Title: Spec Ops: The Line
Publisher: 2K Games
I certainly wouldn’t have picked up Spec Ops if I wasn’t aware of it’s concept. But it was billed as Heart of Darkness set in Dubai. Ok, I can get into that. And it’s reference to the source material aren’t subtle, but they’re appropriate. You’re on the hunt for a man named Konrad, pronounced the same as Joseph Conrad. And as you push deeper into Dubai, things unravel further and further.
The setting is cool. But ironically, you rarely feel that you’re marching through Dubai except when you’re out in the open sands. The buildings, what you assume would make for the most interesting environments, are usually the most forgettable. The indoor settings are extravagant but seem to also conjure up colors from the 60s-70s, just in case you were to miss the Heart of Darkness references, they can hit you with Apocalypse Now. And maybe that’s the biggest complaint you can make against the game: that with the occasional fourth-wall breaking, and the Vietnam War style radio stations, all in an effort to show callousness, they sometimes push so hard that it pulls you out of the game.
But this is a small complaint to make. Many things about it are spot-on. The voice acting is solid, from the Dennis Hopper radio DJ (an Apocalypse Now reference that hits the mark), the main characters, and especially Konrad. Konrad’s look and sound is about as perfect as you can hope for. The charters repeat phrases in fire fights, but it doesn’t detract as they usually reaffirm the players mental state.
As a game it plays acceptably. A little too much stop-and-pop, and lacking some polish (trying to run from a grenade is way more difficult than it should be), but as you continue to play things meld together and on a second play through you’ll find yourself covering huge parts of the game rapidly.
And that’s really the thing about it. The initial experience is a solid three stars. But it demands a another play-through. The second time is better than the first. The pace of the story makes it difficult to appreciate everything the first time. On the second you find things more enjoyable, it moves briskly, and all the implications bear themselves out. Foreboding hangs over everything, and you realize it from the very beginning. One scene in particular is amazing, and having missed it the first time, that alone validated the return. The second play-through is enough to make the game worth another star.
Review: 4 stars
Memory: Difficult because most memories are spoilers. A safe one- Viciously beating someone to death with a rifle butt when they startle you.