Spec Ops: The Line Preview: Ideas Lofty, Walls Chest-High

 

The Spec Ops: The Line demo available at E3 confirmed fears that I first formed after playing it at PAX East. The game takes interesting thematic content and ideas about storytelling and marries them to third-person shooter gameplay that is clunky and forgettable. All those allusions to Joseph Conrad aren’t worth much if your game isn’t fun to play.

Though things at E3 started strong with a creepy dream sequence/hallucination in the “use the joystick to make your character stagger slowly forward” mold, they went to pot soon after. Called upon to rescue one of his pinned-down teammates, protagonist Cpt. Martin Walker stumbled into a crash site full of conveniently placed and proportioned chest-high walls. The 2K reps on hand said they intended the section to be “challenging,” and it was certainly that — a tireless stream of faceless grunts streamed forward, flanking aggressively. But while developers Yager deserve credit for their deadly AI programming, the sequence was so generic that it could have been lifted wholesale from any number of other similar titles.

One could certainly question the dubious decision to market the game by asking players to defend against a tediously difficult assault (while low on ammo, to boot). Better, though, to simply hope that when the game is released on June 26th, the clever, original parts outshine the dull, derivative ones.

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