* AccidentalAesop:
** Writer Walt Williams is not terribly keen on the game being described as an "anti-war" video game: he has stated that his primary intention was to create a narrative which asked players to question [[DeconstructionGame why they play shooters in the first place]], and the WarIsHell aspect of the game came about largely as a necessary consequence of this rather than out of any special desire to attack war in its own right. The game grapples with how such a life and state of being would be one of constant fear, endless violence and bloodshed which would take a toll on any individual's sanity.
** The game has often been interpreted as a critique of [[AmericaSavesTheDay American military interventionism]] or at least the mentality of "good guys saving the world" that is used to justify such actions.
** There's also one common thread running throughout Walker's various blunders in-game - every instance where things went pear-shaped because of his actions, it happened when he acted with only partial information. The mortars? [[spoiler: He didn't scout the area thoroughly enough to find the civilians]]. The aquarium? [[spoiler: He didn't ask any hard questions about why the CIA was there, instead trusting that they were on the level]]. In other words the story is not about WarIsHell so much as the dangers of incompetent and self-destructive soldiers being given command on a key mission.
** And [[PoorCommunicationKills the biggest miscommunication]] happened at the very beginning, when he and his group were fired upon by other US soldiers believing that Delta Squad [[spoiler: was working with the CIA]]. Had either side simply tried talking to the other, [[CouldHaveAvoidedThisPlot the entirety of the game could have been averted]].
* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation: Most of the major characters in the game. The subject of how sympathetic Walker is as a character is one of no small amount of debate - is he a WellIntentionedExtremist who becomes a FallenHero out of a misguided desire to save the people of Dubai, or a pathetic, selfish HeroicWannabe who only cares about improving his own stature, regardless of the consequences? (The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.) How much of Walker represents the player, and how complicit is the player in what Walker's done? Are Konrad and the 33rd really doing the right thing by staying in Dubai, or are they just as misguided as Walker himself? Was Riggs right to destroy the city's water supply? Etcetera.
** There's really three different Konrads. There's the Konrad that Walker thought he knew, the hero who would never let the 33rd do all this stuff in Dubai. There's the Konrad that he thinks he's confronting later, the maniac he blames for everything. And then there's [[spoiler: the actual Konrad, who seems like was once a decent man before everything spun out of control. The exact measure of the "real" Konrad is up for debate... just how much of a monster he was.]]
* AngstWhatAngst: After the [[spoiler:white phosphorus incident]], Adams is clearly disturbed and Lugo begins freaking out. Walker, on the other hand, has no outward reaction, which flabbergasts Adams. [[spoiler:Key word being "outward": [[AvertedTrope the guilt of it drives him to insanity and causes him to start hallucinating]].]] And given Walker's position in the chain-of-command, this also makes sense. Everything he said in that calm, cold tone after the incident was completely accurate - if the group didn't move from their position, it ''would'' only be a matter of time before other forces converged on their position. [[spoiler:Keeping on the move will also help him avoid reflecting on what he just did]]. Pragmatism at its most disturbing.
* {{Anvilicious}}: Thoroughly and unrepentant about it. ''The New York Times'' specifically criticized the game for its lack of subtlety and borderline-gratuitous content.
* AudienceAlienatingPremise: The game was advertised as a fairly standard military shooter, though it is emphatically not one, because it would be impossible to come up with an appealing way to advertise what the game really ''is'' to the people it was intended for.
* AwesomeMusic: The Radioman has good taste in prog-rock.
* BrokenAesop: Despite the game discouraging you from playing it, one difficulty (fittingly named FUBAR) can only be unlocked by beating the game on the Suicide Mission difficulty. There's also an achievement/trophy for beating the game on FUBAR, meaning you're encouraged to go through it at least twice if you want to get OneHundredPercentCompletion.
** Some take issue with a military shooter having the moral of WarIsHell, [[DeathoftheAuthor regardless of any intended lessons to take away from the game.]]
