Spec Ops: The Line – a critical success and a commercial disappointment.
It has a Metacritic score of 75 per cent, but that has to be considered in a wider context. Few titles have pushed the games press to think so hard, and few have dared to tackle a genre like the third person shooter with such thought and care.
Sales, however, have not matched this ambition, with estimates claiming that the game has yet to break the 250,000 unit sales mark.
It’s never easy to say what could have been done differently to improve the game’s retail performance. But tacking on a largely redundant multiplayer mode (developed by external studio Darkside Studios) was certainly not one of them, according to lead designer Cory Davis.
"The multiplayer mode of Spec Ops: The Line was never a focus of the development but the publisher was determined to have it anyway,” he told Polygon. It was literally a check box that the financial predictions said we needed, and 2K was relentless in making sure that it happened – even at the detriment of the overall project and the perception of the game.
"[It’s] bullshit, [it] should not exist – there’s no doubt that it’s an overall failure. It sheds a negative light on all of the meaningful things we did in the single-player experience. The multiplayer game’s tone is entirely different, the game mechanics were raped to make it happen, and it was a waste of money.
No one is playing it, and I don’t even feel like it’s part of the overall package — it’s another game rammed onto the disk like a cancerous growth, threatening to destroy the best things about the experience that the team at Yager put their heart and souls into creating."
In the interests of fairness, though, it should be pointed out that Yager was full of praise for the support 2K showed the studio throughout the game’s sometimes troubled development period.
"They were very supportive,” writer Walt Williams insisted. "But at the end of the day you are getting to make a game or art with someone else’s money and that other person is going to ask from time to time ‘hey, what are you doing with my money’ and you have to explain it to them."
Davis added: "They took a hell of a lot of risk with the project that other publishers would not have had the balls to take. I’m proud of what we were able to achieve, and it was not easy."