2K Games had an enormous presence at this year’s PAX East event, not only showcasing a very playable Borderlands 2 to the awaiting public, but also Spec Ops: The Line, its long-awaited action sequel.  Originally announced three years ago, the game has been somewhat dormant in its development, with hardly any word released on its progress.  However, that changed last year with the introduction of a new trailer, as well as a bold new direction with its third-person squad based shooter antics.  The company recently invited us to go hands-on with the game to see how far it’s come with development.

You guide Captain Walker, a man in charge of a three-person team that heads into the city of Dubai a few years in the future.  But don't think it’s a tourist friendly city.  It’s actually been destroyed by sandstorms, with most of the population going along with it.  Nevertheless, your team has been tasked with rescuing the 33rd Infantry, a downed unit of soldiers that have been taken into custody by rowdy refugees.  However, as you work your way into the city, you’ll find that not everything is as it seems, and your decisions could very well change the face of how you win the upcoming battle…

The demo opens up with a terrific turret battle aboard a helicopter, as you use a mounted machine gun to rip through enemy choppers, either sending them crashing to the ground in a fiery wreck or forcing them to crash into nearby buildings.  This sequence, although brief, sets the stage for the  visual detail that 2K is putting into The Line, complete with exquisite lighting and a surprising amount of sand.  The way it kicks up and blows in the atmosphere is very life-like, and according to the developer, it took some time to get it working just right.

Following the helicopter sequence, we hit the ground running, working our way through a desert before eventually coming upon a downed infantry vehicle – and the refugees responsible for its condition.  Here, you’re introduced to the third-person squad tactics, with the ability to either take down soldiers yourself with your firepower, or command a nearby soldier to take the shot.  With the press of a right shoulder button, you can target a far away enemy and tell your fellow squad-mates to take the shot – or do it yourself, if you’ve got them properly in your sights.

The game uses a pretty good cover system.  While it’s hardly original, it does allow you to effectively hide behind objects and lay out blind cover fire, or shoot someone after popping out and concentrating your aim with the left trigger button.

For a game that’s been in the works for several years, Spec Ops: The Line has really come together beautifully in the visuals department.  The sand effects are mesmerizing, and the city of Dubai has been faithfully recreated, in an apocalyptic setting, so that you really feel like you’re in the midst of a war zone.  The blood effects are quite realistic, and the action is pretty non-stop, though there are some sections you’ll need to explore a little bit before getting into a firefight.

As for the audio, there is some quality voice acting here, including chatter amongst your troops and some authentic sound effects, especially the shots coming from your rifle.  The enemies don’t really have much to say, but that’s probably because they’re so focused on finishing you off.  Not a big deal.

The demo ended way too soon for our taste, but we’re happy to see that time has been kind to Spec Ops: The Line all the while it’s been in development.  2K has really put a lot of work into the game since its announcement, and though it’s not exactly the same as previous Spec Ops games, it’s definitely taking the franchise in a bold new direction.  We can’t wait to see how this war turns out when the game releases this June.