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(TechRadar)   An ode to Spec Ops: The Line on its tenth anniversary, the military shooter that showed how frighteningly easy it is for seemingly good people to go bad   (techradar.com) divider line
    More: Vintage, Iraq War, 2003 invasion of Iraq, US Army Captain Walker, video games, new tab, military cover shooter, three-man Delta Force recon team, indictment of war  
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537 clicks; posted to Fandom » on 28 Jun 2022 at 8:17 AM (6 weeks ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook



27 Comments     (+0 »)
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2022-06-28 9:02:42 AM  
What's weird is that dev company hasn't made anything like it before or since. One of those lighting in a bottle situations.
 
2022-06-28 9:10:48 AM  
However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).
 
2022-06-28 9:32:20 AM  
Spec Ops: The Line - I: How to Restart a Franchise - Extra Credits
Youtube kjaBsuXWJJ8
 
2022-06-28 9:32:55 AM  
And part II:

Spec Ops: The Line - II: What Does It Mean to be a Hero? - Extra Credits
Youtube cJZIhcCA2lk


A fairly solid analysis
 
2022-06-28 9:36:35 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).


Sort of like Farcry 4... the best ending is when you just sit and enjoy the crab rangoon.
 
2022-06-28 9:52:24 AM  

darkmayo: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Sort of like Farcry 4... the best ending is when you just sit and enjoy the crab rangoon.


I can't stand games with obvious morality mechanics, pre-selected "good" or "evil" pathways.  Things like Mass Effect's Paragon and Renegade systems (though that's so watered-down it's not even really morality; it's about being callous or nice not good or evil).  Give me organic responses to how I "solved" a "problem".  Fallout games oddly work well, here; you're never flagged as Good or Evil, individual groups will like or hate you more or less, and major factions will give you a scene in the epilogue describing how your choices affected that group, for the better or for the worse.  In many cases, there may be clear "wrong" choices, but no clear "right" ones, and that's a good thing.
 
2022-06-28 10:06:32 AM  

darkmayo: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Sort of like Farcry 4... the best ending is when you just sit and enjoy the crab rangoon.


5 did the same thing.  The endings suck so hard for everyone that the best outcome is literally to not play.  In each case, it definitely constitutes doing the smart thing (don't get involved in a civil war you know absolutely nothing about, come back with reinforcements before arresting the way-too-confident cult leader surrounded by his followers), but knowing failure is predetermined as is the only outcome kind of kills your desire to keep playing.  At least 3 gave you your "walk away from this farked-up situation" option after the final battle, and 6 gave you a semi-okayish (though still bittersweet at best) ending.
 
2022-06-28 10:08:18 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).


That's one of the biggest points of the game, though. Sometimes you're just a cog in a f*cked up machine and you are the bad guys faced with impossible choices. It was a heavy indictment of 50+ years of pro-American military propaganda in which they could do no wrong.
 
2022-06-28 10:37:40 AM  

Last Man on Earth: darkmayo: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Sort of like Farcry 4... the best ending is when you just sit and enjoy the crab rangoon.

5 did the same thing.  The endings suck so hard for everyone that the best outcome is literally to not play.  In each case, it definitely constitutes doing the smart thing (don't get involved in a civil war you know absolutely nothing about, come back with reinforcements before arresting the way-too-confident cult leader surrounded by his followers), but knowing failure is predetermined as is the only outcome kind of kills your desire to keep playing.  At least 3 gave you your "walk away from this farked-up situation" option after the final battle, and 6 gave you a semi-okayish (though still bittersweet at best) ending.


I mean, it's a Far Cry game.  The best outcome is to do nothing so you don't have to climb any more farking towers.
 
2022-06-28 10:53:48 AM  
SPEC OPS: THE LINE (Zero Punctuation)
Youtube HNhPMjbgkXA
 
2022-06-28 10:56:00 AM  
It will never fail to befuddle me when people bizarrely think they have a deep understanding of items which are clearly well outside their personal experiences, it is so damn weird when people do that.

"I played this video game/saw this movie/TV show about the legal system/the military/the medical field/science/law enforcement which now qualifies me to make sweeping and clownish declarations because I now truly get it even though I have no real life experience in the subject matter."
 
2022-06-28 11:04:34 AM  

RedPhoenix122: Last Man on Earth: darkmayo: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Sort of like Farcry 4... the best ending is when you just sit and enjoy the crab rangoon.

5 did the same thing.  The endings suck so hard for everyone that the best outcome is literally to not play.  In each case, it definitely constitutes doing the smart thing (don't get involved in a civil war you know absolutely nothing about, come back with reinforcements before arresting the way-too-confident cult leader surrounded by his followers), but knowing failure is predetermined as is the only outcome kind of kills your desire to keep playing.  At least 3 gave you your "walk away from this farked-up situation" option after the final battle, and 6 gave you a semi-okayish (though still bittersweet at best) ending.

I mean, it's a Far Cry game.  The best outcome is to do nothing so you don't have to climb any more farking towers.


Eh, they don't reinvent the wheel, but they're tightly-built open-world FPSes with stealth mechanics that don't suck, and the environments are consistently gorgeous.  They won't change your life by any stretch, but they do what they do very well.
 
2022-06-28 11:07:25 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).


The "choice" to simply not play the game is a valid one. The player and the character have to deal with the choice to continue on despite being judged for what we/they believe is not our/their fault.
 
2022-06-28 11:10:34 AM  
Recently I read an interesting observation that you start the game working your way down to ground and once there you set it on fire.  Never noticed it before, but it's one powerful metaphor.
 
2022-06-28 11:13:47 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).


Heavan forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?
 
