Crossing the Line in Spec Ops

Crossing the Line in Spec Ops

Do you care if you've become a virtual monster?

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In most shooters these days, they try to hide the rails by giving you some illusion of choice.

Spec Ops The Line does the opposite. It's pretty blatant with the railroading, but it hides the choices you can make. And you can make choices. For example, the scene with all the civilians that you have to get through. You can gun them all down, but have you tried shooting into the air to make them disperse?

That's the brilliance of this game. It may not look like it, but most of the time you do have a choice in how to handle a situation. Most don't try, because with most games like this you don't usually have a choice. So you just shoot your way trough everything because that's all the games ever let you do. This one gives you opportunities to do more. Do you stop and try to figure out different ways to handle a situation? Or do you just try to plow through like you always do?

Not sure if this game is damning these types of games, the players, or what. I suppose it's open to interpretation, but it does a damn fine job at it. That's for sure.

I wish there were more games like Spec Ops. God damn shame it didn't sell well.

Mcoffey:
I wish there were more games like Spec Ops. God damn shame it didn't sell well.

Still plenty of opportunities for people to buy a copy.

This game worked for me. I literally felt sick to my stomach when I found out what I'd really done with the w.p. and, as Yahtzee pointed out in his Extra Punctuation, I was even more horrified that I had enjoyed it. "Oh, look at all those guys! This is going to be good." In all my other playthroughs, I skip that cutscene with the dying soldier because I can't take it. I also make sure I shoot anyone still moving because it's better than the pain they must be going through.
I had to fight the urge to pull the trigger on the civilians after what they did to Lugo. I wanted to. I wanted to gun them down and scream "How do you like it?!" but I realized that wasn't right. Not sure how I would have acted in real life.
I even stopped executing people later in the game because Walker went from "Efficient, clean, painless" kill to "DIE MOTHER FUCKER! I'm smashing your skull in while you're still breathing and I'm ENJOYING it." That split second of animation, of the downed soldier looking up in horror at your and raising his hand to beg for his life before you brutally end it...I couldn't look them in the eye anymore.
Yeah, this game is something different, and I will always remember the horror I felt the first time I played through it.

DjinnFor:

Mcoffey:
I wish there were more games like Spec Ops. God damn shame it didn't sell well.

Still plenty of opportunities for people to buy a copy.

Yeah, it will hopefully make a profit. Still, it's always disheartening when the "same-old-thing" blows the risk-taking stuff out of the water, sales-wise.

Dennis Scimeca:
Crossing the Line in Spec Ops

Do you care if you've become a virtual monster?

Read Full Article

I really think that's most gamers' problem with the issue. They can't seem to tolerate the cognitive dissonance between realizing fictional violence has a negative impact, and still wanting to play video games that depend on it.

The question matters more than the answer. Our ability to see that, yeah, it's very possible that anything we do can have an influence on us... and most of the time, that influence is at least somewhat negative. We don't need to scream "Yes! It's awful!," but we don't need to scream "No! Nothing!" either.

not played it, but if its really this different that its leaving long time gamers bothered by the content, might be worth a look

Eh, in my opinion Spec Ops: the Line was way too forced. I never felt like anything was my decision, because the game didn't leave me any choice.
For me, everything fell apart at the gate scene. I didn't want to use the mortar against the soldiers to begin with, but whoops, no choice there.
When I saw the numerous white spots without weapons I immediately thought those were captured insurgents/civilians and avoided shooting anywhere near there.
When I realized that there was literally no other way but to shoot that last vehicle which results in killing everyone, all tension and previous excitement left me, and all I could think of was "So this is how we'll play it, huh".
And lo and behold, we get that following scene with mother and child (what the fuck did you think would happen, Walker?) and the game continues to guilt-trip me, the player, about shit I had no say in until the very end.

Either give me a choice at all times, or tell your story about "the mental deterioration of Cpt. Walker" where I'm just a spectator. Not some mixture of both, where I only have a choice in minor events, but don't get to decide shit in the core events, yet still take the blame.

Once you're out of the experience the game is no longer shocking but just artificial and forced.

It's a shame that I had to be spoiled by most of the plot twists and turns from this game to truly become intrigued and convinced to pick this up eventually as I will never have the same first-hand experience that the people promoting it did.

Even if the game was marketed much more effectively, promoting the actual complexities and depth within the story rather than focusing (ironically) on the CoD aspect of it, my supreme jadedness of the games industry probably would have prevented me from noticing the game in the first place.

Did I kill the civillians with WP? yes. but that was in game. Did I kill them later as revenge for them killing my squad mate?

Yes

This is a fantastic game, and you should all go buy it. Now.

The Line is probably the first game where the decisions other people made can actually make me pissed at them, personally. I can't imagine firing on the civvies who hung Lugo, for instance, especially not after what your squad did with the white phosphorus, and I always get this feeling of slack-jawed disbelief when I hear people do.

