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The Time You Were An A-hole in Spec Ops: The Line

Ed Smith | 4 Apr 2013 17:00
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As you've probably gathered from the 75 billion other articles that have been written about Spec Ops: The Line, it's a game with a moral lesson, namely that shooting people in the face with guns is a bad thing.

The rule of thumb in Spec Ops: The Line is to be a total bastard all of the time. If you're presented with an irrational or rational decision, take the irrational one.

But if you want to get to the absolute core of The Line's teaching I feel like you need to play the game in a very particular way. Several difficult decisions are presented to you as you go along, as well as three very different endings. And although there's a value in choosing whatever it is you want do to, as I explained last week with Red Dead Redemption, this is a game that has a much greater effect if you toe a line. Admittedly this line has been created by me and I'm now telling everyone to do what I say like a great despotic tit, but hear me out, because democracy and all that shit aside, I feel that playing this way brings the most out of Spec Ops.

You have to be an asshole through, like, the whole game. Seriously - be the nastiest bastard you can. There are several choices throughout Spec Ops that have either violent or pacifistic outcomes, and I'll get to those in a moment, but first, just when you're shooting, you need to be a rotter. Kill EVERYONE. When they're dying, run over to them and do their heads in with your gun butt. This will make sense. Trust me.

I also want you to encourage your teammates to kill. A lot of the time they're content to just pretend during the combat, firing but missing, swapping dialogue to keep the momentum up. Don't let them. You have a button that can order them to fire or throw grenades. Use it. You should to get their hands as bloodied as your own.

Ok, so that's the combat down (just go FUCKING ballistic, basically). Now let's talk about those choices.

Again, the rule of thumb here is to be a total bastard all of the time. If you're presented with an irrational or rational decision, take the irrational one. If one path leads to more people getting killed, the other to saving lives, take the one where everyone dies. Trust me. This WILL make sense eventually.

Some examples. First is the infamous white phosphorous scene where the guy you play as, Martin Walker, accidentally bombs to death forty or so unarmed civilians. You don't have a choice here per se - regardless of what you want to do, you will always have to drop that Willie Pete - but what you can do is throw yourself into this with as much gusto as possible.

Kill those civilians as quickly and totally as you can. Even if you've played Spec Ops before and know what's coming, don't pussyfoot: As soon as they appear on your screen, bomb them, bomb them and bomb them again. This scene is fucking horrible so it won't be easy, but if we want The Line's script to really pay off, you need to be a monster.

Another big choice comes a little earlier in the game where you can choose between saving a mission-critical CIA agent or a couple of civvies about to be executed by firing squad. Remember what I said about rational and irrational? This is the only time that doesn't apply and you need to do the rational thing (or at least, what would be rational to a trio of cold, hardened Delta troopers) and try to save the CIA agent. He dies anyway and so do the two civilians. It's tragic, it's bleak, it leads to the highest bodycount you can possibly get from this scene. And that's what's important. Stay with me.

After the phosphorous scene you'll be confronted by two captives and told to pick one to kill. John Konrad, the murky US colonel overseeing all this madness, tells you that one is a water thief and that the other, an American soldier, punished him by murdering his whole family. You have to pick and kill one. The right thing to do here, you might think, would be to ignore both of those options and try to shoot the ropes holding the two guys prisoner, also killing the snipers that are watching to make sure you make a decision. But we're not going to do that. We're going to kill the water thief and let the murderer go. Now, I know that even in the destroyed version of Dubai where the game is set, where water has become a kind of currency, stealing isn't as bigger crime as murder. But there's a reason you need to do this. It's a horrible reason and I feel grubby for telling you to do it, but it'll make sense.

The last big decision comes when you find that one of your teammates, Lugo, has been lynched by the local (and naturally very angry) population. He's dead, you can't save him, but what you can choose to do is scare the crowd off by firing into the air or shoot them all. I think you know what I want you to do. As an added bonus, you get to tell your surviving teammate, Adams, to shoot the civilians, too.

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