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Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops: The Line is a 2012 third-person shooter video game developed by Yager Development and published by 2K Games. It was released on 26 June 2012 in North America and 29 June 2012 in Europe for Microsoft Windows, and the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles. It is the eleventh title in the Spec Ops series, and the first entry since Spec Ops: Airborne Commando in 2002.

In Spec Ops: The Line, the player controls Captain Martin Walker, who is sent into a post-catastrophe Dubai with an elite Delta Force team on a reconnaissance mission, where they find dead American soldiers. Upon the finding, Walker declares that the team's mission has changed, and that they will search Dubai for survivors. An online multiplayer mode, developed by Darkside Game Studios, is included with the game, allowing players to engage in both co-operative and competitive gameplay.

The writers stated that the premise of the game is influenced by various novellas, including Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with Konrad replacing Kurtz. Video game critics gave Spec Ops: The Line generally positive reviews. Praise focused on its narrative and themes, while criticism was targeted particularly at the online multiplayer mode and generic third person gameplay. Spec Ops: The Line also won, and was nominated for, several industry awards, including Best Narrative at Machinima's Inside Gaming Awards

Spec Ops: The Line Plot

The game begins in medias res with Walker, Adams and Lugo aboard a helicopter piloted by Adams, flying over a half-buried Dubai. Other helicopters begin to chase them, which Walker attempts to dispatch with the helicopter's minigun. However, a sudden sandstorm causes the helicopter to crash in the desert.

The story jumps back to the beginning, with Walker, Adams and Lugo traversing the storm wall through to the outskirts of a mostly-buried Dubai on foot. They come in contact with a group of hostile armed survivors speaking in Farsi, referred to as "insurgents", who have captured a squad of 33rd soldiers. Contradicting his orders, Walker elects to follow the insurgents and try to find out what has happened in the city. Throughout most of their journey, the team hears broadcasts on homemade speakers by the Radioman (Jake Busey) a.k.a. Robert Darden, a former journalist turned DJ who was once embedded with the 33rd in Afghanistan and now speaks on their behalf.

As the journey progresses, the squad finds evidence of what had happened in Dubai over the preceding months, indicating that after the failed evacuation, the 33rd returned to Dubai as an occupying force and committed atrocities against the civilian population with the intent of maintaining order. Aggrieved by this, elements of the 33rd staged a coup d’etat against Konrad in protest, forming the exiles. The CIA has been organizing the insurgents to attack both Konrad’s loyalist 33rd and the exiles for unknown reasons. Although there is now clear evidence against Konrad's virtue, Konrad once saved Walker's life in Kabul during the war, which inclines him to trust Konrad.

The team attempts to peacefully intervene when they come across refugees being rounded up by loyalist 33rd soldiers. However, the soldiers mistake them for CIA operatives and begin a firefight, resulting in the team having to kill fellow American soldiers, much to their dismay. As the 33rd retreats with a number of civilian prisoners, Walker insists on investigating further in hopes of evacuating survivors and finding Konrad. The team learns that a CIA agent, Daniels, has been captured by the 33rd and is being interrogated. Arriving to rescue Daniels, they are ambushed by the 33rd and discover that Daniels is dead and that it was a trap set for Gould, another CIA agent. Gould arrives with a band of insurgents, allowing the team to escape. Gould is captured and killed, but the team learns that they may get more information at a location called the Gate. Arriving at the Gate, which is heavily guarded by the 33rd, the team, disregarding Lugo's objections, uses a mortar loaded with white phosphorus to attack the 33rd. After the fire clears, the team learns to their horror that the 33rd were only providing shelter for civilians for their own safety in the coming battles, all forty-seven of whom have been killed by the white phosphorus rounds. Walker vows revenge on the 33rd, claiming that the 33rd had forced him to fire the phosphorus.

The team discovers Konrad's former command squad, who have been executed. Walker finds a small handheld radio, via which Konrad begins communicating with him and questioning the morality of Walker's actions. Shortly afterwards, Konrad forces Walker to choose between executing an Emirati survivor who stole water from the 33rd, or a 33rd soldier who was tasked with bringing the former to justice and killed the man's family in the process. Lugo and Adams begin to more and more openly express their wariness and doubt about Walker's judgement. Subsequently, Delta finds CIA agent Riggs leading a raid on the Underwater Aquatic Coliseum, the city's last water supply. Riggs tells Delta that insurgent control of the water will cripple the 33rd's operations in Dubai and bring peace. However, after the team aids Riggs, he intentionally crashes and destroys the water trucks. Walker learns from Riggs that the CIA wanted to wipe out the entire remaining population of Dubai so that no one would learn of the 33rd's atrocities, which the CIA feared would cause the whole region to declare war on the United States in retaliation. Riggs, injured and trapped after destroying the water supplies, can be killed by Walker or left to burn to death under a pile of debris.

The entire city will begin dying of dehydration within four days. To prevent this and organize an evacuation, the team, which is now becoming increasingly hostile toward each other and the enemies, with Walker suffering from hallucinations, heads to the Trans-Emirates Building to silence the Radioman and warn the city of an evacuation using the radio. The Radioman surrenders and instructs Delta on how to use his PA system, and is shot dead by Lugo afterwards, whom Adams berates. Before Delta can call in an evacuation 33rd reinforcements arrive forcing them to leave. To escape, Adams commandeers a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Walker orders Adams to circle around the radio tower, destroying it and rendering any further communication with Dubai impossible, in hopes of making his intentions clear to Konrad. Other helicopters give chase, leading to the helicopter sequence from the opening of the game (which Walker seems to remember), following which the helicopter crashes in the desert after a sudden sandstorm.

