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Review: Spec Ops: The Line

by July 10, 2012

“When war is declared, Truth is the first casualty.”
Arthur Ponsonby

Spec Ops: The Line has you playing as Captain Martin Walker, a Delta Force operator who’s seen his fair share of action. Walker goes into Dubai with two less seasoned Delta Force team members to perform recon on a hero of Walker’s, Colonel John Konrad. Konrad and the rest of the 33rd have been lost and it’s up to you three to find out what happened to them.

The game opens up with you operating as a gunner on a helicopter taking down other copters. You’re flying through Dubai and collateral damage is an afterthought. Just as the action starts to hit it’s stride you’re transported back to the start of the story when Walker and his team members, Lugo and Adams, arrive in the desert.

Gameplay is mostly traditional 3rd person action with your character being able to alternate between two weapons, you have a variety of grenade types, and the ability to acquire weapons from fallen enemies.

The levels are mostly linear paths that have you go down a set of predetermined “action zones” that will have all the components for a good battle, there are various pieces of cover that you can use along with flanking positions that you can take advantage of to weaken groups of enemies. While you’re only in control of Walker you can assign commands to Lugo and Adams during battles to take out certain targets or suppress groups of soldiers allowing you to move into better positions to take them out.

The command system works for the most part, there are instances where they won’t follow orders or even worse leave their position just to saddle up next to you and draw all the fire your way negating the reason you’re commanding them in the first place. Thankfully this doesn’t happen very often but it does happen and it’s a pain when it does.

Combat is a little clunky. There’s no one specific part of it that feels off, it just feels like there was one little bit of polish that never was applied to the entire game. It’s perfectly playable and there’s nothing broken but in everything you do from going in and out of cover to being able to maneuver during battles it feels like it’s not moving as smoothly as it should be.

There is an interesting mechanic to the combat, using the environment to help you. The entire game takes place in a Dubai that’s been ravaged by sandstorms and there are giant piles of sand against buildings and covering walls and ceilings. You have the ability to shoot out walls of glass and have the sand come in, to either cause a distraction or completely bury the enemy and finish the fight for you.

While this is a great addition to the gameplay there are also some parts of the game where you have to use the environment to complete the sequence and that makes it feel forced. Making certain parts of the game require using the environment takes out the organic feel to some of the combat and makes it feel like you’re just playing out scripted battle sequences.

 The story in Spec Ops isn’t a traditional war story in any way, shape or form.

While some of the gameplay doesn’t feel as polished as it should be, the story from Richard Pearsey is near perfection. The writing in Spec Ops is some of the best writing not only in this generation of games but in all of gaming. I know that’s a very weighty comment but I feel that Spec Ops deserves it. The story in Spec Ops isn’t a traditional war story in any way, shape or form.

Spec Ops: The Line is a story about the brutal realization of taking human life and ultimately how we decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die. This isn’t a story that glorifies or demonizes war, this is a story about what war does to people and how it makes them change. It’s simply a masterpiece.

The story isn’t simply “complete part 1 of story, complete part 2 of story, complete part 3 of story”. Spec Ops: The Line has you making choices along the way helping mold who your character is becoming. In one instance you’re told of a person stealing water and a solider who had to go apprehend him but caused the death of some people in doing so. It’s up to you to choose who did the most egregious act. These are the kind of choices you’ll be faced with along the path on your way to find out what happened to Colonel John Konrad and the rest of his men.

The story gets another layer of polish as the voice work is outstanding, headlined by Nolan North of Uncharted fame. North’s performance of Walker is unparalleled and you can hear the weight of Walker’s actions in North’s voice as it changes over the course of the game helping show another dimension of his metamorphosis. This is one of Nolan North’s finest works as a voice actor and shows off a range of vocal muscles he’s not able to flex while giving life to Nathan Drake. The rest of the cast handle their parts well but North’s performance is one of the best we’ve heard this year.

The music is the final layer that helps make the experience one of a kind. Perfectly picked pieces that really make each set piece a distinct adventure. Sometimes it’s used to give weight to a certain portion of the game and other times it’s used to give an almost disorienting spin to the current situation. It always feels right and without it the game takes a tangible loss.

The multiplayer is good but it’s not something that’s a real draw for this game. There’s single and team deathmatch with some objective based gameplay tossed in for good measure but none of it feels particularly compelling enough to spend hours competing in various matches. Just like the overall combat there’s nothing broken but there’s also nothing particularly awe inspiring or addicting in the multiplayer.

You’re able to level up and gain perks but it just doesn’t have the “it” factor that makes multiplayer games take on lives well after their release date. There’s fun to be had, just be aware that without the story driving the action that fun is going to be solely up to you and the online partners who play with you.

Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety

  • Great story keeps you interested
  • Multiple choices keep you on your toes
  • Interesting characters

Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety

  • Focuses a lot on mental instability
  • Some of it is creepy
  • Lots of death and destruction
  • May be difficult for people who suffer from PTSD

Why you should be playing this

Spec Ops: The Line is one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced in a video game. The reason it’s so great isn’t because of the ending but how it made me think and feel on the way there. They say that a trip isn’t about the destination but the journey and the journey Spec Ops takes you on is one of the best you can you go on. I really can’t say enough about this story and how it impacts the entire game. Take notice of Richard Pearsey and Walt Williams, they have amazing talent for writing stories and this is their finest work yet.

I played this while I was anxious and while I was calm. While no part of the game is something I’d call calming, the story and the acting mixed with the gameplay is something that didn’t let me focus on how I was feeling. Instead it made me focus on Walker and the other people involved in the story.

There’s some replayability in seeing how different choices change the story and multiplayer will add some legs to the game for those who can get into it. If you’re looking for a different look at war then this is a must buy.

This review was based on the Xbox 360 version that was provided by the reviewer.

Release Date

Jun 26, 2012

Digital or Retail



XBOX 360, PS3, PC




2K Games

AwardsBest of it's genrePlay it no matter what

Amazing story, fantastic characters, good use of environment


Combat is a little clunky, some AI problems, some parts feel too scripted

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Jason Moquin
Oh this is where I get to say something about myself like I was captain of the debate team or that I was once king of Prussia. Well games, let's throw games in there, and I like sports, and comics, and animated things, mostly Japanese giant robots, oh and pasta, big fan of pasta. You know all shapes taste different? Each one has a distinctive bite and holds the sauce differently. A lot of people are like "PASTA IS PASTA" and I say "STOP YELLING AT ME".

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