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Just Deserts: Spec Ops Goes Behind The Line

No, I don't mean behind this zipline. Though I guess that's also technically true.

For me, Spec Ops: The Line is like watching a child play with a balloon. Like, I want it to be good, and I think it definitely has the tools to do so – but I’m still tensing every muscle and waiting for a deafening POP. Maybe it’s a sign of early onset cynicism, but plenty of other shooters have promised non-black-and-white moral choices and a “true” battlefield experience. Also, while probably purposefully bereft of those things, the demo didn’t exactly make a believer out of Richard. So now, on the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of Spec Ops’ release, 2K calls for another supply drop of big promises. But will Yager deliver?

So, a couple concerns: First up, that moral choice example doesn’t seem particularly gray to me. Who will you side with: the man who stole water – probably out of necessity – or the soldier who indiscriminately murdered his family? Maybe it’s purposefully set up to look simple so that the fully story can fill you with nauseating pangs of regret after you’ve made a knee-jerk reaction, but obviously, there’s reason to be skeptical.

Second, there’s heavy focus on the fact that gunfire isn’t often a one-way ticket to the great beyond for enemies. In Yager’s words, “they’re typically laying on the battlefield, bleeding out in horrific pain and agony.” So we get to see their final moments – which, as I discussed in my Tomb Raider piece last week, is something I’m all for if it’s handled properly. This video then notes that players can react in “a number of ways,” but only goes on to demonstrate hyper-violent executions. It remains to be seen, then, whether or not Spec Ops: The Line has crossed a line from being grim and gritty to out-and-out disgusting.

We’ll find out on June 29. Again, I’d love to see a game finally do this type of subject matter justice, but mournful somberness and rah-rah-rah feel-good fun don’t often mix terribly well.

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Nathan Grayson

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