* BrokenBase: After the [[spoiler:white phosphorus incident]], there are exactly and ''only'' two opinions that people seem to have (reactions so polarized as to almost drag the entire game into LoveItOrHateIt territory):
** You either believe that it's a masterfully executed TakeThat against both the player and the shooter genre, where it forces you the player to look at the more realistic aspects of using a horrible, horrible weapon in the name of progression, with no [[SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped cutaways or easy answers.]] In a word, it gives something that most paint-by-numbers modern military shooters don't have: [[RealityEnsues consequences]].
** Or you'll see it as [[ButThouMust an act of railroading so severe and out of place]] that it cheapens the scene, and the fact that game goes so far to make [[YouBastard you feel bad about doing something that it made you do]] that it starts to feel like it's [[BrokenAesop unmaking the very point that the game seems to be trying to reach.]] The developers anticipated this reaction and incorporated it into the plot; it's yet another point of contention how successful they were. [[http://ludo.mwclarkson.com/2012/07/the-invisible-hands/ Some critics]] [[http://exploringbelievability.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/kiss-spec-ops-line.html felt that]] this was a copout that tried to absolve the developers of any responsibility for making the exact kind of violent video game they were supposedly criticizing.
** Critic [[WebAnimation/ZeroPunctuation Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw]] seemed to fall into both camps at once: He "felt like shit" for his initial delight at the white phosphorus "mini-game", but at the same time compared much of the game's horror to a person mooning you then criticizing you for looking at their butt. He did still make it his Game of the Year.
* ClicheStorm: The gameplay is oft-criticized as doing everything that has already been done before in a third-person, military-focused tactical shooter without doing it in any remarkable way. The plot, however, is [[{{Deconstruction}} is anything but]].
* CounterpartComparison: Walker shares a lot similarities to certain characters.
** In an interesting way, Walker could be seen as a much darker take on Cloud Strife from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII''. Both characters desperately want to be heroes, [[spoiler:but after committing and experiencing horrific acts, both lose their minds and make up a fantasy in their heads where they are heroes, as that is the only way they can cope with the trauma they received.]]
** He can also been seen as a comparison to [[Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica Sayaka Miki]] as characters who want desperately to be heroes, but find that they can't reconcile their fantasies with reality. Both resort to increasingly disturbing violence against what they perceive to be "evil", [[spoiler:become consumed in madness, realise it far too late to undo what they'd done, and become warped, monstrous versions of the good people they used to be.]] Walker can also be compared to another character from a work of GenUrobuchi, [[LightNovel/FateZero Kiritsugu Emiya]].
** Walker can also be compared to other Creator/NolanNorth characters, especially Nathan Drake whose violent mowing down of countless mooks in his quest for adventure has raised many eyebrows for the fact that Drake seems indifferent and unaffected by the consequences of his actions. North's Walker shows the unattractive and darker side of such a standard character archetype.
** Walker also exhibits some interesting similarities with Alden Pyle from ''Literature/TheQuietAmerican'' and it's 2002 movie adaptation. Both characters are intelligent, well-meaning and seemingly idealistic Americans, but are self-deluding and destructive about their military intervention in a foreign country, denying the true evil they are complicit in and dissociating their actions from its consequences, and refuse to accept that they are truly the villains of their story. The most obvious difference between them, however, is that Pyle dies unrepentant in ''The Quiet American'', whereas Walker comes to some understanding in ''Spec Ops''.
* CriticalDissonance: Critics, by and large, were impressed with the game's story and themes (if generally finding the gameplay decidedly lacklustre - neither noticeably good nor bad), but it sold very poorly. Players who did pick up the game were divided - one camp thinks it's brilliant for opening questions that many other games conspicuously fail to acknowledge about simulated violence, power fantasies, morality, and other assumptions that come part and parcel with the genre, in the frame of an affecting and stark character study - [[https://gumroad.com/l/fsdz enough that a critical examination supportive of the game was written]]. A second finds it pretentious, hypocritical, self-righteous about imaginary violence, and too flawed in itself to be making any criticisms (especially in relation to criticism leveled at violence of the player, while being violent itself like the White Phosphorus incident). It was enough to spawn two games mocking Spec Ops' morality play: [[http://tinysubversions.com/videogamemoralityplay/ Video Game Morality Play]] and [[http://tinysubversions.com/game/ywhtwt/ You Were Hallucinating The Whole Time]]. A third camp didn't care about the story and dismissed it as yet another shooter set in the tired modern military genre, with mediocre cover-based gameplay.
