There is no denying that this year’s E3 expo was filled with amazing shooters. From the graphics heavy 3D enabled shooter like KILLZONE 3 to over-the-top 3rd person shooter like VANQUISH which definitely takes the word S.T.Y.L.E to a completely new level. At every corner a great shooter was at your fingertips, and while many of these shooters possessed their own distinct identity, there was only one that seemed to be creating a universe strongly driven by it’s story narrative and decisions the gamer would ultimately have to make.
During E3 2K Games introduced us to their upcoming shooter Spec Ops: The Line. Having been under the radar since it was first shown last year, 2K Games allowed the media the opportunity of sitting in on the games walkthrough demonstration. The room we were corralled into was perfectly themed to the games feel and presentation while offering the comforts of your own home (hopefully your home is comfortable).
As the demonstration starts you quickly realize you are in the middle of a devastation that has hit Dubai. You are surrounded by an insurmountable amount of desert sand, ruined towers that were once lush skyrises and a bodycount that seems to be on someone’s to do list as dead bodies are hung from light poles for miles.
As the walkthrough moves along you control Captain Martin Walker who is commander of the Delta Force who has been sent in after a vicious sandstorm has completely ripped a hole through Dubai. You and your squad are inside of what seems like a mall. The demonstrator then shoots out what appears to be a small opening and in comes the sand creating a large opening for Captain Walker and his men to get to the surface. As they surface the horror’s of reality start to set in as the three men are in the middle of a once beautiful oasis now morphed into a wasteland with signs of death scattered everywhere. Visually The Line is not setting any new standards, however, the way in which the game utilizes all it’s assets are nothing short of amazing. One of the first things noticed was the games lighting effects. In dark rooms the lighting is expressed by piercing through small openings while keeping the unlit areas very dark and uncomfortable which then changes dynamically when you are outside. The Line is sporting the best cloud filled skies I’ve ever seen in a videogame.
After drooling over the lighting in the game you quickly notice how the sand can become an ally or foe depending on your situation. Just remember that the sand can get you out of some real tricky spots as you play though the game. The game also does a great job of moving from gameplay to cut-scenes seamlessly. Many games today use in game assets for their cut-scenes, however, The Line while doing the same blends the two perfectly with some of the best narrations in gaming. If there one thing about the game that needed more development attention it would be the poor sounding rifles. No, the guns in The Line don’t sound as weak as the guns in METRO 2033, however, for a game where shootouts are common in open desert environments and in hollow hallways you would expect some serious pop coming from your weapon. The game doesn’t release until sometime next year so this is something that can updated. Outside of the guns the ambient sounds of the environment are spot on as they convincingly set the mood.
Nevertheless, with all the games many pluses, the narrative of the game is what stood out the most from the demonstration. As a 3rd person military shooter The Line takes players on a journey of survival where your integrity and human instincts will be tested. Near the end of the demonstration you and your men are held up behind cover unnoticed by the enemy. Soldiers dressed in military gear with their heads and eyes wrapped for protection from the vicious sandstorms are armed and have taken some helpless civilians as hostage. As you and your men stay in cover you all begin to notice how brutally the civilians are being treated and one of your men begs you for the go ahead to engage . The longer you wait to engage the more the situation escalates causing all of us in the audience to get ants in our pants trying to anticipate the next move. During this encounter the narrative along with the music are so powerful it makes you want to do the obvious which is engage the enemy but could that decision to disobey a direct order and engage the enemy play a major part later in the game. The demonstration ends with you left to make that decision.
Spec Ops: The Line is scheduled for release on the Xbox 360 and PS3 sometime in 2011.