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There Are Truly No Words That Can Elucidate...
how much I love this game.

There is nothing I dislike about this game. The graphics are spectacular from both a technical and artistic perspective with beautifully detailed models and a fleshed out world that looks and feels lived in while slowly decaying away. The setting of Dubai is extremely important from both a narrative and thematic perspective and the graphics bring it to life spectacularly. Character models are richly detailed and transform over the course of the story. The music is also perfectly suited and contains 1960s protest songs along with hard rock and some more atmospheric pieces to set the tone. They do exactly what they need to and complement both the story and the characters.

Gameplay-wise I've heard this game described as generic and while I would agree with this descriptor, I wouldn't say it's bad. It reminds me of Uncharted without the platforming sections. But the guns, grenades, and cover mechanics work basically the same. The only difference is that the presence of your squad allows you give out some tactical commands. I would say that it surpasses Uncharted, though, in that the combat sections felt like they dragged on much less in Spec Ops and that Walker definitely seems to take more damage per shot (even on the lowest difficult) which makes him feel more vulnerable (a feeling compounded by limited ammo).

The narrative, finally, is superb and THIS is an example of the power of video games as a medium. Walker's story would not be nearly so affecting were it not an interactive journey. The devs used every shooter and action hero convention to create a familiar and comforting environment and then ripped away the narrative mask to completely unsettle the player. It works very potently because of the awareness that Spec Ops doesn't exist in a vacuum and even when the player is "railroaded" into making certain choices, this acts as commentary not only within the game but on the industry itself. In how many other games are players forced to make similar choices? And in how many of those games do we really think about the consequences rather than just accepting it as part of the fun?

Spec Ops: The Line is powerful precisely because it understands the reasons (both good and bad) that shooters are compelling in the first place and has the player examine just what their reasons are to continue playing.
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It's all right
As a character study and a deconstruction, I find The Line's story quite appealing, although it probably could've stood to be a little longer and/or built-up. The gameplay is, if not perfect, at least fully functional and not frustrating, which is all I ask.

Regarding the You Bastard implications, I have rather conflicting feelings. For the most part, I'm of the opinion that video games are no more inherently "interactive" than literature or films, unless you're explicitly given a choice on how to proceed in or resolve the story (and even then, there are only certain, pre-programmed, choices that can be made) . In the end you're only pushing buttons to follow a path or paths determined well in advance; turning the game off and trying to wish away the events of the story will be no more successful than stopping halfway through a novel and pretending all those pages aren't still there, and strikes me as akin to the action of plugging one's ears to drown out something unpleasant that's already occurred and cannot be undone.

That said, even if I were to accept the claim that turning the game off is somehow a valid ending to an already established narrative with four possible conclusions (and I won't consider any solipsistic arguments along the lines of "It only existed and happened because you watched/read/played it!") and that I need to take "responsiblity" for anything "I" did playing the game, I wouldn't feel bad about my actions. If the point is to think about anything (violence, morality of war, "power fantasies", whatever), I thought. And I decided not to change my opinion.
  # comments: 7
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Admirable, but extremely flawed.
Where to begin?

Spec Ops: The Line is a "game about games". In this case, the game is an analysis on the modern military shooter, and our glorification of their violence as a way to feel like a hero. Indeed, the game goes to great lengths to show how such a way of thinking is flawed and unsettling, and forces players to rethink as to whether or not they are comfortable with violence as a means to make one feel like a hero. In that respect, it is quite an ambitious title in terms of themes and questions, and should be applauded for that.

However, despite what many bloggers will tell you, the game's message and themes are not perfect. Its message that acting like a hero through violence is indeed a good one…….if it weren't for the fact that the game basically forces you to commit these atrocities without any choice. While the game and its defenders will try to say that that was the point, the player, despite what the metaphors say, aren't Walker. The player didn't choose to use White Phosphorus, nor did they choose to blame everything on Konrad. Really, the only choice one has in this game is to stop playing, which in and of itself is quite a dubious solution to present, especially after one has paid $60 for it. It's basically saying that you payed to not play the game, which doesn't feel clever so much as defensive. If that is the only choice, then why bother with the story?

Really, as much as one can try to say that these flaws are "what the writers intended, and you don't get it", they must be pointed as such. The game takes an incredibly one-sided view, blaming the player for everything that happens. Who forced these decisions to happen though? While the player did go through them, it's only because the developers chose to railroad them into doing so. In that regards, they share much of the same responsibility as the player, yet the game only targets the latter, calling everything their fault. Because of this one-sided nature, it is hard to really get into the story, as it is essentially beating you over the head as much as Walker is beating Konrad up.

