E3 2010: Spec Ops: The Line PreviewBy Patrick Klepek - Posted Jun 18, 2010
What We Already Know
There's a reason 2K Games isn't playing up that Spec Ops: The Line is a reboot of an existing franchise -- no one remembers it. Spec Ops wasn't a particularly impressive shooter franchise, but 2K Games' hoping gamers will want to pay attention to Spec Ops: The Line, which relaunches the brand in Dubai after a series of sandstorms wiped out most of the population and wrecked the buildings.
What We're Seeing Today
2K Games brought a small slice from Spec Ops: The Line to E3 2010, guiding audiences through about ten minutes of gameplay. Within moments, it was clear the team took inspiration from BioShock in a number of ways.
Water was its own character in BioShock; it had personality and became a staple spectacle within Rapture. Spec Ops: The Line swaps water for sand. The sand is all around you in the game. You're in Dubai, after all. But whereas BioShock's aquatics were limited to an environmental effect, you're interacting with the sand in Spec Ops: The Line. Depending on the situation, the sand can be your friend or enemy. In one instance, I watched a well-placed bullet upend a structure and send a pile of sand on top of several guys. They were no longer a problem. 2K Games said the reverse situation is possible, as well. In moments, players could be covered in sand. It's even more interesting when you head inside buildings, where shooting out windows facing the outdoors can result in sand swamping in, changing the world.
Player choice is important here, too. Morally, BioShock's was black and white. Harvest the sisters or don't. Harvesting them, however, did give you a faster upgrade path. 2K Games is aiming for something more ambiguous in Spec Ops: The Line. Producer Greg Kasavin explained the game's morality choices aren't going to have a clear right or wrong answer. The example shown at E3 involved which moment a player should (or shouldn't) intervene during a torture involving a number of innocents. The man being tortured has information your squad needs. If you wait, maybe you'll get the information you need. The problem? The enemies keep threatening to kill nearby innocents (survivors of the Dubai crisis) and every moment that passes, that scenario feels more and more likely. The player doesn't have to intervene -- but they can. In the E3 demo, they did -- and everything went very, very wrong. All the civilians died, including the man with the information.
A little more BioShock certainly couldn't hurt the industry. Even if you're feeling burnt out from all the industry's shooters, however, Spec Ops: The Line is one to watch. The development team clearly wants to do something different with this one.