The Let's Play Archive

Spec Ops: The Line

by OatmealRaisin

Part 5: Chapters 9 & 10: The Road/Riggs - "Smoke Out the Water"

Part 4: Smoke Out the Water

Everyone reading this and following this thread, I wonder if you could do me a little favour: when we get to the penultimate video, go back and watch the first video and this one again: the first video, so you can contrast how far our merry band has come (or maybe 'fallen' is closer to the mark), and this one, because, believe it or not, it's probably the most important episode so far. To explain why, exactly, would be spoilerific, to say the least, so you'll need to take it on faith, but at the very least, try and keep the events of this video at the back of your mind for now.

As pointed out, Walker's speech in battle has changed greatly: he doesn't want targets eliminated, he wants those fuckers dead. His executions aren't the surgical strikes to the neck and head they once were, they're cruel and murderous. Walker is going past the point of looking for someone to blame: he wants someone to suffer, and the 33rd are just lining up to make that easy for him. It looks like it's wearing on Adams and Lugo as well: when faced with Konrad's 'test', they want nothing to do with it. Frankly, I can't say I blame them, but given how gung-ho they were about saving lives before, it's a drastic change in character.

Then again, maybe they're just suffering the same thing the thread is going through. Look at the last few pages of posts and you'll see a common theme emerge: 'we don't care'. Not because the game is bad, far from it. I think it's fair to say anyone still following at this point is more invested in the plot than ever. No, I think we've finally hit the point where both the thread and Lugo and Adams have become numb to the atrocities we're all complicit in. After the WP incident, we've resigned ourselves to the fact that we are monsters. The only thing left for us is to see how deep the hole we're in gets. It's a danger many works like this face, the idea that things become so unremittingly grim, the viewer ceases to care anymore. Think of the story about the man walking along the road who sees a dead child at the side of the road. At first, he cries to the heavens asking how a just and loving God could allow such a thing to happen. By the hundredth time he encounters this scene, he just keeps walking. Same thing here: we were forced to confront our actions in dropping white phosphorus on scared civilians, but condemning the remaining survivors to a slower, more lingering death? I don't have it in me to care anymore. Is this a sign the game has peaked? That... would be telling.

And then we come to Riggs. I've been trying to work out exactly what to say about the old bastard. While Castavin gave the impression he would punt any number of babies off a cliff to get the job done, Riggs would probably be sitting at the back telling him his technique's all wrong, he's a fucking pussy and his mother gives the worst head this side of Da Nang. Even his own team thought he was a lunatic, which is saying something. When I first played, I thought his intent was always to take the water reserves off the board, the events of the convoy just gave him a valid excuse to do it with more finality than a simple heist would allow. When they first meet, Adams asks Riggs if he has a plan beyond killing everyone he sees. Turns out, yes, he does: killing everyone he sees really slowly! That said, if you think about it, doesn't his plan seem... really stupid? I mean, what was to stop him just blowing up the building from a distance to begin with? The water's gone either way, just that this method exposes everyone to a hell of a lot more unnecessary risk. Think about it: it's flashy. It's a spectacle. Doesn't that seem more like a statement of intent than a serious military operation? Maybe that was his plan after all: he knew that with his team scattered, if not dead, the odds of accomplishing anything sailed right out the window. So he stopped playing to win, and decided to play to humiliate. If he couldn't win, fine. Neither would they.

All of which leaves us where the video ended: with a gun in our hand and a man begging for death. It's funny seeing all the talk of the morality of mercy killing in the thread, how it's wrong because the people we've seen haven't explicitly asked us to put an end to their suffering, making it murder any way you slice it. And now, here we are, with someone asking us to do just that. If irony were strawberries, Dubai could switch to an all-smoothie diet and be done with it. What a shame we don't all live in Smoothieville, and everyone has to live with the consequences. We're finally complicit in genocide. We just killed every man, woman and child left in the city. Sure, it took us a while, but we made it in the end! Riggs deserves no succour in his final moments. We pull that trigger, we're giving mercy to the one man in Dubai who deserves it less than we do. Just walk away, leave the evil fucker to burn.

Then again.

Y'see, when you're actually playing the game, you have a very short timeframe to decide anything. You folks watching at home are lucky, in a way. You can sit, consider the situation and reason/bullshit your way to a satisfying outcome. This section is almost definitely structured to have you acting on impulse given the previous events. And your first impulse will be blood. He gave you assurances you were doing the right thing. He conned you into murdering Dubai, acting like it was the only choice. He turned you into a fucking killer!

And that's when it clicks. He's the Walker to your Lugo.

We can leave Riggs to burn, but if we do, are we doing it for the sake of justice, for vengeance, or because he reminds us too much of our own sins? We can end his life before he's burned to death, but is that because we're offering him the mercy we can't give anyone else, to make up for our own failings or because we want the pleasure of murdering him ourselves?

Who the fuck died and made you God?