Spec Ops: The Line is an important game

17 Jul 2012

After being briefly interested in Spec Ops: The Line thanks to its unusual setting in desert-reclaimed Dubai I promptly forgot about it until strong recommendations started popping up on Twitter.

I think the lack of knowledge about the game going into really helped it succeed for me; Spec Ops: The Line came off as a wolf in sheeps clothing. Later I found out the developers had some pretty high goals they were trying to achieve but the game starts out slowly, with a very familiar scene to most gamers - third person cover shooter, hardened military bros bantering back and forth; the usual.

As you progress through the story though things gradually get a little interesting. There’s a choice early on (save a friend or save the hostages) that hints at what is to come, where things get a whole lot morally dubious. Civilians get involved in a way that I don’t recall seeing before in other shooters, and the psychological and physical toll of war becomes visible on your squad. Pay attention to the ‘tips’ you see on load screens and you’ll see weird commentary or explanations of psychological disorders.

Halfway through I decided that this is the first game I’ve played that is actually about war. This may seem odd in a world filled with shooters set in war but Spec Ops: The Line made me think about what it is actually like to be a soldier in a way that other titles haven’t gone anywhere near.

The writing is cheesy at times and I’ll repeat that the actual gameplay is nothing to write home about, but all the same I’d recommend anyone interested in storytelling in games to play Spec Ops: The Line. It’s important for pushing the boundaries of what is possible with storytelling in a big budget action game and I look forward to what Yager Development does in the future.


Yesterday I attended my second gamejam, an eight hour event where teams form to work on small games together around some loose themes, which this time were Black & White, Rockets, and Masks.


It’s early to say this, and maybe a little crazy, but I can’t help but put Twenty, a simple game from Stephen French, in the same category as Tetris. Not just in the way it plays - though it shares that methodical feeling of clearing a space that transitions to crowded panic - but in how it takes just a single mechanic and a simple interface to create something truly elegant and timeless. Twenty deserves to be played for decades to come, just like Tetris.