The Time You Were An A-hole in Spec Ops: The Line

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The Time You Were An A-hole in Spec Ops: The Line

You have to play Spec Ops: The Line a very specific way to really understand its message and what it says about shooters overall.

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Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

thatsthespirit:
The Time You Were An A-hole in Spec Ops: The Line

You have to play Spec Ops: The Line a very specific way to really understand its message and what it says about shooters overall.

Read Full Article

First:although it may seem stupid you should warn people of spoiler-sure who reads an article on a game they have not played,but some people do so just give them a heads up.
Second:while I agree that playing the game the way you suggested has it's merit's [allowing a greater comparison to other FPS] it's not the right way to go about it,the greater impact comes from unexpectedly making you look at your morales and actions you choose without realising it. If you go in with a plan/know what's going to happen it loses that sense of moral questioning and just becomes a game used to contrast/judge other games of the genre instead of yourself.

Are you serious? The two have quite different themes. And 'Apocalypse Now' is just 'Heart of Darkness' in Vietnam.

Intentionally being an asshole misses the point with the game. You go in trying to be a hero, you want to be a moral compass opposing the heel, but ultimately your actions and outcomes are a gulf away from your intentions and desires.

Critical miss gets the point: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/10253-Every-Other-Game-Ever
The difference with Spec Ops is that you're the villian, and there's no hero.

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

First up: play the game before commenting on it. It's based on, and takes very few elements from

image

Which is somewhat different to Apocalypse Now.

I agree with Knight, you want the gamer to play as "themselves" making the choices they would have made. Unfortunately Spec Ops failed to do that for me, because I tried to avoid using white phosphorous on the civilians, but the game forced me to kill them to proceed.
Also, according to the devs, having Parker hand over the gun at the end makes no difference since he's at that point dying in the helicopter crash.

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

Er, yeah, that's on purpose and has been emphasized by the devs even before the game was released.

ResonanceSD:

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

First up: play the game before commenting on it. It's based on, and takes very few elements from

image

Which is somewhat different to Apocalypse Now.

.

I refer you to this post

Bob_F_It:
Intentionally being an asshole misses the point with the game. You go in trying to be a hero, you want to be a moral compass opposing the heel, but ultimately your actions and outcomes are a gulf away from your intentions and desires.

Critical miss gets the point: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/10253-Every-Other-Game-Ever
The difference with Spec Ops is that you're the villian, and there's no hero.

Isn't that the story arc of Kutz in heart of darkness?

albino boo:

ResonanceSD:

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

First up: play the game before commenting on it. It's based on, and takes very few elements from

image

Which is somewhat different to Apocalypse Now.

.

I refer you to this post

Bob_F_It:
Intentionally being an asshole misses the point with the game. You go in trying to be a hero, you want to be a moral compass opposing the heel, but ultimately your actions and outcomes are a gulf away from your intentions and desires.

Critical miss gets the point: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/10253-Every-Other-Game-Ever
The difference with Spec Ops is that you're the villian, and there's no hero.

Isn't that the story arc of Kutz in heart of darkness?

Again, and I can't stress this enough, PLAY THE GAME. There are quite a few story elements that you can't just pick up from (what, you're using Critical miss as source material?) forums.

Although it would be more correct for me to say in these games that any consistent approach is a valid one and by that I mean simply picking actions that aren't contradictory, unless you can justify them in the wider context or emotion of the situation (i.e. shooting into the crowd as an angry reaction).

The first time I played, I approached it as the main character seemed to do. I had a mission and I was doing the right thing. Therefore in my mind I was a good person, despite the increasingly mounting evidence to the contrary and the ease with which we both forgot the original mission. So I didn't do pointless callous things like leave someone who betrayed me to die or kill both hostages.

But I do agree that you're right on the ending regardless of how you played. If you let Konrad shoot you, you're in denial. If you shoot yourself, you're not facing the consequence. If you fire on the troops, that just makes you an even worse person. On my third playthrough, I concluded that I was a powderkeg waiting to blow if I returned home, so I simply provoked the army troops by fired into the air. That said, the ending where you surrender your gun makes the most sense, both in terms of feeling responsible as a 'good' player or continuing that desire to survive as a 'bad' player...

I....Really disagree with this, actually.

I'm sorry, but this feels like someone is trying to make it feel like the only way to "get" the message of spec ops is to play it "HIS" way.