ResonanceSD:
Did I kill the civillians with WP? yes. but that was in game. Did I kill them later as revenge for them killing my squad mate?

Yes

This is a fantastic game, and you should all go buy it. Now.

Despite what I just said, yes. Exactly this. ;)

Jumplion:
It's a shame that I had to be spoiled by most of the plot twists and turns from this game to truly become intrigued and convinced to pick this up eventually as I will never have the same first-hand experience that the people promoting it did.

Even if the game was marketed much more effectively, promoting the actual complexities and depth within the story rather than focusing (ironically) on the CoD aspect of it, my supreme jadedness of the games industry probably would have prevented me from noticing the game in the first place.

I think that might've been the point. The game seems to purposefully set itself up as any other COD/GoW clone. The marketing, and first hour or so re-enforce this. My guess is that it does this so that when lets loose, it has way more impact.

I don't begrudge anyone who gave it a pass though. I did. Thought it was just yet another generic military shooter. Then my friend lent me his copy, and then I ended up buying the game for myself. And playing it multiple times.

Fascinating game, it is.

Irridium:

Jumplion:
It's a shame that I had to be spoiled by most of the plot twists and turns from this game to truly become intrigued and convinced to pick this up eventually as I will never have the same first-hand experience that the people promoting it did.

Even if the game was marketed much more effectively, promoting the actual complexities and depth within the story rather than focusing (ironically) on the CoD aspect of it, my supreme jadedness of the games industry probably would have prevented me from noticing the game in the first place.

I think that might've been the point. The game seems to purposefully set itself up as any other COD/GoW clone. The marketing, and first hour or so re-enforce this. My guess is that it does this so that when lets loose, it has way more impact.

I don't begrudge anyone who gave it a pass though. I did. Thought it was just yet another generic military shooter. Then my friend lent me his copy, and then I ended up buying the game for myself. And playing it multiple times.

Fascinating game, it is.

Yeah, I understand the ironic purpose of them setting themselves up as a cliche modern shooter, and in the terms of the overall impact it has done on its playerbase it certainly succeeded. It's just that because of their ironic marketing and presentation, it's hit harder by those prejudices. As I said, even if it was advertised as a "mature" and "thought provoking" take on the modern shooter, I doubt my jaded mindset would have given them the benefit of the doubt as I've heard those buzz words a ton in previous marketing (Call of Juarez: The Cartel comes to mind, and we all know how much of a piece of shit that game was.)

Regardless, I will definitely pick it up sooner or later to support this developer. Even if I do play it and it's not my cup of tea, I can totally respect the message and the impact that they were going for, and at this point in this industry, any intention of pushing the envelope, whether succeeding or not, sadly needs to be supported.

I really want to play this game, but am not at all in a position to at the moment (doing the backpacking thing). It's on my "Buy This Thing!" list for when I get home though. The military/bro-shooter genre really isn't my thing, but this game sounds well worth a go just to see how they did what they did. I'm pretty well spoilered on significant plot stuff, but I think I'll still find it interesting. The idea of players doing horrendous things in the name of "good" or "the cause" and then confronting them with the reality is something I'm very interested in - blame my TTRPG roots!

Captcha: my little friend. Say hello, I guess?

It should bother you more to think it does bother you to be killing civilians in a game. After all, it's only a game - what sane person would do the same things in real life that they do in a game? In any real war situation, I - or any of us that hadn't been hardened and emotionally neutered through years of military training - would most likely be cowering in a corner and not charging through an enemy battalion bravely with guns blazing. Once you can no longer distinguish between real life and pixels on a screen is when you should worry.

Irridium:
In most shooters these days, they try to hide the rails by giving you some illusion of choice.

Spec Ops The Line does the opposite. It's pretty blatant with the railroading, but it hides the choices you can make. And you can make choices. For example, the scene with all the civilians that you have to get through. You can gun them all down, but have you tried shooting into the air to make them disperse?

That's the brilliance of this game. It may not look like it, but most of the time you do have a choice in how to handle a situation. Most don't try, because with most games like this you don't usually have a choice. So you just shoot your way trough everything because that's all the games ever let you do. This one gives you opportunities to do more. Do you stop and try to figure out different ways to handle a situation? Or do you just try to plow through like you always do?

Not sure if this game is damning these types of games, the players, or what. I suppose it's open to interpretation, but it does a damn fine job at it. That's for sure.

Between this article and your post I'm sticking Spec Ops on my wishlist, I think I'm really missing something, and that's because I normally dismiss war-themed games as dime a dozen CoD clones.

