2012 // Spec-Ops: The Line
This was one of those games I got to late (I actually didn’t play it until it was on PlayStation Plus the year after it came out!)
I skipped it because it looked like yet another generic 3rd-person war shooter set in the desert, like so many others before it. And honestly? I wasn’t completely wrong about that.
The gameplay of The Line is fairly generic, Uncharted-like cover-to-cover shooting with a few extra layers added on top with the ability to control your squadmates at pretty much anytime. Order them to fire on an entrenched enemy, breach a door, etc. Basic stuff.
It’s not really the gameplay that makes this one of my favorites – but rather, the story and the way it handles its depiction of war – and war games.
At the start, it feels like a generic shooter. There’s slow-mo when you get a headshot. Characters celebrate winning battles. Loading screens give you general gameplay tips and story information. And then things start to take a turn at about the halfway point. The slow-mo starts to feel like mocking. Character barks become aggressive – even sadistic at times. Loading screens begin to call you out for your activities.
“Do you feel like a hero, yet?”
A question that gets asked – not by any character in the game to another character, but by the loading screens to you. You feel uneasy. You feel bad. And as the question shows up more and more, you feel less and less like a hero. Less and less like a good person.
There is no good ending to the story. No “everything turns out alright in the end”.
The white phosphorus moment, for instance – is still one of the most harrowing, depressing moments in a game I’ve ever played – and it’s entirely your fault that it happens.
I was kicking myself after playing it because I hadn’t played it sooner.