A massive sandstorm has decimated Dubai. At least one major troupe of American soldiers has tried to evacuate the locals with no luck. With that in mind, the U.S. military sends three Delta operators to check if there’s anyone left to save. What starts out like a pointless jaunt in the desert becomes far more messed up than anyone could have anticipated. Spec Ops: The Line is a military third person shooter. Unlike Call of Duty, the crux of the experience revolves around its single-player campaign. Yes, it does have multiplayer, but from what I’ve heard, it’s mostly an afterthought. I have no problem with this as long as the campaign provides a worthy experience, which it certainly does. Unlike most military shooters, where the emphasis is on moment-to-moment thrills at all costs, this game has something to say and a story to tell. After the initial churn of the game’s opening chapter, the game grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let me go. I became personally vested in Delta Squad and everything that was going on around them, which is something that I rarely do with this style of game. Not to say that the game doesn’t have any thrills of its own. This sandy apocalypse lends itself towards some interesting setpieces that definitely shake up the action. Nothing here is as bombastic as something you’d find in Uncharted or Call of Duty, but that’s not the point. The plot is all about conveying a specific message, and it’ll really make you take a step back and reflect on things once you’re done.
A lot of love and care has been put into making this a smooth and seamless experience. Most of the enemy encounters are intelligently designed for maximum thrills while weaving into the narrative. I never felt like I was simply jumping from one rollercoaster to the next, which means a lot to me. It helps the game as a whole feel like a much more cohesive experience. However, I really wish the game had some more generous checkpointing. There are some fights that are very tough and drawn out, and a few checkpoints in between would have gone a long way towards easing some unnecessary stress. Spec Ops: The Line is, thankfully, not just another dudebro shooter. To my surprise, there’s a heavy emphasis on a story that’s far more interesting than anything I’ve experienced in a Call of Duty game. Having recently beaten BioShock Infinite, Spec Ops: The Line evoked the same sense of self-reflection and an urge to talk about the game’s events. It’s definitely worth tracking down for a different take on the military shooter genre.