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Amid the ruins of what was once a pristine eight-lane motorway, two men are hanging by their legs from a road sign. Both men are criminals; both men's crimes are different. You, meanwhile, are standing beneath them, a gun in your hand and a madman's voice in your ear. You're being told to choose which one to kill.
War is hell, but it's also a series of choices: that's the message behind Spec Ops The Line. 2K's wonderfully moody shooter drops you into sand-ravaged Dubai on a simple mission to track down a missing army colonel. Things quickly start to go awry, though, as the city's decimated streets are filled with well-armed militias. Also, the colonel you're looking for may have gone loopy, and is throwing nasty little moral challenges your way.
That doesn't mean you should approach them looking for the right answer. "We want them to be embedded in the gameplay rather than press A, press B, here's the good choice, here's the bad choice," says Denby Grace, senior producer. "We want them to be really organic in the way you approach them, the way you solve them and the response you get from them. One of the things we want to explore is that you're not a superhero. You have bad decisions in war and you have worse decisions in war."
Your decisions won't branch the narrative - 2K has a very specific story it wants to tell - and they won't get in the way of the third-person, cover-heavy combat either.
As a squad shooter, The Line feels tightly directed and powerfully violent: its setpieces are brilliant fun. What those men hanging from the street signs should do, however, is remind you that this isn't another stupid game about saving the world. Like BioShock, Spec Ops wants to haunt its players as well as thrill them.
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