Briskly Walking “The Line”

So, that Spec Ops: The Line was quite the game, right?……..Right?…….Ugh, sometimes I hate being me.

Just the other day, I finished my journey through Dubai in what seems to be record time; 5 hours. I played on the hardest default setting, otherwise known as Suicide Mission. This game was far from that.

While I found the narrative very ambitious and intriguing, Spec Ops: The Line seems to run at breakneck speed through all of its high points. I mean, in the first hour alone, I conquered 5 of the games 15 chapters. They get considerably longer after that point, but I hadn’t even realized how little time I had spent.

I have no problem with games being short, but I just feel a little short changed here. This game was touted as having a very deep and complex narrative and most of the anecdotes I’ve heard from gamers are how affecting they felt the games “decision” scenes were. I saw them so close together; I don’t even know how the hell I’m supposed to think.

This contrasts with Hotline Miami, another game that brings up questions of violence and does so in an even shorter time span than Spec Ops. I managed to plunk through that little gem in about 3 and a half hours, but the pacing worked much better.

Some missions gave some breathing room in terms of combat and there was even a break from the constant murder for a stealth mission (even if that level was a little crappy). Hotline wasn’t a constant bloodbath and it worked to make me more interested in the combat and plotline.

Spec Ops, though, doesn’t give you a single minute to reflect on anything. Even the cutscenes aren’t that long, with the longest probably being around 6 minutes. You simply deal with a firefight, walk to the next room and repeat. When a decision comes up, you make it in a snap fashion and then proceed to shoot some more.

I can’t say I was disappointed with the game (and I got it for dirt cheap, so how could I truly be?), but I feel like it would have been a greater story if I was just given more time to explore it. Let me sink in the details of the game’s world, let me reflect on my awful actions and give me periods that help build character instead of pushing me directly into the action.

One of the best moments in Uncharted 2 comes during chapter 16. After practically non-stop action, Drake finds himself stranded in Nepal. The only task for the chapter is to walk around and soak in the sights. This gives you ample time to think about how you arrived at this location and reflect on what Drake has gone through.

NaughtyDog understood that packing a game with minute to minute firefights would sully the experience and leave the gamer wishing for a break. While you don’t want to have too much time dedicated to simply doing nothing, even just the smallest amount of leisure or padding can create a sense of relieve and a desire to continue.

For all the flack the Zelda series may get for sidequests and lack of innovation, the padding in that series really drives home the desire to press on. The early games in the series (namely Zelda 1 and 2) suffer because there is nothing else to do. You simply proceed with quest or you don’t play the game. Without any break of alternate activity, the quest feels long winded (even being only an hour!).


This is completely related to saving the Princess…trust me!

So honestly, while I won’t deem a game of lower quality because it’s short, some titles need extra game time to justify their existence. I can’t sit here and whole-heartedly recommend Spec Ops: The Line because I feel like it’s incomplete. It’s too damn short and leaves too much unexplained.

If I only simply had more time to feel the anguish that Captain Martin Walker was going through, maybe I’d be in love with the game. As it stands, it’s a very ambitious experiment, but one that ultimately doesn’t feel as impactful due to a sense of being rushed.

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Split Screen Woes

Multiplayer is definitely not the newest idea in the gaming world and it’s online application isn’t even in its infancy, but I’m really starting to feel angry over the lack of proper split-screen or developers bright ideas to tack them on to single-player games.

Last night, my friend/brother Jim and I sat down with Killzone 3 to try out the Move support. We were skeptical that it would work well, but we figured that, since GameStop has a fairly lenient policy on used games, what the hell? We synced our two wands, booted up the game and were greeted with a lovely message.

“Move is not support in split-screen multi-player. Please connect a dual shock 3.”

Alright, so Guerilla Games lied about that; whatever, no big deal. Move isn’t the end all, be all of first person gaming (and believe me, Killzone 3 bot matches with Move are stupid), so Jim and I just decided to say the hell with it and continue on into the campaign.

Now, I know I complained a tiny bit about Resident Evil 5’s split-screen application, but at least that game kept an aspect ratio of 16:9. Killzone does one better and formats the game to 4:5 or some kind of stupid mash-up of full screen with black bars. It’s one of the ugliest uses of split-screen I’ve ever seen in my gaming career and that covers nearly 20 years!


Best picture I could find. Definitely really awful, though.

It turns out, co-op was a completely tacked on idea at the last second. Sony needed another bullet point to sell their latest shooter and they figured co-op was it. Why there’s no online use or customization of the screen is beyond my feeble brain, but it definitely brought my piss to a boil. Jim was so frustrated at his inability to see anything that he gave up after 3 levels.

While we were lamenting our lack of any kind of current co-op game to play (we can’t keep going back to Borderlands for the umpteenth time), I kept making the joke of, “Well, we can play Dead Space 2 online!” That brings me to a totally separate discussion.

We all know Call of Duty rules the online, first-person gaming scene along with Halo and Battlefield. So why do developers feel the need to tack on a multi-player mode into their single-player game? Granted Dead Space 2 is still a wholly awesome game and worth the price of admission, but think of how much more polished the mid-section could have been if half of Visceral wasn’t being wasted on trying to copy Left 4 Dead.


Who needs skill when I can just statis away?

Bioshock 2 made this same kind of offense. Not only was the single-player game lacking in almost all of the charm and mystery of the first, but its competitive multi-player component was utterly worthless. Laggy battles, poor collision detection, insanely worthless perks and game ending crashes (at least in my experience with the PC version).

On the flip side, we have Bulletstorm. It features a fairly neat co-op mode where you can team up with 3 friends and fend off against waves of enemies. Oh wait; you can’t do that split-screen! This is truly baffling as Epic provides a fairly well done split-screen mode in Gears of War, offering both Horde and Campaign without any sacrifices.

Taking a look at an open world game, why does Saints Row 2 not feature any kind of split-screen support? Maybe it’s due to the underwhelming amount of RAM in current generation consoles, but it’s completely stupid that open world games with co-op modes cannot be experienced on the same console.

Why can’t more developers do something like what Gearbox did with Borderlands; provide the entire game in split-screen and actually make it function? While Borderlands has a vertical split, at least it fills your screen.


Everything is in plain view.

How about Infinity Ward and their co-op mode in Modern Warfare 2? Every mission is playable and fully functional and the screen is perfect. It doesn’t feel like a tacked on idea to sell more copies and, even if it were, it at least doesn’t hinder your ability to see anyone.

While Scott Pilgrim lacked an online feature, at least it’s same couch experience was well made. All characters worked well together and even had some extra functions over their single-player prototypes. Hell, lacking online probably made the offline mode that much better.

As for single-player experiences, what is the need of including a multi-player component? Did we really need to have multiple Isaac’s running around? Was there any want for Bioshock’s powers to be explored with other players? Why not take all those creative ideas and apply those to even better scripted events?


Makes me wonder how well the split-screen will fare in Uncharted 3.

I know this isn’t a call to arms or a very insightful blog, but I’m just sick of seeing multi-player being offered in games and then developer’s half-assing their way through it. Yeah, obviously not every game has awful split-screen or lacks it, but I just want to see a revision like the old days. Give me more Perfect Darks and less Killzones.