A Mission for his Sins
This entry of Horror Game Icon is going to take an unorthodox approach by looking at Spec Ops: The Line. The reason for this is that this game was not a simple military shooter but an experience that truly looked at the horrors of war.
No matter how vile of a demon our imaginations can conjure, we always forget the evil acts of men are the most terrifying monsters. Marry Shelly warned the world of unchecked scientific progressions and yet we find quicker ways to create and bring harm to others. At the same time we never think about the mental impact of the individual who is ordered to pull the trigger.
This is the battlefield of Spec Ops: The Line, you are not a hero and there is no glory. All one will find is bloodshed with the end result being pain and misery.
Welcome to the Desert
Spec Ops: The Line is a modern retelling of Hearts of Darkness only the criticism of colonialism have been replaced with America’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
A devastating sandstorm has demolished Dubai, resulting in the city being declared a “No Man’s Land” and closed off from the outside world. The 33rd Infantry Battalion of the United States Army under the command of Colonel John Konrad stayed behind to help with the evacuation but all contact with them was lost. Six months after the fall, a looped radio message from Colonel Konrad is detected.
In response, a three-man Delta Force team consisting of Captain Martin Walker along with Lieutenant Alphanso Adams and Staff Sergeant John Lugo are deployed to learn what happened to the 33rd. They arrive to a city being torn apart by CIA backed militias fighting the 33rd (which has gone rouge) while civilians are getting killed in the crossfire. It’s a horror that nobody was expecting but if Captain Walker wants to learn what happen, he needs to find Colonel Konrad.
The Horrors of War
So why do I want to look into Spec Ops: The Line? I have to credit this IGN opinion piece that was critical regarding the use of White Phosphorous in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
Written by a John Phipps, a Marine Vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he shares his firsthand knowledge of combat along with the horrors weapons like White Phosphorous cause. That is why Phipps is disturbed by how Modern Warfare is willing to use White Phosphorous as a kill streak reward. In the same opinion, he praised how Spec Ops: The Line focused on the horror of using White Phosphorous in combat and the impact it has on the victims and those who witness it.
The White Phosphorous attack is the most iconic moment of the game, it’s exploration of how war changes a person needs to be discussed. Players are tossed in a conflict that pits them against the 33rd and the Militias. Neither party is innocent as they commit horrendous acts in the name of survival or patriotism. Even the player is forced to either participate in these acts or given the choice to do so.
Standing out from other titles with a morality bar, Spec Ops: The Line made players actually question their choices while the immoral choices came at the cost of Captain Walkers humanity. Depending on the actions taken, players will walk away as either a tortured soldier who has found redemption or has lost their humanity.
All Quiet on the Western Front
Rarely has a military shooter presented war as questionable moment and never has it really showcased the horror it brings. Spec Ops: The Line takes a familiar concept and turns it into a horror experience. It’s also a reminder that we are capable of creating unthinkable horrors when we push our morality to the side for a blind cause.
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