn'tmeananything says:

          Your analogy deals with genre distinctions, not awkwardly conjoined structural components.

  34. callmeclean says:

    Sounds interesting and now I do want to play this. However when I played the demo I gave up pretty quickly because the combat was just so boring, not hard, but boring. Maybe it gets better later on but I don’t really want to take that list. I do want to get this now, but I will wait until it is very cheap.

    • Juiceman says:

      The demo is a terrible litmus test for this game. Practically nothing of what makes it stand out from the rest is included.

      • RegisteredUser says:

        But it does exactly what it should for the OP: It showed him how incredibly terrible the actual game underneath all that blabla is.
        For someone looking for a _game_ as opposed to visual novel gone shooty-shooty-bang-bang(which is what it seems to be for some people – to me it seemed just another “Oh look, stuff to shoot at reasons, plus minus some morality issues”), to be turned off by this one is the right reaction.

        • drewski says:

          I think it’s probably fair to say that if the only thing you want from a videogame is a smooth way to click on things, this isn’t the game for you.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            In a shooter, I want the way I shoot at things to work and feel well.

            I am feeling adequately terrible about this, of course.

            Next thing you know, I might expect a Jump-and-Run-game to have a button for jumping.

          • drewski says:

            “In a shooter, I want the way I shoot at things to work and feel well.”

            Ok. This isn’t for you.

            Your error is assuming that nobody else is allowed to like something that “isn’t for you.”

          • RegisteredUser says:

            “You’r error is” that you misunderstand what issue I have with the article.

            Its not that _some people_ think that despite all the crap wrong with this ported genre this is a game worth playing.

            My issue is that there is in no way shape or form enough written about the issues this game has for those people that do NOT merge the “emotions and moral dilemma” with “a game where its fun to shoot at stuff and run through it”.

            That people like different things is missing the point. I am up in arms here because RPS wants to tell people about a game before they make a 40-50 EUR or GBP decision and omit various crucial factors that, again, for SOME PEOPLE, matter quite a whole damn lot.

            I have been rampaging through this comment section because people like this exist, they have been neglected here, and the way this game is made/ported/sold is NOT accurately presented for them and their standpoint at all.

            In very simple terms: if something plays shit, and I am made to buy it unwittingly, because under all the layers of shit there is what some people view as gold, because of their individual viewpoint, that’s quite bad for me, someone expecting to be informed about these OBJECTIVE factors.
            If there is mouse smoothing and encrypted configuration and and and then its there. Its not a debate.
            They are objective, existing shit issues that some people wish would go away and rather not have in their games.
            If you’re reviewing a game where this type of thing is relevant: please mention it.

            If you don’t, you get people like me going mew mew mew about it.
            I don’t think the way they are treating the PC platform here warrants giving them 50 bucks, and I have my reasons for it. Others may differ. But I think people should know about both sides/extremes(terrible port, “classic” snorebore console TPS, but phowar epic moral dilemma or somesuch).

        • Juiceman says:

          The shooting mechanics aren’t terrible at all. They work perfectly fine. If you’re expecting them to reinvent the wheel of 3rd person shooting, then you’ll be disappointed. But then again, look who I’m talking to. The audience who expects every game to blow their minds in every aspect otherwise they boycott it.

          • Vorphalack says:

            This game has objectively made several mistakes that both console ports and TPS games have been dragging around as excess baggage for a few years now, and are known as detrimental to PC users. Things like locking multiple functionality to a single hot key so we get conflicting actions, forcing mouse acceleration on, using a narrow FoV……..all lazy porting, and not something we should have to tolerate.

          • RegisteredUser says:

            Thank you Vorphalack.

  35. drewski says:

    This definitely interests me.

  36. Oozo says:

    A good oppurtunity to point to Quinn’s essay on the surreal non-nature of Dubai. (If only to remind him that he promised us more travel writing more than a year ago…)
    link to videosgames.wordpress.com

    • RagingLion says:

      I re-read that over the past week for unrelated reasons and it still remains strikingly good. This review again reminded me of that excellent piece.