* CryForTheDevil: The game welcomes you to empathize with [[spoiler:Walker himself]], and ultimately lets you decide whether or not he's redeemable.
* CultClassic: Predicted by writer Walt Williams, who noted in an interview that the game's AudienceAlienatingPremise meant it was unlikely to ever be the sort of game with mass appeal. It has a hardcore following amongst certain gamers - usually those who seethe at the current trend of modern military shooters - enough to have a book written on it. At the end of the 7th Console generation, the game has become acknowledged as a classic of that era.
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: One might quite legitimately have this reaction to the game. By the end of the game, no one involved in the narrative experience of the game - not even the ''player'' - could be described as "sympathetic". Some marginally more sympathetic than others, maybe, but...
* DeathOfTheAuthor: Actually encouraged by lead writer Walt Williams - he noted in an interview that while he believes that the entire game is [[spoiler:Walker's DyingDream or "purgatory"]], the game is purposefully left open to interpretation.
* DoNotDoThisCoolThing: Naturally, being a shooter with an anti-war message. For better or for worse, it is much more successful than most.
* EnjoyTheStorySkipTheGame: As is probably evident from ThisVeryWiki, the reaction among virtually all players and critics to the game amounted to "great story; bland, mediocre, repetitive gameplay" (with the exception of those players and critics who didn't like the story much either). It's no accident that the [[MisbegottenMultiplayerMode multiplayer mode]], which features no narrative elements whatsoever (and wasn't even designed by the development team behind the single-player mode, who hated the ExecutiveMeddling addition), is the single worst-received part of the game.
* EscapistCharacter: This game, like ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty'', deconstructs the concept of escapism. You first start the game as generic, [[EagleLand American]], soldier, Captain Walker; who is brave, fearless, and shoots first before asking questions. His main goal to saving hostages later turns into [[spoiler: a sad, horrid [[ProtagonistJourneyToVillain Protagonist Journey to Villain]] plot. Because of Walker wanting to be the hero of his own story, he ends up killing his teammates and dooming the city of Dubai, along with all the civilians. Later on the game starts drawing comparisons between the player and Walker. Players who play modern military shooters as Power Fantasies]].
-->[[spoiler: '''Konrad''':The truth is, Walker, is that you're here because you wanted to feel like something you're not: a hero.]]
* EveryoneIsJesusInPurgatory: This is a MindScrew of a game which did an amazing job of pretending to be a second-rate ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty'' clone. The game's demo and press featured none of its blatantly PostModern plot inspired by ''Literature/HeartOfDarkness'' and ''Film/ApocalypseNow''. The game is rife with LeaningOnTheFourthWall, WhatTheHellPlayer, and a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech aimed ''at the player''. The devs have stated that scenes which fade to white are hallucinations and scenes which fade to black are real - and all the endings fade to white. Fans have concluded that one of the best explanations for what happens in the game is that the protagonist is either already dead or trapped in a hellish DyingDream to serve as his IronicHell. The dev's response has been a ShrugOfGod and stating that it's certainly a valid interpretation of events.
--> '''Soldier:''' You know, Captain, we drove through this whole city to find you. We... we saw things. If you don't mind me asking, what was it like? How did you survive all this?
--> '''Walker:''' Who said I did?
** From the dev's point of view, it [[GoneHorriblyRight was too effective at deceiving everyone]]; lots of players judged the game on the merits they would judge a typical war shooter, while the sort of gamer who would value it's dark plot and innovative narrative style would be turned off by it ''looking'' just like every other shooter [[FollowTheLeader following the leader]].
* GeniusBonus:
** Some of the graffiti in Dubai says "Under the sand, the pavement," which is an inversion of famous graffiti that appeared in France during the May 1968 protests, "Sous les pavés, la plage," or "Under the pavement, the beach" where it was used as a phrase of rebellion to indicate escape from regimented life.
