For Yager Development, this is their first crack at the struggling Spec Ops franchise. They're taking the job very seriously. From the 30 minute demo I played, Spec Ops: The Line feels like a much more grounded Michael Bay action flick (is that an oxymoron?). It has the large set pieces and quintessential military cast, but there's something about the game taking place in a sandstorm-destroyed Dubai that makes it feel more substantial, more emotionally resonant.
While walking away from the demo for Spec Ops: The Line I instantly thought, "Hey, this feels like a sand-blasted version of Heart of Darkness." As it turns out, I'm not the first to make that connection — this was kind of a heartbreaking discovery because I thought I was actually on to something original. The game follows a group of Delta squad troops sent into Dubai six months after the city was ravaged by violent sandstorms. Their mission: rescue the "Damned 30," a U.S. military unit sent into the city to evacuate any known survivors. Contact with the Damned 30 has been nonexistent over the past six months, hence the reason why Delta is sent to investigate.
This kicks off an adventure for Delta that they probably won't forget, one filled with violent dust storms, vicious rebels and a city that's literally crumbling around them. Oh, there's also a DJ somewhere in the city narrating the madness from an unknown location like some kind of twisted Mr. Señor Love Daddy from Do The Right Thing. Yea, it's nuts.
And Yager apologizes for none of it. This is their dark, twisted fantasy for a third-person shooter title with light tactical elements. Spec Ops: The Line, from a gameplay standpoint, plays like most third-person shooters found on the market. Gunplay feels reminiscent of Gears of War, forcing the player to utilize cover to protect their ass. As previously mentioned, The Line also allows for some tactical squad commands, however, it's not very intense. All you have to do to order around your two-person squad is hold down the right bumper and point at a target, your teammates will then take care of the rest. In the demo I checked out, that's where squad commands start and end.
Judging from what I played, Spec Ops: The Line has a lot of potential. The gameplay feels like a generic third-person shooter, but at least it's got style and an intense story to tell to make up for it. I can completely get behind a militarized version of Heart of Darkness set in Dubai. If Yager Development can pull that off successfully, Spec Ops: The Line could be a video game experience to remember.
This article originally published as part of our PAX East hub coverage. Head over to the site to read more articles from our weekend in Boston.