Paragon Sentry

Spec Ops: The Line

Screenshot from a Spec Ops: The Line loading screen

Months ago I played through Spec Ops: The Line because I had intrusive thoughts about playing it. It's... ok...

Gameplay, well ultimately it doesn't matter for this game but I will still talk about it. It's a substandard Third Person Cover Shooter. I already hate TPS games so this is not good for my opinion regarding this game. The game has a lot of issues such as your character having clunky movements and taking a second to start sprinting, reloading, or moving to cover. When you are constantly under fire, this is the LAST thing you want to deal with. Especially in this game where you can only take 3 or 4 hits to die and where enemies are constantly chucking grenades that can instakill you. This is on NORMAL difficulty mind you. I typically play games on Hard but I'm glad I chose a lower difficulty this time.

Now for the story. Before I played this game, I wrote it off as pretentious garbage and thought storytelling like this did not belong in games. But after playing Drakengard and Nier, my mind changed. So I played the game and I kind of liked the plot despite its flaws. My biggest issue is that the game blames EVERYTHING on you. While I would say that Walker's hands are anything but clean, it feels kinda cheap to just blame everything on the protagonist. The entire situation was complex. You had the CIA using the native population as lackeys to do their bidding, the Rogue 33rd Battalion turning Dubai in to a dictatorship, and Riggs who is just downright insane. To place all the blame on one man does not make sense, and I feel its a cheap tactic to try and "add depth" to the story by saying "you were the bad guy all along". Especially since the game does not let you explore any major moral choices. There is one point where you need to get past a crowd of civilians. Your choice is either to shoot them or scare them away by shooting in to the air. Your choice ultimately does not matter here. You are forced in to performing morally questionable/evil deeds and the game punishes you for it. The only choice you get is the ending but by then its too late... which I suppose is what the developers wanted. Even if I disagree, I can understand their intentions.

Another flaw with the games is its themes, moreso in how it presents them. It presents themes such as heroism, ends vs means, and violence in entertainment. The last one in particular I feel is where the game fails the hardest. While I definitely do think there is something to be said about depictions of violence in entertainment, especially video games, this game simply brings it up in a few loading screens a player could easily miss and doesn't address it further. Why even bring it up if you won't address it? Just for me to think about for a few seconds then forget because I'm gonna get upset when I get shot again? One could say the game is hypocritical for bringing it up in a violent war shooter, but I disagree. Many films that are anti-war have graphic depictions of war in them because it needs to show what it opposes. This game does the same to an extent, but the meta commentary of violent video games is lacking a lot of substance.

I feel that is the case with most of the themes of this game, they just sort of bring it up but don't really go further with them. I don't think they NEED to go super in depth on everything, but this is a video game. With video games, you CAN explore artistic themes like these deeper than you can with other mediums. You shouldn't just bring it up like some guy who brings up stupid "fun facts" in a conversation and then not follow it up. You could say they're just leaving it there for you think about, but they're dipping a hook in the water with no bait on it. Give us something at least!

Despite its flaws, I still respect this game. Similar to Drakengard, it was a sort of antithesis to what was popular at the time. A game that looks like any other war shooter in the early 2010s but works as a satire to it. It has a clear artistic vision even if it stumbles while trying to express it. Is it pretentious? I would say no. It may not explore its themes the way it wanted to, but it still explores them to some extent and I can respect that.

It may be weird to say this, but I think this game is what made me finally accept video games as art. Not because I really enjoyed it or anything, but it showed me that the potential IS there for video games to surpass what other forms of art like movies and music already do, and perhaps do something never seen before.

Lastly, it is old news by the time I write this, but I feel it is worth mentioning regardless: The game has been delisted from online marketplaces (Steam, GOG and Xbox Marketplace) due to expiring licenses for copyrighted songs in the game. Even though I am not a huge fan of the game, it is a shame for any game made before 2015 to become hard to access like this. Pre-Owned PS3/Xbox 360 copies of the game currently go for around 32 dollars on ebay, but I am afraid that this price will go up from scalpers trying to raise the price due to the delisting.

RATING: 5.5/10. Played on PC, Steam version.

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