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

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

Because they were in one massive hemmed in cluster, not attempting to take cover or spreading out. None of the other soldiers you kill with the phosphorous does this, they are either moving, taking cover, or simply spreading out. Thus I thought they where civilians, or maybe POWs, or heck maybe even deserters. So I killed the tanks and soldiers, and then tried to exit the controls. The game refused, and I spent the rest of the game being pissed at the game, not myself.

JudgeGame:

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.

Except that the devs let the game fade to black every time time passes, and white whenever Walker hallucinates. Maybe Walker survives the crash, but whatever happens after seems to be a hallucination.

Sooo... because the character is American (the target audience for the game and generally the world's police with military deployed all over the world) and white (78.1% of the US population, over half of which play games and so also make up the largest gaming target audience), it is racist for them to be in other nations where demographics are more diverse because...? I'm not so sure that belief isn't racist itself, like you're just looking for color. It's like being angry that a game set in Nigeria has a lot of black bad guys. It would be racist to make them white considering the locale.

It's quite a broad statement to say that military games are racist. Nationalist, sure, that's not a bad thing. And sometimes racist? Sure, sometimes, but not always.

Lightknight:
Sooo... because the character is American (the target audience for the game and generally the world's police with military deployed all over the world) and white (78.1% of the US population, over half of which play games and so also make up the largest gaming target audience), it is racist for them to be in other nations where demographics are more diverse because...? I'm not so sure that belief isn't racist itself, like you're just looking for color. It's like being angry that a game set in Nigeria has a lot of black bad guys. It would be racist to make them white considering the locale.

It's quite a broad statement to say that military games are racist. Nationalist, sure, that's not a bad thing. And sometimes racist? Sure, sometimes, but not always.

Didn't you know? If you kill anyone that is of different race in game, you are racist! But if you kill white people? that is ok.

This article is one of the most naive and biased pieces I've ever read. I'm sure at points the writer even gets confused with himself as to whether he is against the modern era of FPS or the US's current over-sea's agendas.

"We need to see the war game fucking suffer" also if your trying to put a serious message across, whats with all the swearing? Not easily offended, but come on, it's just put in there for the sake of it.

The morality and deep spiritual realizations your demanding of Call of Duty & Battlefield are neigh on idiotic. Did you go to the expendables and start screaming at Stallone "HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT!!! BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS!!!". Call of duty is the video game translation of the cheesy OTT Hollywood blockbuster movie and that's all right, sometimes you just want a simple sit down of, I'm a good guy, they are the bad guy, they have to be stopped. Any racist cogitations your placing on these games are your own. The major conflicts going on today for the most part western powers with the middle east, so our games, films etc reflect that to capture the minds and fears of the target audience. Just look how many god dam west vs Russia films were made during the cold war.

An then after critsising the lack of authenticity in these games you make the de-humanization of the enemy one of your focal points. Have you never heard the phrase "innocence is the first casualty of war", de-humanization of the enemy is about the only thing all fps games get correct, they don't brief squads of infantry that in some specilsations are dubbed "kill squads" by reminding them that the men they are fighting have hopes, dreams, morals, hobbies are just like them and have a family waiting for them at home. It would drive most to insanity. That's why names like kraut, Jerry, limey, frog, rag head have historically been encouraged to demonize and de-humanize the enemy and make them less than human.

The reason in my eyes why allot of games do not put you in a soldier and make you question the morality of your actions is because that's not what a soldiers job is. It's to follow orders, whilst maintaining to their country's laws/constitution and international rules on war (I know there has been some questionable stuff obviously but I'm talking majority). An it's a sad fact that there are allot of individuals out there that do have to deal with some of the horrible things they have been required to endure and/or purposely/accidentally do. Doesn't exactly sound like a great basis for a game your going to want to play time and time again. Hence why mass sales are always going to you more simplistic we are 100% good, apart from couple of these rogue spies we have to take down and them guys over there are the bad guys. The majority of the public want to place them selves in "band of brothers" fighting a morally just war against a wholly evil empire, being the hero. Not as Andrew Scott in universal soldier going bat shit an killing everything.

