Progressing Through (Spec Ops) The Line

In the fifth installment of my “Progressing Through…” series of articles, I’ll be taking you through the sandy tomb of Dubai with a look at Spec Ops: The Line. So far in this series, we’ve seen some diverse styles of unlock systems. Everything from unlocking equipment in a specific class to the more-generic-but-popular “Level up > unlock gun” has been covered, with a few distinct and fresh systems to round things out. Spec Ops: The Line tries to mix things up a little by blending a wide variety of aethetic unlocks with the standard “Level up > unlock gun” system.

The basic premise is you unlock guns, equipment (including armor), icons, titles and camo’s as you level up. There is nothing that stands out from similar games except the massive amount of colors you can dress your soldier in. Thankfully, Dubai is not a colorful place so you can at least be eyecandy while you rummage through the desert looking for targets.

While there are classes within the game, your general level is just that: general. No matter what class you are playing, you level up as a player (instead of within the class, like in Battlefield 3). I generally played the Medic class because they regenerate health quicker. Classes do look different and have various customization options like different heads and tops, but they unlock in that same general sense. So while I was playing the Medic class (who has access to all of the guns, by the way), I was unlocking Recon face options too.

Welcome to Dubai. Pretty, isn’t it?

03:00 Hours – Free-For-All

As it tends to go with most of these systems, you level up and unlock a bunch of stuff right off the bat. My very first game (standard deathmatch), I delivered 23 opposing soldiers to their deathbed. Now, there are no gun modifications, so the standard AK-47 gets no scope option, extended magazine, or obnoxious gold “camo” to unlock. That same match, I leveled up to level four and unlocked more things than I care to list in this paragraph.

The remaining matches varied in kills as I played a few team deathmatches due to a lack of finding deathmatch games. As a moderately-proficient FPS player, I can rack up a pretty decent amount of kills playing deathmatch. The first hour saw a whopping 72 kills spread out across four games. I had unlocked four guns in various categories (SMG, pistol,  and shotgun I believe) by level six.  A few heads and camo patterns were unlocked, too. I should also mention you unlock titles and icons (like Modern Warfare 2) as you level up and complete challenges, and I ended up with three level-related titles.

At this point, I was wrapping up hour one and came across a small problem. My stats had erased a few games worth of playing, and only showed 22 minutes of playtime. I had also lost a level (I should have been level seven). This was a serious issue, and not just from a standpoint of this article and the importance of numbers. I did some math to figure out what my numbers were, but losing that level (and the unlocks that came with it) was infuriating.

Don’t let sand in your britches get you down, or you’ll be my next target.

o4:00 Hours – Burying the Enemy

Hour two was a little more fun because I opted to play the “Buried” game mode. You can actually accumulate some decent experience without killing people by playing for the objective (either defensive or offensive). In short, each team has a few secondary objectives to blow up and once all are gone, the primary objective is shown.

I only ended up with 42 kills this hour, mostly due to the excessive amount of people hiding behind cover to protect their objectives. Five games were played, though, and one of those actually hit the 30 minute draw. I leveled up another three times, putting me at level nine. Two more guns, two level-based titles, two heads, and two patterns made this feel like hour two, with all the twos and all.

Being someone who primarily uses assault rifles in these games, I was beginning to feel a little disappointed that there was no gun modifications at all. Call me spoiled as I just came off playing and writing about another game that just happened to center around gun mods, but I couldn’t help feeling this way. Still, I trudged on to our third and final hour though like any good soldier.

(insert generic “Peek-a-Boo!” comment here)

05:00 – Crossing the Line

Back to a four game hour, somehow I managed a “record” 81 kills. Quite simply, I enjoyed the action in free-for-all’s more and I am quite good at them. I hit level 10 after the second game which unlocked challenges. Once that opens up, you’ll be unlocking more experience for completing certain things. Not to mention, the possibility of more icons and titles.

Two more guns ended up being unlocked and I finally obtained my first upgraded armor option. You can level up your perks by simply using them, which then gives them a second reason to use them. That never happened in the three hours I played though, but I did an eye on it.

Now, I might as well be honest while I’m here. I totally exploited the proximity mine and their failure to disappear when you die. Basically what you do is spawn with a proximity mine, walk along for a minute and drop one in a random (or strategic) places. When you die, it doesn’t disappear and you can do it again. I ended up with a nine kill streak due to this in one game. It was both funny and sad at the same time, because I came across a few myself. However, I adapt and started watching the ground where I walked and rarely got hit with them afterwards.

The Final Numbers

(Please note, I have included the numbers from the rest of this series of editorials for comparison. Please refer to “Progressing Through the Modern Battlefield“, “Progressing Through Starhawk“, and “Progressing Through the Future (Soldier)” for further reading.)

Games Played:

Spec Ops: The Line: 13

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: 15

Starhawk: 13

Battlefield 3: 15

Modern Warfare 3: 24

Total Kills:

Spec Ops: The Line: 195

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: 150

Starhawk: 61

Battlefield 3: 208

Modern Warfare 3: 294

Final Level:

Spec Ops: The Line: Level 11

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: Level 11

Starhawk: Level 6

Battlefield 3: Level 7

Modern Warfare 3: Level 23

Weapons Unlocked:

Spec Ops: The Line: 8 guns, 5 camos

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier: 15 attachments, 1 headgear, 2 equipment

Starhawk:  6 shirts, 6 pairs of pants

Battlefield 3: 5 guns, 21 attachments

Modern Warfare 3: 8 guns, 16 attachments

That’s it; I’m taking my toys and going home.

Field Report Conclusion

Everything is very similar to a few other games. The amount of kills is relative to Battlefield 3, but the lack of attachments could leave players wanting more. The kill count is also on the higher end of the spectrum, though it’s a little biased playing regular deathmatches. Giving players other options, like physical customization, makes up a little for the lack of gun mods and being third person you actually see the changes.

Finding something unique in the unlock system is like finding a needle in a haystack. While the multiplayer component itself has a unique mode of play and randomly generated sandstorms, the actual progression system isn’t much more than a tweaked version of the commonly used approach popularized by the Call of Duty series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, it is a tried and true method for unlocking things.


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Author: Don Parsons View all posts by
Starting out as a founding member of Gamingcore Podcast, Don ventured on to start Gameciety; which began as a podcast, and ended as a blog. Don now handles's PR work, is part of the reviews staff and has various other little projects he does for the site.