The Let's Play Archive

Spec Ops: The Line

by OatmealRaisin

Part 4: The Gate, Part One - "In Which We Lose Control"

Part 3: In Which We Lose Control

Oatmeal beat me to a discussion about Lugo as the player surrogate () and I think all that can be said about the WP incident has been said (aside maybe from the sick, abstract beauty of the final scene after finding the bodies - I cannot state how well the game can take such images and render them so vividly as to sear them into your mind), so let's look at something slightly different: the Gould rescue mission, and how it's actually designed to torture the player. Fun!

Picture the scene: you've bought this new shooter, since the trailer makes it look like Call of Duty meets Gears of War and you need to tide you over til the next Medal of Honour is released. But something about the game has been sitting badly with you. Sure, it starts off well enough, but now you're gunning down your own men and the characters are causing more destruction than they're preventing. Okay, burying people in sand is cool, but there's just something really wrong about all this. Eventually, you encounter Gould, and while he's a CIA spook, he seems on the level. Let's be honest, meeting someone, anyone in this shithole city who is halfway civil to you, let alone friendly, is a relief, right? So when you hear he's been captured, you think to yourself 'finally, a chance to do something heroic for a change!'

The scene, as it's presented, is a classic moral choice right out of any game you've played in the last decade: on the one hand, you've got Adams, who wants to save the civvies - we'll call him the 'good' choice, since helping the helpless is always the right thing to do in these kind of games - and on the other, you've got Lugo, who prioritises the mission - for the sake of argument, let's call him the 'bad' choice. At last, we're back in familiar territory, and the player can breathe a sigh of relief.

You choose to save Gould, possibly reasoning this is a classic 'needs of the few' situation: yes, those civilians are likely dead, but depending on what Gould knows, you could be saving so many more. A worthwhile trade, given what's at stake. So, you unload on the troops surrounding him and work your way through the enemies in the area. The Heavy trying to flank you makes the job difficult, but the area's open and you've probably realised by now that if you aim for his faceplate, it shatters, letting you drill the ugly bastard right in his face. Lugo's screaming that Gould's injured, so time is of the essence, and before long, the fight is over. He's probably going to die, but at least he'll have a few parting words like the last guy. No big deal, right?

Well... no. The cutscene that follows isn't even remotely dramatic. It's actually pretty horrible. Lugo's frantic attempts to resuscitate Gould are alarmingly realistic. A little too realistic, actually, as his actor does a horribly good job of conveying the panic going through someone's mind as they try to save the life of someone slipping away from them. And as you watch, you realise the game is slipping away from you as well. Just as you think you're finally walking a familiar path, the trees burn to cinders, the sky turns red and the ground turns to bones. This is not the story you thought it was, and you're so charmingly naive for even entertaining the idea. All that we've shown you, and you still don't get it. Time to put an end to that.

The game is finally showing its teeth. And as we'll soon discover, they are dripping with poison.