Seriously I've not played the game, it sounds like a great one off and I may pick it up at some point. But take it as it is, an individual piece that looks at an extreme situation the kind that a black ops team may find themselves in, an then dramatized. Don't place your expectations of, from the sounds of it a unique piece of gaming, that makes you ask real moral questions about a charter you can choose to be morally objectionable. I've made this point before there is more than one strain of shooter. It's the same as criticizing madden for not having enough puzzles in it, just doesn't make any sense. A more lucid argument would be simply stating that you prefer this strain of shooter more and why.

when your cia ally gives you his evolver with one bullet so you can shoot him, i tried to shoot but missed, and then i walked away and pretended like i did it on purpose

mur'phon:

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

Because they were in one massive hemmed in cluster, not attempting to take cover or spreading out. None of the other soldiers you kill with the phosphorous does this, they are either moving, taking cover, or simply spreading out. Thus I thought they where civilians, or maybe POWs, or heck maybe even deserters. So I killed the tanks and soldiers, and then tried to exit the controls. The game refused, and I spent the rest of the game being pissed at the game, not myself.

JudgeGame:

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.

Except that the devs let the game fade to black every time time passes, and white whenever Walker hallucinates. Maybe Walker survives the crash, but whatever happens after seems to be a hallucination.

That seems difficult to believe. I don't think anybody could possibly make out what anything was in that scene since the time you are given to get usd to the view is extremely short and mostly you are just aiming at the big red pointers and not paying attention to anything else. Anyway, even if you do avoid the civilians the WP rolls down the slope they are hiding at the bottom of so it's not a matter of whether you chose to hit the civilians, it's a matter of whether you chose to use the WP at all, which you did.

You can choose to interpret the story however you want, but so can everyone else. There is very little information to decide what is and isn't real in Spec Ops, you should choose whichever interpretation feels best with you.

metal mustache:
when your cia ally gives you his evolver with one bullet so you can shoot him, i tried to shoot but missed, and then i walked away and pretended like i did it on purpose

Good one. I shot him, but 20 minutes later I regretted it and wished I had let him burn.

MacNille:

Lightknight:
Sooo... because the character is American (the target audience for the game and generally the world's police with military deployed all over the world) and white (78.1% of the US population, over half of which play games and so also make up the largest gaming target audience), it is racist for them to be in other nations where demographics are more diverse because...? I'm not so sure that belief isn't racist itself, like you're just looking for color. It's like being angry that a game set in Nigeria has a lot of black bad guys. It would be racist to make them white considering the locale.

It's quite a broad statement to say that military games are racist. Nationalist, sure, that's not a bad thing. And sometimes racist? Sure, sometimes, but not always.

Didn't you know? If you kill anyone that is of different race in game, you are racist! But if you kill white people? that is ok.

Exactly! The KKK are not hunting down black people all the time, sometimes they sleep, eat and go to church. Therefore they are not racist. Unless you are racist 100% of the time, nobody can call you racist. If only these hippie Democrats used their brains a little.

I probably wouldn't have thought they were something else than soldiers, if I hadn't been as terrible at the game/hesitant to use white phosphorous in the first place. And it's perfectly possible to kill every enemy except the civilians, only you can't exit the drone controls. It also probably helped that a friend had insisted the game was something more than just another man shooter.

I agree you can choose your own interpretation, however, the devs have explicitly stated that whatever happens after the crash isn't real, so the number of interpretations is a bit limited.

MacNille:
Didn't you know? If you kill anyone that is of different race in game, you are racist! But if you kill white people? that is ok.

Oh no! So much blood on my hands, so many sins... Now who will love me?!

I'm not sure I agree. I can see what you were going for but for me personally I found it more compelling to TRY and be the 'good guy' and then still have everything go to shit.

