Archive for Spec Ops

Spec Ops: The Fine Line Between Aspiration and Gameplay

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , on February 16, 2013 by Rabidgames

First of all, a confession: Rabidgames does not like linear shooters. That’s why he does not like Call of Duty or Max Payne 3. To be fair, while Call of Duty is nothing but patriotic bullshit advertising the supremacy of American warfare, Max Payne 3 did at least not fail in this regard. However, the gameplay was stale.

And yes, Spec Ops: The Line does feature the stale gameplay known in military shooters: Corridor, shooting 20 enemies, round places, 20 new enemies, and so forth. Even worse, there are two big flaws in Yager’s shooter: The first one is the unbelievably awful team A.I. – even on normal, your two comrades do not behave like elite soldiers, but rather like insane ADHD crackheads. They simply run ahead whenever they feel like it, they don’t care for any kind of formation, and if they are flanked, they prefer not to get rid of the bigger threats for some weird reason. Second is the flawed tactical aspect: You cannot give your team orders to defend or follow you, oh no, you can only mark individual enemies. Coupled with the A.I., this means you mark an enemy they could easily shoot at from their position … and yet, they try to run across the battlefield, most likely getting killed in the process.

Now those two flaws can be combined with one devious tendency of Spec Ops: The Line; it is tough to unfair at times. Following the “haha, we make you lose all your equipment and comrades again and again” theme of many games, you end up defending yourself alone with crappy weapons and hardly any ammunition against 20 enemies at times. At one point, one of your mates is heavily injured and bound to defend you against attacks from flanking enemies. Yeah … another example of nice idea, flawed execution! If you wait for him to get rid of them, you’re dead already. Needless to say he’s back up to fight some more straight after this battle …

So why all the fuss about a subpar shooter then? Because Spec  Ops: The Line does take the well-known formula of military shooters and develops it into something different during the game: Ladies and gentlemen, witness the world’s first anti-war game! The stale gameplay is part of it, the boring and obvious “brave American soldiers fighting dark-skinned Arabs” story in the first couple of missions as well … the turning point in the game is the infamous “white phosphorous” mortar attack. Think you did something to be proud of, kid? Where Call of Duty makes you bomb little figures from up high, Spec Ops: The Line makes you wade through a sea of dead and burning bodies. It makes you see the consequences of your actions – and this is even more devious because of the same old gameplay mechanics. All of a sudden, the mood changes. And it keeps changing – from a heroic story, it’s a steep ride down hell full of violence, hallucinations and insanity. Spec Ops: The Line also manages to hit home the dark and twisted ending … Rabidgames did not see  THAT coming! Mind you, there are several endings, but thank fuck, there is not one real happy end in there – you can choose between hopeless and bleak.

After the credits, you want to play Spec Ops: The Line a second time to get to witness the downfall knowingly – where went it all wrong, what is real, who is real, who did we fight? But, and here’s the but: Is it worth it? Yes, it makes sense to lull and wrap us into well-known mechanics just to hit us harder, but it could have been done better. Somehow, by following genre conventions too closely, the game loses some of its impact. Why not making us look for one or two enemies who are well hidden? Why not adding more cinematic scenes in the beginning of the game, before the hallucinations set in? There is some wasted potential in the gameplay department, potential which could have enhanced the story side as well …

But make no mistake, Spec Ops: The Line is absolutely brilliant when you take one step back and look at the bigger picture. In fact, it manages to succeed where Far Cry 3 failed: It does not only portrays war as it really is, it also asks us gamers why we play military shooters – do we want so kill enemies, do we want to have fun doing so … and why. Fortunately, this is done subtly and not in a preachy way. There is a slow process of the line to become blurred, of us questioning what is going on, of another virtual adventure turning into a nightmare. And this is an accomplishment Yager can be proud of! We need more games which dare to ask uncomfortable questions – not only about the American dream, about war or about society, but also about the part video games play in our daily lives.

Rabidgames reloads: Spec Ops: The Line works on two different levels: The sublime story and the commendable intention of the game hide behind stale gameplay and worn-out paths. And yet, Spec Ops: The Line is not an enjoyable game – but for the wrong reasons. It is not the harsh and brutal reality of war, it is the boring and repetitive way to face this reality. And still, despite all bland gameplay, it is the narrative that shines through and will be remembered. Kudos to Yager for showcasing war in a video game as a nightmarish descent into hell, not as patriotic acts of honour and duty. Spec Ops: The Line is a step to enlightenment. And who knows, maybe it will be remembered as gaming’s Apocalypse Now.

Zero Punctuation’s Top 5 and Crap 5

Posted in News with tags , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Rabidgames

As usual, Yahtzee spews tons of venom, mixed with some light praises, at the games of the year. Have a look at his list here.

While most choices don’t come as a surprise (Resident Evil 6 and the NRA propaganda tool Warfighter in the shit list, while Far Cry 3, Dishonored and XCOM can be found in Yathzee’s top 5), the no 1 positions are pretty much ironic: An indie game is the worst, while a military shooter is considered the best – yes, we’re still talking about Zero Punctuation! Ok, if you know the indie game is Amy, a bug party where most of the budget probably was spent in search of the perfect female name for the  game, it makes sense. And the mention of Spec Ops: The Line makes even more sense: Yes, it is a military shooter, but instead of being a patriotic one dimensional wank fest, it reveals the dark and ugly realities of war.

Rabidgames scrapes some money together: Alright, some games such as Amy, Warfighter or Resident Evil 6 won’t be played by yours truly, but two games will be bought by Rabidgames in 2013 (if the price is right); the first one is Spec Ops: The Line. The gameplay is stale and nothing special, but if the story is really that good, it’s worth a try. The second game to be played is NeverDead; yes, it seems to be a bad game, but jumping around as a dismembered head MUST be fun – at least if you’re alive. For a tenner.

Spec Ops: The Line Demo or What the Desert?

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , on May 8, 2012 by Rabidgames

Rabidgames has been looking forward to Spec Ops: The Line.
A shooter with a different setting and a mature story, no dumb patriotic war hero bollocks for a change, and tactical shooter gameplay.

Well, that was the plan.
The demo has unveiled a sad truth however: Spec Ops: The Line … what we have is another rather bland third person shooter.

Yes, graphics and sound are decent, yes, the story might be interesting (conspiracy and such) – but the gameplay itself is rather stale: Spec Ops: The Line is basically one more military shooter where you do nothing but runnin’ and gunnin’ through linear levels. The only tactical thing is pressing RB and telling your team who to shoot. Not too impressive.

On the highest possible difficulty in the demo, enemies die almost faster than you can shoot them. Spec Ops: The Line tries to give Rabidgames diversity in shooting things: You shoot from a chopper, you use a sniper rifle, you run and gun … but you’ve seen, done and shot it all before. It’s not that Spec Ops: The Line is particularly bad – it’s a solid demo, and it en par with the likes of Call of Duty (actually, it’s better). It just does nothing to tell you “look, I’m special”. The only special thing is the city of Dubai surrounded by dunes as huge as skyscrapers … whatever has been going on there must have been something weird …

Rabidgames is disillusioned: Spec Ops: The Line had potential. Story-wise, it might still have. But the gameplay is a case of “seen to many times”. It’s just not something special. Worth renting, worth buying for 10 or maybe 15 quid, but sadly, not a day one purchase.