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 Spec Ops: The Line  hates you
Spec Ops: The Line hates you
July 24, 2012 | By Kris Graft

July 24, 2012 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design

"There's a certain aspect to player agency that I don't really agree with, which is the player should be able to do whatever the player wants."
- Spec Ops: The Line co-writer Walt Williams tackles the common game design problem of where to draw the line on player freedom.

"In many ways, Spec Ops hates you, and it's reacting to you," he says in Giant Bomb's excellent (spoiler-ridden) interview.

It's the same argument we've been hearing for years now, but it raises and interesting question: Could Spec Ops' powerful narrative have worked in a game that offered players total control?

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Jake Skinner
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So in order to combat dwindling sales on reviews declaring the game to be generic, Spec Ops' lead writer says, "Our game is different."

Sorry, not going to bite.

K Gadd
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I haven't seen any reviews calling the game generic. Can you point to some? Most reviews praise the game's attempts at delivering an interesting narrative. I've played a few hours of it so far and I certainly wouldn't call it generic.

Harlan Sumgui
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@Kevin. The actual gameplay is generic weaksauce fps nonsense, completely unengaging. The narrative is engaging and risky. So a person's opinion of the game will come down to how much they value gameplay vs story. As far as specific reviews go, just go to the PC metacritic page. Most (all) comment on the generic gameplay and well written story.

Luis Guimaraes
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I played the demo and it was very generic.

Iulian Mocanu
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No, because I don't see how it could have given you more control, without it just braking everything. You could have left the city, you could have not fired back at the soldiers, you could have tried to find another way around that soldier encampment, you could have left the city again.
Any of these actions would have detracted from the experience, and it makes sense why they didn't happen, because the main character actually had some influence in the narrative, instead of just being asked to follow the marker all the time, he wanted to press on, and when he snapped, the story bound to his delusion.
But there is a moment when the game gives you complete control, a scene that still rings out in my mind, because no other game has done something like this in such a well built way. The scene after Lugo dies, when the progress of the game is blocked by all those refugees that won't let you go. The game doesn't tell me what needs to be done, it doesn't force me, it doesn't make me a puppet or a spectator. It puts the gun in my hand and asks me what I would do. It was freegin' frightening, I had to wash after that, it made me feel very unpleasant. Very few games do that. Had I had complete control over the story, I would have never allowed myself to get into that situation. I can't fault it for getting me there, especially since when it got me there, it cut the strings.

Eric Geer
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"The game doesn't tell me what needs to be done, it doesn't force me, it doesn't make me a puppet or a spectator. It puts the gun in my hand and asks me what I would do. It was freegin' frightening, "

I didn't really have a ton of interest in playing this--this description just draws me in though.

Joseph Garrahan
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I am assuming you shot the refugees (in the game :-)? The game put a gun in your hand, the only thing it let you do was shoot. How is that complete freedom?

I'm just wondering, honestly...could you have taken another course of action, such as talking and diffusing the situation? Could you have pushed your way through? In these kind of games, all problems are solved by shooting, no?

Stephen Gurnett
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@Joseph Garrahan - I chose to push through the crowd and my surviving comrade fired above their heads to disperse the crowd despite being the one who wanted Walker's permission to open fire. Talking would have been nice but Lugo was also the translator.

Gary Howard
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@Maciej Bacal Mechanically it is, but it made such an effort with the story and that was driving me forward to completing the game, and the end result: I loved it. I wish it tried something new with the third-person shooting aspect, but it was worth it for the story. 8/10

William Moua
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I'm assumming a lot of the commentors haven't played the game to it's conclusion and is only going off of a short playthrough, or off of what others are saying. The game's "story" is great, the gameplay is a different story. Prior to release the developers claimed free choice and dealing with their respecting consequences. But upon release, the game failed on its delivery of free choice.

It's a third person shooter that never really makes you feel you are Walker making the decisions, but rather makes you feel you are watching Walker as he makes ONE of TWO decisions after the camp incident.

The scene in wich @Iulian Mocanu explains is one of which the game's STORY is all about. Of course, since we're aware now that the game wasn't REALLY designed around free choice - as stated before - you must make Walker decide on one of two choices that come down to - Cross the Line, Or Draw It - in order to reach the end.