** The loading screens feature two unattributed Jean-Paul Sartre quotes, one of them paraphrased.
** Konrad's quote "Everything is teetering on the edge of everything" is a ShoutOut to poet Charles Simic, which lead writer Walt Williams included with the intent of establishing Konrad as a WickedCultured character. The reference was so obscure that numerous players believed it was original to the game.
* HypeBacklash: A number of critics and players feel that the game's deconstruction and story aren't as clever, well-done, and mind-blowing as the game's fandom has claimed it to be, especially critical of the White Phosphorus and player-criticism aspects.
* InferredHolocaust: [[spoiler:Amazingly for such a dark game, this trope ends up being ''inverted'' in a majority of the endings. The loading screens would imply that it rains after Walker and Konrad's "confrontation". Given the water supply being destroyed by Walker's actions, this would at least give the people of Dubai a bit of a chance to survive by the time reinforcements actually show up. There are, however, several strong suggestions that most or all of the game's endings are hallucinations or otherwise not real.]]
* ItsShortSoItSucks: One common reviewer complaint is that this game has a full triple-A price, yet the campaign only lasts less than 3 hours (on easier difficulties). In comparison, even your basic ''VideoGame/ModernWarfare'' or ''VideoGame/MedalOfHonor'' campaign usually lasts at least 5-6 hours for an average player. On harder difficulties, however, the average player will take [[http://howlongtobeat.com/gamebreakdown.php?gameid=4553 about the same amount of time]] as that.
* ItWasHisSled: It's become fairly common knowledge that [[spoiler:using the white phosphorus mortar inadvertently kills a large group of civilians, and the player character isn't the rugged, noble, mentally-balanced hero you'd expect him to be, along with the game's anti-violence spiels in the form of Konrad and the mocking loading screens that verbally berate the player]].
* JerkassWoobie: By the end of the game, everyone. Even the player themselves.
* LevelBreaker:
** WordOfGod says they wished [[CosmeticAward achievements]] had not been included in the game for this very reason. Unsurprisingly, several reviews have criticized exactly this aspect of the game.
** Several critics found that some of the more self-aware, BreakingTheFourthWall elements of the game (such as Walker lampshading the use of InMediasRes in the helicopter sequence) took them out of the experience somewhat.
** Under some of the loading screens is text such as "Do you feel like a hero yet?" or "To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is heroic. To kill for entertainment is harmless." When you get more and more of these messages, some being repeated multiple times, eventually having no subtlety and saying things like "This is all your fault", it stops giving you a somewhat subtle feeling of guilt, and makes it feel as though the Radioman is now mocking you for playing this game. It doesn't help that the text occasionally breaks the fourth wall.
* LoveItOrHateIt: There's very little middle ground between "a deep examination and necessary condemnation of violent games, violence in media, and player involvement" and "shallow, hypocritical, moralizing piece of garbage that insults players for taking the only path offered by the game". The middle ground sees the game as being an immersive dramatic work that is about experiencing a darker side of human nature rather than a simple putdown of the genre.
* MisaimedFandom: The game has a following among fans of classic/non-military shooters, who adore it for ripping the modern military shooter (and their players) to shreds. The game has an anti-violence message in ''general'' that applies beyond Call of Duty and its ilk.
* MisBlamed:
** Many commentators and fans have pointed to Yager Development's being based in Germany as a reason for the game's themes and message, arguing that such a profoundly subversive, anti-American game could not possibly have been made by an American studio. While Yager is based in Germany and has a multi-national staff, the game's writers and lead designer are all American.
** As noted elsewhere, the game has received a lot of flak for its mediocre multiplayer component. Yager was not responsible for this aspect of the game (and indeed had no desire to include a multiplayer component at all); it was developed by a separate studio and included at publisher's insistence, or the game wouldn't have been approved.
** Some gamers find it hypocritical for the game to call out the player for wanting to be the hero in modern military shooters while ignoring the developers' contributions by producing such games. However, the developers' responsibility is acknowledged in game with Konrad's suicide, a point which writer Walt Williams notes wasn't picked up on by the vast majority. [[http://www.unwinnable.com/2013/04/09/talking-is-harmful/]]
* MoralEventHorizon: The [[spoiler:white phosphorus]] incident is this for [[spoiler:Walker]].
