Spec Ops: The Line – Killing is Harmless

Spoilers abound.

What starts off as the typical bro shooter quickly evolves into anything but. There are too many games like Call of Duty or Medal of Honor where there’s no weight or consequences to your actions. Kill the faceless Nazi or middle eastern esque soilder, move on to the next target. The characters or the player don’t feel any connection to what they’re doing.

Spec Ops changes that. This game is a third person cover shooter a la Gears of War for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. The setting is Dubai. Sandstorms and in fighting have turned the once beautiful desert oasis to a war torn landscape. The 33rd, a U.S. force, has been occupying the city. After a failed evacuation, the 33rd stayed, and began committing atrocities in the name of maintaining order. There is a lot of intrigue and government back talk from there that honestly confused me on my first play through. One point was made very clear though, the 33rd lead by Lieutenant Colonel Konrad needed to be put down.

The introductory level has the player manning a turret on a helicopter flying around the city, taking out other choppers before a sandstorm forced a crash landing. From there the game went to the chronological beginning. Gamers control Captain Martin Walker with his two subordinates, Lugo and Adams, in tow. As the game progresses, the player is given choices on how to handle different situations. Each one has different impacts on your psyche, the fallout from your actions, and the ending. And the choices aren’t the typical fare of good vs. evil. Every choice is morally gray, where no one really wins either way, least of all, you.

My only complaint with this mechanic is the presentation. At some instances, I was given a choice without it being clear to me what the second option was, or how to pursue it. In one instance I had the chance to save a CIA operative, or let him die maintaining my cover. I knew this was an option because of the dialogue from my squad mates. How to execute the second option was completely lost on me, something I needed to look up online. This ambiguity only happened once or twice, but it was still enough to deter from my the experience a little.

There is one pivotal moment of the game I want to talk about. As the story progressed, and it became clear that the 33rd was the enemy, more firefights ensued. Around the halfway point, the path was blocked by at least 100 soldiers, tanks, turrets, etc. To navigate this, they used a nearby mortar cannon loaded with white phosphorus to take them out. As you traverse the destroyed field after, on the other end you find a group of about 50 locals that the troops were gathering to evacuate, burned alive. This act sets the stage for everything that follows. Killing is harmless indeed.

As much as I would love to describe the ending, I don’t think I could begin to do it justice. Comment, questions, or suggestions? Post or tweet!

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3 responses to “Spec Ops: The Line – Killing is Harmless

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