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Review: 'Spec-Ops: The Line'

"Spec-Ops: The Line" was released in North America for the Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms on June 26, 2012. Credit: 2K Games

If you’re looking for another military shooter to hold you over, you might be in for a bit of a surprise. On the surface, "Spec Ops" seems like just another action-packed terrorist hunt in the desert, but there’s more to see and play here than you might expect.

In "Spec Ops: The Line", players take on the role of Captain Martin Walker, the leader of an elite delta squad sent into Dubai to investigate the disappearance of a missing battalion of rogue American soldiers. Inspired by Joseph Conrad's novella "Heart of Darkness", the story quickly gets out of hand, and Walker and his team are forced to fight their way out of Dubai by any means necessary.

But this isn’t your typical military shooter. What makes "Spec Ops" different from most third person shooters is the way it focuses on the consequences of your actions. You aren’t simply fighting faceless insurgents in "Spec Ops" – for most of the campaign, you’re tasked with taking down fellow American soldiers. "Spec Ops" constantly forces the player to think about the consequences of their actions, such as choosing whether to put down a suffering ally or watch him slowly die. Every decision is impactful, and none of the choices is easy. The game’s narrative succeeds in making you feel less like an action hero and more like someone having to choose between the lesser of two evils in order to reach your goal.

The game also uses its desert environment for intense set piece moments like blinding sandstorms capable of destroying the dilapidated city. Sand is also used for the occasional environmental kill, like shooting out a giant window to bury several enemy troops. Thrown grenades also cause sand clouds to stun your enemies, allowing for some easy kills. It’s an interesting way to make the dramatic backdrops more than just pretty scenery to look at while you play.

The single player campaign is short –- about 4 and half hours on normal difficulty -- and doesn’t offer much replay value after completion. The twist ending at the end is entertaining, but isn’t anything that hasn’t been seen in other games. Despite its brevity, I walked away from Spec Ops feeling impressed that developer Yager Development had the guts to tell a story that will make you think about how most shooters emphasize mindless killing with zero consequences.

The multiplayer aspect of "Spec Ops" is successful in emulating other titles that feature cover-based shooting and the ability to level up your soldier with new weapons, perks and armor. The handful of matches I played were fun enough, but matchmaking is slow and I didn’t see enough map variety to keep me coming back for more than a few hours.

Bottom line: With it's brief but thrilling single-player campaign and adequate multiplayer offerings, "Spec Ops: The Line" is a great weekend rental that’s sure to make you think twice about pulling the trigger the next time you’re facing down an army of enemy soldiers.

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