Spec Ops – The Line is a 2012 third-person shooter video game developed by the German studio Yager Development and published by 2K Games. It’s the 10th and last game of the Spec Ops series, which started back in 1998. Although the critics were good on the theme and narrative of the game, in reality, on the commercial side of things, it did not do well. Therefore, the studio decided that there will be no sequel to the series. Spec Ops The Line became the last game of the Spec Ops series, thus, ending spectacularly a 14 year old franchise.
DISCLAIMER: SPOILERS AHEAD! THE REVIEW IS ABOUT PLAYERS THAT ALREADY HAVE PLAYED THE GAME!!!
Not Your Shoot’Em Up Game
When the average gamer hears the phrase “shoot’ em up”, immediatly his mind rushes to Call Of Duty series. And for good reason, because many (not all) of their games, are the epitomy of what shoot’ em up means (now that I think of it we should make an Analysis over the Modern Warfare games…). But a small company, which had its peak around the year 2000, decided to come back with a controversial title. The 2012 game called “Spec Ops: The Line”.
When I say controversial, I do not mean that the game was average. It was a pretty good game, with nice features. Surely, it was not the hit the company expected it to be, but the gamers really enjoyed it. The controversy came, when the players realised that the game, was not what they expected.
It is true that the shoot ’em up industry, is not famous for the storylines of the games they produce. After all, it’s all about the graphics, the explosions, sometimes the gore. But Spec Ops: The Line, got it the other way around. While it has decent graphics, especially for the time it got released, it was still pretty average, with the titles of Far Cry 3 and Black Ops 2 having been released this year. But what Spec Ops offered, it was the new prespective, which was unprecedented in terms of telling a story, through a gaming title.
Another Day, Another Mission
Dubai has been destroyed. Not by terrorism, not by warfare, but by natural disaster. Sandstorm after sandstorm have destroyed the city and drowned it in sand. The wealthy and powerful managed to escape, but the simple people stayed back. The 33rd Battalion, under Konrad, commited many attrocities against the populace. But eventually stopped when the CIA arrived there. The 33rd then started to prepare for evacuation, but things went south, the mission failed, and the 33rd was disavowed for treason.
One man, the commander of the 33rd Battalion stayed behind to coordinate. But after the last failed planned evacuation, which left many dead, Konrad, already psychologically stressed and emotionally damaged, he takes his own life. The death toll was too much to bear after all. At the end of the game, Konrad will propose to Walker the same escape from reality as he did. To take his own life, and not live with the regrets of his actions.
Delta Squad, Waler’s team, after the failed evac, were ordered to patrol to the outskirts of the city. After encountering with a team led by a CIA agant (who the Delta thinks is the 33rd), Walker defies his orders and proceeds to enter the city to engage with the situation there. This was the beginning of the end for Walker and his team.
John Konrad: The Example of the Perfect Soldier
John Konrad is for Captain Walker, the perfect example for every soldiers. That is because, they have a history together. They served together in Afghanistan. As it was written above, he is the one who led the 33rd and tried but failed to evacuate the city. In the game, appears to be a maniac and mad self-made monarch, a tyrrant who decided to take over and abuse his power, after the series of misfortunes that had hit Dubai. Wlaker through the game, talks with him and interacts with him, arriving to the conclusion that Konrad has lost his mind. After all, he did suffer from PTSD condition, making Walker’s observations even more true. But the reality was totally different.
Konrad, throughout the story, is dead. He has commited suicide, after a last attempt failed attempt to evacuate the city. Although we, the players, can hear him, or talk to him, he isn’t really there. Konrad is the scapegoat for Walker, to find justification for his ruthless and cruel actions against the people of Dubai, the CIA and the 33rd.
The Massacre Of The Innocents
One of the major turning points of the game is the massacre of the innocents. During Chapter 8, called “The Gate”, Delta finds a battalion of the 33rd, with many men and tanks in a small yard in front of them. Walker asks Adams how many enemies are there, to whom he replies with sarcasm: “An army, give or take”. Nearby, the team finds a white phosphorus cannon. They use this and they eliminate the 33rd regiment. Truth to be told, as gamers ourselves, we found the sequence extremelly hilarious, blowing up your enemies, in a spectacular manner. But when the action was over, the brutal reality overwhelmed us.
When they come down from their vantage point, they walk around the dead, or dying soldiers of the 33rd. And then they stamble before a dying man, who just asks “Why?”. Walker, in his self righteousness, responds that they actually get what they deserve.
The event of the Massacre of the Innocents, is the turning point for Captain Walker. After that, he was no longer able to accept the reality. The fact that he alone, is the reason for the catastrophes that kept happening in his path. For that, he started to hallucinating Konrad and blaming him and the 33rd, although the true villain of the game, is actually Walker.
Lugo’s Reality and Fate
Lugo is the rookie on the mission. A bit tempered and a renegade, but a funny guy non the less. Although critical of Walker and his actions, Adams was the one to always keep him in line. After the Massacre of the Innocents, Lugo snaps against Walker and openly questions him. Although Walker seems to sympathize with Lugo, he never stands down and proceeds even further into the city, bringing death and destruction. Although his questions and problems against Walker, he stays loyal to him. After the helicopter crash, Adams and Walker reunite, with Lugo nowhere to be found. They manage to track him down at a camp, where the enrage locals have hung him.