  37. BrendanJB says:

    After TB’s ‘WTF is…’ of this, and now this article, I think I have to at least give this a shot. Have to say I am very surprised at the games reception. I’m willing to put up with some janky gameplay if the story and atmosphere is that interesting. Definitely not going to pay AU$70 for it, but I will keep my eye on it and grab it at a more reasonable price later on.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Totalbiscuits example of the game’s strongest point?
      “Got to find peace whereever you go man, its what we’re fighting(aka killing people) for!”
      Not classic pro-army silly argument enough for you?
      The very next thing that happens is popping out of cover to headshot two guys, because PEACEPEACEPEACEPEWPEWPEWPEWpe..oh, that’s right man, serenity, moral being torn stuff, n, like, stuff.
      *game throws more people to shoot dead at you*

      Dunno man. I made my decision to enjoy shooting at virtual stuff before stepping into a shooter; for me to be “impressed” by devs trying to go “ohnoes, shooting people” at the same time they are trying to earn millions from a game where the only interaction you have is the actual shooting dead of people just makes me roll my eyes, not go “Oh man, highpoint of moral dilemma”.

      For that one should stick to excellent movies and books if you want the genuine stuff, as referenced in the above review, if you ask me.

      • Brise Bonbons says:

        I think it highlights the fact that games have spent dozens (if not hundreds) of years trying to model combat and violence, but have not done much at all to try to create abstract systems that represent emotions, desires, hatred… I don’t see why a generic RPG system is any better suited to representing historical fencing and battles of wizardly wit than characters burdened with passion, sadness, desire, fear, etc.

        There is perhaps an inherent problem with trying to tackle the horrors of war from the structure of a shooter, though it sounds like SO:TL has done an admirable job of trying. I think relying on this sort of trick – offer wish fulfillment then subvert it and play gotcha with the consumer of the media – is highly problematic. Too many players/readers/viewers will simply eat up the wish fulfillment stuff and ignore the message as intellectual nonsense, while more “sophisticated” consumers will find the work intellectually shallow because there is only one didactic meaning to be discovered, rather than a rich world of ambiguous possibility to be explored.

  38. RegisteredUser says:

    Quite frankly I am appalled that anyone who enjoys playing shooters with a mouse&kb is recommending this pile of crap and it worries me deeply that it isn’t referenced here in huge bold letters as well.

    Steam forum posts as well as various wikis, forums complain about the crap port that this is as well and here I am, staring at 3 pages of ZOMG MUST BUY EPIC GAEM nonsense for no good reason and my head wants to explode.

    This game has nothing unique going for it in terms of the actual play.

    What you need to take from this review is “As a combat game, Spec Ops is less successful” and plaster it across the whole damn article.
    That’s what should be hit on repeatedly here.
    Not “Oh what an interesting study into how bad things can happen that surely any shooter fan can be made to forget about wanting to play an actually decent shooter for, having just shelled out 40+ bucks.”


    • Demiath says:

      I’m playing this game on my high-end PC with an Xbox 360 gamepad in order to get the kind of third-person shooter controls I enjoy the most. I also do it so that I may annoy you personally, and I see that worked out just fine…

      • RegisteredUser says:

        Of course. Going by you’re “Nothing wrong here” tone of the statement(since gamepad is fine for YOU, why bother with the native stuff an actual PC uses, amirite), you’re just another brick in the wall of people enabling bad ports, taking away control from the user(configuration? we don’t need no stinkin’ configuration) and turning the PC into a bad copy of a console.
        That you’re in some sick way proud of this is sad, worrying.

        I for one am emotionally moved when a negative development something I hold dear occurs, you seem to just be happy about other people feeling miserable.
        Well done sir.

        • drewski says:

          I love the fact that you take anyone who didn’t find the fact this game has mouse acceleration as an abominable reason to invalidate it as a piece of media as some sort of personal affront.