As far as I understood it that was the entire point of the game, Walker is trying to be the hero and in doing so makes everything worse. His mission was to go to Dubai, have a look around and then leave but instead he and the player decide to continue and time and time again while trying to do the 'right' thing they make everything worse.

IMO if you spent the game purposefully being an arsehole, it undermines the notion of trying hero by replacing that power fantasy with a more contemptible one.

Ilikemilkshake:
I'm not sure I agree. I can see what you were going for but for me personally I found it more compelling to TRY and be the 'good guy' and then still have everything go to shit.

As far as I understood it that was the entire point of the game, Walker is trying to be the hero and in doing so makes everything worse. His mission was to go to Dubai, have a look around and then leave but instead he and the player decide to continue and time and time again while trying to do the 'right' thing they make everything worse.

IMO if you spent the game purposefully being an arsehole, it undermines the notion of trying hero by replacing that power fantasy with a more contemptible one.

And I will do that over and over again. Dubai was a dying place, no hope, no salvation. The only thing to do is to assume the mantle of the reaper and take every last soul. Ever since I knew the Line will be so cruel, I decided to embrace my inner villain, the little monster in my heart that has been waiting to escape since Modern Warfare and 24 taught me. The age of heroic soldiers that we created during WWII is gone.

Captcha: and that's the way it is

I really, really struggle to accept what this article says. One of the main thrusts of the game is that your character thinks he is a hero, while the player is continuing to massacre everybody in sight. Telling people how they should be playing the game (not to mention spoiling damn near every significant event in the game for them without warning...) doesn't add anything to this at all. It doesn't matter if you try to be an asshole. The game was made to teach you that no matter how nice and heroic you think you are being, you are still a single-minded mass-murderer.

Don't tell people to take actions "because other games reward you for these things." That's literally already what the game is trying to contradict; the idea that you should be thinking about what you are doing in these games, regardless of how glorified the actions are within the game systems.

And please place a spoiler warning up the top of the article. Anybody who reads this because they're interested in the game is at a high risk of ruining their entire experience.

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.

Well you can just start gunning down the military, but three people don't stand a chance against them of course. That's what makes Walker's decision a tough one in the first place.

You always have a choice in Spec Ops, the same choice Walker has always had: Quit. Refuse to continue committing these horrible acts. Part of you says what you're doing it's morally wrong, but another part says it's right, it's what you're supposed to, and in the end you justified it by saying you were left no choice. That's how much you wanted to complete the game and "win" it. That's how much Walker wanted to be a hero. It's why Konrad tells you both "None of this would have happened if you had just stopped. But on you marched."

That's in my opinion where Spec Ops is the most meta and the most successful in its narrative on cognitive dissonance.

Marik Bentusi:

Well you can just start gunning down the military, but three people don't stand a chance against them of course. That's what makes Walker's decision a tough one in the first place.

You always have a choice in Spec Ops, the same choice Walker has always had: Quit. Refuse to continue committing these horrible acts. Part of you says what you're doing it's morally wrong, but another part says it's right, it's what you're supposed to, and in the end you justified it by saying you were left no choice. That's how much you wanted to complete the game and "win" it. That's how much Walker wanted to be a hero. It's why Konrad tells you both "None of this would have happened if you had just stopped. But on you marched."

That's in my opinion where Spec Ops is the most meta and the most successful in its narrative on cognitive dissonance.

I can appreciate that the game was trying to prove a point about violence being wrong, and we should think about our actions and etc etc, but it kind of loses that message to me because of the meta route it takes to get to it.

I went through the game and did my best to act exactly as I would in life. Let the soldier that killed the CIA spook get away. Killed the soldier/murderer since I was not going to take the chance of putting my fellow operators lives on the line without good reason. Saved the civvies since they had a better chance of survival than direct action against a force. At the end sure I can feel bad about the Whiskey Pete, I disagree with the way the game literally forces you onward. Even before all these decisions I had to make, back of my head was going "So, why aren't we radio-ing command? That was the whole point of us being here". Then at the end of the game that was some big defining moment.