-->'''Lugo''': ''He turned us into fucking '''killers!'''''
** [[spoiler: If that doesn't count, there's also the ending where he slaughters the unambiguously friendly soldiers sent to pick him up (an entirely deliberate act, unlike the white phosphorus incident, which could be rationalized to some degree as accidental). Very much not coincidentally, [[YouBastard it's something the player will have to consciously choose to do]].]]
* MostAnnoyingSound: "GRENAAAAAAAADE!"
* OlderThanTheyThink:
** A lot of critics praised ''Spec Ops: The Line'' for deconstructing the modern military shooter (and the violence in games as a whole), but it is not the first game to do so - or even the first game in the last decade. ''VideoGame/{{Haze}}'' attempted it earlier, in 2008, as a deconstruction of game violence as a whole (the plot was sci-fi to attack the sci-fi [=FPSes=] of the time, but at one point, the game was to be set in Afghanistan as a modern shooter). Unlike ''The Line'', however, it received mixed reviews for its controls, glitches, rushed development, and absurd story that [[WhatCouldHaveBeen removed many features and storylines]] and even ''less'' subtlety than in ''The Line''.
** ''Blacksite: Area 51'' was also a similarly {{anvilicious}}, deconstructionist take on the modern military-themed/sci-fi shooter, but suffered the same problems as ''Haze''. The game itself dealt with US foreign policy and has a similar YouBastard undertone.
** Bizarrely enough, the game that helped start the trend of TakeCover (that ''Spec Ops'' uses as a framework), ''kill.switch'', had a YouBastard undertone and explored player agency. The player character was a faceless man working for a weapons corporation that profited by sending remotely controlled soldiers to start civil wars, and then selling weapons to both sides. You control one such soldier. [[spoiler:It's further highlighted by the player character's callous dialogue and eventual death by a third party, who gives the soldier the PC had been controlling free will... and a chance to end the corporation that had been controlling him.]]
** There were also plenty of jabs at games in general in ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2SonsOfLiberty''; the player is led to expect they'll be playing as the previous game's beloved hero, and then finds they won't be; the player character seems to be an audience stand-in who reacts as the player would, but he's not, he's psychologically traumatized, regretful of his actions if he shoots a guard, and is supposedly trained on virtual reality (read: video games); the player is led to expect a standard power fantasy, then finds that much of the plot is dedicated to proving how little power/free will a player actually has; the player trusts the game, only to encounter InterfaceScrew, FissionMailed, and other [[LeaningOnTheFourthWall cracks in the fourth wall]], all ending in the main character metaphorically shucking off the player's control. The main difference is that ''VideoGame/SpecOpsTheLine'' is more focused in genre criticism and less experimental.
* PlayerPunch: [[spoiler: The white phosphorus incident.]] The devs claim several people in their focus groups had to ''stop playing'' after that. [[AllAccordingToPlan Exactly as intended]]. Let's put it this way: it was so horrible, nightmarish, and downright '''realistic''', that even someone as [[CausticCritic cynical]] as ''[[WebAnimation/ZeroPunctuation Yahtzee]]'' wouldn't dare to make light of the scene.
** Possibly made even more effective by the way it's preceded by a scene that's a combination {{Crowning Moment Of Awesome}}/{{Crowning Moment Of Funny}} (Radioman [[HollywoodToneDeaf "singing"]] along to ''Dies Irae'' whilst [[spoiler: a gunship rips apart the side of a building you're desperately running through to try to get to safety]]), followed by scenes of [[spoiler: said helicopter crashing into a building just across from a wall]], your first "boss" fight, drama within the squad and the opportunity to be a hero by saving civilians. [[IntendedAudienceReaction By this time the player will be playing this like a high octane war shooter, which carries over into the next chapter.]]
* RewatchBonus: Lots of the foreshadowing becomes more apparent with added context.
** The significance of Konrad [[spoiler: putting his pistol in his holster in the opening cutscene]] is much more obvious in retrospect.
