The demo for Spec Ops: The Line is available now on PSN and XBLM (for Gold members, regular LIVE members will get May 15th), and I’ve played through it and now I’m ready to give my impressions on the demo and what we can expect from the game.
First off, I was surprised at the length of the demo; it’s easily 30 minutes, more or less depending on how you play. It starts with a message letting you know that the demo showcases events not in order; this is very much a cut up version and you really have little context. That’s okay, as the demo does its job of giving you a sample of the story and the gameplay.
I’ve been interested in this game since the first time I saw it because of its huge reliance on sand and the fact that its a different setting than we usually get in shooters (a ruined Dubai with sandstorms). I don’t know how much different the final game will look compared to the demo, though I can’t imagine it’d much if any, but the game definitely won’t be winning any awards for graphics. It’s not that its bad looking, but its just not blowing you away, and of course a lot of that is by design due to the sand and its presence everywhere.
The demo starts with you controlling a gun mounted to a helicopter and your objective is to shoot down the helicopters chasing and shooting at you. This is pretty standard stuff; it’s typical on-rails shooting from a mounted vehicle. It’s here though that you get a good scope of just how worn down the fabulous city of Dubai is and just how sandy the game will be. This segment works pretty well and ends on a great cliffhanger before tossing you back to “earlier.”
The rest of the demo is on foot with your two squad mates moving around, taking cover, and shooting. It’s not breaking new ground with its gameplay mechanics; it’s a pretty standard cover-based third person shooter with some squad commands. But is that a bad thing? No, of course not because these games tend to be fun so long as the controls are good and there’s a good sense of balance. It’s a tried and true formula, and there’s not too many different ways the boat can be rocked.
There are parts of the gameplay that I really love, and parts that I’m not a fan of. Thankfully, the good more than outweighs the bad here, and so on that note I’ll start with what I don’t like regarding the gameplay.
The demo has a habit of slowing you down and making you walk, which would be fine if my squad mates weren’t running ahead. This is an apparent attempt to be cinematic, but I really didn’t see the need for it most of the time it did it. If you want me to see something, at least cut the camera towards of it. Otherwise I don’t see the point and all it did was slow the pace down.
The other thing I’m not a fan of is the drop method. I come to an edge and its an invisible barrier. How come I can’t fall to my death? That’s not the issue though. The issue is you have to press X (PS3 version) to “drop” down to continue moving. Really? If its where you’re suppose to go, and it’s not very far of a drop, why can’t the guy just drop and keep on moving? Some might say its because you can’t go back up to get to where you were, but then why would you need to do that? You don’t need to backtrack in this… Keep going.
Those are my negatives, and as you can see they’re pretty small, but that’s all there was (well the camera did get a little funky at times when sprinting, but that wasn’t major either). Moving on to the important things that I have come out of the demo really liking about Spec Ops: The Line.
Some games you play and the shooting mechanics are just sloppy and makes it the whole game unenjoyable. Bodycount comes to mind here (although that was first person). This game though, I absolutely love the shooting. Enemies aren’t sponges and neither are you, although yes you can certainly take more bullets than they can and you do have automatically regenerating health. One well place shot, with any gun in the demo, and the enemies are dropping. Most times you can take guys down with two shots. The shooting is easy, yet not auto, and it feels satisfying.
There are a lot of moments in the demo where you get into some rather large shoot outs, and its in these moments where you’ll really notice just how good and smooth the shooting mechanics really are, as well as the cover mechanics. In a lot of cover based shooters, shooting from cover can be kinda clunky (which is absurd when you think about), but not here. Not only is shooting from behind cover easy, but there was also no instance of getting stuck in cover or accident going into or out of cover. Basically, this is a very fluid cover based shooter with excellent shooting. It also helps that you’re able to vault over cover with a simple (and separate than the cover) button press.
I said it wasn’t best looking game, based on the demo of course, but it’s still pretty good looking. It shines on the sand front and the lightening, and it definitely has its fair share of “oh wow, that’s pretty cool” moments… Such as when you think you’re on desert ground and yet you’re really standing on sand covered glass.
Spec Ops: The Line will release on June 26th, so that a demo came out for it well over a month in advance is quite surprising but ultimately I think it’ll prove to be a smart move. The gameplay videos and trailers can only give you so much of a feel and taste for what a game is and will be like, but you never truly know until you’re able to try it for yourself. There’s enough fun in this demo to warrant plaything through several times, so if you’ve been on the fence about Spec Ops: The Line, then do yourself a favor and download this demo.
I’ve come away very impressed with it and very much looking forward to the games release; it’s definitely something I’ll be picking up so I think its safe to say the demo did its job. Unfortunately, the demo doesn’t show off any of the games multiplayer offerings, but I hope 2K releases a multiplayer demo sometime before the game releases so we can get a taste of that too. If the multiplayer plays like the single player does, then this could be a very fun online game.