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Spec Ops: The Line

Release Date: 
Game Platform: 
PS3 / Xbox 360 / PC
Yager/2K Games
Star Rating: 
8 out of 10

To Insanity and Beyond!

The Pitch: Set in Dubai after a series of devastating sandstorms, a three-man Delta force, led by protagonist Captain Martin Walker, is sent into the remains to save a trapped veteran of Afghanistan. What ensues is a morbid mix of gunplay, plot twists and a Psych 101 lecture on cognitive dissonance.

What It Really Is: We’ll give Yager credit, Spec Ops: The Line is ambitious. As opposed to the typical games about modern warfare, this third-person shooter approaches its story of blurry morals and collateral damage by deliberately pushing gamers to their comfort limit and then nudging them just a bit further. The Line may take place in an alternate near-future but it focuses more on the traumatic aspects of war than most publishers have ever risked in a video game. Unfortunately, despite a complex narrative, an excellent soundtrack and moments that trigger genuinely emotional responses, The Line falls short in a few key gameplay elements. For instance, cover is essential but Walker often hugs walls too hard, resulting in unnecessary deaths and frustratingly long loading screens. Your two AI teammates can be exceptionally effective when you issue commands but, left to their own devices, they forsake cover and become cannon fodder, waiting for you to wander into the line of fire to save them. Spec Ops aims high on many fronts and scores a bullseye on most but, like us before our daily Xanax, it can feel imbalanced at times. Ready-Made Press Blurb:Spec Ops: The Line is the playable snuff film we’ve dreamed of since kindergarten!”

Fun Fact: Several references to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, aka the inspiration for Apocalypse Now, aka the best thing you should have read in High School, pepper the game’s plot. There’s no achievement for spotting them all...but there should be.

Who’s It For: If Gears of War 3 made you cry but still left you feeling too righteous with its definitely defined sides of good and evil, Spec Ops: The Line will deliver the uncomfortable-in-your-own-skin feeling you longed for. And it’ll probably leave you hugging your knees and rocking in the corner for good measure.