Everyone should experience it their own way, man. That's what makes it personal. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to experience the game.

knight steel:
the greater impact comes from unexpectedly making you look at your morales and actions you choose without realising it. If you go in with a plan/know what's going to happen it loses that sense of moral questioning and just becomes a game used to contrast/judge other games of the genre instead of yourself.

I'm with this guy.

Simply playing it as an asshole would have had very little impact on me because I would just easily rationalized it as "I'm just pretending to be an asshole, this is nothing at all like who I really am!".

I played it by following my own moral code as much as possible, and to the end, I never gave up on fixing what I had done. I never gave up on my hero instinct...and..well...

Oh the hell with it. Here's my experience with the game:

THAT hit me. Playing like an asshole would have given me a mental shield to hide behind. The game wouldn't have been calling out ME, it would have been calling out my asshole persona.

For me, I was going to be death, destroyer of worlds. What the CIA couldn't do with it's campaign, I will do so...Dubai was lost and damned, best to kill a dying beast when I have the chance rather than make it suffer another day.

The only regret was that I was unable to give them a simple mercy killing and instead was forced to drag the dying beast's carcass around without mercy.

I don't get why you acted like saving the CIA guy instead of the civilians was the more brutal option, he had valuable intel and thus was worth more than the civilians. As for the ending I surrendered, no point in adding to an already massive bodycount. I could never justify suicide.

What I felt made this game so strong was that everything you did after the white phosphorous scene was an attempt to try to redeem yourself, not realizing that the scene had made both Walker and the rest of his squad go completely mad, and any attempt at rationalizing their actions only resulted in further unnecessary bloodshed. The fact that I tried to make up for the crimes committed, and then got slapped in the face with what had actually happened in the process(spoiler: genocide was committed), was the important part.

Thus I don't agree with the fact that acting like a psychotic asshole makes the game make more sense. It's a pretty overt criticism of the genre even if you play the game while trying to "make amends", so I don't see why killing for the sake of killing would make the game feel better.

Bob_F_It:
Intentionally being an asshole misses the point with the game. You go in trying to be a hero, you want to be a moral compass opposing the heel, but ultimately your actions and outcomes are a gulf away from your intentions and desires.

Critical miss gets the point: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/10253-Every-Other-Game-Ever
The difference with Spec Ops is that you're the villian, and there's no hero.

I agree with Bob. I'm one of those people who refuses to shoot civilians in games and tries to do the "right thing", but even so, Spec Ops reveals that being a soldier in a combat zone with civilians, you are the bad guy. And if you are the good guy, you will eventually become the bad guy.

Spec Ops tells the tale of U.S. foreign policy. All conspiracy theories aside- as far as the U.S. government is concerned, American soldiers are in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan to support democracy, freedom and human rights - all the good intentions. But when you put soldiers, civilians, terrorists and cultural differences into one pot, things will go batshit regardless. Approaching this game being intentionally violent does miss the point entirely.

aegix drakan:
I....Really disagree with this, actually.

I'm sorry, but this feels like someone is trying to make it feel like the only way to "get" the message of spec ops is to play it "HIS" way.

Everyone should experience it their own way, man. That's what makes it personal. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to experience the game.

knight steel:
the greater impact comes from unexpectedly making you look at your morales and actions you choose without realising it. If you go in with a plan/know what's going to happen it loses that sense of moral questioning and just becomes a game used to contrast/judge other games of the genre instead of yourself.

I'm with this guy.

Simply playing it as an asshole would have had very little impact on me because I would just easily rationalized it as "I'm just pretending to be an asshole, this is nothing at all like who I really am!".

I played it by following my own moral code as much as possible, and to the end, I never gave up on fixing what I had done. I never gave up on my hero instinct...and..well...

Oh the hell with it. Here's my experience with the game:

THAT hit me. Playing like an asshole would have given me a mental shield to hide behind. The game wouldn't have been calling out ME, it would have been calling out my asshole persona.

Yay someone agrees with me!!!
image

I think that the game hits the hardest if you get into it thinking that its just another modern warfare america-ho shooter.
Also they don't really judge or reward for any of the moral choices, the only thing that should motive you in them is the MORAL aspect of it, not the reward.
You pretty much instruct people what to do in the game, and looks like you're missing the forest from the threes a little bit.

ResonanceSD:

albino boo:

Isn't that the story arc of Kutz in heart of darkness?

Again, and I can't stress this enough, PLAY THE GAME. There are quite a few story elements that you can't just pick up from (what, you're using Critical miss as source material?) forums.

