VIDEO: Spec Ops: The Line

In this supplemental episode, Roland takes a closer look at Spec Ops: The Line, and analyzes the positive attention it’s been getting from game writers. Does The Line‘s story make up for its bad gameplay? Let’s find out!

This video contains spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line, as well as Call of Duty: Black Ops (but that game is old, so you should have played it already!).

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  • Jason Withrow

    The Line isn’t even the first game to pull this “The only right way is not to play” line. I first encountered it on a flash game about spousal abuse. If you’re not playing the game you’re not abusing your spouse! But unfortunately, any game, and especially games where you play a character, like the abusive spouse, don’t “end” when you don’t play them. They’re _paused_. The story will return when you pick it back up. It will return when anyone else picks them up as well. Even a Game Over returns the game to its original point when you hit Continue.

    It doesn’t just apply to gaming. Frodo can never not deliver the ring to Mount Doom, no matter how hard you determined you are when you stop reading, stop watching the film and start writing fanfiction to some contrary extent. Set characters can only explore the scenarios allowed to them by the developers of the medium. Fire Emblem characters may lose friends to permadeath but the plot still marches inexorably to its conclusion. Indiana Jones might be able to rescue Sophia Hapgood but Atlantis is still going to return to the waves. As Mass Effect players discovered last year: no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you might even deserve it, the only options available to you are the ones provided by the developer.

    There is no fifth ending. You have a set character, and as far as the fictional universe is concerned, he’s going to carry out one of the other four. At best, team is just waiting for you to come back, and start shooting again.

    EDIT: Although I suppose the “fifth ending” is “an option being provided by the developer,” what with these publicity statements. If I make a game, and say that not buying the competition’s games adjusts the ending to my own, giving the characters a million dollars, does that make it any more true? And if so: would that increase sales? Hmm.

    • John Wilson

      I say it more like schrodinger’s cat theory. Its in a between state of being until you look at it. And you can never look at it and say what happen. With Lord of the Rings you can rewrite it so they never go to Mt doom. You can take the rewrite to another county or planet. And that would be their interpolation of Lord of the Rings to them. If you give them the version that we have now. They should be saying what your saying( somewhat). Only changing not deliver to deliver. And their verison just as real as your. Who are you to say otherwise:).

      • Jason Withrow

        But even in that case the game remains in a Schrodinger’s Cat scenario. It can’t collapse into a “fifth ending” scenario. It’s in a non-state. There is no way to open the box and get a good ending. And it’s also worth noting that the Schrodinger’s Cat scenario is mocking the very idea of the Schrodinger’s Cat scenario, and the Copehenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. Schrodinger was saying “This scenario is ridiculous and obviously cannot actually exist.” and I too am saying “This fifth ending scenario is ridiculous and cannot actually exist.” That’s the point of the Schrodinger’s Cat scenario, as much as that’s gone over the internet’s heads. Inside the box is not a live/dead cat, but a live or dead cat, and pretending otherwise is being mocked as silly. Similarly, pretending there is a good ending inside the box when no such thing exists, is also silly.

        The scenario you present is at best fanfiction, and no author of fanfic is going to pretend they somehow have control over the reality of the canon, no matter how much they wish Harry had hooked up with Hermione. The creator of a derivative work simply has no control over that universe, any more than any of us have over our own. If you really want to get into the semantics of derivative works, any fanfic is automatically in its own pocket universe, and if that makes you feel comfortable, more power to you, but the canon is untouched. There remains no good ending to Spec Ops in the canon. The player character continues to slaughter their way across the game, whether or not the box is ever opened. If anything the fanfic becomes a new delusion on his part, Pyro in Candyland, which would be an interesting fanfic to read! The fifth ending fanfic. Everyone is fine. No one is being murdered. Everything. Is fine.

        • I’d have to agree. There is no good ending, instead you have the possibility of a lack of a bad ending.

          The closest it gets to good, is an unsatisfying state of incompletion, where Walker and his team are stuck in the desert for the rest of time. Woo.

        • John Wilson

          What I meant to say is,it all a matter of pecation. See the story of Spec ops can only;y exist with you. Without you,its just some random thing. Its your head that tells the story. And in your head you can change it. Art is about perpetion and you can change what happens inm the story in your mind:).

    • That’s a brilliant idea! Anybody who DIDN’T buy Spec Ops: The Line, WINS! They get the good ending! Not only did they not have to endure a mediocre game, they also didn’t have to experience a depressing story!

      Spec Ops: The Line. The only winning move is not to buy it.

  • The_Stig

    it’s best to see this game not as a shooter but as a deconstruction of Call of Duty and other shooters where the main story boils down to “War is fucking awesome!”

    • But The Line boils down to “you are fucking awful!” instead of “war is fucking awful.” Plus if you play the Call of Duty games and pay attention to them, they’re constantly trying to push the War is Hell message.

      Unfortunately, Truffaut was right. :)

  • TheCrazyFish

    Here’s the big thing: this isn’t a statement that really needed to be made. None of them are, really.

    It’s like that one flash game, where you’re given a sniper rifle and shown a guy tied to a post, and if you shoot him the game calls you a murderer and lectures you, and then makes a save onto your hard drive so that if you ever play the game again the guy is already dead.

    The moral is: in the real world your actions have lasting consequences, and you can’t take it back just because you realized you were wrong.

    But hey, dumbass who made that game: WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THAT.

    Seriously. 99.999% of human beings on the planet Earth already know that. Even toddlers know that. Even the crazy jerks on XBox Live screaming about n**gers and f**gots all totally know that. Hell, even the people who pull school shootings totally already know that the people they kill will stay dead – they just don’t care.

    There is no one out there, barring the extremely mentally ill, who will look at your message and say “wow, I didn’t know that!” The filthy murderous masses who desperately need to hear your wisdom exist only in your own head, and all those people who play your game and praise its “strong moral message” aren’t doing so because they learned something – they’re doing so because they also imagine the world to be filled with psychopaths and terrorists, and their stupid withered brains imagine ludicrous scenarios of your pigfart message actually changing some imaginary person’s life.

    It’s the same for all of those “moral lesson” flash games. It’s the same for PETA’s murder simulators. It’s the same for Spec Ops: The Line.