What Does A Marine Think Of Spec Ops: The Line's Violent War-Critique?

It's coming up on the end of the year, which means it's time to start looking back. And amid the Kickstarter campaigns and DRM-debates that kept 2012 so interesting, one game keeps coming back up: The brutal Spec Ops: The Line. It was a clever game that despite its hum-drum third-person shooter trappings was also a surprisingly successful look inside the mind of a killer, and an at-times subversive critique of the military shooter genre.

(Our review here.)

But what would a guy who'd actually served in the military think of it?

Critic Kris Ligman got in touch with a friend of hers, who goes by "R." who had done two tours in Iraq with the Marines to ask him what he thought of the game. Their conversation is pretty good stuff. (It also contains some pretty big spoilers, so be warned. These excerpts still have spoilers, but not the big ones.)

R.: and now I'm dropping white phosphorus on friendlies.

Kris: did you immediately give the order for that?

Kris: I tried holding out

R.: I had a choice?

Kris: technically, but the enemies infinitely respawn, and you have no means to refill ammo

R.: And now I have to walk slowly though the wreckage and wounded from my WP attack. Fanfuckingtastic.

Kris: oh wait till you get to the underpass of the bridge where you bombed that last humvee

R.: And I murdered civilians. FEEL GOOD GAME OF THE CENTURY!

Kris: I know!

I liked when he nitpicked the game's accuracy:

Kris: So, overall, worth the time spent playing? You did guess the twist pretty early on

R.: Even figuring out the twist, yeah, still worth playing.

Kris: All my Twitter friends are dying to know your technical nitpicks

R.: Oh there was a bunch wrong. M16′s are not fully automatic, teams tend to be 4 people, not 3, a sniper would have a spotter, a captain would not be leading a team, and said team would not have a lieutenant in it. .50cal barrels do overheat with a sustained rate of fire, but need to be replaced afterwards. The US Military doesn't use P90′s, or FAMAS, and the shotguns used are Berelli 12 gauge

Kris: I think there was a scene where Lugo served as a spotter while Walker had a sniper rifle. I found that weird seeing as, apparently, Lugo was the team sniper

Kris: I do wonder why they opted for a team of 3 rather than 4

Kris: Apart from making it easier to kill the squaddies off in a timely manner

R.: Oh also, the 33rd seems to have several thousand more people than a battalion would actually have.

Kris: and incredibly well-organized. And fashionable, with all those fedoras.

R.: And the entire premise of a Colonel leading his entire battalion rogue is just wrong.

Kris: that's pretty much where Apocalypse Now goes as well, hah

In the end, does R. think that Spec Ops: The Line was anti-war? "I didn't see anti-war in it," he writes. "I think it was critical in dealing with the psychological stress war inflicts, both on servicemen and civilians. It also gave you some of the perspective of both those in charge and those following. 'Freedom is what you do with whats been done to you.' Loading screen tip I just got. I like it."

The whole conversation is worth giving a a read, and, as sales happen and used prices fall, Spec Ops: The Line is really worth giving a play.

Context-Sensitive Spec Ops [Dire Critic]


    Ugh blocked by work filters *the whole conversation I mean*

    Some cool insight there, definitely one of my favourite games of the year by far.

    Picked this up last week on XBL Marketplace for 50 bucks. Only got to the phosphorous scene before far cry arrived, but enjoyed it so far.

      Don't stop there!

        I'll get back into it at some point… need to get through far cry and hitman first, maybe dragonborn also…

    I do think that 'R' missed the point that by playing this game you are choosing to be the murdering bastard, so the complaints about being "railroaded" aren't wholly accurate, but it's really only on reflection and discussing the game with others that I came to fully appreciate that, so I understand his complaints as part of a running commentary.

    I need to finish reading Brendan Keogh's critical reading, Killing is Harmless. And anyone else who liked Spec Ops should check it out as well, if they haven't already!


    Dont remember there being an M16 in Spec Ops. There was an M4 though.

    this game was utter crap and the ending is like copying black ops
    there were some game mechanics that were nice and i the whole "stress/psycho thing" was nice
    but the game felt outdated and too linear as with most modern day shooters.

      Character development? Plot? Ironic anti-war sentiment? The guts to take on wartime subject matter within a genre which generally revels in excessive violence?
      No-one who's played it thinks it breaks any sort of mold when it comes to gameplay - if you didn't see anything of worth past the generic running and gunning then you''ve missed the entire point of the game.

        i saw the worth, but everything else about the game really let it down. The characters were really crap and plot got really repetitive and predictable towards the end. Maybe im just being cynical after playing too many of these fps's, but because it didnt break any sort of mold as you word it, it really ruined the game for me and dragged down what was supposed to be a decent concept

        That being said, its a bit far fetched to believe that 3 dudes can take on a whole army plus militant civilians at the same time. The plot has holes in it and the only real thing that made me bother finishing it was wanting to validate if i predicted the ending correctly

      how is black ops ending the same

        both dudes were hallucinating

        its video game equivalent of high school level fictional writing. You dont know how to end a story, so you go "and then i woke up and it was all dream", although in these two scenarios they modified a bit "and then i realised it was all in my imagination and that armed infidel that i shot between the eyes was a 13 yr old boy with a water pistol"

        Last edited 05/12/12 11:37 am


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