Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spec Ops: The Line interview

Military shooters are a tough business. Not because they're hard to make or incredibly rare to find - it's quite the opposite. The conflict at hand is that there are so many it's difficult to become seminal in a largely derivative format. Spec Ops: The Line hopes to destroy that trend being a third-person military shooter with an emphasis on, wait for it... the narrative. Crazy as that might sound, Spec Ops is coming together beautifully and you'd do well to spend some time with it.

Spec Ops: The Line interview


As I stated, the military shooter pool out there has far too many participants doing the exact same thing. Normally I'd do the irrational thing and dismiss a title with a name like Spec Ops: The Line, but I'm happy I didn't make that decision. Spec Ops is a game with a dark story that has a central focus on a squad of characters who've been sent to the ruins of Dubai. Once a beautiful location, it's been ravaged by cataclysmic sandstorms and is now considered no man's land. Stationed in Dubai to assist with the evacuation before the sandstorms hit, an enigmatic figure known as John Conrad has vanished and it's your job to discover what actually happened.

It's important to note that Spec Ops knows the kind of situation its throwing itself into and lead designer, Cory Davis from Yager Development had this to say:

"Those games that are out there in our genre are great games, they do what they do extremely well but they're a lot different than what we are."

Different seems to be the key word to describe this game, but it's not so different as to scare away normal fans of the genre. Spec Ops plays like a conventional third-person shooter with cover, blind-fire and team banter making requisite appearances. The game feels very responsive as you'd expect, but once again, the big difference is the strong emphasis on the personalities of the protagonist, Martin Walker and his squad-mates. The closest game I can think of where you're more intimate with your squad-mates is Gears of War, but that's severely stretching it. You simply don't get that kind of emotion in this type of game, but Spec Ops promises it won't disappoint.

I could be wrong guys, but... that ship is supposed to be in the water, right?

Being a squad-based affair, you'd think co-operative play would be thrown into the mix. While co-op is definitely in, it's coming in a different way (there's that word again). Available for free to anybody that purchases the game, a separate co-operative campaign will be attainable shortly after launch. While it doesn't deal with the characters you'll be playing in the main narrative, the co-op acts as a pseudo prequel that definitely attaches itself to the story.

To further augment the emotion and intensity of the situations you're presented with, Spec Ops will also contain decisions that have a dramatic impact on the story. Speaking about why the co-op mode wasn't thrust into the main game, Cory Davis explains that these decisions would have probably made less of an impact if they went through with it:

"We don't want you tea-bagging your friend while you're making a decision as to whether or not an important character lives or dies."

It's an understandable move and one I can definitely respect. If you don't agree, just think about games such as Halo 3 and Gears of War 3. When you put two or more people together when a scene of significance arises, you just don't get that same emotion as you would if you were playing alone. Some games do this well, but it's something you definitely don't see work often.

You said blind-firing was for pansies, man!

Spec Ops will ship with a multiplayer component, but it will focus on squad-based gameplay and a more intimate experience with your companions. Expect a strong progression system along with a plethora of maps when it ships.

Yager has done a commendable job so far and I'm looking forward to experiencing a game with a strong story that isn't an RPG. Mass Effect 3 was the last action-RPG I played with an incredible narrative and I hope to add Spec Ops to that extremely short list. With co-op slated to come soon after and a multiplayer component to help hold down the game's value, there's little reason why anyone shouldn't bother checking it out. The game ships June 26th for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

If anything, you can at least marvel at the game's impressive sand physics because, you know, they're totally worth that retail price.

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