* 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 especial desire to attack war in its own right.
** 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]]. Any of which can happen in an actual warzone.
* 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 phosphorous 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.
* BrokenBase: After the [[spoiler:white phosphorous 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 phosphorous "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.
* 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 also exhibits some interesting similarities with Alden Pyle from ''Literature/TheQuietAmerican''. Both characters are intelligent, well-meaning and idealistic Americans, but are nevertheless hopelessly misguided in their attempts to provide helpful military intervention in a foreign country filled with multiple warring factions, and only really succeed in worsening an already volatile situation that they barely understand to begin with. The most obvious difference between them, however, is that Pyle is the antagonist of ''The Quiet American'', whereas Walker is the protagonist of ''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 broken in half - 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, and self-righteous about imaginary violence, as well as too flawed in itself to be making any criticisms (especially in relation to criticism leveled at violence of the player, while being violent itself). 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 yet another shooter set in the tired modern military genre, with mediocre cover-based gameplay.
* 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, enough to have a book written on it.
* 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.
* HilariousInHindsight: The name of the protagonist in VideoGame/CallOfDutyGhosts? Logan ''Walker''. And after the player knows TheReveal, Konrad saying "I assure you, I'm as sane as you are, Captain" is downright hilarious.
* 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.]]
* ItGetsBetter: 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. [[FromBadToWorse "Better" probably isn't the right word to describe the direction the plot takes, though.]]
* 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 ''ModernWarfare'' or ''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 phosphorous 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.
* LoveItOrHateIt: There's very little middle ground between "a deep examination of violent games, violence in media, and player involvement" and "shallow, hypocritical, moralizing piece of garbage that suckers players in and then insults them for doing what the game asked".
* 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.
* MoralEventHorizon: The [[spoiler:white phosphorus]] incident is this for [[spoiler:Walker]].
-->'''Lugo''': ''He turned us into fucking '''killers!'''''
* 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 was critically thrashed for terrible controls, glitches of every caliber, rushed development, an absurd story with no emotional resonance or moral ambiguity at all, with ''enormous'' plot holes from the rushed development that [[WhatCouldHaveBeen removed many features and storylines]] (such as the effects of the eponymous Haze drug not working as advertised and the "peaceful" rebels having a nuclear missile), and even ''less'' subtlety than in ''The Line'' (''literally every Mantel friendly'' was a psychopathic manchild, while the rebels were complete saints oppressed by the villains... despite having nuclear missiles).
** ''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'' (copious glitches, mediocre gameplay, brainlessly unsubtle writing and nonsensical story). The game itself dealt with US foreign policy (and with the US government as mustache-twirling evil overlords who kidnapped women, illegal immigrants, and transients to be converted into psychotic super-soldiers, and casually abandon US forces at the drop of a hat) 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.
* PlayTheGameSkipTheStory: Inverted - most critics and players praised the story, but found the gameplay dated and indifferent at best, frustrating at worst. Part of the game's reason for not selling well were gamers looking for a quick military shooter fix and [[ComicallyMissingThePoint completely ignoring the story, judging the game on its bland cover shooting.]]
* 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]], for example, is much more obvious in retrospect.
* 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 phosphorous 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.
* 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 instantly kills you.
** 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.
----