As the team attempts to re-unite in a ship graveyard after the crash, Lugo is lynched by a mob of civilians. When attempts to resuscitate Lugo fail, Walker and Adams either scare the crowd away or kill them in retribution. Walker's hallucinations are nearly constant at this point, and Adams is openly distrusting of his command. Walker contacts Konrad and informs that he is coming to Konrad's headquarters to kill him. Walker and Adams make their way to the tower; however, the two are soon surrounded by the last of Konrad's men. Walker attempts to surrender to get inside, but an enraged Adams insists on fighting to the death and shames Walker into running for safety inside the tower. Walker escapes at the last moment, and the last thing he hears before falling unconscious is Adams screaming and gunfire.

Awaking, he stumbles to the entrance of the tower. Upon entering, Walker is saluted by the remnants of the 33rd, who surrender to him. Walker demands to know where Konrad is, and is directed to Konrad's penthouse. At first, Konrad appears to be the paranoid, charismatic force behind the atrocities Walker was hoping for, until Walker finds his decaying corpse on the penthouse deck. Walker has been suffering from a dissociative disorder to rationalize the actions he has witnessed and carried out. The real Konrad had committed suicide before the game had begun. The Konrad that Walker has been in contact with during the game is actually a traumatic hallucination that none of his team saw or heard, appearing only in his mind. This mental projection of Konrad appears to Walker, explaining that Walker knew he had the choice of stopping, but pushed ahead out of a desire to be a hero (which Konrad says he wasn't). To maintain his 'sanity' after the white phosphorus strike, many subsequent events in the game were distorted by Walker's mind to make Konrad look like the villain. With his fantasy coming to an end now that the truth is in front of him, 'Konrad' points a gun at Walker’s head and begins counting to five.

Spec Ops: The Line Gameplay

Spec Ops: The Line is a third-person shooter with emphasis on cover and elements of squad-based tactics. Various new weapons and equipment become available as play progresses, some dropped by downed enemies. These include several different rifles, handguns, and machine guns, some with alternate firing modes, like attaching a suppressor or using a telescopic sight; as well as grenade launchers and hand grenades. Single-player squad commands include focusing fire on a particular target and ordering medical attention for an injured squad member.

A multiplayer mode is also included, with six competitive game types across seven maps, loadout customization, and community leaderboards and challenges. Yager describes the multiplayer as a campaign that expands the single-player experience. In addition, there will be multiple mode types with several focusing on terrain deformation and expansion.

The game has several subtle effects as the team loses their sanity, with Walker having visual and auditory hallucinations, and his executions of enemies becoming more violent, his team orders and shouts becoming increasingly angry and ragged versus his original stern command voice and kill confirmations of enemies degrading from professional in the beginning to outright psychotic.

Reviews of The Line have been mostly positive, with many critics praising the narrative, themes, and provocative take on violence in video games, but note that it fails to innovate or present a strong multiplayer component. IGN awarded the game an 8.0 out of 10, praising the game's dark story and visuals, while criticizing the game's control issues and unremarkable multiplayer. Game Informer gave the game a score of 7.75 out of 10, offering praise towards the narrative, but stating that the game's gunplay and multiplayer were bland and uninventive. The Official Xbox Magazine gave the game an 8.5 out of 10, commending the game on its dark storyline, competent AI, and the environment surrounding the Dubai setting, but expressing disappointment with the scripted dynamic sand system.

Destructoid gave Spec Ops: The Line a score of 8.0 out of 10 for its compelling story, but also criticizing the AI and calling it a "mixed bag" in its graphics. G4's X-Play gave Spec Ops: The Line four and a half stars out of five, praising the game's story and multiplayer, despite finding some flaws with the game's mechanics. Edge gave the game a score of 7 out of 10 and called it "one of the most subversive shooters yet made" and commenting, "The Line... makes good on Haze's promise of morally complicated entertainment – a game that understands its own ugliness and base urges, undermining the third-person shooter even as it adheres to its formula. ... It may not be subtle, but it engages with problems that the bellicose ilk of Modern Warfare and Medal of Honor have yet to acknowledge."

The game was enthusiastically praised by James Portnow of the web series Extra Credits, who lauded the game's ability to express dark themes and experiences through mundane gameplay, saying, " created the first true triple-A drama, where we're engaged through the exploration of a mental state rather than simply satisfied by achieving a goal." Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation wrote a similarly enthusiastic review of the game, praising the game's themes, presentation and subversion of the player's expectations, but criticized the gameplay as unremarkable. Croshaw later published an article in his Extra Punctuation column examining what made the game's white phosphorus incident so effective, "Modern Warfare got into the habit of making a shocking moment that illustrated the ruthlessness of the enemy and the resources at their disposal. It's supposed to make you hate and fear them...The Spec Ops shocking moment, contrarily, is designed to make you hate yourself, and fear the things that you are capable of." He also later declared it his game of the year (see "Awards").

A more mixed review came from Chris Suellentrop writing in the The New York Times, who praised the game's opening and underlying themes but found the level of violence and shocking material "hard to stomach", and criticized the game's lack of subtlety, comparing the game unfavourably with Far Cry 2.

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