Spec Ops: The Line is the most beautiful horrific gorgeous wanker of a stunning game I’ve played in quite a while.
I hate it so much but it’s perfect because of that. It made me feel like absolute shit, I had to put the controller down and take a break a couple of times but the story is so perfect, and the subtle commentary on the gaming industry is perfect too. We spend so much time and money mindlessly shooting non-English speaking people in video games but we never stop to think about why, or the ramifications. The two biggest game series arguably at the minute, Call of Duty and Battlefield, seek only to provide cinematics. To use war and the loss of life as a means of creating a cool action-packed story.
But there are many, many gamers who realise the idiocy of that and Spec Ops should be our method of showing the fans of those series what war really is about, and maybe make them question the motives of games that merely seek to give us hundreds of foreigners to mow down before making out that the middle-aged gruff white American lead character is a hero, a man fit to receive the medal of honour, a man who will go home and lead a normal life under the pretense of knowing he saved the world.
But that’s not what war is. There are no real good guys in war bar the civilians who cower at the sound of footsteps and metal hitting khaki. For years, games told us that these are Germans, they are bad, we must kill every German we see. But that’s such a simplistic way to view World War II. Instead of understanding that large numbers of German soldiers only fought because a gun was put to their head by their own nation, and the nation across the trenches. That Germans were just fathers, or sons, or brothers. Husbands or boyfriends. Fighting not because they felt that all Jews should be exterminated, but because a gun was forced into their hand.
A realistic portrayal of war was longcoming, and while Spec Ops may exaggerate aspects of it, the impact is huge and it’s a game I certainly will never forget. It has reminded me that video games are, when thought is put into it, the best medium for story-telling. Movies will never have the impact games do because games make you guilty. You personally took that shot, you pulled that trigger, you chose to continue instead of turning back. It was your fault.
Alright, I know this might seem uninteresting to a lot of you, but I HIGHLY, HIGHLY suggest you watch it, regardless of how much you actually care about video games. It contains spoilers, but if you aren’t interested in playing the game its talking about, watch anyways.
It’s a critical analysis of a video game that came out last year, “Spec Ops: The Line.“ I played the game a few months ago, and although it wasn’t that fun, I’ve been thinking more and more about it, and I feel comfortable calling it one of the greatest video games of all time. Here’s why: It is the single most brutal critique of shooter video games imaginable, and it comes in the form of a shooter video game.
As they say in the video, the game “is mocking the very genre its working within.” You enter the game with this expectation that you’ll be driving around in cool vehicles shooting terrorists and saving the day, and for a little bit you are, but the game later punches you in the face, bends you over a coffee table, and fucks you mercilessly.
You kill American soldiers, later learning about their families and personal lives; pets, hobbies, goals and dreams. While fighting the enemy, you fire mortars that accidentally set fire to a refugee camp, watching mothers and children burn alive. You have to make a choice between failing the mission you were given and depriving thousands of citizens from food and water. Your allies in the game literally break the fourth wall, look at you as the player, and ask, “why are you doing this?“ Everything goes wrong, and everything feels wrong, and at about the halfway point, you realize: there’s something going on in the story here that isn’t being addressed, but I know that its there.
The game lets you start with this power fantasy of playing as “the U.S. soldier come to save the day,” but then blurs all lines of morality until you know that what you’re doing is both wrong and disgusting, but you keep doing it anyways. It’s an exploration of both the psychological effects of warfare and the dichotomy between these effects and modern day video games about warfare.
It’s indescribable how well the game is put together.