It seems I was one of the lucky few that got accepted to the Spec: Ops The Line beta last week, and I took a moment to sit down with it for an hour or so.
The beta was only for the competitive online multiplayer, but here is what I gleaned from it:
I would best describe it as similar to Gears of War - 3rd person, cover-based shooter - with elements of Call of Duty - persistent ranking system with unlockable weapons and up to 6 customizable loadouts for each faction. I didn't see any kind of perk system or ability to upgrade weapons, however. There are two factions in total, and I didn't really get a sense of them outside of one was military, and the other was more of a rebel/guerrilla group, and that you rank up the two factions separately (i.e. if you only play as the military faction, your guerrilla faction will not rank up alongside it.) They did differ slightly in what kinds of weapons they had, but overall they were fairly comparable. There is a lot more verticality in this game as you are playing in the ruined city of Dubai, and the maps feature crumbling buildings and skysrapers that give a lot of areas for those damn snipers to keep killing my ass from across the map. But that also means they feature lots of back door paths for me to sneak around and get fools from behind. The gunplay is competent but nothing new or revolutionary in terms of overall gameplay. I would also put the pace somewhere inbetween Gears and CoD as well - slightly faster than Gears but not as frenetic as CoD.
The cover mechanics were very nice though. It will feel very similar to Gears players as you can slide into cover from a decent distance, but added little flairs like one-button action to break out of cover and go directly into a sprint without having to hold down a button. The cover-to-cover moving mechanic also felt a bit tweaked and improved as well - I didn't get the sense of it being quite as sticky as Gears so it felt a bit more fluid to me.
I can't write too much about the design outside of the few maps and the graphics. The graphics are great, the game is running on the Unreal engine, so you know what to expect there. As it's set in real Earthbound locales, and the scale of the characters are more proportionate, it gave the game a much more realistic feel than Gears. As I mentioned above, the maps in this game have a lot more vertical layers to them, as well as lots of nooks and crannies to snipe and ambush from. The one very interesting element was the sand effect. From what I've read about Spec Ops so far, Dubai has been ravaged by devastating sand storms that have reduced the city to ruins. These make an appearance in the multiplayer to wreak havoc with your visibility. Think the Nowhere map on Gears, but turned up to 11. When the sand starts blowing, there is basically no visibility whatsoever as everyone is blinded by a deep red wave of particulate matter. The first time this happened I kinda freaked out like I did the first time I experienced the hurricanes in Left 4 Dead 2. No visibility and deafening winds make for some interesting seat-of-the-pants close combat as you never know what's 5 feet in front of you, let alone around the corner you are taking cover in.
Overall, even though I was getting my ass handed to me, I really enjoyed the short time I spent with Spec Ops, and I'm looking forward to this game even more than I was before. Throw in some squad based campaign co-op and I am even more intrigued. I would recommend folks keep an eye out for this one when it drops next year as a nice alternative from the standard fare.