It’s easy to write off Spec Ops: The Line as just another brainless third-person shooter, but that’s not the case as Yager Entertainment, the games developers, are determined to create something with true emotional depth – no easy task for a shooter. Set in Dubai where a freak sandstorm has buried most of the city and based on the famous book Heart of Darkness, the game’s lead character, Walker, is sent in along with his team to recover Colonel Konrad, a founding member of Delta Force, but Walker is plagued by increasingly violent hallucinations throughout the game. Moral decisions litter the game as well, but they rarely have the outcome that you might have expected, once again enforcing the idea that The Line is not your usual shooter. In short, this is a game that’s trying to be something different, rather than just another Call of Duty or Gears of War. It’s trying to be a intelligent shooter, rather than a mindless one.
But perhaps the most surprising aspect of Spec Ops: The Line’s take on morality is its brutal execution system. In the most recent issue of 360 Magazine, the lead designer of Spec Ops: The Line, Cory Davis, was interviewed, and amongst the various questions asked he had the opportunity to go into more depth about the game’s execution mechanics:
Cory Davis: “In Spec Ops, we play with this element of uncertainty around death. A lot of games want this black and white situation of when you shoot someone, they die. And afterwards you high-five with your buddy and move on. In Spec Ops: The Line, after combat, people are bleeding out on the battlefield, they’re dying in pain in a horrific way, and so we wanted players to have to encounter those situations, and we wanted to provide mechanics they could choose to use in those situations. For example, there’s a real gameplay element here in that enemies don’t give up weapons and ammo until their death.
A lot of times when you feel you want or need to grab some ammo, you’re going to have to kill someone who’s in a horrific situation. It’s been really interesting to see how some players react to that. Some will want to put them out of their misery quickly; others will run away and not interact with them; others will want to take revenge and brutalize them. As we get further into the game, the mental states of the characters break down and the executions Walker performs begin to reflect that. There are a huge range of these things that evolve from the start of the game, because we wanted to keep things consistent between the gameplay and narrative. So that evolution affected a lot of things damaged clothes, bloody faces.”
Following on from that, Davis touched upon the narrative design of the game:
” The first thing that was very apparent when we started this was that in order to get this emotional experience to come across we were going to have to do a very different pacing from typical action games. We were going to have to be unafraid to have slower moments, and to let things that have happened sink in. We had to shy away from trying to hit the player over the head over and over again with this big action set-pieces. Those things are in the game and they’re important, but the context that’s behind them is what’s really cool, and that’s built up in these slower moments the characters have. So in order to get close enough to these characters to achieve that, we had to slow things down.
From there it was really a combination of technology and narration coming together to create immersion – you’re not going to see loading screens in Spec Ops: The Line (unless you reload a section), and that was very important to us. It wasn’t a cheap and easy thing to do.”
Despite it currently flying under the radar, Spec Ops: The Line is looking like it has the potential se be one of the best shooters we’ve seen in quite some time. To read the full interview be sure to pick up the latest issue of 360 Magazine.
And of course, we’ll be doing our own coverage sometime soon.