Video Game Spec Ops The Line Discussion

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04:13:25 AM Apr 29th 2014
The main page and sub-pages are peppered with spoiler tags to avoid giving away the game's deconstructive nature. However, the second-to-last paragraph in the introduction rather baldly states that the game is a deconstruction of video game power fantasies, which I think rather gives the game away (excuse the pun) for people who have yet to play it. Given that the game came out barely two years ago, should we consider removing this paragraph, and allow people who haven't played it to draw their own conclusions from the rather more ambiguous line "Except that things are not what they seem, and are about to get worse. Much worse." and the comparisons to Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now?
01:05:32 PM Aug 30th 2016
I agree with this reasoning, I wonder why it wasn't changed to be like that.
06:23:32 AM Aug 31st 2016
The thing is... who is going to play it not knowing about the true nature of the game? It's two years old, last gen, and the modern military shooter genre is about Deader Than Disco.
03:53:21 AM Mar 9th 2014
Mutually contradictory?

"Evil Sounds Deep: Following the white phosphorus incident, you'll notice that Walker sounds disturbingly gruffer and angrier than usual, and the commands he shouts out aren't as calm. By "Adams," he barely sounds human anymore." "Evil Sounds Raspy: Konrad's voice sounds much raspier when communicating with Walker via his earpiece than in the various intel items Walker finds belonging to him. This is because the former Konrad is Walker's hallucination. Additionally, Walker's voice grows increasingly raspy and aggressive after the white phosphorous incident."

Does he really show both high and low pitched vocalisations during this period of the game? I remember him speaking so intensely that he voice went high pitched (something like "Heavy trooper is dead, repeat heavy trooper is fucking dead!) but this is a piece of random dialogue (so you won't hear it on every playthrough). Shouldn't it be one or the other?
01:53:24 AM Jan 4th 2014
edited by
RE: Broken Aesop:

I still don't think it belongs, personally. You're right, I probably would have removed it anyway because it's not saying "violent videogames are bad" or "violence is bad", making these points while hurling enemy soldiers at you with no option but to shoot them and watch them disintegrate into red mist. That simplifies it way too much. It's about how morals get blurred and minds fray in conflict, and how imposing video-game morality - defeat the enemy, win the game, be a hero - on something so complex is questionable. Especially if you do it while amping up the "realism" of the invented conflict. Every shooter game I've played in the past decade has something to answer for in that regard. In reality, there isn't always a clear way to win. In reality, killing so many people would take a psychological toll. In reality, sometimes you are powerless, or you make bad decisions that hurt people, and you can't reload and try again. You just have to try to learn from it.

I think it was Walt Williams who said the line of the title wasn't about any metaphysical line which makes one beyond redemption, or a point of no return, but the one between what's real and what's not. As games take their inspiration from reality, they should try to be responsible in how they represent what they're borrowing. Everyone loves a power-trip (and I'm including myself here), but mixing real elements and fictional constructs can create very twisted representations of what's real. And because this is the closest thing a lot of us, hopefully, will get to fighting in real warfare, we need to consider the mindset we apply to it - a lot of which is embodied in Walker and the reactions he has and that he receives as a character from other characters.

None of it is real. So why do we care? That's the aesop, as simply as I can put it. And, aside from the last three points on "things that do not count", I can't think of how it's broken in the game.
09:39:53 PM Jan 13th 2014
edited by
I would likely agree with what you're saying, despite my strong dislike of Spec Ops: The Line, but the thing is that everyone is still seeing the game as a condemnation of violence, and it's still going to be seen as a condemnation of violence/violent games unless Walt Williams comes out and says that that's not the case.

While Walt Williams may have something regarding the titular "Line", he had also say that their intention was not to make people feel bad about playing First-Person Shooter games(even though that's what some people are reacting to it as), but he did say that the developer's intention is creating the game is to have people think about the reasons why they plays FPS games; from here, it's easily make the implication when drawing the developer's intentions to their natural conclusion with regarding using violence as a means to become a hero. So unless Mr. Williams and the developers come out and say that they're not condemning violence/violent games, it's a bit self-denying to make think that the game doesn't condemn violence/violent games when the aesop runs so much of violence with the desire to be a hero together, an aesop that I strongly disagree with.

