Spec Ops: The Line - hidden gem + GOTY candidate Watch

ozzyoscy
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For those that haven't played it:

I don't remember what was released in 2012, but it's certainly in the top tier. Even Yahtzee/Zero Punctuation gave a glowing review.

Whoever was behind the marketing, cover design, all of that, needs to be locked up. They've done so well to hide what this game is.

If you play the demo, you see/play Yet Another Cover-Based Shooter with a generic name, where Americans shoot dirty Arabs. Wow. How wrong did that turn out to be? **** got heavy. Reviewers have compared the game to Apocalypse Now. This ain't just some game where you shoot the bad guys.

Once I start mentioning the things in it, it'll lessen the impact if you get round to playing it, but no point not explaining the reasons. So anyone currently using one of Blockbusters' '£10 for unlimited rentals till September' passes definitely should try it and, if your interest is piqued enough, stop reading now. Otherwise...

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SPOILERS FROM NOW ON
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After a bit of playing, and fighting an American squadron that's gone rogue, you'll discover you have choices, when you have to choose between saving a soldier with info regarding your mission or civilians about to be executed (the rogue group have been rounding up civilians).

However, not all choices are obvious.

The game's major scene is excellently done, and it goes from a buddy war game to...



You even see your emotionless self in the monitor making the kills. Dayum.

This is just the beginning, and the writing comes to the fore. The characters don't just evolve in the cutscenes, EVERY little part of the game changes as your squad gets more traumatised (and thirsty, when you run out of water). The generic quotes from you and your squadmates during battle or as you give commands go from a yawnworthy "kill confirmed" to an unsettling "he's ****ing dead", or primal screams as you unload a clip or get shot at; your melee 'executions' gets slightly more and more babaric with each chapter, something you don't notice until he's too far gone; even the loading screen hints are used to show your sanity ebbing away.

And at every turn, you're told you had a choice.

The killer blow comes at the end, as a hallucination reminds your character that all this would've been averted if you actually followed orders: you were told to locate survivors then call for evac. As soon as you found out something big was going on, your guy should've called back. Instead he wanted to be a hero, and ended up manslaughtering everyone.

This is mistakingly referred to by some as a story with an anti-war message. It's not anti-war at all. The moral of the story is to follow your friggin' orders and don't be a hero needlessly. That and good vs. evil isn't that obvious.

I like Metal Gear Solid, but this ****s on Kojima's style of "I'll question the idea of good vs evil by making all the bad guys monologue before they die".

Another thing the story does is critique the war game genre. The maniac you are at the end is basically the 'cool' maniacs you play as in other games, with no one batting an eyelid. (but hey, it's a game)


Call of Duty, this evidently is not.

The setting being Dubai (or 'Real Life Coruscant' as you could call it) is a good idea as well, then add to that it's a post-apocalyptic Dubai. It gives the opportunity for a few stunning views and locales.

Also you're taunted over the radio by a guy who admittedly plays awesome real life music, including that one time he sings a classical song himself (Verdi Dies Irae. You'll know it when you hear it), which makes for a hilarious set piece.

Oh, multiplayer's dead though. :lol:

The only people I wouldn't recommend this to is soldiers suffering from PTSD. You just don't wanna go there.

For those that have played it: You need a hug? *outstretches arms*
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IMakeSenseToNone
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Worth a note, for those who are interested and have it, it'll be free on PSN plus next month. Also this post will try to avoid major spoilers and won't give more away than what was in the OP's non-spoiler tagged parts.

Now I have to admit this is one of those games which I admire but think it does too much wrong to be truly a classic. I'll warn you now you did word your post very nicely but don't expect the same level of eloquence from me .. Or correct spellings.

Anywho, for me the combat was very 'meh' and really needed to be less frequent as it was jarring with the message and atmosphere of the game as well as defied logic (namely how there's some many guys in a supposedly deserted area). Also it's trying to make you feel bad for 'choices' you have no control over and so it just feels forced and provides no emotional punch. Don't get me wrong, it has its moments (O fortuna for example and parts where you and your gang get progressively worse) the gameplay is too out of sync with what could be a rather well told version of 'Heart of Darkness' although not on par with Apocolypse Now.

Let's go back to the positives though for now, I agree that it was fairly good at getting across the tragic atmosphere of the story, and it's deconstruction of the mindless shooter genre is nice but it doesn't stop what it's doing from being rather mind-numbing. I think it would have worked much better as a survival game ala I Am Alive or MGS3 instead of having an army of mindless enemies, running down a tight space only to be replaced by more enemies from back rooms.