Blood Brain Barrier:
It should bother you more to think it does bother you to be killing civilians in a game. After all, it's only a game - what sane person would do the same things in real life that they do in a game? In any real war situation, I - or any of us that hadn't been hardened and emotionally neutered through years of military training - would most likely be cowering in a corner and not charging through an enemy battalion bravely with guns blazing. Once you can no longer distinguish between real life and pixels on a screen is when you should worry.

I'm a few days late to the party, but I just finished the game and I have to agree with this. I did really appreciate its story and the way it was layered and presented, but the whole fourth-wall-breaking dimension of it went completely over my head. Exposing yourself to videogame or movie violence desensitizes you to videogame and movie violence, not real life violence.

I've been in the army, since it's mandatory in my country, and I have witnessed an accident when a guy did not disarm his rifle properly after his shift ended and shot himself in the face while messing around. The bullet was of course blank, as are the first 3 bullets of every clip that is issued in soldier trainees so that they can do guard duty in barracks and what not, but he did suffer some minor burns. He was fine after a couple of days. Still, even though I knew he was gonna be fine, I was so shocked by the event that I could not sleep well for several days. Such an incident seems completely laughable compared to what I usually do in videogames or watch in movies, but it did affect me deeply, as do even the most minor every day real-life displays of violence, from screaming to fist fights. From that, I conclude that fictional violence is mostly harmless, especially when aimed at adults which are more mature and think more critically.

The whole guilt-trip that the game was trying to send you through, telling you, the player, that it's all your fault, and you're trying to be a hero... No shit, that's a major part of entertainment since the days of ancient Greece and Homer, people are entertained by fantasizing that they are heroes, why is this bad? And, this is my fault? What is my fault? That I'm playing a videogame? Because that's all that I'm doing, and if you, as a developer, have a problem differentiating that from real life, then you probably need to see a doctor. You are now attempting to make a point, because I bought your game. If I hadn't bought your game, you would not be able to make a point. I'm supposed to draw some kind of parallel between a protagonist who went insane due to PTSD and went on a rampage, and myself as a gamer? I am not insane, do not have PTSD and did not go on a rampage, as far as I know. So, what kind of parallel am I supposed to be drawing? And, as I already mentioned above, I am certainly not desensitized to real life violence, even in the slightest. So... I really have no idea where they were going with this. I felt that it was unnecessary and it detracted from the experience of a well crafted story. And don't even get me started on the stab that they're trying to take towards other military shooters. Yes, we know, most military shooters have terrible, incoherent, cartoony stories that are as far from realistic as possible. Your story is better. We know that, because we played them. Well done. Please, stop masturbating in our faces about how awesome you are, Yager. Thank you.

Overall I love the game, but that one scene could have been handled better because it breaks user engagement given the context just doesn't make sense: there are barely a few soldiers (especially compared to the many that came before) and I've got my sniper and silenced assault rifles fully loaded, the camp hasn't noticed us yet and we have an excellent sniping position.

Instead, add an opposing force too big to win: the player will eventually rationalize to choose phosporous as he keeps dieing and is forced to see the "phosphorous would help" cutscene over and over.

Then they're more likely to be disgusted with themselves and the hypocrisy of the all mighty hero when they see later the consequence of their forced choice instead of not engaging at all with the forced pathos.

If having a big army is too heavy to render on small computers, then even 1-2 unkillable turrets woud suffice: the first Far Cry did that very well in its "you can't leave the island despite nothing seems to stop you from leaving the island" mecanic of the unkillable helicopter that comes in if you go too far in the open ocean with your boat.

But I suspect user testing revealed too many players were frustrated and quit the game at that point, thinking "there must a way to win this" for too long before giving up and choosing the other option, hence why the design team chose a more obvious "it's supposed to happen, the game won't let you continue if you don't" solution to keep the most people playing.

llafnwod:
The Line is probably the first game where the decisions other people made can actually make me pissed at them, personally. I can't imagine firing on the civvies who hung Lugo, for instance, especially not after what your squad did with the white phosphorus, and I always get this feeling of slack-jawed disbelief when I hear people do.

Then I'd hate to see your response to what I did. In both the choices following Riggs' and Lugo's deaths I picked the kinder options first (since I usually play as good in RPGs) but went back specifically to watch Riggs burn and slaughter the crowd for what they did.

Mostly it was for the achievements but when you get those throwaway moral choices that don't affect anything (e.g a karma level) I always go back and do the evil option, just to see what happens.

It's like seeing someone fall in front of a subway train, you know it's going to be horrifying but some kind of morbid fascination means you just cant look away.

The anger I felt at Lugo's death was real, I actually hated a bunch of pixels over it. Going back to kill them instead of scaring them was almost a cathartic release.

I was really mad at the civilians that killed Lugo for what I consider a good reason - the game had already shown you sections without your squadmates and Lugo's death meant the game was going to be harder and I would die more. It's like if halfway through an RPG someone killed the character you've been leveling up the whole way...

 

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