Edit: Turns out that in the interview with the author of Killing is Harmless, Walt Williams does express actual hatred towards FPS players, and has expressed if he ever works on another game, he would want to make into what's essentially a power fantasy for pacifists, so yes, I do believe that he is very anti-violent and makes it clear in Spec Ops: The Line. So yes, I do think the aesop is still broken in that regard.
12:44:09 AM Aug 20th 2013
Is this a minimalist work? I mean compared to your Call of Dutys and Medal of Honors this game is of a much smaller scale. It's all in one location compared to the planet hopping in other military games, fewer weapons, smaller scale of destruction (white phosphorous mortars versus nukes), it all seems so much less compared to the rest of its genre. If I had to compare it to anything it's like Star Wars: Republic Commando, another game focused on well characterized special forces in relatively small scale conflicts.
01:14:22 AM Aug 20th 2013
Not really. Minimalist would mean something like "gun, white background, barely-human figures, stark moral contrast". It's smaller, yeah, fitting into the Spec Ops theme, but not minimalist, not when there's intel to collect.
03:57:45 PM Jul 13th 2013
Does anyone know what the hell happened to the Headscratchers page? It seems alright until you scroll all the way down, then it devolves into what is either the rantings of a deranged madman or just really bad web script.
02:09:14 AM Jul 14th 2013
Woah. I've brought it up in Ask The Tropers.
01:48:16 AM Jul 16th 2013
Okay, they've been removed.
12:31:33 AM May 28th 2013
Sooooooo, did the ending series of flashbacks show Walker strangling Lugo instead of trying to resuscitate him, or was I hallucinating as well?
11:04:44 PM Mar 20th 2013
I noticed that after the water trucks are destroyed Walker's hydration pack (his little backpack) is torn open. Is there a trope here?
07:40:51 PM Oct 29th 2012
Could we get some stuff on the Analysis page? Talking about all these different interpretations in the main page, WMG and Headcscratcher pages is all well and good, but if we put all that stuff together on the Analysis page, it would really show the bigger picture.
02:37:01 PM Nov 9th 2012
edited by illegalcheese
Well, This Is A Wiki, though your suggestion is almost certainly noted.
08:54:19 PM Sep 6th 2012
The story of the Heart of Darkness was about an expedition, a mission to find a genius named Kurtz that secluded himself out in nature, and the story illustrates out that isolation from the rules of society made him depraved. In the Hearts of Men there are evils, a conflict has to take place between the good and evil in a man's heart, and when the evil wins a man develops a Heart of Darkness. This theme is explored in the story when the men sent to find Kurtz slowly fall prey to the evils of the natural world just as Kurtz himself had, they faced the horror and were overcome by it.

Spec Ops The Line is more or less a faithful adaption of that, as was Apocalypse Now. I'm just curious why so a lot of games have made passing reference to Heart of Darkness but haven't really explored the themes behind what they are referencing.

For example Uncharted 2 has a level called Heart of Ice that only has a vague comparison to Heart of Darkness in that there was a lost Nazi expedition that went bad, but it went bad because of monsters that killed them not because of their own actions. Bad Company 2 has a level called Heart of Darkness when the 4 main characters are literally only on a boat going down a river for all of 4 minutes and then they get back on land, and given the light-hearted nature of the story none of these characters have to face any personal evils. Just Cause 2 implies that Rico will have to face this situation with Tom Sheldon but is quickly abandoned by a more light hearted story where Sheldon was only pretending to go rogue.

Why do these games only reference Heart of Darkness so shallowly. Why don't we have games like The Line?
09:03:37 PM Sep 6th 2012
I haven't read Heart of Darkness or played the game. But from your description, maybe because the plot comes off as annoyingly preachy that everyone has "darkness" inside of them?
09:44:33 PM Sep 6th 2012
Some Anvils Needed To Be Dropped? Perhaps it is a little Anvilicious.
01:37:53 AM Sep 7th 2012
Generally, things are only really annoyingly preachy if you've heard the message too many times before. HOD, for instance, was a ground-breaking critique of colonialism in the Congo - at the time, people just were not talking about that sort of thing.

As for Ghost's question, it's because producers of big-budget fiction tend to be desperate to ensure they'll get a return on their investment. As a result, their stories (especially in the notoriously regressive gaming market) tend to be exceptionally safe and conservative. Even Bioshock, one of the most provocative games in years, chickened out from its premise to some extent.
06:38:33 AM Sep 13th 2012
Heart of Ice had a slightly darker twist than simply death-by-yeti, being that one member of the first expedition decided the secret they discovered could not be borne out to the world, so he murdered every other member. It simply also serves as the introduction to the Guardians. Uncharted 2 does brush very slightly against the HOD central concept ("What would a man become..."), but ultimately it's not that game. Which is fine. It's got charming characters and fun banter, it isn't trying to be anything deeper.

