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Review: Spec Ops: The Line

By Andrew Powell, published 27/04/2017 in Reviews

The bullets screamed past Walker's ears, piercing the dust-ridden air. The only consolation of being aware of the sharp hot cracks through the air from the bullets whizzing by meant that he was still alive. His fellow Delta Force teammates, Lugo and Adams, were crouched nearby on the flanks behind the supply crates littering the rooftop, returning fire to the enemy with what seemed only whiskers of opportunities. Walker then tried to make his way to the next area of cover. Except his movement key didn't work properly and toggling in and out of cover was all of a sudden unusually clunky, and so he stood up. Unintentionally and right at the most inconvenient moment. The bullets showered Walker's body. I wept at the keyboard.

  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Developer: Yager Development (ported to Linux by Virtual Programming)
  • Release Date(s): 26 June 2012 (Original Platforms), 14 May 2015 (Linux)

Spec Ops: The Line isn't so much of a game as it is an interactive story. Granted, it is a third-person shooter and has some squad-based mechanics that allows you to command your fellow Delta Force men to do specific tasks or target specific enemies during combat. You can shoot things, make explodey things go... well, explode and just generally get caught up in a whole heap of action.

Well... you can TRY and press the button...

However, the game is heavily story-driven. You would then think, "heavily story-driven AND action packed? Sounds awesome!". Well yes, to a point that's true. But as is hinted in the dramatised intro to this article, Spec Ops: The Line has a few heavy flaws and we might as well get straight to the point: the controls. And to a lesser extent, the friendly AI isn't too crash hot either.

I get the feeling these guys aren't quite sleeping on the job

As is typical in this age of cross-platform titles, we have a contextual based system involving only a few select buttons such as Spacebar and Shift that allows you vault over objects, jump down or up to platforms and of course take cover against walls, crates or pretty much any object that will shield you from enemy fire. In some games this kind of system will work well and seem quite fluid, but unfortunately this isn't the case for Spec Ops: The Line. The controls seem somehow clunky and inconsistent, which makes use of the cover system nowhere near as reliable and fun as it should be. There will be moments of sheer frustration where you just can't control Walker the way you intended or keep him out of harms way, all because the controls were being finicky.

Not sure if magical looking vista or hallucination

But even besides the controls, the game definitely does border on being repetitive when essentially the gameplay is: run to a new area, take cover as waves of bad guys come, shoot them... and rinse, repeat. But then again many games are guilty of such formulaic gameplay dressed up in pretty cinematics and production value, so perhaps I am picking on the game a bit here, or perhaps it's just the frustrating controls making it all more noticeable.

But where the game falls down in my humble opinion, is the often horrendous controls. Combine them with some occasionally shonky and non-responsive friendly AI and you have a head-banging-on-desk type of experience.

The story is frankly where the game rules supreme and the main reason I would encourage anyone to actually play it. Basically, you play as Captain Martin Walker who is sent into Dubai with an elite Delta Force squad on a recon mission. This isn't the Dubai you might be thinking of for a holiday though, it's actually post-catastrophe and all hell has broken loose in the city. With his two Delta Force buddies in Lugo and Adams, it's up to Walker to progress through the war-torn city, fulfilling various mission objectives and just generally staying alive. Along the way, Walker and his men are faced with the sheer reality of war and have a mental struggle as well as the physical.

Dude, that hurt!

The experience is cinematic, raw and all the while involves you, as the player, in real-time as your actions progress the story along. Progressing the story along, though, can be a fair challenge and unfortunately not always for the right reasons. It's true that such a horrific war environment is brutal and dangerous and sticking your head up in places of enemy engagement will quickly end in your untimely death, which is fair enough. But where the game falls down in my humble opinion, is the often horrendous controls. Combine them with some occasionally shonky and non-responsive friendly AI and you have a head-banging-on-desk type of experience.

Weeeeeeeeeeeee! Er... I mean, *manly grunty noises*

Visually, the game holds up well, even for a title originally from 2012. Virtual Programming, who handled the Linux port, seem to have done a fairly decent job, just as they did with titles such as Bioshock: Infinite and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, using their eON wrapper engine. It's not always perfect as there are some occasional hitches and general little hiccups that remind you that you're playing a port with a wrapper engine rather than the original deal on say Windows or one of the console platforms, and these hitches and such do seem to happen in some of these Virtual Programming Linux ports, but overall, it's not too bad. The game runs generally very smooth on my AMD 380X GPU with Mesa 17-git powered rig on maximum detail settings at 1080p resolution.

You'll be doing this a lot

Voice acting and general sound effects and music were fine too. Really, the game is like a movie in the way it delivers on these aspects and there's no issues there.


Spec Ops: The Line can be summarised as such: good, perhaps even great story. Often terrible controls and poor friendly AI.

Still, the game is an experience to be had and if you can look past the fairly mediocre overall gameplay and you desire a heavy in-depth storyline with good voice acting and visuals, the game can certainly deliver there.

I would, however, really wait on the sale deals for this one.

  • Good, heavy and high impact storyline
  • Certainly no shortage of high octane action
  • Mostly good Linux performance
  • ...occasional performance hitches on Linux
  • The controls, oh the controls!
  • Some dumb friendly AI
Verdict: 6/10

About the author

Andrew Powell is the editor and owner of The Linux Rain who loves all things Linux, gaming and everything in between.

Tags: spec-ops-the-line gaming linux-gaming virtual-programming eon reviews linux-game-reviews
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