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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 some pretty heavy ones. The game makes the effect that war has on its soldiers devastatingly clear and doesn't hesitate for a second in reminding the player whose fault it is.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

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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. Or perhaps, they followed their consciences, their hearts.

    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 (unsuccessfully) 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 is trying to 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, previously what happens.
  • Even before the wham scene, when the team walks through the base full of dead 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 angrily 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 and chastise 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. Perhaps they even genuinely wanted to protect them, even in an environment that turned so many men into monsters.
  • Part 8 of TheGirlFromAus' playthrough of the game contains her reaction to the white phosphorous scene. She seems a bit terrified at the damage, and then she sees the civilians she killed and breaks down crying, unable to even commentate at all.

    Chapter 11 
  • After Delta unwittingly dooms Dubai by helping Riggs blow up the water, the Radioman chimes in, announcing what they've done. Being the game's very dark and probably stoned off his ass Plucky Comic Relief, you'd expect him to say something that takes the edge off. Instead, he simply says there's no way to sugar-coat what's happened, and announces that the water is gone. But what really sells it is the final line of his broadcast.
  • He rubs it into Walker later as he butts in on a conversation between Lugo and Walker:
    Walker: Sit tight, Lugo. I'll be on my way.
    Radioman: I'll make sure he gets the message.
    Walker: Go fuck yourself.
    Radioman: Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's keep it clean, buddy. This is, after all, a family program. Rated E...for EVERYONE'S THIRSTY!
  • As Walker trots past a group of locals trying to grab what little water is left, you can hear their disgruntled banter:
  • Here's something one can surmise on a later playthrough- Riggs' actions were entirely for nothing. His argument that Konrad's actions forced him to destroy the water supply? They don’t mean anything due to Konrad being dead, and had someone told him that, he very well could have aborted his plan. And the war he thinks he's prevented? It may never happen at all. For one thing, it’s rather ridiculous to believe that Konrad's actions while he was alive, as bad as they were, would be the tipping point for a war. Even more so when you realize that, once it gets out that the CIA were also just as bad as the 33rd were and made the situation worse, the governments will likely condemn their actions instead of going to war. To top it all off, Riggs is likely suffering from delusions just like Walker, as he continues to repeat his motives to the point of obsession. So, to summarize, Riggs doomed the entire population all for something that will likely never happen. That is truly more sad than what any character does in the game, even Walker.

    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 Jerkass with moments of Crazy is Cool, 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.
    • That’s without mentioning that, considering the Radioman is likely as close to a second in command to Konrad as someone could get, it is entirely likely that not only did he have to announce the death of his commander over the radio, but he could have very well been the one to discover his corpse.
  • 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 a 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. Delta Force, the most professional special forces unit in the United States military, have officially become murderers.
    • 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. It also potentially calls back as an Ironic Echo to a scene near the end of Chapter 7 where Adams gives Lugo a hand up after they have a fight, which Lugo accepts.
  • In addition, even if you choose to disperse the crowd, even if Walker does it out of a sense of altruism, it's completely lost on the citizens. After all, the water supply is still gone, so what does it matter if Walker shows mercy now when they've already been doomed to die of dehydration?

    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 now 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 realize 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!
  • 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.

Every chapter in the chapter select has a brief recap of what the events immediately preceding that chapter was... Except the epilogue. Which simply states:
Walker stands alone.

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 until the very very end. He spends most of the ending in Stunned Silence, seeming to be as horrified as Walker to find the state that Konrad is actually in, noticeably reacting and looking away when the game flashes back to the mother shielding her child’s eyes from the white phosphorus, and then, at the very end after Walker aims his gun at Konrad the player slowly realizes that he can turn the gun away from Konrad. He takes a moment to register Walker pointing the gun at himself, apologizes, either to Walker, or to Konrad, or to everyone He and Walker have damned, and pulls the trigger. He puts his head in his hands as the video fades to black.
    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 final cutscene after Walker shoots himself. The camera pans through Konrad’s penthouse, a lone, dark guitar and some truly Silent Hill sounding tones fade in to score this turn of events, the camera cuts to Konrad’s corpse, then to Walker’s, his face permanently twisted into a tormented grimace, all while Konrad’s distress call plays in the background. The final shot of this ending is of the burning Dubai that Walker and The Player destroyed.

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...
  • Konrad's "dying" words are also hard to hear, especially because he sounds so genuinely heartbroken.
    Konrad: No matter what happens next... don't be too hard on yourself. Even now... after all you've done, you can still go home. Lucky you.
  • Something to note regarding Walker's behavior as one soldier cautiously approaches him and requests him to lay down his weapon. If you take your hands off the controls and let the scene play out, Walker automatically proceeds with handing over his gun as soon as the soldier gets close enough. After all the death and destruction that he has caused over the course of the game, the fact that his default action if you don't force it on him is to surrender is... rather sobering. In the end, he showed that he COULD let go of his deranged hero fantasy... but it's far too late to have any significance on his development. He's already killed Dubai. He's lost just about everyone he cares about. And he'll never be able to get them back. All because he just had to keep going even when it was clearly a bad idea.

The Road to Glory (Go Down Fighting)

  • The ending where Walker dies in a Suicide by Cop has his flashback 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 flashback 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 entered Dubai will walk out unscathed; not even those whose role was simply cleaning up the wreckage.
    • An example truly eerie enough to cross over with Nightmare Fuel, but the way Walker and Konrad talk in the final moments, after Walker has been shot down. It's not Walker replaying a memory in his head, he's actually reminiscing with Konrad as though he's really there. When Walker's voice talks about the things Konrad says, you can hear Nolan North's voice, imitating Bruce Boxleitner's, slowly shift into Boxleitner's real voice; while Walker lays there bleeding out, quietly gasping for air. Walker was still hearing Konrad even though he knew the man was dead by that point, and his voice is the last thing Walker ever hears.

The Road to Glory (Slaughter)

    Long Way Back 
  • In Walt William's book, "Significant Zero", there were talks of an additional DLC covering Adams surviving his Last Stand with the Damned 33rd. His face was significantly scarred from the fight, allowing him to disguise as a 33rd member. During the DLC, he meets another soldier named Sgt. Pozza who reminds Adams of Lugo. Somehow, Dubai hasn't broken Pozza as it has with the 33rd or Delta, so Adams takes it upon himself to save him. Everything goes well until the last moments of the DLC...
    Pozza: You lied to me.
    Adams: Yeah, I did. So what?
    Pozza: So what? You ruined everything. This is your fault.
    Adams: It's everyone's fault.
    Pozza: We were trying to help.
    Adams: So were we. Things got outta hand.
    (Pozza cocks his gun)
    Pozza: You destroyed the water. You killed those people at the Gate.
    Adams: Not arguing that.
    (Adams lowers his gun and throws it away. His shoulders sag. He is weak, tired. His eyes stare at the ground)
    Adams: Go home to your family. Be better than what happened here.
    Pozza: The hell are you doing? This some kinda trick?
    Adams: No trick. Just calling in your debts.
    (Adams pulls out Lugo's dog tags out of his pocket. He tosses them in the sand between him and Pozza)
    Adams: Those belonged to Staff Sgt. John Lugo. Make sure they get to his family. That's number one. Number two...
    (Adams lifts his head just enough to look Pozza in the eyes. He points to the left side of his chest, below his heart but near his lung)
    Adams: Aim here. It won't be fast, but that's all right. I'll bleed out before the medevac arrives. Tell them I was injured during our escape. You tried to revive me, but I was too far gone.
    Pozza: ... Why?
    Adams: 'Cuz I can't do this anymore.