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Who knew playing in the sand could be this fun? 2K has set the bar high, striving to separate The Line from the rest of the crowded genre by implementing a narrative driven game, set in a eccentric environment.

The game takes place in the sand-torn city of Dubai. Ravaged by cataclysmic sandstorms, the city lies buried, now a no-mans land for refugees and bandits. You are Captain Walker off on a search and rescue mission for U.S. Army Colonel John Konrad. He and his battalion went missing soon after the storm, and with no way of contacting the outside world, was presumed dead.

It is now your task to seek him out and bring him home, but you aren’t alone. Accompanying you are Lt. Alphonso Adams and Sgt, John Lugo. Ahead of you is a shattered world where honor and duty don’t exist and an enemy that you’ve never been faced with before.

Dubai appears to have once been the metropolis city of the world. Huge skyscrapers penetrate the sky and were probably a thing of wonder before the storm hit. This setting is one of the most alluring elements of The Line and will probably serve as the backbone for what distinguishes it from other third-person shooters.

The blanket of sand that now coats the city will play a walloping role beyond just attributing to the flashy graphics and stunning city backdrop. On multiple occasions throughout the game, ferocious sandstorms will erupt without warning, completely altering the battlefield to an entire new degree, at times forcing you to completely rethink your approach to things. Lobbing grenades and misplaced bullets will also disrupt the combat and will send splodges of sand into the air, obscuring visibility even further.

This welcome touch of a dynamic environment definitely helps allude you to the fact that the combat follows how a standard third-person shooter would be constructed. The controls are easy to pick up and fans of the third-person genre will feel right at home.

But 2K has made some nice touches of their own such as the neat slowdown effect every time you crank off a deadly head shot against a bad guy. The slowdown isn’t long, but it is just enough to help you relish in your dirty work well done.

Your two squadmates will also play a crucial role in the fight, Lugo being a sniper so he’ll pick off enemies from afar that you can highlight for him if you so desire, and Adams being the demolition expert, who can stun enemies in certain locations. But other than that, this is your standard third-person shooter with some fast combat and a nice cover system thrown in.

But the combat isn’t what the focus of the game is on however, it’s about the narrative, which is taking inspiration from Joseph Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. The Line heavily draws from it’s decision making concept, which players will encounter organically throughout the story. Your decisions can and will affect where the game’s story will branch off to next, meaning the game will have multiple different endings dependent upon your actions.

Decisions could be how you approach a hostage situation, or your actions to addressing a combat hiatus. Do you run, or dig in and fight? Though not every situation will provide you with time to think out your decisions and it’s end results. Some may happen in the time span of only a few seconds and the outcome of that decision may not be entirely clear right away. Players will need to react emotionally and do what their gut tells them to do, else thinking may get you killed.

The Multiplayer

Single-player is the only place where The Line’s literary elements shine however. The multiplayer takes place before Walker and his team arrive in Dubai in the campaign, during the initial war between the mutinous “Exiles” and the “Damned 33rd” forces still loyal to the missing Konrad. Which is an interesting spin of events and definitely helps tidy up the game and present a better understanding of what happened before…

The gameplay however is very fast paced and involves a lot of moving around with your squad, but more importantly, it’s a lot of killing. If thrown into a cooking pot and mixed together, the ingredients for the multiplayer would leave you with madness. 2K emphasis on small teams, tightly paced action along with random sandstorms that obscure every ones vision, creating utter chaos on the battlefield. Every shadowed silhouette you see could be an enemy…

Spec Ops: The Line’s multiplayer team is lead by main members from BioShock 2′s multiplayer team, who have seemingly nailed it on creating a MMO style class system to serve as The Line’s foundation. Besides featuring just the wide array of weapons and secondary abilities, The Line will come jam packed with all kinds of different MMO styled buffs and bonuses that will affect teammates and the course of the battle itself.

The multiplayer itself features three core, different modes. Mutiny and Rally Point, which are familiar iterations of Team Deathmatch and King of the Hill, and then there is Buried, which helps The Line’s multiplayer really stand out against the rest of the genre. Each team in Buried has three weak points, which the other team needs to attack. Each of these points are well armored and if damaged, can be repaired by the defending team. Once all three of a team’s points are down, one final weak spot will then be revealed within the enemy base for one final, big showdown. Taking that point wins the match.

It is nice to see 2K striving so hard to implement a narrative drawn multiplayer with some hectic, yet extremely fun combat. Though the matches may seem a little bit on the small side for me since I’ve been spoiled with Battlefield 3 over the last few months, it was still a fun experience all the less. Throw in the random sandstorms and you have one heck of a fight, especially when no one knows who the man is right in front of them. Friend or foe?

Come June 26, we will finally see if the long awaited game will deliver everything it has promised, and if it can find an audience the game will be able to retain. An interesting story supported by a unique setting and hectic multiplayer brews up what could very well be a toppling success for 2K Games.

Join in on the fight on PC, PS3, or Xbox 360 soon!