Going to some of your points though, I beg to differ and say that is is an anti-war game to some extent as it's showing the sheer loss of life it causes as well as the psychological damage caused to the perpetrators of violence. As for the 'infamous' scene... Have you ever seen the film 'Funny Games'? My experience of that film was something like this:

Film: Why are you enjoying this sick filth that i'm showing you? You are bad and you should feel bad.
Me: Well i'm not enjoying it... Sooo... *switches off*

For me Spec Ops does something along the lines of this, although instead of 'enjoy' it's 'doing'. It feels very emotionally manipulative and it uses cheap guilt tactics against your assumed intentions, the same way Funny Games bangs on against you for your assumed reaction towards the film. The game does constantly hammer the message of choice home to you (possibly too much really) but you, as a player, don't have one. You can't force your character to do his job and follows orders, you have to follow the game through. In other words the game is more akin to someone grabbing your arm and forcing you to press the button.
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Having women and children dotted around also is just a very cheap ploy to make you feel bad and any emotional reaction you have is soon gone as there's yet another wave of enemies to kill.


I admit you can easily make the argument that the game is commentating on how gamers will justify any action in game so long as they are given silly binary choices that say they are good for doing it (see Mass Effect) despite the effect, or how you can just turn the game off and that is 'the ending'. Personally though I don't find this argument convincing, I paid for this game, switching the game off before that moment is an unsatisfactory ending and as such I won't feel guilted just for playing what I paid for in the way the developers intend and only allow. I think in a weird way this game does need binary choice (although it would need to be done really well with some ambiguity thrown in) as it's hard to feel the emotional impact of what you do if you couldn't have stopped it in anyway.


Soooo.... yeah, I really hope this doesn't come across as a 'how dare you like this' post, I do really get why people like it and am happy you do (certainly beats CoD and all that), but hopefully I presented an argument that made sense :^_^: Anyway thanks for this thread, it was fun to respond to.
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ozzyoscy
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(Original post by IMakeSenseToNone)
Soooo.... yeah, I really hope this doesn't come across as a 'how dare you like this' post, I do really get why people like it and am happy you do (certainly beats CoD and all that), but hopefully I presented an argument that made sense :^_^: Anyway thanks for this thread, it was fun to respond to.
We all have opinions. What our big posts do at least is show that this game is more complex than a generic war shooter.
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IMakeSenseToNone
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(Original post by ozzyoscy)
We all have opinions. What our big posts do at least is show that this game is more complex than a generic war shooter.
If only more games could inspire conversations longer themselves, eh? If you haven't played it Far Cry 3 has some of the same themes done slightly more subtly and is worth a play if you like Spec Ops (They really need a better title...). Doesn't do the de-constructing of shooter games though sadly, anyone know any others which do? I'm sure there's some but they're escaping me.
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username33685
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Ironically IMakeSenseToNone makes perfect sense and I share their opinion. The experience is amazing, but the actual game is meh and at odds with it's narrative message. You must kill over a thousand guys during a single playthrough!! If it had combat similar to The Last of Us when two or three bad guys in a room rather than dozens was enough to make you **** your pants, where ammo was scarce and where every kill meant something and was a challenge... then I'd think the game would move to greatness.
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IMakeSenseToNone
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(Original post by rich2606)
Ironically IMakeSenseToNone makes perfect sense and I share their opinion. The experience is amazing, but the actual game is meh and at odds with it's narrative message. You must kill over a thousand guys during a single playthrough!! If it had combat similar to The Last of Us when two or three bad guys in a room rather than dozens was enough to make you **** your pants, where ammo was scarce and where every kill meant something and was a challenge... then I'd think the game would move to greatness.
Yay :macarena: And here I thought it was the inane ramblings of a crazy person (rather appropiate considering the characters of the game though I suppose).

I've actually had my head in the sand over TLOU and all I know about it is that it has Zombies and Eurogamer likes it so hearing that has just made me incredibly happy If you like that aspect of the game I would really recommend I Am Alive if you haven't given it a go, it's criminally underrated due to its difficultly but it's one of the few games which is hell to play but in the best way possible. Basically everything wants you dead, you have nearly nothing to defend yourself with and the world is so rancid the only happy feels come from giving your resources to those less fortunate and then massively screwing yourself over because of it. It's one of the few games where being a nice guy is punished.
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ozzyoscy
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Found the name of the song. It's Verdi Dies Irae. The scene (23m 23s in):



Also the music credits are here: http://www.2kgames.com/specopstheline/musiccredits/

