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Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360) Review

/ Jul 9th, 2012 1 Comment

Spec Ops: The Line - Review

Spec Ops: The Line cover art

The Spec Ops series has gone through major changes since the first title released for PC in 1998. The franchise was well-received before venturing into the console universe. The ten-year absence of the franchise had gone largely unnoticed until the release of Spec Ops: The Line.

Spec Ops: The Line is a third-person, cover-based shooter that focuses on the human aspect of war. Aside from the title, the latest installment has no connection to previous games in the Spec Ops franchise. Publisher 2K Games handed over the development to Yager Development after a cancelled attempt to revive the franchise through Rockstar Vancouver.

Story and Setting

The game puts players in control of Captain Martin Walker as he leads two members of his elite Delta Squad in a fictional post-catastrophe Dubai. Their goal is to find Colonel John Conrad, a reference to Heart of Darkness author Joseph Conrad. The game is loosely based on the novel.

Dubai has been ravished by devastating sandstorms and has lost all connection to the outside world. The opulent city once home to the rich was abandoned in secret. Conrad and the 33rd Battalion attempted to help the evacuation efforts but failed. Members of the 33rd and civilian refugees still inhabit the city under martial law.

The unique setting is a major part of what makes Spec Ops appealing. Due to the massive sandstorms, the once-thriving city with towering skyscrapers is somewhat of a desert. Walker and his crew will be playing in the sand but also have to fight through resort hotels and penthouse suites. Sandstorms occur during battles and can be used to push through enemy strongholds. Sand can also be used to bury enemies alive.

Each battle unlocks clues to what really happened in Dubai. Walker is often forced to make difficult decisions that have no right or wrong answer. The game asks uneasy moral questions such as who should die: the water thief or the soldier who disciplined him? As Walker and his crew dive deeper into the city, the situations go from bad to worse and they are forced to face the consequences of their choices. Walker’s will to continue fighting is tested and his mind slowly begins to deteriorate.


Spec Ops from 2k Games

Spec Ops from 2k Games

Nolan North, who is famous for voicing Drake from the Uncharted series, gives voice to Walker. During combat, he mostly barks orders and expletives. However, cutscenes are wonderfully entertaining and engage the player further into the story. Gamers can truly sense the mental breakdown that is taking place within Walker’s head.

His teammates, Adams and Lugo, are mostly undeveloped characters but do begin to have a voice as they try to persuade Walker in different directions. They argue with each other and Walker as negative consequences become apparent. Unfortunately, this takes place too long into the campaign and there is little emotional involvement between the gamer and the supporting characters.

The Radioman is a huge part of the game as he blares through speakers and leads Walker through Dubai in a way similar to how Joker would lead Batman. He blasts Vietnam-era music like “Hush” by Deep Purple when battles take place. Regrettably, this is replaced late in the game by typical shooter background music.


Spec Ops uses the Unreal engine so anyone with experience with Mass Effect or Gears of War will easily be able to pick up and play. It does add a unique one-button run and cover system. Walker is also able to call upon Adams and Lugo for help. Gamers can target specific enemies for the crew to take out or call for them to throw a stun grenade. It works well for long-range targets like snipers but the A.I. teammates tend to take too many risks for close-up enemies, resulting in their frequent deaths.

Walker is not a superhuman solider who can survive bullet after bullet. Defeating waves of enemies can sometimes be a difficult task but the poor enemy A.I. more than makes up for it. Combat is still mostly a repetitive task that adds nothing unique to modern shooters.


Spec Ops: The Line - Review

Spec Ops: The Line – Review

Online multiplayer adds extra playability to the game but it is mostly just there. The typical game modes such as Team Deathmatch and Free-For-All are included. Maps feel too large for this style of game as action is mostly cluttered in specific areas.

Buried mode is the saving grace for multiplayer. The four-on-four game mode tasks each team to destroy enemy headquarters while also protecting their own. It is a fun experience that encourages team communication. Still, gamers trying to get the most out of multiplayer will be sticking with Modern Warfare 3 or Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Most of the replay value for Spec Ops comes from the decision-making moments that alter the campaign.

Final Thoughts

Spec Ops is by no means the best shooter available on consoles but it is a worthwhile play-through for gamers. It is the perfect game to bridge the summer gap between big releases and should be played by any fan of military shooters. The distinct setting and superior storytelling of Spec Ops: The Line make the game a uniquely dark and impressive experience.

Spec Ops: The Line is available now for Xbox 360 (reviewed here), PlayStation 3, and Windows PC.

Overall Ratings – Spec Ops: The Line (Xbox 360)







Replay Value:





Ryan Bloom

Ryan Bloom

Chief Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Ryan Bloom is a writer and avid gamer from Orange County. He received a B.A. in Communications with a minor in American Studies from California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Follow him on Twitter @BloomsTweets.
Ryan Bloom

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