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Preview: Spec Ops: The Line


Dubai is a crazy enough place in the real world, but in Spec Ops: The Line, its insanity is taken to new levels. Not only do players have the cluster of ostentatious skyscrapers and opulence of the once great city in this game world thrown at them, but with the factions of murderous bandits and impoverished innocents still littering the sandy landscape -- it's a lot to deal with.

Gallery: Spec Ops: The Line | 8 Photos

In the game, the city is something truly special to behold, from the skyline of crumbling, dilapidated structures -- the result of sudden, city-destroying sandstorms -- to the invading dunes of the surrounding desert, looking to swallow all that man accomplished here, Spec Ops: The Line presents one of the most unique environments ever in a video game. It's a shame that the rest of the single-player campaign we were shown by producer Greg Kasavin seemed so generic.

The demo opened up with protagonist Martin Walker taking a breather with his squad inside a massive hall. On a mission to find a Colonel Konrad, Walker and his men eventually push forward, emerging out into the open blue skies and sand-kissed streets of the destroyed Dubai. After taking a few moments to admire the beauty of the desolation around him, Walker pushed on and got into the brunt of the demo: cover-based shooting.

Here, Spec Ops: The Line seemed like just about every other military shooter around. Walker took cover behind conveniently-placed objects and blind-firing with a machine gun, ordering his troops to push forward and clear a bus with a grenade and flanking embedded enemies were all tactics de riguer for Walker and his crew. It wasn't bad gameplay by any means, just things we've seen time and time again.

We did see some of the sand come into the picture mid-fight, however, promising greater complexity and more unique firefights in the final product. In shooting a concrete wall, Walker brought down a cascade of sand, crushing some enemies taking cover in front of it. Cool stuff, believe me -- just these opportunities were seldom there in our demo.

After walking through death pits -- hallways of dead bodies, killed by the roving bandit factions and AWOL soldiers stuck in Dubai -- and fighting in several skirmishes, Walker and crew eventually stumbled upon some soldiers holding a hostage. Threatening to kill an innocent in front of the abducted soldier should he not talk, these ne'er-do-wells presented Walker and his gang with a tough decision: engage the targets, possibly arousing enemies potentially lurking in unseen places, or wait and watch things play out. In our demo, Walker engaged the targets. In the end, it was all for naught as the kidnapped soldier was killed right before Walker's eyes.

Kasavin emphasized that Spec Ops: The Line focuses on delivering a strong narrative in the midst of a third-person shooter setting. In that regard, the demo succeeded. But with that the gameplay failed to live up to the wonderful first impression it left us with previously -- maybe it was just a bad section of gameplay to demo? Perhaps it was the lack of huge set pieces, but I felt like the combat could have been better. As it was, it really lacked any kind of hook that drew me in, but with a tentative launch date of "2011," Yager has plenty of time to get me to come around.

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