** The Radioman can easily provoke a reaction in Adam and Lugo, [[spoiler:but only Walker acknowledges Konrad]].
** Konrad's face [[spoiler:seems to appear on an odd number of billboards, hinting that Walker is imagining him to be more important in their situation than he really is]].
* ScapegoatCreator: In this case it's a studio rather an individual. As noted elsewhere, the game was repeatedly criticized for its poor multiplayer component, but this element was not developed by Yager and they had no desire to include multiplayer in the first place.
* SignatureScene: The [[spoiler:white phosphorus incident]] is pretty much the defining moment of the game, mainly because of being a massive PlayerPunch and the moment where the GenreShift really kicks in.
* SlowPacedBeginning: The early parts of the game (presumably intentionally) seem like a generic, somewhat unpolished, modern military shooter. As it progresses, the story begins to play with and subvert the expected tropes, creating a more engaging experience.
* SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped: The game has the {{Aesop}} of "[[WarIsHell war is]] ''[[WarIsHell horrible]]''", as do a lot of FirstPersonShooter games, but it goes deeper than just that. The game goes on length about how everyone suffers in war and there are no true heroes in war, there is only death, destruction, and trauma awaiting for anyone who engages in war or is a witness to war. This game goes the extra mile and says there is no justifiable part of war, even if you're on the so-called good side, and we should not cross the proverbial line regardless of intentions.
** The other major aesop that the game tries to get across is that of personal choice. You should never try to blame others for your own actions; you always have the option of stopping what you're doing and walking away from the situation. Short of someone pointing a gun at you and forcing you to do something, you always have a choice to do the right thing. It goes even further than that by reminding us that even if we have made a mistake, we still have the right to go home and do better next time; even in your failures, you have the choice to keep on living and face up to the consequences of your actions.
** The game is equally unsubtle as a [[GenreDeconstruction self-reflexive critique]] of the military-themed shooter genre itself. It argues that the genre more or less forces the player to become a SociopathicSoldier with BlackAndWhiteInsanity. Through its protagonist Cpt. Martin Walker, it demonstrates that acting like the protagonist of a shooter game in real life results not in victory but tragedy, and that such an individual would not emerge from the situation a dedicated, stoic hero, but rather an unhinged, maniacal, PTSD-ridden psychopath. All of this is demonstrated without an ounce of restraint.
*** It also makes a point about what happens to the people and objects around a shooter protagonist. Walker's desperate drive to be the hero ends up [[spoiler:being the reason that ''everyone in Dubai'' will die of dehydration]].
** It also makes a fairly severe point about how the use of white phosphorous is horrific and devastating with several accurately depicted scenes of people being killed by it and the bodies left behind by it.
** And that's not even getting ''started'' on how the game attacks the U.S. "foreign policy" of military intervention.
*** Actually, let's -- the military brass explicitly ordered Konrad to get the hell out of Dubai before the storm hit, but Konrad (and the Damned 33rd) opted to stay to act both as a stabilizing element and in the hopes of organizing a mass evacuation for those that hadn't already gotten out of the city. Konrad himself was a WellIntentionedExtremist at worst (as even the draconian water-rationing had a purpose), and his initial attitude was ScrewTheRulesImDoingWhatsRight when told not to intercede. However, this also reinforces the point that, regardless of how noble your intentions going in might be, things are not guaranteed to work out well in the end.
** The biggest (and most subtle) aesop is an old one -- "A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." All of Walker's decisions were based on only partial information ([[TruthInTelevision a situation that can easily happen while in a war zone]]) -- from who he should side with (EnemyMine isn't always a good option -- in fact, it tends to be a crapshoot) to what he should do. He never made attempts to fully assess the situation, or simply drop his weapons and approach unarmed to explain the situation (though, granted, [[ViolationOfCommonSense the latter would likely have gotten him killed]]).
*** And on the other side of the aisle, the entire mess starts because those embroiled in Dubai's civil war believed that the trio of newcomers were members of those they were fighting, shooting on-sight rather than making any effort to assess their intentions.