I'd have to get back to you on that; I ordered the book because I'm doing a short essay on Spec Ops, and I need to read it.

aegix drakan:
I....Really disagree with this, actually.

I'm sorry, but this feels like someone is trying to make it feel like the only way to "get" the message of spec ops is to play it "HIS" way.

Everyone should experience it their own way, man. That's what makes it personal. There's no "right" or "wrong" way to experience the game.

knight steel:
the greater impact comes from unexpectedly making you look at your morales and actions you choose without realising it. If you go in with a plan/know what's going to happen it loses that sense of moral questioning and just becomes a game used to contrast/judge other games of the genre instead of yourself.

I'm with this guy.

Simply playing it as an asshole would have had very little impact on me because I would just easily rationalized it as "I'm just pretending to be an asshole, this is nothing at all like who I really am!".

I played it by following my own moral code as much as possible, and to the end, I never gave up on fixing what I had done. I never gave up on my hero instinct...and..well...

Oh the hell with it. Here's my experience with the game:

THAT hit me. Playing like an asshole would have given me a mental shield to hide behind. The game wouldn't have been calling out ME, it would have been calling out my asshole persona.

Fully with you on that. My own experience was a little different, but it boiled down to the same realization. And that's precisely what SO:TL is about. Not some arbitrarily decided "best way" to play it.

I was really looking forward to reading this incarnation of the The Time column. I was terribly disappointed by just how much it missed the point.

It's an interesting way to look at the game.

I can't say that I think it's the best way to play the game. For me, the game has its biggest impact if you go into it trying to be the hero. If you do that, then you've positioned yourself perfectly for the game to rip you a new one, and to shred your conceits in front of your eyes.

I think the majority of the subtext about modern military games is in the game regardless of how you play it. Certainly going into it with a violent mindset magnifies that subtext, but then is that really the game? Does murdering hookers in GTA Vice City add to the game's scathing satire of pop culture, or is that simply you punctuating comedic social commentary with your own acts of sociopathy?

No matter how you play Spec Ops, you'll always be the villain, not the hero, and I think that's where the biggest condemnation of modern shooters lies. A lot of the choices offered in the game, to me, seem to tie in less with the MMS criticism, and more to do with the idea of player agency. I guess military shooters tie into that in the way that they always try and portray you as the hero, but stuff like choosing which person to shoot seemed (to me) to be commenting on the fundamental paradox of offering choice in something as heavily scripted as a game. No matter what choice you made, it turns out it never mattered anyway. The only real choice the player has is deciding whether or not it's worth sparing the main character at the end of it.

Still, while it didn't exactly set sales records or anything, I hope SPOPS marks a turning point in military shooters. The likes of COD are getting downright offensive in their vulgarity and need to generate controversy. What was the point of the airport scene in MW2? What was the point of the family bombing scene in MW3? It makes me sad to see Spec Ops offer up such a brutal deconstruction of MMS tropes, then see the likes of Battlefield 4 go out and use those same tropes in their pre-release footage.

But on the positive, SPOPS has managed to create one hell of a tail for itself. Here we are not far off a year on, and people are still writing articles about its narrative and artistic value. That's more than the vast majority of games get, so I'm hoping this means SPOPS is turning into a bona fide cult hit. It's always nice to have a few proper cult games every generation.

Now I'm just waiting for Daystar to loudly march into the thread and tell us all how boring he found SPOPS for the gazillionth time.

Well, maybe if you accept that Walker was still alive at the moment he met Konrad. I believe Walker died at the first Helicopter crash and everything that is follows is just a flashback (life flashing before your eyes in your last moments) and that everything after the repeated scene of the helicopter crash, is just a illusion for Walker's mind to figure out the doubt he has about his own morale decisions. So the decision about who the shoot, is more a decision about taking responsibility for the actions Walker took in Dubai. I shot Walker, not to wash my hands of the whole thing, but because I realized that the monster I was targeting the whole game, was Walker and nobody else.

And most choices you make as the player are pretty meaningless in the end. They don't have any significant effect on the story. The only choices that matters are made by Walker. He decides to ignore his mission to be a hero. He decides to use the white phosphor. He decides the join the CIA in stealing the water. These decisions are what makes Walker his own character, but also morally questionable. We are just their being the driving force that allow Walker to do this deeds. We are, by playing this game, allowing Walker to do this.

You have no choice in this game, only the illusion of choice. Just like most other Modern war FPS's, the only difference that the you are not playing the Hero, but the villain in this battle.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
It's an interesting way to look at the game.