          Yes, some people don’t care about mouse acceleration.

          THE HORROR

          (ooh, reference)

          • RegisteredUser says:

            2 guns, quickswitch, regenerating health, encrypted inis, checkpointing, “don’t turn machine off during saving”, “HAI IM RELOADING U GUYS” every damn time, etc..

          • malkav11 says:

            Most of that stuff has nothing to do with the quality of the port. Unless you expected them to write a completely different game for PC than for console, which is wholly unrealistic.

          • Vorphalack says:

            ”Wholly unrealistic” is a gross exaduration (spell checker is telling me exaduration is wrong but wont give me a convincing alternative) when we have companies who are willing to go the extra mile for PC ports. Thanks to Microsofts exclusivity deal fetish, studios even get around an extra month before the code can be released to the PC. Time that could well be spent adding in PC specific features, like mouse acceleration off by default, FoV slider, etc. When this stuff is simply missing, don’t make excuses for it. Our expectations should not be that low.

          • malkav11 says:

            Graphics options, rebindable keys, support for the native control scheme, and so on are reasonable things to expect of a PC port. Gameplay alterations are not. Things like two weapon limits, regenerating health, and automatic combat barks are all facets of how the game plays. They may be things that were introduced in console-specific games, but they are not of themselves a sign of a “bad port”.

            (It’s exaggeration, btw.)

        • zerosociety says:

          To be fair, and I’m saying this as someone who rarely likes gamepads:

          It’s 2012, gamepads ARE “the native stuff an actual PC uses”. You may not like it, hell, I don’t like it but it’s how it is.

          (And for the record I HATE buying a PC game and finding out it’s optimized for gamepads. If I wanted to use a gamepad, I’d be playing an X-Box.)

    • bill says:

      It’s a shooter. How it plays isn’t really very interesting.

  39. Zarunil says:

    Well… this was unexpected to say the least. I’ll be sure to pick this up, eventually.

  40. RPSRSVP says:

    Ok…my comments are on page 2, I still stand firmly that this is bad game based on my time with the demo…

    However, this is RPS and there is too many people telling me I’m wrong, therefore I will look for a good deal and buy it. Will report back here when/if I reach the point of changing my mind.

    • bill says:

      That would actually be very cool. Just because you never see it on the internet. Everyone is sure of their position and defends it to the death.

      there is of course no guarantee you’ll like it, as it’s all a matter of taste. But it’d be interesting to hear the views of someone who initially felt the game was so bad.

    • wodin says:

      I thought the same, however the whole game and it’s story makes a world of difference, I wouldn’t judge it by the demo.

  41. Kynrael says:

    Intriguing… I might actually play that !

  42. Mungrul says:

    I just finished it having bought it last night, but don’t take that as necessarily being a bad thing. It was the most thought provoking story I’ve experienced in a game in a long time.
    I’m not sure I’ll play it again in a hurry, if ever, but it’s an experience I don’t regret in the slightest.
    The possibilities of different endings based on different actions taken during the course of the game are intriguing, but not enough for me to leap right back in. I would have to definitely be in the right frame of mind to play this again.

    Don’t play it expecting stellar shooting. Play it for the story and the choices you’ll make playing it.
    Those saying it’s not a game because the shooting is bad?
    Well first off, it’s not THAT bad, but secondly, those choices are as much gameplay as the shooting. Your choices affect your experience. You make those choices, and they’re hard choices in more ways than one.
    Firstly, they’re uncomfortable choices, making you question what you would do in such a situation, but secondly, once you’ve made those choices, there is no way to go back on them. In that respect, there’s a little of the Witcher (the first game) here. And that is in no way a bad thing.

    It feels uncomfortable saying this, in much the same way as it relates to The Deer Hunter, but I’m happy I’ve played Spec Ops: The Line.

