Monday, 4 November 2013

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line, the third person shooter that sets to do things differently. Unlike other modern shooters of today. This is probably not the best opening I have ever written, but I am currently running low on inspiration. Thus we will have to make due with what we have. I shall elaborate on Spec Ops as we continue.

The thing with most modern military shooters we get to play these days are pretty much the same. And no, I am not talking about them being first person, while Spec Ops is third person view. It is not even the popular setting of "today" or "near future" that Spec Ops shares with the rest. It is not even the theme-park of a game where you shoot your way from place to place always befallen by amazement over the spectacle.

Most modern shooters nowadays are FPS. No, not First Person Shooters. And no, not Frames per Second either. The term FPS I have in mind, is at least to my knowledge of my own making. The mistake can be quite expected. It means First Person Spectacle. Most modern shooters only focus on providing a really good joyride. That is, in campaign. The story, if any, is paper-thin, and blatantly done over so many times, that you can at times figure out yourself what is going to happen next.

This is what seems to irritate Spec Ops: The Line. I might be mistaken, as I draw from my own experience of the game, but Spec Ops tries to fix the issue with the story. It embraces some of the tropes of the genre, but it also uses them to their greatest potential. At times, it might even seem, as if you, the player are the object of the critique the game is aiming for, and not the other FPS games.

You are put in the boots of a soldier in near-future. Dubai was destroyed by a apocalyptic sand storm. The whole city is in ruin, and the great skyscrapers buried in sand. You are the leader of your three-man unit, sent to find out what happened with the men that were ordered to take care of civilians.

And here is where twist comes to play. You soon enough realise something Something is rotten in the state of Dubai. There are insurgents of sorts. Marines killing marines. CIA is playing their games. Rebel brigands are trying to take over the remaining water supplies. Everything is a mess, and chaos is present on every corner. Your two companions are your only voices of reason. Their suggestions at place, and often the right thing to do. Even though you might realise this too late for yourself.

The game tries to be mature, and takes the same approach to the thematic it tries to present. Only later do you realise how very subtle all of the game really was through your play. Only at the end, are you shown the futility of your actions. Only at the end you can grasp the consequences of your actions.

At times, Walter, your character sounds unreasonable and you are not able to really figure why. It is just some odd thing he said at that one time. You cannot really pin-point the reason, so you disregard it. You quickly attribute it to the way of the story, voice-acting, or just how the character was written. Nobody could really blame you.

My first realisation of sorts that something really is not well with Walter, was when he got separated from his teammates. It was not the first separation, but it was the shocking one. I entered the room, and the room was full of aberrations of sorts. I was attacked and everything shifted, lights went out and back up. When finally all was done and dealt with, I realised I was shooting at the room full of statues.

Spec Ops: The Line is not a spectacle shooter. It is everything opposite from it. It tries to present a serious issue, to the crowd, that is mostly not really familiar with the PTSD. There is also attention given to all the atrocities of war, and the regular horrors that go along, but the real star of the game, is presentation of PTSD through meaningful and engaging experience. And this, Spec Ops accomplishes.

As story comes to end, you are given opportunity for introspection. To ask yourself what did you just play. Why do play games like these? Because it is fun? I like to imagine it as a Maximus after the fight he has given to the crowd and stands victorious shouting: "Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?" It is on us to provide either the applause. Or in some cases disgruntling turn the thumb upside down. As for myself, I shall cheer for it wholeheartedly.

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