I can't say that I think it's the best way to play the game. For me, the game has its biggest impact if you go into it trying to be the hero. If you do that, then you've positioned yourself perfectly for the game to rip you a new one, and to shred your conceits in front of your eyes.

I think the majority of the subtext about modern military games is in the game regardless of how you play it. Certainly going into it with a violent mindset magnifies that subtext, but then is that really the game? Does murdering hookers in GTA Vice City add to the game's scathing satire of pop culture, or is that simply you punctuating comedic social commentary with your own acts of sociopathy?

No matter how you play Spec Ops, you'll always be the villain, not the hero, and I think that's where the biggest condemnation of modern shooters lies. A lot of the choices offered in the game, to me, seem to tie in less with the MMS criticism, and more to do with the idea of player agency. I guess military shooters tie into that in the way that they always try and portray you as the hero, but stuff like choosing which person to shoot seemed (to me) to be commenting on the fundamental paradox of offering choice in something as heavily scripted as a game. No matter what choice you made, it turns out it never mattered anyway. The only real choice the player has is deciding whether or not it's worth sparing the main character at the end of it.

Still, while it didn't exactly set sales records or anything, I hope SPOPS marks a turning point in military shooters. The likes of COD are getting downright offensive in their vulgarity and need to generate controversy. What was the point of the airport scene in MW2? What was the point of the family bombing scene in MW3? It makes me sad to see Spec Ops offer up such a brutal deconstruction of MMS tropes, then see the likes of Battlefield 4 go out and use those same tropes in their pre-release footage.

But on the positive, SPOPS has managed to create one hell of a tail for itself. Here we are not far off a year on, and people are still writing articles about its narrative and artistic value. That's more than the vast majority of games get, so I'm hoping this means SPOPS is turning into a bona fide cult hit. It's always nice to have a few proper cult games every generation.

Now I'm just waiting for Daystar to loudly march into the thread and tell us all how boring he found SPOPS for the gazillionth time.

The thing is MW didn't let us feel awful even though we were ready for it. We are a generation raised on 24, The Wire and the Shield. We won't mind being monsters but instead the developers feared controversy. We played psychopaths before, and I was not affected by such actions in the sense on "could I have saved them, no they are all already dying. I could not even let them die with dignity"

The only thing is SPOPS did everything straight...without anything to soften the blow.

Thank you for writing this article! While I do feel, as many have stated, that you should play The Line your own way the first time through, I feel that your idea would be great if your looking to replay the game. Its a new way to look at The Line that I hadn't really thought about, and feel that such an experience would really drive home the point of how awful the actions most modern day shooters ask you to take.

Wait...there is a Campaign in Battlefield? Nonsense. I don't believe you.

I tried to play Spec Ops: The Line, I really did, I just wish someone better at making games had made it. Maybe if the devs had not been forced to shoehorn in multi-player it would be better, I doubt it though.

As it stands Spec Ops is a terrible game, and just like Bioshock and Dead Space I will never finish it because the mechanics are too terrible, and this coming from someone who has played PS:T like twenty times. Maybe I am just intolerant of terrible shooters, because so many people can make good (or at least passable ones).

"...Spec Ops: The Line, it's a game with a moral lesson, namely that shooting people in the face with guns is a bad thing."
And that is why you are awarded with an achievement if you kill 500 people with an assault rifle, shotgun, handgun or whatever.
A mechanic that annoyed me was that no matter what weapon you and your enemies used you got ammunition for your weapon by executing enemies. Was Walker a warlock capable of summoning ammunition by performing a blood sacrifice by killing is enemies (if so would killing a virgin summon a WMD)?
Another problem with the game is its fans that make it seem like the greatest game ever. But then you start playing it and the gameplay is dull and slow and you force yourself to play it to experience the story which goes over the top just for the game to prove its point.
Never finished the game (guess where I stopped playing) but doesn't surprise me that

The game may not be as surprising now that everyone knows that it's a guilt trip buffet, but back when everyone thought it was just going to be another Call of Duty knockoff... oh God. How wrong we all were...

Also, just throwing something in about the Heart of Darkness thing going a few posts ago that I noticed, having both played Spec Ops and having read Heart of Darkness.
While at first glance, only the bare bones premise is based on the book (going into a hostile and unforgiving place in search of a mysterious figure), and everything else is different, but one major theme both works share is where the real adaptation part comes in. I am referring to the theme of decay and degeneration.
In Heart of Darkness, Marlowe starts out his tale recounting a mystifying, exotic adventure in the Congo, but as his story progresses, it constantly becomes darker and darker, and instead becomes a revealing tale about the brutality of English colonialism in Africa, and at a deeper level, the sheer, unbridled cruelty men can be capable of.
Spec Ops: The Line starts off with promise of an action packed, blockbuster hero shooter. Everything's set up for a story of action and adventure, but as the game goes on, the heroism quickly begins to bleed away, and instead becomes a story about a man who wanted to be a hero, but instead became a monster.