    Although they really should have just dropped the “Spec Ops” part of the title.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      As one of the folks who might be addressed in that section: I’ll adjust to not calling THE game bad(although to me, as I perceive the game, it is a terrible game), as apparently some people manage to derive some kind of awesome kick from the whole ooh ambiguity and choices stuff, but as a SHOOTER game within the SHOOTER genre its miserably done, terrible to control, brings 0 innovation, but lots of tedium for anyone actually wanting to play a shooter to enjoy the shooting.
      Since that IS a valid target audience, and this IS a title openly advertising to them, too, it should be pointed out how this game performs under that very aspect, too.
      Which is poorly / annoyingly(and in my eyes under the aspect of console port / disrespecting PC users as well).

      • Mungrul says:

        I think “Poor” is a gross exaggeration. “Average” is far more accurate. If it were poor, it would imply that the shooting actually got in the way, and this simply isn’t the case.

  43. fenrif says:

    The only thing more dissapointing than this game is the reviewers all fawning over it.

    It’s a medicore 3rd person cover based shooter with superficial choices that impact the narrative not at all. The unique setting is squandered entirely by being reduced to “shoot glass to make sand fall on turret.”

    The game accomplishes it’s goal of describing the horrors of war by having charred corpses buried in the sand while sending wave after wave of bad guys at you. All it’s moral ambiguity is accomplished by either lying to the player or wresting agency away in favour of narrow corridor plot progression, which mirrors the gameplays narrow corridor action progression.

    The only way this game doesn’t glorify war is by being a bad game. There’s a sequence quite late in the game (minor spoilers i guess) where you are prompted to execute an enemy, and your squadmates react with barely concealed horror at the violence you’ve wrougt. It’s supposed to show how your character is breaking down from the stress and tension, and begnining to lose his grasp on his humanity.

    And it’s rendered entirely laughable because the game tells you to execute enemies in the tutorial section so they don’t get back up after a melee attack. You’ve been doing this the whole game, the exact same animation, the exact same violence. But now because the plot says so it’s a horrible thing that worries your squadmates. Previously it was just a game mechanic.

    Also there’s a sequence where an enemy literally teleports around a room.

    It probobly would’ve made a good movie, and it’s pretty obvious the writers and developer agree with me, but as a game this is a terrible use of the medium.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I would like to thank you for this post, because its relevant and true.

    • De_willy says:

      Thanks mate. You just saved me 50€.

    • caerr says:

      You forgot to mention the fact that the guy the PC executed was someone he (and his team) knew, a friend as they recognized each other. This was what made it special, not the fact that the PC executed yet another random US soldier. This time it was someone they knew, and it didn’t matter because they had already gone well past the point of no return.

      As for the teleporting enemy bit, not only does the enemy teleport, so do the numerous mannequins in the room. This coupled with obscene light effects should make a strong hint at the questionable sanity level of Mr. Walker, which become quite apparent later on.

      As far as FPS games go, I usually find their plots completely forgettable. From a title as trashy as Spec Ops: The Line I was surprised to find myself thinking about the what happened in the game the next day after finishing it. It probably helped that I went in expecting yet another mindless manshooter with refurbished soviet nukes, and suddenly got thrown into psychological horror territory.

      I would go for my manshooty fun for elsewhere, but holy crap was I pleasantly surprised with this game.

    • drewski says:

      There’s nothing wrong with a game lying to the player per se. Depends why it does it and how it does it.

      I like that you’ve actually criticised it for more than existing on consoles and having somewhat ropey controls, though!

  44. Revisor says:

    It’s interesting to watch the crusade of two RegisteredUsers in the comments against the game. Usually when I don’t like a game, I’ll write one concise warning post, not argue with each and every comment and offend their authors.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I used to live the good life, like you.

      Then the darkness came.

      Day after day, slowly, the fact that bad things happen to good platforms ate away at me.
      I tried to escape it, took any and all medication I could find, but it was never enough.
      Wherever I went, there it was. Staring me in the face, accusing me.
      How could you let this happen to me, RU?
      How could you just let them utterly and completely rape me into second class platform oblivion?
      “Forgive me”, I cried, “please”.
      The piercing eyes, the staring look. No more came from it, but those eyes…they followed me. Even into my dreams.

