While I haven’t seen it all, I’ve been gaming all my life and have seen a pretty fair bit of it; as such, I’m always hoping that something comes up and completely blindsides me, just so I have something new to write or talk about. Thankfully, the fine folks over at Yager managed to pull off what, in my opinion, is the best unexpected surprise I’ve ever seen. Ladies’n gentlemen, Spec Ops: The Line is by far the most surprising thing I’ve had the pleasure of checking out in 2012 and I highly recommend you pick it up.
This wouldn’t be much of an article without explaining why Spec Ops deserves this. It’s just another grey’n’brown military shooter with a rugged, generic protagonist and a smartass sidekick, right? Wrong. This game is all about the… unique take, let’s say, on the narrative. So past this point, expect heavy spoilers for Spec Ops: The Line. Seriously, give this thing a shot before you read any more. The experience is at its best when y’go in blind.
Whenever people talk about this game, they always talk about the infamous white phosphorous incident (link contains graphic descriptions and pictures of the effects on humans). The scene places you, the player, in charge of launching that horrible chemical at your opponents from the safety of a computer screen. All you see is a bunch of white dots and the occasional vehicle, then you see a bunch of white dots huddled together at the end. Likely enemy soldiers, right? So you blast them, too.
Then, in a moment of utter, brilliant cruelty from the developers, you get to walk past the charred bodies and screaming soldiers. You get to see what you’ve done to these people up close. They aren’t white dots anymore, they’re begging for mercy. That’s not even the cruelest part of this scene. The bunch of soldiers huddled together? Those were civilians. The same people you came to save, clutching their loved ones, melted faces frozen in horrifying screams. Words don’t do it justice. This is something you need to play for yourself, preferably after you’ve forgotten all about what happens. I’ve never had to set a game down just to get away from it before. This scene made me do that, and that’s not the worst part of the game.
Later on, far after the incident, you’re attempting to work your way to the villain’s base. You may have forgotten it by now, even. A mortar is launched at you. The screen flashes. Everything is on fire. Burning figures, screaming just like the soldiers you shot with the stuff, are coming at you. And then it’s all over. You’re back in reality with the realization that Walker – and perhaps to a far, far lesser extent, the player – just got hit with an episode of shell-shock. Speaking as a person who has seen video of similar things (Station Nightclub fire; again, not something for the easily disturbed out there), that scared the hell out of me. Only now did I get how well-planned it was. The developers knew that, by this point, your accidental murders of dozens of civilians had probably faded from your memory. That hallucination brought it back, for you and for Walker. That, and a ton of other things that other people have said better than me, is why Spec Ops: The Line is the most unexpected release of 2012.
Anyway, that’s me done for now. Again, I cannot stress enough how much you guys should give this thing a shot; do yourself a favor, forget about what I wrote, and go in blind. It’s all about the experience. Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow with my pick for best anime of the year. As always, thanks for readin’ and have a good’un.