Spec Ops: The Line uncovers “the dark side of war”

Yager Development’s Shawn Frison speaks about Spec Ops: The Line’s heart of darkness

By - March 10, 2012
Spec Ops The Line header

Having had a session of hands-on time with Spec Ops: The Line (read the preview here), there were of course questions that arose. As luck would have it, 2K Games had chained Yager Development’s Shawn Frison to a bench, and he kindly answered them.

A quick recap; Spec Ops: The Line is the first game in the Spec Ops franchise in about a decade, and it has adopted a 3rd-person shooter style, straying from is FPS roots.

Players will fill the combat boots of Captain Martin Walker of Delta Squad, and be accompanied by two squad-mates as they enter into Dubai city ravaged by apocalyptic sand-storms.

The mission is to investigate a distress signal coming from U.S. Army Colonel John Konrad and his 33rd Infantry, who went in to assist the evacuation, but were presumed dead during 6 months of silence.

It quickly becomes apparent that there is much more going on in Dubai than a struggle for survival. The game will pack loads of shooting action of course, but will also rely heavily on its driving narrative to keep gamers engaged through to the end.

Spec Ops The Line

Spec Ops The Line

As discussed at length in the preview article, the game’s narrative took much inspiration from Joseph Conrad’s book “Heart of Darkness”.

Frison said that originally, Spec Ops: The Line was going to be a direct interpretation of the book, but they moved away from that so that they could tell their own story carrying similar themes.

Frison explained that they wanted to create a game that encapsulated the core series element of special forces soldiers on a unique mission, but The Line is essentially a reboot of the franchise.

As for the sand storms, they are simply a freak natural occurrence, and there is no sinister explanation for the occurrence. Frison said that to lend more meaning to the sand storms would have taken the game in another direction, probably something out of science fiction, and that wasn’t their intention with The Line.

Spec Ops The Line

Spec Ops The Line

However, the sand makes for some great gameplay and set-piece elements, as avalanches can be caused by the player to lend a tactical hand or clear a path. The player will be entering Dubai around 6 months after the first storms struck, and the city has now turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, one still frequently lashed by storms.

“I love the setting; there’s something special there. I’m proud of the visuals; we wanted the city to feel like its own character. Sand dune play is a fun mechanic, but we didn’t want to overwhelm the player and make it into a gimmick. But you are always aware that it is part of the environment, and of course, can be used.”

Frison described how he feels that the sand storms are a parallel with what happens to the characters. Much like the beautiful city of Dubai has gone through environmental corruption and decay, so too the characters will enter a downward spiral; starting out upstanding and trying to do the right thing, but gradually resorting to more questionable tactics, some of which have psychological repercussions.

Spec Ops The Line

Spec Ops The Line

During development, Yager had input from an ex-special forces military advisor in order to lend a degree of authenticity to the game, such as military jargon, procedure on entering and clearing rooms, how to reload weapons, and a on personal note, the psychological effects of war.

“What we achieved in the end, we’re very happy with. The setting is beautiful and awe inspiring, but with an edge to it, and parallels the characters’ journey. We wanted to balance the tension of having a fun shooter that also shows the dark side of war. I think that’s something we did really well, keeping that core shooter gameplay,” he concluded.

Spec Ops: The Line is heading to Xbox 360, PS3 and PC around Q1/Q2 2012.

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