Monday, December 14, 2009

The long-awaited return of . . . Spec Ops?!

I can't believe I'm saying this now, but I think the new Spec Ops may be the game that I've been waiting for.

Unveiled during the Spike Video Game Awards, the debut trailer for Spec Ops: The Line is astonishingly awesome. The gameplay footage is nothing too mind-blowing--it's just another Kill Switch derivative--but some stunningly brutal images (more in a second trailer) and chilling mad snippets of dialogue gripped me right off as few triple-A video game trailers ever have. Indeed, it was the only exciting thing to come out of the VGAs. Whereas EA has answered the call by rather shamelessly ripping off the rival franchise that its own Medal of Honor effectively begot and then was rendered obsolete by, 2K Games seems determined to entirely reshape Spec Ops into something newly respectable.

It begs the question, though, why is this a Spec Ops title at all? Really, is there some cachet to the Spec Ops brand that I'm unaware of? I admit I've never played a Spec Ops game, but that was because they were, by all accounts, terrible pieces of junk.

I guess the series started out on PCs, where the original developer maybe still had a bit of ambition and self-respect, but it was last seen in action as an unashamedly low-budget shooter released during that desolate transition period--after real developers had abandoned the PS1, but still before the PS2 was deserving of the average consumer's money. For that short, dark period in gaming history, the Spec Ops series of budget-priced PS1 titles tore up the sales charts simply by being cheap games for a cheap platform. Then Grand Theft Auto III truly ushered in the next generation, and mercifully the Spec Ops brand seemed to die away.

Now, two generations later, 2K Games has decided to dig up the Spec Ops name for reasons I cannot fathom. Successful though they may have been for what they were, I find it hard to believe that even the people who somehow ended up with copies of those PS1 Spec Ops games have retained much reverence for the franchise after all these years. For the rest of us, it was never anything but a joke, and that too is scarcely remembered now. Still, I would think that any association with the name would be more a drag than a boost for a future release such as The Line.

Then again, what can we really tell from such an early trailer? Spec Ops: The Line may yet prove to be a work worthy of the name.

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