Yes, I am trying to catch your attention with that title, and yes, this position may alter by the end of the year, but for now, I can adamantly say that Spec-Ops is one of my top games of the year, period.
I'm not a big shooter fan, either in first person or third. in fact, the time I've played the Call of Duty franchise can amount to less than two hours total (using a friend's copy), I've fiddled a little with Battlefield 2142 after getting it in a bin for about $10, and while it may be hypocritical of me to rag on those franchises, I can say that I was not impressed with what I've experienced.
And with that said, it might surprise people that I'm willing to give SO:TL a 10/10 right here, right now, without even mentioning the gameplay in any significant capacity, aside from a few touches added in to aid what I consider the true focus of this game.
You see, in my opinion, a game has to do one of two things to qualify for a perfect 10 in my book:
A)it has to perfectly pull off every aspect of the game, without missing a beat, ie. perfectly functioning gameplay, story, visuals and sound design, so in my opinion, Vagrant Story would qualify as a 10/10.
B) it has to do something so innovative and stunning with one of the aspects above that it outstrips any need to present any of the other aspects as anything more than above average, a game like, for instance, Final Fantasy VI with its story and characters, or Final Fantasy VII with its direction and design.
Spec-Ops falls into the second category, where it presents its story (an adaptation of the Heart of Darkness novella and/or the movie Apocalypse Now), in a way that only a medium like video games can, by thrusting you right into the heart (pun intended) of the narrative and essentially putting you into the shoes of the characters, hitting you with the full force of its world.
if that sounded like a lot of gibberish, then the short of it is that this is a game so good that might actually make you physically ill, it's a game that, unless you've got a heart of stone, will disturb you.
I'm not really going to go into the broad strokes of the gameplay mechanics (GoW style cover shooter, done) or its multi-player (after the campaign mode, I don't have it in me to play the game in any frivolous capacity), so nothing else there.
While the graphics are definitely snazzy, I don't think that it'll blow anyone's mind away, but one thing that this game excels in is the sound design, from the actual voice acting of your "protagonist" to the minute ticks and nuances of in-game voice that accompany it (pay attention to the "tone" as you progress through the story), and even music (diegetic or otherwise) that serves to set an outlandish and alien tone for the game.
So I will ask you a favor, if you have $60 to spare, buy this game, full price, because if this game can make it, then maybe, just maybe, we can give out a statement that we want more than just a generic shooter, that we actually do prefer our games with more craft and intellect injected into them.
thank you for putting up with a rather dry highlight (there aren't even any pictures!), and of course, thank you for listening.