This article contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!
After completing Spec Ops The Line, I wasn’t sure how I felt about the game and that was a good thing. The very first thing I did after completing the game was look online to make sure that I didn’t miss something, make sure I finished the game right. I wasn’t sure If I made a bad choice back before the end of the game that led me down a path to a bad ending. I was looking for the meaning behind the game because just maybe I missed something that explains it all. In the middle of my search, I realized that I did understand the game, and that this feeling is what I was supposed to feel. For this, I can say that I enjoyed Spec Ops: The Line.
On a technical level, The game is good. Spec Ops: The Line has a good shooting mechanic and cover system. There are quite a few weapons that you will pick up on the journey including shotguns, sniper rifles, and a variety of large and small firearms. The AI enemies relentlessly attack, try to flank you , and seems to be working together to take you out. The game includes different set piece moments that make some good use of the sand in the game. Simply put, the sand effect becomes an entity within itself. Overall, the game is well designed and pretty fun to play on a technical level.
But the gameplay mechanics are not what makes Spec Ops: The Line unique, the story is. The game has you play as Captain Walker. You and your two squad mates, Lugo and Adams, are on a mission in a destroyed Dubai. They are in search for survivors and, instead, find a civil war brewing between the highly decorated Col.Konrad’s soldiers and the CIA fighting alongside local “insurgents”. Walker and his teams walks into the middle of a situation, is mistaken for an enemy, and thus begins the downfall of his character.
The game, at first, didn’t strike me as too interesting, at the outset. After playing the first level, I actually put the game down and put in a few days with MLB: The Show. Only out of a sense of responsibility and a little curiosity did I decided to continue playing Spec Ops: The Line a bit more. As early as the second level, I started to feel uneasy about what I , as Walker, was doing and the game developers made sure that Lugo and Adams are speaking very realistically about what is really happening around them. As the first batch of American Soldiers begin shooting back at them, mistaking them for CIA agents, your team is hesitant to pull the trigger, but follow Walkers orders instead. From this point, the primary enemy are American Soldiers which is a huge change from games like Call of Duty or Battlefield which usually have you playing as Americans against an enemy. As the game progresses, you can hear them talking over your radio reacting to what you are doing as a player, including shooting at them. This just gave me an uneasy feeling like I was shooting teammates, who just happened to want me dead.
Throughout the game, I kept thinking, was there a way I could have called for back up on the first level instead of digging a deeper hole for Walker, especially when those were his orders in the first place. Instead I pushed along as Walker insisted his team should and ended up in worse situation after worse situation being taunted by this “Radioman”. I just wished Walker would just stop and report his findings, something that Adams brought back up several times throughout the game as a reminder on why you are there. Then I reached the scene with the white phosphorus mortars and I pondered if I wanted to complete the game after that.
I actually saw the civilians there before firing that last mortar blast. As Walker is laying into the 33rd with the mortar I saw the last Humvee ahead and a lot of people to the right that were not running or moving, but instead just standing there. I thought to myself, let me make sure I nail this last shot so I don’t hit those people’, and I proceeded to killing all of them. I thought I made a mistake so I restarted that part and I couldn’t fire that final shot looking for another way, then I was shot dead. I ran through it again trying to draw the Humvee off the bridge untill realized that I needed to kill those people, and after reaching the big reveal scene with the mother holding the child, yeah, I felt bad. The game developers succeeded on making reaching me at this point.
Other events that just stood out include the part where you have to choose which of the two hanging men should dies, the one who broke the law and stole water to survive or the one who went too far in punishing the water thief. I chose to go after the snipers instead. At this point, I just wanted to know how this game ends, considering all the people that Walker has murdered along the way. At the point in the game where Walker and his team end up in a village of very pissed off and angry people over destroying their water supply, I wanted Walker to pay for his actions, but all I could do was shoot in the air to disperse the crowd.
Pushing further into the game also pushed further into Walker’s madness and I was going along for the ride. By the end of the game, I’ve lost both of my squad mates, killed innocents and not-so-innocents, been through hell and back, seemed to lost my mind a bit and I finally reach Konrad. This scene is also a twister as I let him shoot me the first time around. I felt that was the right thing to do given that anyone who lived though what Walker lived through would never be the same again. The second time, though, I pulled the trigger and got the follow up cutscene and epilogue level. I realized that as the shellshocked Walker sits there armed, he can open up and shoot at more Soldiers and continue his descent into madness, and for a second I thought that’s what I had to do. Thankfully they allow you to put the gun down as I did not want to shoot any of them but rather just let the character go home. I had to look up the final two endings that happen if you do choose to open fire on the last set of soldiers.
The events in this are only a fraction of the ways the game makes you feel like you’re going crazy with Walker. The game developer apparently wanted the gamer to feel the consequences to your actions and I felt those actions I had to make in this game. For that, I applaud Spec Ops: The Line. This is an game I’ve enjoyed very much and I hope more games push the envelope on story the way this game has.