Spec Ops: The Line Remains The Best Exploration Of Bloodlust In Games

When Spec Ops: The Line was released in 2012, military shooters were still at the height of their power. Just shy of five years on from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, to make a military shooter during this Imperial Phase was typically presented as an objective search for authenticity draped in the flag of solemn respect for the troops, a dual approach designed to avoid uncomfortable questions around the genre’s obeisance to and glorification of the military-industrial complex.

In stark contrast to its contemporaries, Spec Ops refused to shirk uncomfortable questions. It takes for granted that it’s a bit f***ed up to enjoy video game violence. Then it goes a step further: It seems to actively despise its own existence. Over the course of its single-player campaign, Spec Ops: The Line is unwavering in its commitment to the idea that not only is the protagonist of a military shooter a psychopath, but that our demand for and enjoyment of them reveals something deeply ugly about our culture.

Developed by German studio Yager Development, who had previously made the sci-fi flight combat game Yager (2003), and published by 2K Games, Spec Ops: The Line tells the story of Captain Martin Walker, the playable character, and his two squadmates, Sergeant John Lugo and Lieutenant Alphonso Adams, a Delta Force team on a recon mission into the heart of sandstorm-devastated Dubai. They are attempting to make contact with Colonel John Konrad, commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, who had been leading relief efforts in the city until the storm severed all communication and the UAE government designated Dubai a “no man’s land.”Konrad’s name is an on-the-nose reference to Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, the late 19th century novel that critiqued imperialism and provided the inspiration for the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now.

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Author: David Wildgoose