Its hard for me to really be affected by a game that says it gives me options, but does not give me the ones which would actually make sense. I don't exactly remember the option to call command after I found insurgents in the city fighting the 33rd. Would have made quite a different game, and would have had the most meaning. Yet, no option for it.

I can't feel guilty about something a game forced me to do in order to continue the game. It's a bit ridiculous. Paid money for the game, going to finish it.

Moonlight Butterfly:
I can't feel guilty about something a game forced me to do in order to continue the game. It's a bit ridiculous. Paid money for the game, going to finish it.

And Walker should have reflected that, how does this kind of horror affects his train of thought. Being in denial turns him to the Walker we all know with his savagery. The Walker who becomes "death, destroyer of Dubai" becomes eerily calm, telling they all need to die as the city was beyond salvation.

Also, if you called command, it should be just as awful as willy pete. The forces get caught in the stormwall, unable to head back and is eventually massacred. One survivor gets back and reports the terrible news.

Marik Bentusi:

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.

Well you can just start gunning down the military, but three people don't stand a chance against them of course. That's what makes Walker's decision a tough one in the first place.

You always have a choice in Spec Ops, the same choice Walker has always had: Quit. Refuse to continue committing these horrible acts. Part of you says what you're doing it's morally wrong, but another part says it's right, it's what you're supposed to, and in the end you justified it by saying you were left no choice. That's how much you wanted to complete the game and "win" it. That's how much Walker wanted to be a hero. It's why Konrad tells you both "None of this would have happened if you had just stopped. But on you marched."

That's in my opinion where Spec Ops is the most meta and the most successful in its narrative on cognitive dissonance.

I was used to playing games where I was indeed a psychopath (Syndicate, Saints' Row, Postal). Walker simply didn't embrace his inner monster. He should have killed everyone and accepted the hopelessness of Dubai and simply end it all.

My response to Walker "The only problem is you didn't bring enough ammo"

But then the gut punch line by Konrad is significantly less effective, if it has any effect at all.
"Wanted to be something you aren't, a hero"
But if you want us to murder and murder and murder then we aren't trying to play as the hero are we? Heck, trying to be the bad guy undermines the entire point of it.

WTG_Nightbringer:

I can appreciate that the game was trying to prove a point about violence being wrong, and we should think about our actions and etc etc, but it kind of loses that message to me because of the meta route it takes to get to it.

Its hard for me to really be affected by a game that says it gives me options, but does not give me the ones which would actually make sense. I don't exactly remember the option to call command after I found insurgents in the city fighting the 33rd. Would have made quite a different game, and would have had the most meaning. Yet, no option for it.

Completely agree, which is why I think games like New Vegas and Alpha protocol did a far better job of making me actually think about my actions. Launching a nuke at civilians in New Vegas had far more of an impact because I could have decided not to do it, but I didn't and thus I felt far worse than I did playing Spec Ops.

While this was an interesting and well-written article, the way I played it was to continually try to do the right thing, and the game's strengths in my opinion lie in the fact that nothing is ever truly right. I mean, think back to the start. The shit hits the fan as soon as you fire on fellow American soldiers. As the bodies piled up, along with the atrocities, I kept on thinking to myself "this is all OK, because I'll get Conrad in the end" ; I continually tried to justify these things to myself. By the end however, this argument clearly doesn't hold water, and you're forced to consider what you've truly done. And that's fucking powerful.

Radoh:
But then the gut punch line by Konrad is significantly less effective, if it has any effect at all.
"Wanted to be something you aren't, a hero"
But if you want us to murder and murder and murder then we aren't trying to play as the hero are we? Heck, trying to be the bad guy undermines the entire point of it.

At the point where I realize I had no other option except to be cruel was during the second "choice". I realize that I can do nothing but watch, turning away and letting them die a painful death or let another group of Walkers into the place. There was no hope, no salvation, they were dead men walking and I only wish their suffering was less painful.

