Spec Ops: The Line PS3 preview – a horror shooter that’ll haunt you after the dust settles

Your squadmates provide more than just manly lip-service, too; order them to prioritise a target with R2 and they’ll find a way to do it, moving to better ground if necessary. If you’re pinned down, they’ll lay a suppressing fire down so you can move away. It’s similar to Ghost Recon Future Soldier’s ‘oh-god-help-I’m-pinned-down’ mechanic, just sans the incredibly shaky camera.

That’s just one side of Spec Ops: The Line, though. All that presentable, well-designed combat. It’s enough to make you tut derisively at another straight-laced military shooter. But there’s something much darker lingering beneath the competent cover system and weather system.

Spec Ops the Line PS3 screensIt’s hinted at in the copious up-turned American flags dotted around trashed Dubai. It’s nodded and winked towards when you hear that your mission is to locate a war hero named Colonel John Konrad – yep, this is very Apocalypse Now.

This playthrough I didn’t meet Colonel Konrad, but I certainly met his work. Since going renegade he’s sent a whole platoon of men bonkers, and those fellas like to make their presence known by slaughtering and mutilating fellow American soldiers.

They’re also pretty handy with a spray can: just when you’re feeling comfortable that The Line is a straight shooter, you’ll turn a corner and find some knee-bucking wall mural that reminds you that really, you’re playing a third-person horror-shooter. In between all the action and dropping sand on people you’re likely to stumble on mutilated bodies left behind by the rogue soldiers, spray painted images adding plenty of extra creep factor – this game wants to get under your skin, and it’s not going to pull its punches meeting that objective.

Overall the shooting and combat mechanics feel well-oiled. The macabre story of a war hero gone rogue creates an unsettling take on the usual military shooter thanks to levels ominously littered with upside down American flags and dead U.S. troops, this looks to be an inventive (and harrowing) return to form for Spec Ops.