If there is something that we can rely on these days is that there is some kind of predictability as to how war games are structured. The gamer is usually part of a military unit (which is most often American) that fights against the bad guys – Nazis, terrorists or, until a few years ago, communists. Another thing that most gamers could rely on until recently was that fights were depicted in a rather heroic way.
Keeping this in mind, Spec Ops is a rather untypical game. As opposed to most other games, the story eventually leaves gamers confused – it becomes hard to grasp who the good and who the bad guys are. But let us take a closer look at the story first. The central figure is Captain Walker who goes out to what seems a normal military mission at first. After an explosion in Dubai, he aims to find Colonel Konrad who got lost in the turmoil of the catastrophe. Right at the beginning, Walker, who sees that a lot of innocent people have been hit by the bomb, experiences a huge shock as he finds out that he is the one responsible for the catastrophe as he directed the bomb to what he actually thought was an area taken by hostile troops. The story develops – at the beginning your enemies are plunderers, but very soon it becomes clear that the real enemy is the troop of the Colonel, who seems to have turned crazy. This is very interesting as the gamer perceives the people that he shoots as what they are – human beings in awful situations, not a common feature in computer games even today. As women and children also die in the course of the game, this game leaves no room for any glorification of war – rather, it successfully conveys a very depressing atmosphere.
Unlike other pc or Xbox games the very interesting and almost unique aspect about Spec Ops – The Line is that it is the complexity of its message. Walker expresses his desperation about the turmoil and questions his own actions. The German developers of the game tried to present war as what it is – cruel and very unlikely to produce winners that feel nothing else than surprise and pride. This makes Spec Ops – The Line more of an anti-war game and therefore very different from games like Call of Duty that uncritically embrace killing, war and victory.
But what are the less pleasant aspects of the game? There are not really many. One is that there are only auto-save functions – thus you might have to repeat a passage over and over in the unfortunate case you die. Spec Ops – The Line is furthermore not very innovative in terms of its gaming features. Nevertheless, most gamers that recently tested the game unanimously stress that Spec Ops – The Line is compelling and thrilling and therefore deserves the attention it is getting at the moment.