Sponsored By

Spec Ops: the Hard mode.

About hard mode in video games and Spec Ops: The Line.

Aurélien Beuzard, Blogger

June 15, 2016

5 Min Read

Hi, I'd like to come back to the gameplay in Spec Ops: The Line, on the way people and journalists play it.

Spec Ops is not, stricto sensu, a sort of The Last of Us, meaning that playing it in hard mode will not change the way you see the game. However, it might make your opinion evolve. Especially because the hard mode matches a particular state of mind. I've heard that there was a trend amongst journalists, who admit they are not good at video games and that they play in easy or medium. I am not so sure it is a good thing. We sometimes ask ourselves what is the audience we're writing for, what part of the community? Should that be the case, wouldn't it be better to be average in order to write for average players? As far as I'm concerned, I don't write for the players, or the developers, I write for the game. I think critics ought to put themselves in the service of the game. Besides, you understand a gameplay better when you have to make the most of it.

Basically, playing in hard mode is a state of mind. Not only your gaming experience will be way more interesting, much longer (I'm saying this for those who might be frustrated about the lifespans of certain games, like Spec Ops), it will drive you to explore the game, its mechanics, its level design. For example, the gameplay in Spec Ops has often been deemed too generic, a copy Gears of War of sort. Beside being smoother than the latter, Spec Ops has got some specificities that the difficulty of the game led me to exploit. Of course, the gameplay is not flawless, we're not here to contest that but to simply shed some light on a few ill-known aspects of it.

After talking with a lot of gamers, the first thing that struck me is that most of them didn't use grenades. There are three kinds: the flash grenades, the fragmentation grenades and the sticky grenades. The originality of the sticky ones (and that's something you only find in a few games) is that when you land them on your enemies, they will start panicking. Those closest to the victim will flee to try and get away from the blast. This is only detail but it makes it all the more lively.

Spec Ops is also original regarding the importance it gives to sand. Even if it's not exploited enough, there are several ways to use it. First you have the scripted phases that allow you to drown your enemies in sand. There are more of these phases than people believe (but still not as many as there should be),and sometimes they are dissimulated. There are also the streams of sand leaking down the air vents and that allow you to blind the enemies if you shoot at them (and on the very restrictive condition that they be standing right under it). This aspect, undermined, would have proven way more effective if the developers had put in more sand and increase its damage radius. Finally, you have the fragmentation grenades that scatter the grains of sand and blind the enemies. Those work at any given time. In the end, if you use those grenades, if you rely on the scripted or discrete phases, the game gets much more interesting, notably in its relation to sand.

Another noteworthy element is this time related to your skill. Indeed, a headshot provides a short slow motion. If you string them together, the game becomes way more spectacular (and contributes to the illusion we talk about in the next article). This is not Max Payne but if you add to that the flash grenades, their slow motion effect, the game mechanics can one more time galvanize your gaming experience.

I could go on and on, and you will find about 15 pages on game design and level design in Icarus: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/982706071/icarus-special-spec-ops-the-line
Here's just one last example for the road: because the use of your teammates is more qualified. Of course, the orders are sketchy. But playing the game in hard mode allows to appreciate a piece of mechanics that escaped many: that you can ask one of your teammates to go and heal another one who's been hurt. Thus, instead of doing it yourself, you can cover your team. And it may not seem like it, but it adds a little something. Similarly, there is a pretty nifty QTE that mobilizes your team, because as soon as the situation gets complicated, one of your mates will ask if he should throw a flash grenade. It is surprising to see that the players never use that feature. Finally, if you interact a lot with your teammates, you will notice that you can't give them orders during a storm. They can't hear you.

In conclusion, the elements of the game are connected in a very interesting to both their faults and qualities. Moreover, it was the fact that I played it in hard mode, with a state of mind set for exploration, that made my experience with the game more exciting that the walkthroughs I've seen on the Internet. Therefore, to say that the only interest of Spec Ops lies in his story would be wrong. The artistic direction is mind-blowing, its level design and gameplay mechanics more complex than most people believe. They're anything but generic. Why compare it to Gears of War?




Read more about:

Daily news, dev blogs, and stories from Game Developer straight to your inbox

You May Also Like