Spec Ops: The Line is a special game. The reason that it is special is not the story itself but how the story is told, and the end of the game is unlike anything I have ever experienced in gaming before. These elements make the game stand out, but otherwise, the rest of the game is a generic third person shooter.
The graphics in the game are great. The engine exudes tons of polish, such as the sand effects that occur when you throw a frag grenade. The graphics help contribute to an engrossing atmosphere that draws the player in. The developers took inspiration from Apocalypse Now and it is definitely seen in terms of how the game looks and feels. This game is not a light-hearted game by any means; it is dark, gritty and Dorothy is clearly not in Kansas anymore. War is hell, and that message is always apparent, such as when you discover a tape recording or a journal of how a soldier broke down while being in Dubai. These little touches all lend themselves to you being absorbed into this game world. The writing and script for Spec Ops is top-notch, and it's obvious that the writing drives the game, and not the other way around. The voice acting also helps make the writing stand out all the more because of its quality. Last and finally not least, the way in which the characters change from the beginning of the game to the end make this game one of, if not the most engaging in any game I have ever played.
The story starts off as something ordinary. Spec Ops puts you in the shoes of Captain Walker who is sent into Dubai along with his squad to initially find survivors. This then turns into a search for Colonel Konrad, who stayed to help the citizens before a sandstorm all but destroyed their city. As the game progresses, you will be treated to a great story that flips the shooter genre on its head. It is subtle at first, but as you get further and further into it, your loading screens go from gameplay hints to asking if you feel like a hero yet. The writers have even said that the game was designed to be a commentary on the genre of being a total badass hero, a la Call of Duty or Battlefield. Overall, it's incredibly well done and I want my games in the future to be able to make an impact on me.
Despite how good the story itself is, the decisions that you make in the game have no real consequences. While it is unfortunate that the game doesn't change based on your actions, I like how I felt that these were MY actions; actions that I feel I myself would have done if put in these situations. The collectibles in the game help immerse you even more into the story. I wasn't quite inspired enough to try to find every one, but they fit well into the world and will contribute to the positive memories of my time in it.
With this being said, I have to talk about the gameplay. It's a standard 3rd person cover shooter, but not as good as some of its competitors in the genre. Both melee and cover are mapped to the exact same button, which often had me dying as I hit the B button to take cover but instead exposed myself with a melee motion. Needless to say, It's not great to die that way in a game. The shooting is average and the AI, even on normal difficulty, was inconsistent. There are moments where you will breeze by, other times you will be reloading a lot. It does not help the experience. The gameplay was so average that I didn't even bother playing the online multiplayer. Seeing as you will have experienced the whole story after one playthrough, there's no real incentive to come back to the game once you finish.
Your feelings about Spec Ops: The Line will be based on how you like the story, the writing and the characters. If you come into this game expecting great gameplay, you will leave disappointed. If you come for a great and unique story, I'm sure you will love this game like I did.