Even though it’s due out at the end of the month, I still had to check out 2K’s Spec Ops: The Line, as I was quite curious about it back when Greg Kasavin was producer on it. That was WAY back though, before Bastion came out and thoroughly impressed 99% of people, so his influence on it may be muted at this point. What I played was…kind of underwhelming. I mean, the setting is still pretty fresh, taking place in Dubai after some manner of horrific disaster where the desert basically swallowed the city, but the gameplay boils down to pretty standard third-person shooter fare that reminded me of Uncharted more than a little bit (partially due to the protagonist being voiced by Nathan Drake himself, Nolan North).

Even that COULD be fun, a hard M-rated shooter with an inventive setting that plays like Uncharted sounds great, but it just didn’t quite click during my time with the demo. It was also a pretty tough demo, I started on Normal with snap-to targeting turned off and immediately regretted it, as I died two or three times in the first enemy encounter. When on easy mode, the game was more manageable, but it just felt like it had a “beat’em up” mentality of “clear this area of enemies”, now run through this hole in a yacht covered in sand (which, again, LOOKS pretty cool) and do that again. Just clearing areas and moving on, without any kind of sense as to why or where these enemies were coming from or why they’d be shooting at you. I guess one can chalk that distancing up to lack of context, and divorced from its larger narrative, maybe it just can’t stand up. I’m pretty sure the chapter I played, Adams, was number 13, so maybe by the time you organically reach these fights it’s pretty impactful. Who knows? But if the whole game is like this chapter, it will likely get pretty tiresome.

Story-wise, what I gathered is you are a character who is tormented by the deaths of many of your comrades in arms and haunted by the thought you have become something of a monster on account of all the people you’ve been tasked with killing. The guys you are fighting in this level are fellow American soldiers (well, I’m Canadian but…fellow relative to the protagonist), so there is some questioning as to why you are fighting them and whether or not you are in the right. This game, much like Far Cry 3, seems to also be interested in questioning sanity, moral codes and the awful things people can justify. I again must assume this is somehow traceable directly to Apocalypse Now and hey, that’s a fine film (I’m aware Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is the true origin point, but I feel Coppola added enough of his own flavor to the film that it stands on its own, and it is some of the particularities found only within his take on the tale that I find analogous to these games).

This notion of an action game that has a more responsible attitude towards its violent content (and the game IS rather violent, I decapitated several men over the course of it with desert eagle and sniper rounds), is kind of interesting. It has the potential to be profoundly hypocritical, or perhaps merely uninteresting, but the effort could also be called “brave” if done right. I guess we’ll see if they succeeded soon enough, the game is due out June 26th.