Tear Jerker / Spec Ops: The Line

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Soldier: What was it like? How did you survive all this?
Walker: ...Who said I did?

Spec Ops: The Line makes a point that War. Is. Hell. Communication is important, and that everyone makes mistakes, and in this case, they're pretty heavy ones. The game makes the effect that war has on its soldiers clear, in some of the most emotionally devstating scenes in video game history, and doesn't hesitate for a second in reminding the player whose fault it is.

UNMARKED SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT ADVANCE UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED.

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    Chapter 4 
  • As Walker, Adams, and Lugo try to "save" the refugees from the 33rd (who actually aren't killing or hurting anyone), you can hear many of the 33rd soldiers shouting. One of the things they will say is "Hold the line!" This becomes especially poignant and heartbreaking when you find Konrad's final orders in Chapter 14 where he beseeches his men to "No matter what, endure. Be ever vigilant. Hold the line." It's clear how much the 33rd loved and respected their commander that, even after his suicide, his men are still trying to follow his command and protect civilians in an increasingly desperate and untenable situation.

    Chapter 8 
  • To say that Chapter 8: The Gate is a Wham Episode and a half would be putting it lightly. From this point on Lugo drops the jokes, Adams begins to question Walker's actions, and Walker himself tries to cope with what he has done. What little lightheartedness that the first half of the game had is largely dropped.
  • White phosphorus, and the sight of a woman's scorched, smoldering corpse shielding the eyes of her child's body. The image is haunting to more than just the team.
    • What makes it worse is that in the aftermath of that incident, Lugo has an epic breakdown where he claims that Walker turned all of them into killers. The tone of voice Lugo uses and the way Adams tries to defend Walker says it all, "What happened to us? I thought we were supposed to be the good guys!" They thought and hoped they were going to be in a typical story where the American good guys prevail and everyone gets out alright. The fact that they are in a deconstruction of that type of story becomes quite difficult to bear once they realize they are Wrong Genre Savvy.
    • When Walker hears the Wham Line "We were helping...", he replies, "What?" and then looks over at the mass of charred civilian bodies and simply says "Oh no..." You can practically hear his spirit breaking right there on the spot. You don't even need the words, really. Watch his eyes.
    • Walker staring at the burnt woman cradling her child. The way he closes his eyes - as though he can will the sight away - is heart wrenching. You can see his mind fracturing as he tries (and fails) to come to terms with what he's inadvertently done.
    • To say nothing about the music that plays when the group realizes that they murdered the civilians. The music equivalent of watching a mind snap at a revelation. Which is, of course, preciously what happens.
  • Even before the wham scene, when the team walks through the base full of dying soldiers. Many of them are crying in pain, a few begging the squad to kill them. In the distance, one soldier can be heard, paralyzed from the attack, crying out for help as a fire approaches him.
  • A small example, but as soon as after Delta left the burned out civilian camp, you can hear 33rd soldiers screaming batshitly at your direction, calling the Delta as monsters for bombing the civilians by using the white phosphorus mortar. Perhaps it could be seen as another example of 33rd soldiers trying to antagonize the Delta, but when considered, they have all the reasons to actually consider Delta as such, given on what Delta had just done unwittingly towards the civilian camp, and shows that despite the atrocities 33rd had done to the civilians to maintain order in Dubai, they still had the conscience to protect the civilians from any attackers no matter what.

    Chapter 11 

    Chapter 12 
  • The Radioman's unceremonious death is somewhat disheartening. Lugo shoots him point-blank in a cutscene, even though he was unarmed and not hostile. He even willingly gave the mic to Lugo before getting shot in the head.
  • Based on the gameplay and cutscenes alone, the Radioman comes off as a rather demented individual, a Jerk Ass with moments of Crazy Awesome, but when you listen to the intel items he comes off as a much more tragic figure. In the intel items you learn that he cares deeply for the 33rd and Colonel Konrad and genuinely wants to be a calming presence for the Battalion, and wants to help uplift the spirits of the people of Dubai. What makes it so sad is that he starts out optimistically, but eventually his positive demeanor is crushed as the civil war escalates and Konrad's men have to do terrible things to maintain order. All of that insanity and Gallows Humor may very well be a coping mechanism so that the Radio Man can live with the horrors that he has witnessed.
  • The intel you find in this chapter, Radioman's tape of his interview with Konrad, is poignant and somber. It reveals the desperation and sense of hopelessness that hangs over these two men while humanizing their suffering. It's Konrad's familiarity with the Radioman (asking to be called "John" and naming him friend) and his plea for his voice not to be heard that strikes the player hard, so different from the condescending, steel-edged voice Walker hears. This Konrad is a man utterly isolated and rapidly losing hope. Radioman's admiration of Konrad and his respect for him is also very much on display with how quickly he ends the recording once he grasps what a betrayal of trust it is.

