Spec Ops: The Line might look like something you've seen before - it's a squad-based third-person shooter with familiar gameplay mechanics, after all - but it probably goes the furthest yet in marrying interactivity and storytelling to create a deep sense of immersion.
You play as Martin Walker, a man who leads a couple of fellow soldiers into the dusty wastelands of Dubai to discover what has happened to the civilians there - and to the squad that had been there before it. The previous military occupants, a decorated battalion called The Damned 33rd, entered the city on a rescue mission following an apocalyptic storm. Its Colonel, John Konrad, defied orders to abandon the city during the operation and his company stayed behind. America had heard nothing from them since - until now...
Gameplay wise, Spec Ops: The Line will feel familiar to anyone who's played a wartime TPS like Ghost Recon. Set pieces offer some interesting variety - from the vast spacious desert which leaves you open to both heavy fire and environmental hazards, to indoor television stations which offer huge battlegrounds in lobbies featuring winding stairs and hidden passageways.
You can set commands for your squad to follow by pressing or holding down one of the Bumper buttons on the controller. For the most part, this is used to get your guys to focus on a particular enemy, but there are certain contextual uses as well that orders your teammates to provide a sit-rep or to stun nearby targets.
The most interesting thing about the mechanics of play in Spec Ops: The Line is in the way German developer Yager has played around with sand. Indeed, it can be quite the deadly weapon. You can identify weak structures using the Command button and gun them down to cause tonnes of sand to pile out and take out all the enemies in a given area.
Similarly, sandstorms will regularly occur during your campaign and cause a lot of grief for you and your squad. Heavy conditions will not only impair your vision in a battle situation, but can also cause whirlpool-sized holes to appear in the ground.
Spec Ops: The Line may look familiar, but don't go into it expecting a beach holiday...