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What Spec Ops: The Line tells us about the shooter genre

By: Moses Abaortae

  |   November 6th, 2012   |  
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Jager has done to the video game industry what Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now did for Hollywood. However, there has been a huge divide between the game’s review scores and its sales, which makes us wonder just what makes a shooter sell?

Spec Ops: The Line was never going to be able to sell as many copies as the other shooters in the genre and Jager, the game’s developer, and 2K Games, the publisher, seemed to know that as well.

The game was different to what other shooters offer and in a market where familiarity is everything and sequels are the name of the game, standing out and being different is not always appreciated despite what many think.

Take for example the sales of new IPs and compare them to the new iterations of games that have been running on the same engine for the past five years or games that are simply given a few minor tweaks and sold the next year.

One could site this as a major reason why the thought evoking Spec Ops: The Line did not sell as well as it should but it does not. The game was not a triple-A title, nor did it have the production values of some of the bigger titles. It was a B-grade project with A-grade aspirations.

Built on the tried and tested Unreal Engine, the game was never going to be the prettiest but it was functional. Gameplay wise it did not bring anything special to the table and was a run of the mill cover based shooter.

So far not going so good for Jager’s game, but it did hit many of the metaphorical nails on the head; firstly, the game’s balancing was pitch-perfect, the AI was smart, the weapons were balanced and the storyline was unique in the gaming world; secondly, the game took the shooter genre in a new direction and lastly, it delivered where it meant to.

Many agree that the game is a deconstruction of the shooter genre. Players do not kill thousands of enemy soldiers and have their actions justified throughout the game. There is no clear cut right and wrong, there is no black and white, in fact, the entire game takes place in a ‘grey’ area with players waiting for vindication for their actions at the end.

It never comes and it leaves an impact on gamers, especially those who invest in the story. For that reason the game is a triumph and a stand out, but why didn’t it sell as well as say Call of Duty, when so many have hailed Spec Ops: The Line.

The reason can be explained by looking at the demographic of those who play shooters and how The Line does not cater to them.

Please refer to the picture below:

This is why Spec Ops did not sell as well as Modern Warfare 3

Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Wishfree.com. He is also not a Call of Duty ‘hater’ as his Platinum in Modern Warfare 2 proves.