    Chapter 13 
  • There's a brief scene after the helicopter crash where Adams turns to Walker and asks him to explain to him what will happen to Lugo after the mission's over. He quickly starts yelling at Walker and berating him for the things he's put Adams and Lugo through, and just sounds so utterly broken and lost it's difficult to watch:
    Adams: This whole mission is fucked! We just took out a tower of American troops.
    Walker: They didn't leave us any choice.
    Adams: You didn't leave us any choice! What the fuck happened to us, man?
  • Lugo's death. After a bout of failed CPR as Adams screams desperately at Walker to just let him fire on the civilians who murdered his fellow soldier, Walker - slowly and deliberately - closes Lugo's eyes and places his arms over his chest. None of it helps Lugo look any more peaceful. And then Walker has to make the choice to shoot the people they only came here to save or walk away from those that killed his subordinate. It's obvious either way that he and Adams are mired in utter despair.
    • This ties into a very subtle tearjerker in regards to Adams' Character Development - prior to the events at The Gate, he urges Walker to abandon Gould in favor of rescuing two civilians who would otherwise be executed. After Lugo's lynching at the hands of civilians, he's all-but begging Walker for permission to open fire on the unarmed crowd. The events in Dubai turned him from the type that would disobey orders to save people, to someone fully willing to slaughter a crowd of civilians for revenge.
    • The achievement you receive for firing upon the crowd, "A Line, Crossed", the image shown on Steam and PS3 just sum up the moment perfectly.
    • The fact that Lugo was killed by civilians. He was just trying to do his job and save these people, and Delta failed so hard that he's seen as a worse monster than the actual military dictatorship.

    Chapter 14 
  • It's a small moment but at the beginning of the chapter, right after Lugo has died and Walker and Adams are sitting on the ground, Walker offers Adams a hand up which he ignores. That single action shows how utterly destroyed their friendship is and how Adams' faith in Walker has been completely shattered. He's with him now only because he has nowhere else to go.

    Chapter 15 
  • The last piece of intel in the game is very simple: a short letter Konrad wrote to his son. It's less than twenty words long, but it says all it needs to say.
    Jeremy. Someday, people will tell you about your father. For that, I'm sorry. I love you.
    - Dad.
    • What makes it more tragic is that in Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness, the letters from both of the Kurtz characters were addressed to their loved ones to try and justify their actions, in order that they may find some form of vindication for their madness. In both of their stories, they also wanted the protagonist to be the bearer of those messages and tell those they loved the truth. Konrad neither justifies his actions, nor tells Walker to tell his son what really happened; a stark contrast to the characters he is inspired by. He seeks no vindication or absolution because he knows there can be none. This serves as a subtle hint that the story is not the downfall of Konrad, but of Walker. And, of course, in none of these three stories do any of these men get to repeat their heartfelt messages to those they love. All end up dying in a strange land thousands of miles from their homes - alone, insane and disgraced, in despair beyond redemption.
    • The other piece of intel in the last level. It's titled "Poem for Elizabeth", implicitly written by Konrad for his wife.
    I've been forgetting when I am.
    You should know,
    You're always there.

    I keep repeating,
    The next time, time next time.
    You won't.

    I hate this lie the most.
    Mostly I just hate
    The want.
  • The way that Walker discovers Konrad's corpse and the Shadow Konrad reveals that he was the personification of Walker's guilt all along is very sad on multiple levels. First and foremost, it basically invalidates all of Walker's accomplishments in one fell swoop. Secondly, it shows that Walker has been running away from his guilt for too long. Thirdly, his former commander, friend and hero is dead and here he was wasting all of his time demonizing the man. Lastly, he would have preferred facing an insane Colonel Kurtz-like figure to discovering that the whole thing was his downfall. Very few endings bring about such severe cases of the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Captain Martin Walker, leader, badass, soldier, "hero", sounding as though he's five years old because he's so broken by the weight of all his well-intentioned crimes.
    • The final conversation with Shadow Konrad is notable not just because of that, but because even at the end, Walker is so desperate to deny the truth, he tries everything to convince Konrad not to shoot him and to absolve himself of his crimes.
    Konrad: I'm going to count to five; then I'm pulling the trigger.
    Walker: (fearful) You're not real. This is all in my head.
    Konrad: Are you sure? Maybe it's in mine! One.
    Walker: (angry) No. Everything, all this; it was your fault!
    Konrad: If that's what you believe then shoot me! Two.
    Walker: (tearfully) I-I didn't mean to hurt anybody...
    Konrad: No-one ever does, Walker. Three...
  • "None of this would have happened if you had just stopped." The civilians burned to death with white phosphorus on Walker's orders, the soldiers just trying to protect people and hoping they'd get to see home one day who died at Walker's hands, the survivors of Dubai condemned to death by Walker's actions. It's at that moment both the player and Walker realise how much devastation and pain they caused, and how all of it could have been avoided if Walker had ever once just stopped and turned back.
  • During the subtly (and not-so-subtly) altered flashbacks to events during the game showing how Walker has hallucinated, misinterpreted or just plain lied to himself, Lugo has two of the most heartbreaking moments in the game. One being post-phosphorus, with the unmuffled exchange between Walker's allies, The other being Walker's vision of Lugo superimposed onto a Heavy enemy, howling "YOU LEFT ME TO DIE!"
    Lugo: This is your fault, goddammit!
    Adams: Stop right there, Lugo!
    Lugo: You wouldn't listen!
    Adams: We didn't have a choice!
    Lugo: HE TURNED US INTO FUCKING KILLERS!
  • To accompany all of the above is Truth Revealed, the track that plays during Konrad and Walker's last conversation. A beautiful and sad theme that perfectly captures the worthlessness and sorrow of Walker's journey as it finally comes to a close. When the electric guitar starts wailing as Konrad forces Walker to choose between suicide or continuing on (for better or for worse), it makes the moment in game that much more poignant.

