Critical Hit: Spec Ops: The Line on PC - A Pseudo-Review

By Ian Soltes 17.04.2017 3

When I originally started to write this, it was not a Critical Hit piece but, rather, a review. I wanted to give this game some attention, some nod to what it's done, and really dig into why it's gotten so much praise. From a gameplay perspective it's sadly a middling and stock-average, generic, shooter. It would seem to be exactly the type of game so many people mock shooters as being: hyper-patriotic shooters that glamourise violence (typically in the name of 'freedom' against terrorists, communists, or Nazis) and serve as little more than masculine power fantasies. However, as anyone who has played the Spec Ops: The Line knows, that's not the case. If it were I wouldn't have hesitated to toss it into the 5/10 bin with so many other generic titles instead of deciding it is worth actually talking about. The question is 'Why?'

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The answer has to be "because it's not that at all," yet it's because it's so easy to mistake it for that that its true merit becomes visible in a powerful, shocking, way. How come? Well, it touches upon so much and shows just how slippery the slope can be between 'hero' and 'crazed monster' and how, worst of all, both can firmly believe that they are doing the right thing.

Dubai is currently choking under some massive sandstorms. These aren't minor scuffs that sweep in one day and are gone before long, but months-long ordeals that have left the city surrounded by mountains of sand. There is hope, though, as the Americans are here to save the day! Except that they went silent, and all contact from Dubai got shut off… and they weren't exactly welcomed or invited into Dubai. Now it's time, though, for round two of America in the form of one Captain Walker who has been ordered to just go in, make contact, confirm survivors, and then report back. Except something is wrong and the locals open up fire on Walker and his men who then decide to ignore their orders and try and get the situation under control themselves. It backfires horribly.

So much could be said and talked about; things like Walker's slipping sanity, how so much of what he's going through resembles PTSD, and how the player will likely keep on trucking forwards, blaming others for the continued failings, unquestioning in the righteousness of their cause, even as the world around them becomes so much worse. Certain scenes have been discussed plenty, such as the infamous mortar scene, and I would rather let you uncover these things on your own to understand the sheer gravity of your actions.

However, remember this. When the game starts, there are over five-thousand people alive in Dubai. How many will still be alive when you put the controller down?

Games are meant to be fun, and there is no harm at all in taking the occasional power trip. After all, how could we become the legendary wielder of the McGuffin Sword, slayer of all that is evil, born of a union between a crystal and a dragon, raised by elves and trained in the art of ninjutsu, those who pulled the legendary sword out of a stone while on a pirate raid? At the same time, however, how many people just look at a game, play it for a quick bit, laugh, and then go on their merry way? How many times have you shot people in a game and not questioned it? Are you just following orders?

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When I was first allowed to touch a gun, I got a swift and stern reminder from the gun range operator. Every time I pulled the trigger I could be ending someone's life, even if I didn't intend to. Every time I touched a gun afterwards I remembered those words and, even now when it's been about a decade since I last held one, I can recall those words fresh in my mind. Videogames and the characters within are not real. However, the way you act, the way you handle yourself in the game, why you do the things you do, will often showcase who you really are. Games that only focus on that rush, that thrill, and players who go out and ride it without responsibility, or even basic consideration, can end up doing immense amounts of harm.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Even in a game this can be so easily forgotten. When I played, I did so firmly believing I would do the right thing. It was clearly those people who wanted to be sadistic or didn't care that it was a game that had gone out and done the horrible things. I was just following orders.

Spec Ops: The Line is very difficult for me to review because of that. The whole point of it is that message. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It's so easy to become the monster you desired to slay. I would score this is an 8/10 but I don't feel right scoring it when the developer itself said that the 'right' choice was 'to stop playing.'

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I really want to replay this game again at some point. I think all the time and discussion about it since then will let me see the events in another light.

I've been meaning to write about Spec Ops: The Line as well. Mechanically, it's not the best third-person-shooter, but it's incredible in every other way. 

Gabriel PVJ Jones said:
I've been meaning to write about Spec Ops: The Line as well. Mechanically, it's not the best third-person-shooter, but it's incredible in every other way. 

That's why I made this a pesudo-review. If I made it a 'legit' review I would have had to bring up stuff like the graphics (which are really par for the course), the gameplay (standard), and so-forth and the thing that really gets to you and makes the game great isn't that. Heck, one could even easily argue that it isn't a great game, but there's little denying it's worth playing over the bazillionth modern military shooter a hundred times over if only for the experience.

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