Spec Ops: The Line is free until Saturday

Spec Ops: The Line is free over at the Humble Store right now. It’s only available for 48 hours, ending March 31st at 10am Pacific, so I advise you to go there now. Congratulations! You are hopefully now the proud owner of a game about the horrors of war. It’s hell, in case you hadn’t heard, and many people are unsure what it’s good for. Hu-ah.

Here’s wot our Alec thought back in the day.

There’s a Humble Bundle running at the moment as well, with some lovely things in it. Lovely things like the existential horror of Soma. Lovely that.

If you were worrying that Far Cry 5’s lack of political or emotional conviction might mean that ALL games about shooting masses of people had nothing to say about the context and meaning of shooting masses of people, fear not. Spec Ops: The Line, the Funny Games of the military shooter genre, is here to remind you that there might well be an ethical quandary involved in all of that gunplay.

It’s about as on the nose as a pre-prom pimple but I like Spec Ops quite a lot. It felt like a necessary game back when it came out in 2012 and it’s worth playing just for the gorgeous environments. Dubai has never looked so bizarrely beautiful, broken and drowned in sand.

The free Steam keys are available “until Saturday, March 31 at 10 a.m. Pacific time – or while supplies last”. I do not know how digital supplies run out. How much internet is left? Are we running out of ro


  1. Spuzzell says:

    It’s superb.

    If you haven’t read all about it, don’t.

    Just go install an excellent 3rd person shooter and let it happen.

    • HiroTheProtagonist says:

      Wouldn’t go as far as “excellent”, since the actual shooty bits aren’t all that viscerally satisfying (compared to something like Killing Floor per se). But yeah, for the price of free it’s absolutely worth a blind playthrough.

      • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

        It also has some real high points on the art direction side (also some muddy corridors and mixed scrap obstacles of deeply minimal merit; but then you pop out and it’s vista-of-steel-and-glass-being-devoured-by-sand and wow.)

        The unevenness arguably keeps it out of the league of things like Dishonored and Bioshock(and the parts of HL2 that aren’t weak-in-retrospect driving minigames terribly self-satisfied about their shiny physics engine) which just don’t stop nailing the art direction and world building; but Spec-ops’ good scenes rank up there.

  2. GernauMorat says:

    Do it. It’s a 6/10 shooter with a 9/10 plot

    • jusplathemus says:

      It’s one of my favourite games, and I have to agree with you there. The gameplay is good, but not great, while the stortelling, the characters/voice acting and the visuals are very, very good. Definitely worth the “price”.

    • Halk says:

      After playing it I had a hard time deciding what to think of it. On the one hand it plays exactly the same way as any other spunkgargleweewee, i.e. like crap. On the other hand, it makes some intelligent commentary on the ideology usually underlying SGWWs, especially towards the end. Was that enough to compensate for the crappy game? Argh, I can’t make up my mind.

      One big issue for me was that the most important moment of the game (you know which one I mean) did not work for me at all, because I realised what I was about to do (the game makes it quite obvious really), and did not want to do, but the game forced me to, to advance the story. So all that “Oh no, you made a terrible mistake!” stuff did not work for me at all.

  3. GH Moose says:

    To me it’s a bog-standard 3rd person shooter with excellent concept, plot, and presentation. There’s some portions where the concept leaks into the gameplay itself that I really enjoy but don’t want to say more about because it would ruin it for new players. I will say it’s worth sticking with it even if the gameplay doesn’t do it for you because the plot/concept likely will.

  4. woodsey says:

    Good game.

    Far Cry 2 is the better videogame adaptation, though.

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      alison says:

      I loved both this game and Far Cry 2, and I can’t decide which one I liked better.

      This one had a better guided narrative. It made you feel like an asshole over and over. It was 8 solid hours of you feeling like an asshole. In Far Cry 2 you could lie with your belly in the mud for half an hour, just a nature-lover pottering around the bush. Sure, then the rain would whip up and you’d creep through the elephant grass and silently pick off a few guys at the edge of the base. But you could still pretend you were some kind of professional on a mission for the greater good. Of course, eventually a sharp-eyed chap would spot you and all his buddies would stream out and the whole thing would turn into a bloodbath. Rinse and repeat for 30-some hours.

      On second thoughts, I guess Far Cry 2 did capture the slow descent better in the long run. Both great games, though.

      I recommend playing Spec Ops the Line in one unbroken sitting, late into the night, to really help drive home the parallels between player and protagonist. That experience in particular is pretty unique in this game.

  5. indigochill says:

    It is deceptively clever and a good example of using game mechanics to communicate a message, but I would have enjoyed it a lot more had it been less smug and on-the-nose (The New Colossus also portrays horrors of violence inside a shooter, but it feels less pretentious to me). Still, it’s probably worth playing through for free just to see the cleverness once.

  6. Michael Fogg says:

    It makes me feel strangely uneasy to see this many games I paid money for in the past (there was also the Darkness II recently) to be re-used as promotional junkware.

    • Thomas Foolery says:

      At one point Beyond Good & Evil was being given away with cheese slices, which made me feel sad for a great game.

    • mitrovarr says:

      It’s pretty weird how in gaming, a slightly older great game is devalued far more than a more recent mediocre one.

  7. Sin Vega says:

    I absolutely hated it but respect the devs for what they were trying to do and think it’s an important game. And enough people have been impressed by it that if you haven’t played it, you’d be daft not to for free. Especially if you’ve no idea what it’s about.

  8. punkass says:

    There were times when I managed to ‘beat’ how it was trying to make me play, and I felt triumphant. There were times I felt railroaded into doing what it wanted, and I felt angry, especially when I thought I had escaped a ‘situation’ and felt like it treated me like I’d been gung ho.

    Overall, I felt like this was a gaming experience unlike most others, despite the game feeling like a lot of others. The only part I hated was when the game started berating me personally for things I hadn’t done every time I died and it reloaded. But yes, play the game, especially for free.

  9. Muzman says:

    As the review says it’s fascinating all the little ways it makes you feel queasy about things. People talk about the big ways quite a bit, but there’s a lot of subtle artistry in the details as well. The barks, the finishes, the extra detail to the animations. They’re all just a little bit different. It’d be easy to make such things obviously manipulative (and some things in the game are, to be fair). But a lot of stuff is pitched just on that emotional knife edge to bring you in like a shooter and then they change to gradually take you into horror.
    People say that games like Deus Ex manage to make murder seem wrong in ways games don’t usually bother with, as a result of being full of life and options. Spec Ops is kind of the other way around. It’s a linear shooter so it’s got to do other things to achieve similar effects.
    To my surprise, after playing late and reading about what it was doing a bit before hand, it still worked.

    As much as its “just a shooter” and not an exceptional one in that respect, I feel like these little side games like this and Call of Juarez: Gunslinger that try to do something different in that space always deserve a lot of attention.

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  11. I Got Pineapples says:

    I found it a mediocre game filled with unearnt smugness. It went after a fairly soft critical target at the time in the form of military shooters and had enough faux intellectual philosophizing about video game violence to make people feel clever for ‘getting’ it.

    I always thought that a handy illustration of the shortcomings of video game criticism is how well this was received compared to Kane and Lynch 2, a game that did a vastly better job of treading much of the same ground themewise but had the gall to ugly and alienating and confronting without constantly nudging you in the ribs about it.