Konrad could have came in with a similar statement on how Walker decided he was using the idea of being a cold murderer to hide the denial of how he couldn't save anyone and thought it will be a good choice to simply kill everyone. But instead of the serene painless death, he made their final moments even more painful than if he had just left them alone.

mur'phon:
I agree you can choose your own interpretation, however, the devs have explicitly stated that whatever happens after the crash isn't real, so the number of interpretations is a bit limited.

Actually, the lead writer has stated that he is most partial to the idea of the story being a dying dream or purgatorial reenactment. No one at Yeager has stated a be all end all interpretation for this aspect of the story. Back to the purgatorial reenactment idea, I feel like it makes the game even more meta than it already is. Thinking about it this way, every time you turn on the game you're tormenting Walker, which further solidifies my view of him as an amazingly tragic character.

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.

Apocalypse Now is based on, and takes quite a few elements from, Heart of Darkness, and is undoubtedly what the developers based themselves around more, despite what they claim. Which is fine, but you're really not correcting him on all that much. All three share the same, rather specific thematic space. But there's a clear and chronological line of progression with regards to what influenced what. Both Apocalypse and Spec Ops focus themselves in on the expectation of violence almost immediately. Not to mention the obvious military parallels, which Spec Ops really does just copy.

OT: Two pages to say "kill as much as you can, because that's what the games being criticised tell you to do" is just short of two pages too many.

Besides which, the game's point is about taking any which way you can to justify to yourself that you are acting the hero. This method is entirely unnecessary. It hinges far more on you picking the choices that are personal to you than it does acting as much like a CoD protagonist as possible.

So basically your saying is to understand the game is to be the villain? well it work for me by playing god of war and disliking it after.

"You're still a good person."

That line has stayed with me. I think about it while playing shooter games. As I'm stabbing or shooting my enemies, over and over in my head I hear: "You're still a good person."

Also: "You're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not. A hero."

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.

no, the difference is that there's no villain

Ed Smith:

The Line challenges our lazy and unquestioning attitude to violence in games. It gives us red herrings, false targets and vague objectives and watches us kill, kill and kill again regardless. The game says we need to blow these people up and we do it; who'd have thought they might be unarmed civilians with children?

No no no, it challenges YOUR unquestioning attitude towards violence in games. If you ALWAYS question these things in games then game does nothing besides irritate you because it thinks it's so goddamn clever. You have to be a gunbro MMS player to get anything out of it. If you hate the genre, or wonder why they glorify war so much, or why their stories are always so awful, then this game is pointless to even play.

Honestly, I wasn't as impressed with Spec Ops: The Line.

I got where they were going, and as an introspective into the mind of a mad-man slowly buckling under the weight of his own poor judgement, it's really good. I especially like how they occasionally put the player into "bullet time" as a subtle reminder even pretty early on that Walker isn't quite firing on all cylinders. It creeps up on you since it just feels like a standard game mechanic, but when the other hints add up it becomes a lot more important.

As an indictment of war games in general, or we as players? Fuck no. The pivotal point for me wasn't even the WP scene, although the railroading there was bad enough. It was earlier when the 33rd soldier runs off and comes back with his buddies. That's the point where any sane person would call out "Hey, we're not with the CIA, we just got dropped in today and I need to talk to Konrad." And keep doing so as many times as necessary until someone on the other side got tired of getting shot.

But no, there's no option for that. Having difficulties with the locals makes sense because the language barrier hampers communication even before you add in their resentment of anyone in an American Uniform. But other soldiers? Cmon, at least one of them would take the time to ask wtf you are doing before shooting. Even if you melee the soldiers to subdue them without killing, they just get right back up and start shooting again.

Walker gets plenty of chances to stop fucking up, and as a player I would have loved to take those chances. But he never takes them, and then just escalates shit for no good reason. Like blowing up the radio tower. Why? Fuck-all reason. At least Lugo had a decent excuse for killing the Radioman.

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