2022-06-28 11:14:39 AM  

Flappyhead: Recently I read an interesting observation that you start the game working your way down to ground and once there you set it on fire.  Never noticed it before, but it's one powerful metaphor.


The beauty of a work of art with this many layers is that you can't always be sure what was intentional and what just "worked out."
 
2022-06-28 11:30:09 AM  

Flappyhead: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Heaven forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?


Not quite a fair comparison.  Books rarely go metatextual with a whole "you're a bad person for reading this and not putting it down, how can you be enjoying this" approach.  Blaming the person reading/watching is something relatively unique to games, because the thing being addressed is agency.  The dispute over Spec Ops is specifically whether the player is actually given the agency they're being credited with/blamed for if the only "choice" doesn't exist within the context of the narrative itself.  At least when Bioshock went meta, the thing it went after was the notion of linearity and following a handler's directions.
 
2022-06-28 12:42:31 PM  
fark the white phosphorus level
 
2022-06-28 12:45:10 PM  

Flappyhead: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Heavan forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?


Linear games are fine. Just don't say "you're a terrible person for playing our game where the only "good" choice is to not play it."
 
2022-06-28 2:46:54 PM  

Last Man on Earth: Flappyhead: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Heaven forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?

Not quite a fair comparison.  Books rarely go metatextual with a whole "you're a bad person for reading this and not putting it down, how can you be enjoying this" approach.  Blaming the person reading/watching is something relatively unique to games, because the thing being addressed is agency.  The dispute over Spec Ops is specifically whether the player is actually given the agency they're being credited with/blamed for if the only "choice" doesn't exist within the context of the narrative itself.  At least when Bioshock went meta, the thing it went after was the notion of linearity and following a handler's directions.


Spec Ops is an excellent story given its source material.  As a game, not so much. It has lesser gunplay compared to its contemporary games and basically moves from set piece to set piece with little real flexibility how to proceed.  You don't have agency as the only path forward is to do horrible things including the white phosphorous, no alternative path was availalbe.  The story ends with what is effectively a Mass Effect choose a color ending.

That being said, the tone and message it sends is meaningful, much more so than the Call of Duty/Battlefield/etc. heroic shooter.  It calls into question the concept of the games and what a "hero" means.  For that I appreciate the break from the genre even if it isn't exactly replayable. Showing a more realistic depiction of the power fantasy and consequences was a nice twist on the military shooter genre. It isn't the end all and be all experience, but it is a worthy attempt by a smaller team that made an impact and for that they should be lauded.
 
2022-06-28 5:40:11 PM  

Tyrone Slothrop: Flappyhead: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Heavan forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?

Linear games are fine. Just don't say "you're a terrible person for playing our game where the only "good" choice is to not play it."


The point of Spec Ops The Line wasn't that the player was bad, but that combat situations aren't always about good choices versus bad choices, sometimes it's just all bad choice versus worse choice. Sometimes not even that, and that the justifications still don't make the choices better. Morality systems vary in games but are typically pretty obvious what the good and bad choices are, Spec Ops makes it clear there are times when there aren't good choices, much less obviously good ones.

Far Cry 4 and 5 absolutely do the thing where not playing the game gives a better ending for everyone than playing it though and the main character just kind of farks things up if you play the games.
 
2022-06-28 7:09:01 PM  

Lumbar Puncture: Tyrone Slothrop: Flappyhead: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things, where the only "good" choice is to not play the game at all. Personally I prefer games that let you actually choose to be good or bad (although hopefully not in the heavy-handed way something like Bioshock does).

Heavan forbid games have a singular narrative.  Do you only read Choose Your Own Adventure books, too?

Linear games are fine. Just don't say "you're a terrible person for playing our game where the only "good" choice is to not play it."

The point of Spec Ops The Line wasn't that the player was bad, but that combat situations aren't always about good choices versus bad choices, sometimes it's just all bad choice versus worse choice. Sometimes not even that, and that the justifications still don't make the choices better. Morality systems vary in games but are typically pretty obvious what the good and bad choices are, Spec Ops makes it clear there are times when there aren't good choices, much less obviously good ones.


I viewed it as how bad choices snowball, especially when you think you're in the right.  Walker was supposed to confirm whether or not there were survivors then immediately call for extraction.  Instead he wanted to be a hero and as a result hundreds died and Walker went insane.  In many ways it's a dark satire of the CoD mentality that saturated gaming.
 
2022-06-28 10:14:03 PM  

Tyrone Slothrop: Just don't say "you're a terrible person for playing our game where the only "good" choice is to not play it."


That's just a complete misread of the game. Like the entire point is to have you walk through this world making absolutely awful choices because you feel like you have to, to put you into the experience of the character- the protagonist of the game absolutely believed they had to do the things they were doing. And the things they were "supposed" to do made them a monster.

And yes, the game does reflect that back on you, not to try and say you're a terrible person, but to say, "you didn't need to do any of this."
 
2022-06-29 6:13:52 AM  
So...  do you feel like a hero yet?
 
2022-06-29 10:32:17 AM  

Tom Marvolo Bombadil: So...  do you feel like a hero yet?


Collateral damage can be justified, if the gain outweighs the cost. How much do you think Adams and Lugo are worth?
 
2022-06-29 10:34:42 AM  

Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things


"I was just following orders"
 
2022-06-29 7:34:39 PM  

DerAppie: Tyrone Slothrop: However, one of the bad things about the game is it's a "you're a horrible person for doing the things we gave you no choice in doing" things

"I was just following orders"


There is no way to proceed wthout "following orders".  If you could choose a harder path or even abort the mission with those consequences that would provide choice. The only way to avoid the horror is to turn off the game.
 
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