    Endings 
A Farewell to Arms (Suicide)
  • Walker being Driven to Suicide by the revelation that "Konrad" was just a coping mechanism to deal with the guilt of all of the deaths and murders he caused, and him not being able to grasp the truth and let go of his delusion by shooting "Konrad" is quite upsetting.
  • This ending is complicated by the fact that it can play out in two ways (though with the same result — Walker's suicide): the player can shift their aim from Konrad's "reflection" to Walker and actively choose to shoot him. Or, if the player does nothing, Walker will automatically shoot himself. That Walker's default choice is to end his own life is unsurprising, but it's still heart-wrenching especially given how we witness him plead that he never meant to hurt anyone, even if he knows it doesn't matter at this point.
  • One player did a Twitch stream of the game's ending. Unlike most, he says absolutely nothing during the game — and his reaction as he has Walker shoot himself is the most touching, wordlessly and emotionally putting his head in his hands.
    • It would be wrong to claim that the player said nothing during the stream. because if you read his lips the second before he pulls the trigger on Walker, you can hear him mutter two words in a voice that can only be described as defeated and hopeless.
    Player: I'm sorry.
  • The animation if the player has Walker turn the gun on himself themselves is also as heartbreaking as it is creepy. He slowly slides the gun away from Konrad and presses the muzzle under his chin, closing his eyes and breathing heavily as he silently waits for the player to release him from his misery.

The Road Back (Surrender)
  • Even the "happiest" ending where Walker surrenders to the rescue squad is filled with tear-jerkers, including the page quote. The future looks incredibly bleak for Walker. When asked how he survived the horrors of Dubai he says simply, "Who said I did?" Even if he goes home physically there is no guarantee he will ever emotionally or mentally recover from the evils he perpetrated, his body may be alive but his soul is more or less dead towards any sort of happy future.
    • This is preceded by his call for Evac.
    Walker: This is Captain Martin Walker... Requesting immediate evacuation of Dubai... Survivors... one too many...
  • The fact that the ending fades to white (which according to Word of God, is a telltale sign that Walker is hallucinating) brings into question just how happy this ending is.

The Road to Glory (Go Down Fighting)
  • The ending where Walker dies in a Suicide by Cop has him flash back to an earlier encounter he had with Konrad back in Afghanistan. Walker remembers that before the tragedy in Kabul (an off-screen incident), he was optimistically talking to Konrad about going home. In response to this Konrad sombrely scoffs at the idea; soldiers like them have a line they must cross. Home is a concept they have to abandon, men like them are lucky if they accomplish their duty before they die, but they inevitably will. Konrad concludes his statement by saying all he really wants is peace; the sadness in his voice speaks very poignantly of the trauma that soldiers like him and Walker suffer through, how tragic it is that they seek peace but can't find it. They have no "home" to go back to.
    • It also shows you how in a way Konrad had always been Walker's hero. Even in his dying moments Walker can't let go of Konrad and the impact he had on his life. That flash back shows how much Walker wants to avoid crossing the line; Konrad's heroism is a line Walker wants to cross — the prospect of being a good man like the Colonel excites him — but the idea that the Colonel is right and that there is no positive end for a soldier of their breed terrifies him. In the end, perhaps trying to fulfill an impossible ideal destroyed Walker more than his vengefulness.
    • During this same ending, you can see one of the soldiers standing over Walker shake his head sadly, apparently feeling both pity for the captain and regret at having to shoot someone he was sent to rescue. It's a heartbreaking echo of how Delta themselves felt when they killed (or were forced to kill) McPherson, and it drives home the point that none of the soldiers who enter Dubai will walk out unscathed; not even those whose role was simply cleaning up the wreckage.

The Road to Glory (Slaughter)
  • The ending in which Walker successfully slaughters the men sent to rescue him is upsetting as well. He picks up a radio from a dying soldier, and says his only line during the entire ending, the same line he said at the beginning of the game. "Gentlemen, welcome to Dubai." The look on his face as he slowly closes his eyes is straight-up upsetting.
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