Spec Ops: The Line Game Poster Image

Spec Ops: The Line



Gory military shooter tackles difficult questions about war.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

What parents need to know

Educational value

Spec Ops: The Line wasn't created with educational intent, and we don't recommend it for learning.

Positive messages

This shooter presents terrible moral dilemmas without easy answers and brazenly questions the military's role in certain kinds of conflicts. Its imagery centers on terrible violence and death, but with the express purpose of showing the player that these things are horrific rather than thrilling. This message is seemingly at odds with the player's actions, which generally involve shooting and killing people, but it makes players more aware of what they're doing, leading them to question the morality of what their squad is doing.

Positive role models

The game's three lead soldiers begin as professional troops sworn to duty, but slowly transform into people who react emotionally to the horrors they see and things they do. Players wouldn't want to emulate these characters, but they may well learn something from what their actions.

Ease of play

Standard third-person shooter controls mean experienced players will be able to hit the ground running. However, enemies are smart and bullets can be scarce, making much of the action harder than you might expect. 



Players use a range of modern military hardware to attack and kill enemies in this visceral third-person shooter. Rifles, grenades, and other weapons tear foes apart, resulting in spattered blood, severed limbs, and screams. Close-range kills see players snapping enemies' necks, and slow motion effects serve to intensify the action. Players can kill unarmed civilians and will encounter heaps of corpses -- some terribly burnt -- of people already dead.

Not applicable

Strong language can be heard throughout the game, including the words "f--k," "s--t," and "ass."


This game is part of the ongoing Spec Ops series of military shooters.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Spec Ops: The Line is a third-person military shooter brimming with graphic, blood-soaked violence. Unlike many such games, much of the violence presented here is crucial to a complex commentary that focuses on the nature and potential atrocities of morally grey conflicts and how such situations affect their participants. This pensive narrative actually intensifies the emotional impact of the horrors depicted, making it all the harder to watch scenes in which civilians are killed and trained soldiers go mad with misgivings. This is a game with extremely mature themes intended for adult audiences only.

What's it about?

Inspired by the book Heart of Darkness, SPEC OPS: THE LINE is a third-person shooter in which players command a squad of three soldiers. The once-opulent city of Dubai lies in ruins, a victim of terrible, ongoing sandstorms that forced most of its inhabitants to flee months ago. The last American troops to enter the decimated metropolis simply disappeared. It’s up to your squad to discover what happened to them. However, as your trio of troops journey into the depths of the city they discover horrors that they never could have imagined, leading them to question their mission, their loyalty, and even their sanity. Outside of the story mode lie a collection of online multiplayer games that offer familiar objectives and rules.

Is it any good?


This tactical shooter is, weirdly, the polar opposite of most modern military games. It lacks the sort of Hollywood glitz and graphical polish that has come to be a signature of most games in the genre. Its cover-based shooting mechanics are clunky to the point of being occasionally frustrating. And its online mode seems more of an afterthought rather than the focus of the experience. As a game, it's below average.

However, it excels as an interactive story. The game boldly presents a variety of compellingly horrific and morally grey situations that draw players ever deeper into the twisted world that this Dubai severed from civilization has become. Part Lord of the Flies, part Apocalypse Now, it depicts some of the worst things that people can do to each other and shows in unflinching detail the consequences felt by both victims and perpetrators. Spec Ops: The Line may not be much fun to play, but there's little chance you’ll forget the dark and thought-provoking tale it tells.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Can violence ever serve an important narrative purpose? If yes, what is the impact on age appropriateness? 

  • Families can also discuss online safety. How can you tell if the strangers you chat with online are safe? What precautions do you take when interacting with others in text lobbies and while using voice-enabled headsets?

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 3, Windows, Xbox 360
Subjects:Social Studies: global awareness
Skills:Collaboration: cooperation, teamwork
Thinking & Reasoning: strategy
Available online?Available online
Developer:2K Games
Release date:June 26, 2012
Genre:Third-person shooter
ESRB rating:M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language

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What parents and kids say

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Kid, 12 years old July 16, 2012

great game

teaches kid the true horror of war and it's moral and civillan casulties
Adult Written byAn Enigma April 29, 2015

An Unflinching Look Into War

This is one of my favorite games not for being one with good mechanics, but because it most deserves to be played. This is a shooter designed to show how pathetic it is that we seek heroism in war games. It takes on subjects such as PTSD (which your character succumbs to), the use of white phosphorous(which you accidentally use on civilians and see the horrible aftermath of), and how the hypocrisies of civilization are torn from us in real war scenarios. It is incredibly violent while not being gratuitous, gory without being fetishistic, and teaches without being dull. The gameplay is on the level of a normal shooter these days, but it's not what you should be coming for. I recommend this to anyone who can stomach it.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Parent Written byKibles September 27, 2013

Adults only

This is one of the more graphic interpretations of war available in video games. It studies Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the role of the player causing war atrocities, and what being a "hero" means. Intensely graphic, stuffed to the brim with profanity and gore, and incredibly thoughtful, Spec Ops The Line is a game not suitable for kids in any way.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking