The Only Winning Move is Not to Play

Spec Ops: The Line is by no means the most fun game I’ve played in the last year. However, it is the most interesting, and one which I want to discuss with someone who has played it moreso than any other game.

On face value, Spec Ops is nothing but another banal modern war game set in the Middle East with over the top violence and action, and largely forgettable characters. And it’s not that fun to play, really. If I went in completely cold, unknowing that the story picks up, I would have probably moved on to other games.

But a decent way into the game you start noticing some change in the way the game plays, and presents itself; things start feeling off, and it’s hard to say what. Then a loading screen tip, usually reserved for reinforcing simple concepts of the gameplay, describes what people suffering cognitive dissidence experience. And some screens start getting weirdly judgemental.

I don’t want to say too much, as the surprise of what happens is a large part of the experience, and I wouldn’t want to risk taking that experience away from anyone. But lets say the game starts presenting a couple of themes that might not be apparent from looking at the marketing, such as the criticism of how modern war games portray violence.

I’m not sure if this is a sign I’m maturing slightly, but the idea of a game that I don’t particularly enjoy but think is great because of its subject matter is fantastic to me. I could always see this with other forms of media, such as the film Requiem for a Dream, which is fantastic but one of the worst viewings of my life, so I’m glad that I’ve found a game that hits me in the same way.