And what is the message? You suck for wanting to be a hero through violent war games? Sorry, but that is far from profound. If that's the message, then what is the purpose of playing?

To conclude, SOTL is admirable, but its one-sided POV and defensive nature drag it down.
  # comments: 12
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Go for the Story, Stay for the Guilt
Its said that a good work makes you think about it and a great work makes you think differently.

I will never be able to see another first person shooter in the same light after the events of this game.

The voice acting is excellently executed, the scenery holds a unique blend between a worldly beauty and surprising surrealism, and it all plays well.

If you desire to take in the story of a game then this is the game for you, if you want something to play with your friends over the weekend for fun... you may want to reconsider.

I for thought it was well done, just be sure to understand what you're getting into before you dive head it.
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The Pile Driver
"If you have a point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver."

Astute readers will note that as a (paraphrased) quote from Winston Churchill, and Yaeger certainly subscribe to it in this brutal, harsh, tirade against modern 'hero fantasy' gaming. In it, you will be pointed to and accused of horrendous atrocities. There will not be a 'beacon of hope' that offers an unambiguous gleam of light. This game starts grey and goes pitch black.

It is about bloody time.

This game can perhaps be seen as a masterful piece of introspection. The actual gameplay is so-so; anyone who's played Gears of War will be right at home, Halo and Co D fans will adapt quickly. The graphics are just about passable, though the vistas and environments will blow your mind from time to time. All this is secondary to the experience of the thing, the fact it demands you look at what your own hobby might imply, the fact it raises questions that we, in defence of our treasured media, frequently take completely for granted. It has been rightly accused of being anvilicious, crude, without mercy, railroading you into situations and then guilt tripping you for it. This is forgivable, however, when it is presented as a way to get you to shut the fuck up and actually think for five minutes. The accusations of ham-fisted and uninspired preaching are true, valid and utterly missing the point.

Your actions have real consequences. That alone puts it above 90% of most shooters, and most RP Gs. Yet, these consequences are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things, because that's not how things actually work in a chaotic hell-hole like the one presented. Sometimes, no matter your best efforts, things go to hell. You are 'not' a hero, you can't save the world. That 'might' be the message of the game, but people seem to be divided on it once you get past the "it's a bit creepy you enjoyed killing those imaginary people, isn't it?".

Look, Spec Ops: The Line has quickly become a rather large case of marmite for the gaming community. This troper, personally, adored it. I found it heart-wrenching, potent and unrelenting. Others found it simplistic, preaching and narmy. Try it, decide for yourself, because a game that aims to make you think rather than just kill a few hours deserves your attention, one way or the other.

  # comments: 16
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Crosses The Line...Of Subtlety
(Note: it's been a while since I've played this game. This review may in for revisions. Also? SPOILERS!)

It's rare to find a game as unusual as Spec Ops: The Line. A military themed third-person-shooter, with Gears of War style gunplay (sans roll dodge and general fun) and white-bread protagonist, but with a strong emphasis on story and characters? Color me intrigued! If there's one thing Spec Ops does well, it's taking a tried and true formula and turning it into something shocking and memorable. Unfortunately, I must take issue with the game, as it is hands down one of the most blunt, hamfisted, cliched, pieces of pearly putrefied pretentious wank I've played in years.

Most of my ire is directed at the game's attempt at deconstructing the Modern War Shooter, taking an element of the genre and flipping it on it's head: American soldiers? They're the bad guys! Middle Eastern dudes? They're the good(ish) guys! American Hero sent to sort this shit out? Go crazy and possibly die after driving your friends into depression by your dogged persistence in pursuit of a goal that only makes sense to you! That could have gone well, but unfortunately the theme of the piece really seems to be "players are dicks". Often times that game comes short of breaking the forth wall in admonishing the player for the many acts of brutal violence you are FORCED to commit. This is undermined by the game reveling in bloodshed to a level that would impress Mortal Kombat. When the game shows you the fifty civilians you accidentally dropped a butt-ton of Wiley Pete on, it zooms in real close and focuses on a mother and daughter melted together by the intense heat. The gratuitous nature of that scene provoked less My God What Have I Done, and more the feelings of a small boy poking roadkill with a stick. It takes incredible hubris to shame a player for indulging in violence, when your game features exploding heads, Ludicrous Gibs, and the ability to pound downed enemies into meat paste.

Combine this with plot holes, moral choices that mean exactly dick, and twists that make the story make lose much of it's weight, and you've got a story heavy game that gets an A for effort, but a C in execution.
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