Monday, 16 December 2013

Spec Ops: The Line

In my own way I suspect I may have helped the British war effort more than any soldier.

Judging by my performances in today’s modern war video game shooters I would have killed and maimed Taliban, Americans, British and casual passersby fairly indiscriminately.

Not out of pleasure or psychopathic revenge upon humanity you understand but purely out of my own incompetence and inability to quickly recognise slightly different coloured uniforms.

Perhaps it’s what comes of being raised on a diet of playing Doom and Wolfenstein 3D as a child.

If it moves, it dies and I apparently have neither the patience nor the intelligence to work out who I’m meant to be shooting.  Yet not one person I know who has served in Afghanistan has ever sat me down and thanked me personally for not going to Afghanistan with them.

Not one. 

It seems to me in many ways these people probably owe me their life.

Spec Ops is a 3rd person shooty Afghan war inspired thing set in Dubai.  You command a small squad of soldiers who frequently shout things like “Friendly fire!” and “Stand down!” at you throughout the course of the game.

My main criticism of this game is that the standard white generic meat head I’m forced to control is voiced by the same bloody guy who voices every other main character in this generation of games.  So in this game he’s Captain Whatthefuckever but he’s previously cropped up as the astonishingly dull Desmond from Assassin’s Creed 1, 2, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3, 3.2 and 4, Nathan Drake from Uncharted 1, 2 and 3 and he also sounds identical to the identical looking protagonist in Bioshock Infinite and that guy from The Last of Us.

The game has a vibe to it though.  A thinking man’s Call of Duty if you will, that attempts to in some way examine the psychological effects the horrors of war can have upon soldiers.  And for that it deserves credit.

It also has a style and atmosphere that feels surprisingly distinctive.

From the sweeping sandstorms that dominate its impressive visuals to the exceptional soundtrack that accompanies them.  Usually I have to turn off music on games but I have to confess that slaughtering bad-twats in a Dubai Aquarium to Mogwai was the highlight of my day.

Still, it’s a rough diamond rather than a fully polished carbon beauty. 

Enemies will frequently spawn right on top of you from nowhere and this becomes progressively more frustrating throughout the game as you are continuously returned to the same checkpoint.

The cover system is more Mass Effect 1 than Mass Effect 2 (in that it doesn’t quite work).  Your character will happily stand still under a hail of gunfire while you desperately try to convince him to hide behind something and frequently dying in this manner can make the game feel cheap.

Overall though it’s a damn sight better than most of its competitors. 

At least it tries to engage my emotions and involve me in a narrative that has some depth behind it as opposed to the over enthusiastic Call of Duty jerking me off at full throttle for increasingly unstimulating and unsatisfying hours on end.

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