** Writer Walt Williams is not terribly keen on the game [[AccidentalAesop being described as an "anti-war" video game]]: he has stated that his primary intention was to create a narrative which asked players to question why they play shooters in the first place, and the WarIsHell aspect of the game came about largely as a necessary consequence of this rather than out of any special desire to attack war in its own right.
** Another thing the game brutally deconstructs is the very purpose of the BigBad itself. Throughout the game, Walker uses Konrad to justify his actions, since he needs to liberate Dubai from his martial law. However, [[spoiler:finding out that Konrad was just a figment of his imagination Walker created to deny his actions]] not only deals a potentially [[spoiler:DrivenToSuicide]] reaction from Walker, but also is the straw that breaks the player's morale as well. Really, the deconstruction of a villain as a justification for the protagonist's actions applies to all forms of narrative fiction.
* SpiritualAdaptation: Is a good one for Film/ShutterIsland book and film, both are about a protagonist [[spoiler:with a pathological need of a heroic narrative to cope with their growing insanity, and post-traumatic stress]].
* ThatOneBoss: That Heavy Trooper with the strobe light and the ability to teleport. Walker ''is'' hallucinating, but in most other cases, "dying" at the hands of a hallucination will just lead to a reload from the last checkpoint and the hallucinatory element vanishing. Not this guy. He'll kill you over and over again until he stops being atmospheric and starts being frustrating.
* ThatOneLevel:
** Play Chapter 6 on FUBAR difficultly. You have no backup, all your guns are gone, you are surrounded by enemy soldiers who can and will flank you any time you are not looking, and three shots from any gun kills you stone dead.
** Chapter 14, in particular, expects you to push uphill to a guardhouse despite being up against two entrenched turrets. And while Adams himself says that "charging head-on is suicide", that's more or less what the game forces you to do against one of the bunkers…at very close range, with little cover, while well-armored, grenade-throwing enemies vault over the sandbags and melee you. You don't have many options other than bum-rushing the bunker and hoping you last long enough for Adams to help you take it.
** Chapter 13: "Adams", on any difficulty. That is all.
** A turret section about a third of the way through the game makes you HoldTheLine while seemingly at least a platoon of American soldiers come at you. And they have RPG's, which can instantly kill you on any difficulty level. And there enough guys appearing all around your screen for you to keep them at bay.
** The ending of the mall can be infuriating. You're given a TimedMission to storm past some soldiers and take control of a turret, which then turns to [[EscortMission you having to protect your allies while they try to get over to you.]] And if you fail, you have to start over from the beginning.
** The radio tower level is a pain from start to finish. It begins with a prolonged sniper battle where you are heavily outnumbered and all your cover is destructable. After you storm the place, you have to leave the way you came, right through a fresh helicopter full of EliteMooks and fresh troops. Then you use the helicopter's mounted gun to cover one of your teammates as he makes his way to you. Then you have to defend the helicopter as you make a victory lap and destroy the radio tower.
** Pretty much the entire remainder of the game after the helicopter crash. While Spec Ops was never generous with ammunition before, here it really gets strict and starts only allotting ammunition in quantities normally reserved for post-apocalyptic SurvivalHorror games like Metro2033. The entire rest of the game is nothing but a DroughtLevel. Oh, and upon waking after the crash, you have only a handgun with 20 rounds of ammunition. And you are immediately beset upon by a dozen soldiers. You can kill them for more weapons, but they themselves hardly have any ammunition unless you execute them, which is very hard to do with how many enemies the game throws at you at once. And you are going to face more of them than ever before.
** The yacht section combines all these problems with being attacked from every angle, enemies throwing grenades in confined spaces, and then having to deal with a frigging SANDSTORM.
** The enemy's LastStand is suitably brutal. You are just two guys on foot with nothing but personal small arms and grenades trying to attach a fortified position on foot, going uphill. Every single shot counts. It can take an hour to gradually grind your way up through the damn thing. And afterwards, you have to fight the toughest heavy in the game at very short range while he has a fully automatic shotgun.
** Fighting to the final objective is difficult. Try as you might, you're pretty much going to have to change guns on just about every single fight as you deplete their scarce ammunition. And [[BossInMookClothing the resident tough guys]] are at their most plentiful.
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