Swashbuckling adventure stories were popular when Conrad wrote Heart of Darkness, and seeing how popular the "realistic" modern war shooter is today, Spec Ops: The Line is doing something very similar.

Oh, and just another little comparison; In HoD, the gradual degeneration is symbolized through clothing; at the beginning, we have the company employees who are all squeaky clean and dressed up, and by the end we have Kurtz and his followers, who are wearing such tattered, minimal amounts of clothing that they may as well be naked.
Remind you of something similar?

I was thinking something like that. The game basically tries its best to look like the most generic war shooter. It's only in rather subtle ways it shows what's behind all that shooting. Thing is, if someone really plays SOTL like a typical shooter, not thinking about its meaning, they can have just as much fun as with other generic war shooters (say, Homefront). I mean, Homefront tried to do the same thing, but failed. I think there's even a white phosphorus scene there, but it just came out as pathetic.

Point being, I guess only people who already don't like the current trend of war shooters will 'get' SOTL. That's probably a lot of people, still it's kinda discouraging knowing that there are probably also a lot of people playing SOTL just like another COD clone. Actually.. whatever.

I see what you mean by suggesting this way of play, but I've already taken the impact of the game's narrative. But if I play it again in the future I'll try to remember to be a ruthless killing machine.

thats an interesting take on the game and i love the debate its raised in the community.

i can highly recommend picking up a copy of the ebook "killing is harmless"as well and having a play through in conjunction with the text. i missed so much the first time i played through.

It's sad that in 2013 people are still using fun and mechanics as a yard stick for every game whether it is appropriate or not. TBH I don't really understand what there is to hate about the mechanics. I understand some games need these things but not every game. If Spec Ops had been more fun it would have been less enjoyable and that's the double truth, Ruth.

Bob_F_It:
Intentionally being an asshole misses the point with the game. You go in trying to be a hero, you want to be a moral compass opposing the heel, but ultimately your actions and outcomes are a gulf away from your intentions and desires.

Critical miss gets the point: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/comics/critical-miss/10253-Every-Other-Game-Ever
The difference with Spec Ops is that you're the villian, and there's no hero.

Except that by modern shooter logic, being a hero and being an asshole are one and the same thing. There is no contradiction. That said, I think if you play the asshole it's true the appropriate ending is the one where Walker is driven away. If you honestly try to play like a good person, the appropriate ending is the one where you shoot into the air and the US soldiers kill you on the spot. Doing so gives Walker a true soldier's reward: "There's a line men like us have to cross. If we're lucky, we do what's necessary, and then we die. No... all I really want, Captain, is peace."

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

Have you watched or read any of them?

albino boo:
Err Spec tops: the line is just a rip off of apocalypse now. Colonel Konrad is a dead give away, he is Kurtz like character with the name of the writer of the book on which the film is based. John Konrad = Joseph Conrad

The developers actually say that it's inspired by Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. Keep up, son!

OT:
I think that while it is an interesting way to play, I feel the game certainly had more impact when I was in control. Mind you, that's part of the game I think. The multiple choices are there to give you the illusion of being in control, when really your only method of control over the game is to walk away.

The game certainly has more impact if you play along with it. You have to give into the power fantasy it's presenting you to get the most out of it, if you don't play along with that it's just an unremarkable game that's trying to bully you.

mur'phon:
I agree with Knight, you want the gamer to play as "themselves" making the choices they would have made. Unfortunately Spec Ops failed to do that for me, because I tried to avoid using white phosphorous on the civilians, but the game forced me to kill them to proceed.
Also, according to the devs, having Parker hand over the gun at the end makes no difference since he's at that point dying in the helicopter crash.

How did you know there were civilians before you shot the WP?

The devs said that they purposefully left the ending ambiguous. One interpretation is that everything after the helicopter crash is just Walker's dying dream, another is that everything you did was just a fantasy built by Walker who was in fact not sent to find Konrad but sent to evacuate Dubai 5 months ago, another is that after the WP Walker became insane and started hearing Konrad's voice even though he was long dead.

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