Challenges get easier to complete when you play a game so engaging in story and character that it’s impossible to want to put the controller down. I’ve had the pleasure of having this wonderful gaming experience when I played Spec Ops: The Line for July. The final week of the month means it’s time to find out how I did!
Spec Ops is a third-person military shooter where you get to play as Captain Martin Walker on a reconnaissance mission in Dubai. He’s accompanied on this mission by his Delta team Adams and Lugo. When Walker and his crew discover the bodies of dead American soldiers, he changes their mission to a search and rescue for survivors.
When I selected this game as this month’s challenge, I was pretty far into it. It came as no surprise that within two weeks since starting Spec Ops, I completed my first run with the game. I can honestly say Spec Ops left me thinking about a lot of what transpires in the game, how fleshed out Walker, Adams, and Lugo were as characters, and the overall emotional impact I came away with.
Spec Ops isn’t a game you would categorize as “fun” in a more traditional sense of the word. It’s meant to be experienced in ways that question how you perceive and play most military/war video games and the grave emotional toll soldiers go through when they’re put in the type of situations Walker and his team are forced to deal with. No decision is simple and sometimes it’s truly about the ends justifying the means to get the job done.
As I touched upon briefly in my previous challenge announcement post, the game does present the player with choices you have to make as Walker. The choices isn’t quite in the same style as a Bioware game. I’d say it’s similar to a Telltale game, a story that’s linear but you get to dictate the experience of your character. How you end the game depends on a much heavier final choice you have to make once a surprising revelation is revealed. Repeat playthroughs are recommended to see all the possible endings you can get to wrap up Walker’s story. I haven’t had the chance to see the other possible endings for this game yet, but it’s a game I plan on coming back to at a later date for the other endings.
I may do a much more detailed discussion about my impressions and thoughts about Walker and the story at a later date just because there’s too much going on in this game to be able to address it all in this report. What I will say is Spec Ops has been one of the most amazing gaming experiences I’ve had in a while. It’s the type of storytelling that really leaves its mark on you and it makes it difficult to forget. The graphics of a ruined Dubai and a sense of something strange and sinister going on is enough to keep you riveted to the game. The only real downside is dealing with the mediocre gameplay.
I found the controls a little frustrating sometimes, mainly because I’d press certain buttons to make Walker duck or throw a grenade and the game simply wouldn’t register it properly. I’m bad at most shooter games in general, but I’m not THAT bad. Doing something as simple as ducking in and out of cover shouldn’t be a cause for anxiety when Walker is nearly on his death bed from all the heavy fire he’s taking. I did die many times during missions, but it has more to do with the game mechanics than anything else. The only time I was to blame for killing Walker was when I made careless mistakes, or there was a rare case of certain parts of the game being much too difficult to handle. Probably what saved me the most was Adams and Lugo. The AI mechanics in the single player campaign were actually pretty good. Thank goodness for that at least.
The gameplay itself may not be anything to marvel at, a sentiment many past players who have reviewed the game already expressed, but it’s really the story you’re playing for the most. I can see why so many loved the game when they picked it up. It’s just unfortunate that the game under performed in overall sales when it first released back in 2012. Spec Ops doesn’t have a typical story you’d find in most war video games. It’s surprisingly deep and sad at the same time. I highly recommend giving this game a try if you’re into compelling stories in your video games.
This wraps up my progress report. Come back next week when I pick August’s video game challenge!