*This article contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line*
PS+ users are a lucky bunch. Sure, they are paying a premium for the service, but there are a lot undeniable perks that just put it above its competition. For starters, its optional. Playstation Network allows you to play online with friends, and the cost of admission is as much as you paid for your PS3. So why would someone pay an annual $50 for PS+? Well, its all about the Instant Game Collection.
Discounted prices are great for the frequent buyer, but it is the free games that make PS+ a notable online service. Every month, new games are added to the roster of free downloads. These are yours to keep, as long as you remain a subscriber. Its also worth mentioning that these games aren’t shovelware. This month’s game is the fantastic Spec Ops: The Line.
You may have heard about Yager’s Spec Ops: The Line. It is inspired by the novel “Heart of Darkness” (which also inspired Apocalypse Now). It is a game that, on the surface, appear to be about the horrors of war. The thing is, looking further, the game is nothing of the sort. Spec Ops: The Line is actually one of the most artistic games of the generation.
Art comes in many forms
Deception is a key element in Spec Ops. The plot follows a psychotic Captain Martin Walker in a crumbling Dubai. The character’s mental state is revealed at the end of the game. But Spec Ops goes so much further than a somewhat predictable plot-twist. Spec Ops: The Line deceives you in more ways than one. And it does this with a new mechanic. This mechanic is simply abandoning its identity to give you a false presentation.
Many will play Spec Ops: The Line without noticing the central theme behind it. While the game appears to be a shooter (about the horrors of war), it is actually an intricate piece of art. Simply put, Spec Ops sacrifices its gameplay to portray a message. On the surface, Spec Ops is a military shooter. One with stereotypical squadmates and all the witty banter between them that you can ask for. It is generic to the point of redundant. You have played this game before. But that is the essential point. Yager made a difficult decision in the game’s design. It is not meant to stand out from the crowd. It is an everyday shooter, with no cliche left unturned. Hell, even Nolan North stars in the title. So, if you have “played this game before”, what makes it so special? The experience alone is not enough to save the repetitive gameplay. The story is interesting, but not game-saving, either. And that is precisely why Spec Ops is so special. Because it blends in with the crowd so perfectly.
I’ve played this game before
As I said earlier, Spec Ops: The Line is deceptive. The game’s hidden theme deals with a much more personal (and relatable) issue in every gamer’s life. As gamers, the majority of us have never experienced war. Spec Ops only uses that mask because it is familiar to us in the medium. Yager, instead, wanted to tackle the issue of us; the gamers. Spec Ops: The Line actually has very little to do with war. The game certainly doesn’t depict it realistically. The game is actually preoccupied with singling out the person behind the controller. Captain Walker accidentally kills dozens of civilian lives, and while Spec Ops is about choice, this is the one moment that the player doesn’t have an alternative. Remember that, though, because it is important. Throughout the game, we shoot hundreds of soldiers to save Dubai. These are soldiers with families. These are soldiers with personality. These are people. Most games have you shooting other people; The “enemies”. But where is the line drawn? In Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2’s No Russian level, you unload clips of ammo on civilians.
Spec Ops is confrontational. It constantly reminds you that you are doing this. You are shooting other humans. But the game doesn’t give you a choice, does it? In order to beat the game, you must kill wave upon wave of enemies. But that is where you are wrong. Spec Ops is a game almost entirely about choice. At the end of the game, a character looks Walker in the eye and says a now infamous line;
“The truth, Walker, is that you’re here because you wanted to feel like something you’re not. A hero.”
This line, however, is not directed at Captain Walker. It is directed at the player. Looking back to the moment where Walker, and sequentially you, have no other choice but to kill the dozens of civilians, remember that line. We chose to play these games. We chose to kill hundreds of people. Why? Because it beats going to school. It beats going to work. We feel powerful, and somehow, by labelling our victims as “enemies”, we are heroes.
You and I have very different definitions of “hero”
And then it hit me, far too late. This article is called “Finding Spec Ops: The Line’s Best Ending”. However, you only get one chance to experience it. Spec Ops: The Line’s best ending is to simply stop playing the game. The game should not be looked at as an experience, but as a test. Every single one of you who has beat the game has failed that test, myself included.