      I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

      I had to post more.

  45. Kirjava says:

    I was wondering about that too Revisor- RegisteredUser (I hadn’t noticed that there were two) seems bafflingly desperate to inflict his/her utter loathing for this game on everyone. I will say “thank you for your passion”, but I am interested enough in the premise to give the game a rent, so perhaps your time would be better spent talking about things you enjoy.

    • Jay says:

      Same as that, really. At first it was “okay, it didn’t really do it for him”, followed by mounting horror as the same names popped up when anyone said anything even vaguely positive, immediately shooting them down.

      It’s fair enough making multiple replies when you’ve got another aspect to your argument, but when you’re essentially repeating yourself with near-endless variations on “why can’t everyone else see how wrong they are?”, people are just going to think you’re blowing things entirely out of proportion.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      The repetition and intensity comes from the repetition and intensity with which these things are done to us/me in turn.

      If there only were one game that ever came out shoddy and annoying, possibly ruining a decent potential along with it, that’s one thing.

      If its a “thing”, you at some point start to realize that this is not just going to stop on its own.

      More people not caring and/or buying&supporting = less chance of things getting better.

      A bit similiar to the “always-on is not a problem if I just want to play the gammmmmmmmme bad enough” dilemma.

      I readily admit that I have since my youth had an issue with things being – in my perception – “wrong” in the world.

      I’ve participated in and in one case led a public demonstration in turn because of this, and on-and-off gotten commentary in the vein of “you should go into politics”.

      The horror. Oh, the horror(of the thought of becoming part of politics).

      (In short: You’re right folks, its a problem I have, but at least the flare up isn’t “every single post on RPS” and I do realize I am about as irrelevant as a sandcorn trying to topple Dubai on my own with this.)

  46. wodin says:

    This to me shows again how a well made linear game is so much better than am open world one.

  47. wodin says:

    Just finished it, wow tried out two different endings. I have to say that turned into a emotional ride. Something that has never happened to me in any shooter before.

    As others have said you have to get to the end, the story drags you through the horror.

    frenrif obviously hasn’t played the whole game, in small segments yes it’s a normal shooter, however as awhole it’s excellent. If fenrif has finished it I wonder why the bothered when he didn’t even like it..that would be odd.

    It does things no other shooter has made you do before as far as I know. Really was a real good ride. I like the bit Konrad says “all this violence what do you think it is a computer game, yes thats it i’s a computer game…”

    My only compliant was the cover system. Also the heavies where a touch annoying, yes the basic mechanics is another third person shooter but it’s the story that makes a massive difference. If someone can’t see that then I feel sorry for them.

    • Brise Bonbons says:

      He actually compares the violence to a computer game? Let’s just say that sounds a little sophomoric from the writing guys…

      I’m tempted to play the game, but gems like that aren’t doing much to convince me of its sophistication.

      Not to attack you for finding it evocative or emotionally resonant. If it affected you then it’s clearly doing something right, but out of context it sounds like it’s trying way too hard…

  48. RPSRSVP says:

    On earlier pages, I was adamant when I claimed the game was bad after playing the demo. I was curious about Alec’s review though. I caved in, bough it on Amazon and just finished it.Here is wot I think now.

    The game’s fresh take on campaign saves it from being a bad game. I’m actually pleased with it but it could have been so much more. The story and the setting could have been exploited so much better by, say Monolith, Bethesda or Rockstar for a undisputed shooter GOTY. As it is, it barely scratches the surface but it’s still fresh enough and discounted it’s worth the $.

  49. Zeewolf says:

    I just have one comment, really. The heavies. What the flying fuck is the point of having an enemy like that in a game? They only add frustration, frustration and more frustration, and it’s so insanely stupid to empty one clip after another into their exposed faces without them even wincing.

    I mean, seriously devs. Why?