Lugo later “appears” again, in a hallucination of Walker, shouting at him: “You left me to die!”. This shows to the player that the state of mind of Walker has now degarated to
Lastly, during a loading screen message, it says that Lugo was lucky to die when he did. Because if he returned home, he would suffer from PTSD. To think that the brutal death of a soldier, was his actual way to salvation from suffering, it says a lot about the situation that Walker brought upon himself and his comrades.
Loading Screen Messages?
If you die in-game, Spec Ops, like any other game in existence, will play out a loading screen, with a helpful tip, to help the player during the walkthrough. An example like that is showed in the picture below:
Although, as the player progresses in the game, and as Walker continues to commit atrocities and later blaming Konrad and the 33rd for that, the game starts gradually to turn against you.
The gamers gradually gets this feeling that he should stop playing, or rather become really uncomfortable. And that is because, Spec Ops is the anti war shooting game. This is what we call an oxymoron. Games are supposed to be fun. Shooting games are supposed to be fast paced, increasing the adrenaline of the player. And surely, Spec Ops: The Line, indeed has those aspects, keeping the player engaged, especially with the survivalistic characteristics of the game. But in reality, it gives you the notion, that the more you play, you should reconsider, if you actually find joy in what you are doing. Of course, one might argue that you shoot up pixels in a screen. That’s true. But psychologists say, that an icon is a symbol, that in reality depicts a deeper
Good or Bad Ending?
According to the things we have already discussed above, we can safely say that we cannot determine what is and what is not a good ending, let alone name an ending bad. The personal opinion of our team is that, no matter the ending, the whole mission of the evacuation of Dubai was “a complete failure… Death toll… too many”, according to the words spoken by General Konrad. So, on the mater at hand, there are three possible outcomes. After a final encounter with the ghost of Konrad, Walker stands in front of a mirror with his nemesis. The longing for truth, led him to the realization that he is the author of this bloodshed. He is the one to blame, for his need to become a hero, he dragged so many innocents to their deaths. And now he has to choose.
“It takes a strong man to deny what is in front of him”. Konrad gives him a choice. Either shoot his image in the mirror, or let him pull the trigger. If Walker shoots his image he kills himself. The same happens if Konrad pulls the trigger. But if Walker shoots Konrad, the glass shatters and Walker lives and waits an escape party to come and rescue him. Then Walker is given a choice. He either kills the party or goes with them. If he kills them, he takes the place of the radio man, as Dubai’s insane “leader”. But if he goes with the rescuers, he returns home, but as a broken man. That’s why he answers “Who said that I did” at the soldier’s question of how did he manage to survive all these.
Interesting Theories – Walker’s Reality
One of my personally favourite theories about the plot of the game, is the called “Purgatory” theory. The game starts in the helicopter that takes off from the central communications center of Dubai. After a dogfight, the helicopter of Walker falls from the sky and crushes. Then, we transfer back in time, when all begun, when Walker, Adams and Lugo patrolled the outskirts Dubai. The theory suggests that Walker died in the crashm and everything else he sees, is images of his brain shutting down. That’s why sometimes, there are so many soldiers in fighting sequences. The 33rd had only a handfull of soldiers in Dubai, and so did the CIA. But in the game, you feel like you are fighting a whole army. That’s because the game is the memory of Cpt Walker, and he is trying to believe himself, that he did nothing wrong.
There are two points in the game where the players can wonder if this theory is actually true or not. First, when you proceed in the story, when you find yourself on the helicopter, Walker exclaims “Wait… Wait! This isn’t right!”. When Adams replies “Well, it surely is now!”, Walker says “No! I mean we did this already!”. The second point is that, after that incident, there is the hell vision that Walker has, when a mortar fires against him. He sees the innocents, running around in flames, engulfing him too. In general, after the crash, everything seems blurry and out of order and that makes a strong case that the end simoly did not happen. It happened in a metaphysical reality, the next life, where Walker will relive his attorcities again and again, and be haunted by the sins he commited at Dubai.
The True Reality of War
You probably have heard the phrase “There are no winners in a war”. Although it may sounds cynical, it has a sense of truth in it. Let’s take the exampe of World War II. Countless of the Allies soldiers that came back from the battlefields, they came back with PTSD, grief and losses beyond count. Imagine the pain and the anger maybe, from these heroes of war, when not long after the war, Germans became pioneers in technological development. And not long after, they dominated the car industry. Today, Germany has one of the largest industries, with the biggest brands, like Volswagen (which was a brand making tanks back in the war), Mercedes, BMW etc.
So, who really won? While the – used to be – AXIS forces like Japan and Germany, have skyrocketed on the fields of technology, medicine and other areas, America and other Allied countries, like Britain or Greece, experience extreme economic difficulties, while falling back in technological advancement (maybe with the exception of America, during the Cold War). And it is true, that in Europe nowadays, although we don’t have any major conflicts (with the exception again of Russia and Ukraine), Germany, one of the leading countries of the European Union, have declared unofficial economic warfare many times, in order to establish more power. So, once again, who won these wars? Was it worth the sacrifice of so many heroes? Although cynical, “Reality is often… disappointing”.