Anyway, as above, with the added point that developers aren't often good storytellers. A decent script is a low, low priority in most projects, and thematic coherency is even lower. Writers are often brought into the process quite late and have to cobble together something coherent to connect the set pieces. Contrast with film and television.
03:21:09 AM Oct 20th 2012
Because "heart of darkness" as a phrase sounds really cool, bro. And the novel's really famous. Making references to classical literature that are essentially irrelevant to the plot or themes of your game is a great way to lend the work an air of gravitas that it hasn't actually earned. See Faux Symbolism.
04:17:54 AM Apr 29th 2014
One rather harsh critique of the game posited that the game is essentially an adaptation of Apocalypse Now rather than Heart of Darkness, given its similar narrative and military setting - but Heart of Darkness is in the public domain, unlike Apocalypse Now. Compare Serial Numbers Filed Off.
03:14:32 AM Aug 31st 2012
"Unmarked Spoilers abound. Consider yourself warned."

And yet, the entire page is a Swiss cheese of spoilers. Why?
08:19:26 AM Aug 31st 2012
Because someone thought to be above the spoiler policy.
12:46:01 PM Sep 4th 2012
So... should someone remove the spoilers?
06:16:55 AM Aug 12th 2012
Did anyone else notice that the game soundtrack is disconcertingly loud? Not just the music itself being "wrong"- that's a pretty standard bit of game atmosphere. But just overpoweringly loud, to the point where it's hard to hear the gunfire and dialog. And after the Radioman ceases broadcasts, then the combat dialog becomes insanely loud, especially when you're not in the middle of a firefight and trying to top off, Walker's almost panicked scream in the middle of the silence of Dubai is just unsettling.

Is there a trope for that?
06:41:45 AM Aug 12th 2012
Some of that might fit into Hell Is That Noise.
10:59:32 AM Aug 8th 2012
Can we set up a Wild Mass Guessing page for this game? Given the hallucination aspect of the story it would be fun to theorize on how much of the story was real and what was fake, among other things of course.
05:14:59 PM Aug 8th 2012
If you have a guess, go ahead. Just head to Spec Ops: The Line, edit in your guess and index it if you're feeling super-virtuous.
05:53:03 PM Aug 8th 2012
Thanks friend.
08:36:52 PM Aug 3rd 2012
Everything from the devs about how "it's not our fault we made, advertised, and forced you to do stupid, grisly actions, it's YOURS" makes me want to puke and gives me horrible flashbacks to Mark Millar's pretentious, hypocritical attempts at taking a shit on the audience.
09:46:18 PM Aug 4th 2012
That's funny, because all I've read indicate they're quite happy to take the blame - they made the game, after all - and wanted to get the player to examine their motivations in playing these sorts of games more clearly. Also, I've read Wanted and played this game both. Have you?
11:33:20 PM Aug 4th 2012
Yeeeahhhh "it's not our fault we made it" doesn't really apply when what they say is "go ahead, blame us, we made it."
10:28:11 PM Aug 5th 2012
Didn't the developers say that blaming them was just like Walker blaming other people for his actions, and not himself?

Also, yes. I didn't find it amazing, so I guess I'm biased.
11:56:58 PM Aug 5th 2012
edited by NanoMoose
Yes, but look more closely at the circumstances - the entire mess that is Dubai isn't completely Walker's fault. He didn't initiate the storms that swallowed the city. Riggs plays some part in the outcome, and Konrad does as well. The 33rd were using WP (and leaving the mortars around willya-nillya) and torturing civilians. Lugo and Adams have their own issues. All these things set up the circumstances that Walker reacts to, just as the devs built the game the player plays. But it is the player and Walker who chose to go further into the storm rather than turning back, so if blame has to be apportioned, if you are that certain the whole godawful horror is anybody's sole fault, Walker is/you're the one who didn't turn back and you should own up to it.

I think Mark Millar claiming reader complicity in what happens in his work is absurd. The Line, however, is a game, and therefore guarantees gamer complicity in events no matter what. Also I don't recall Walker turning to the camera to inform us all we're being fucked in the ass, so at least the devs have more class than Millar.
10:16:41 PM Aug 11th 2012
i see the game differently then most people. I really do see it as konrads fault. Had he not disobeyed the order to leave, most of the conflict could have been averted. Walker simply had the (albiet gruesome) task of cleaning up Konrads mess. There is also the fact that Walker helped avert a MAJOR war between the U.S. and the middle east. Had he just left, either A: everyone he would have killed dies anyway of dehydration, or B: assuming the CIA fails to destroy the water trucks without his help, the U.S. and middle east go to war.
06:39:47 AM Aug 12th 2012
It's worth remembering that the endings of the game are basically you deciding whose fault it all was. Plus, the game increasingly underlines the fact that Miller is not the same person as the player. Hell, even the choice of a third-person perspective contributes to this.
09:06:41 AM Aug 12th 2012
I think you meant "Walker" and not "Miller." Although, I would certainly take being told I'm not Mark Miller as a compliment...
10:04:27 AM Aug 12th 2012
Whoops, my bad. And Mark is 'Millar', anyway.
03:52:23 AM Mar 9th 2014
edited by
Edit: wrong place
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