Jimi Hendrix? Hell yeah.
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IMakeSenseToNone
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Oh goodness so it is :facepalm: Good catch, shows how little I remember all that Classical music I grew up with.
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fire2burn
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I've got this game sitting on a shelf collecting dust, never gotten around to playing it. Guess I'll have to give it a bash at some point
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Tom_green_day
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I played five minutes of this, but the gameplay seemed quite predictable. I haven't actually got to the 'twist' but, y'know, this is the internet, I've found out what it is. I've heard mixed reviews, some people said it was amazing, and others said it was underwhelming. As for GoTY status? I think I'd give that to Mass Effect 3 or Borderlands 2.
Apparently the devs are making a new one. Should be interesting to see where they go from here.
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Zubby77
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I just finished this, I thought it was a very good game. I'm not the biggest fan of "shooter" games, unless they have something different (for example the Resistance series which I loved). From my view, the gameplay itself wasn't great, it was fairly bland, especially the wave after wave of enemies, I've never understood why shooters don't just lessen the number of enemies on screen and make them more difficult to kill. I mean, how realistic is it that three Delta operatives could kill so many soldiers in what according to the game was "the most decorated squadron", the 33rd.

Having said that, I think the story is brilliant. The focus on a psychological, mental aspect of war, centering on PTSD is really interesting and it really hit home for me. I had been playing it as a normal game up until the
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WP scene, after that, I was a lot more conscious of what I was doing, and who I was killing. Even though the game forces you into it, I felt incredibly bad after that, and it affected how I played. For example, when you have to choose between the two guys hanging, I didn't want to have to choose, and instead ended up trying to take out all of the snipers etc, and I finally ended up doing it, after dying quite a few times.

I do disagree when people say that it relies on cheap guilt, I think it really depends on how you see the game, for some reason I felt really responsible for everything I had done during the game, even though it's forced on you, in order to drive the narrative on - and I personally feel that the game deserves real credit for that, not many games leave me with this sort of uneasy feeling about my playthrough.

One thing I think was unrealistic is how Lugo and Adams didn't stop Walker at any point, even when he goes off his nut completely and starts speaking to "Konrad". I know they're outranked and whatever but surely they wouldn't just blindly follow him while he's speaking to an imaginary person


All in all, a great game, much more complex than the bog standard CoD games being pumped out, glad I played it.
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ozzyoscy
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(Original post by Zubby77)
I've never understood why shooters don't just lessen the number of enemies on screen and make them more difficult to kill.

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I was a lot more conscious of what I was doing, and who I was killing. Even though the game forces you into it, I felt incredibly bad after that, and it affected how I played. For example, when you have to choose between the two guys hanging, I didn't want to have to choose, and instead ended up trying to take out all of the snipers etc, and I finally ended up doing it, after dying quite a few times.

One thing I think was unrealistic is how Lugo and Adams didn't stop Walker at any point, even when he goes off his nut completely and starts speaking to "Konrad". I know they're outranked and whatever but surely they wouldn't just blindly follow him while he's speaking to an imaginary person


All in all, a great game, much more complex than the bog standard CoD games being pumped out, glad I played it.
Gears of War is more like that: less enemies, but they eat bullets for breakfast. I think out of the two, I prefer more enemies that don't take forever to kill. It wears me down playing Gears of War, not delicate on the ears either since it's unloading bullets 24/7 with the odd moment of "COLE TRAIN, BABY! [INSERT BLACK PHRASE]"

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The caring about who you're killing part reminded me of Metal Gear Solid 3, when you wade through the ghosts of every single enemy you killed. There are a few parallels with Hideo Kojima, but I think Spec Ops did it all better. Kojima showed it's not simply a case of good and evil by having the 'bad guys' monologue and describe some tragedy they had in childhood, and that they were doing what they were doing for good reasons... but then Hitler thought what he was doing was good, and Saddam was bullied as a child, that doesn't mean they weren't evil.

The river bit in MGS3 didn't make me feel sad for those that died or make me feel bad, Spec Ops did though.

You're totally right about the choices and the hanging bit. That's exactly how I did it. If the white phosphorous bit didn't happen, I might not have tried killing the snipers. It was pretty cool giving the silent order to my teammates to take out the snipers.

The twist that he was imagining it did remind me of the same twist in Call of Duty, though that was done well in CoD.

Perhaps you could explain his teammates not doing anything by saying they didn't have any other choice. They were surrounded by enemies, last thing they need is to antagonise another person who was helping them stay alive.
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ozzyoscy
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#13
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75% off on Steam. Now's the time to buy it if you think you're a hero.
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