Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t finished the game, don’t read this post.
Guilt and Manipulation
The game leads you down the path of feeling compelled to use the white Phosphorous, and even though you can tell that the group of civilians is there partway through, the game doesn’t allow you to stop. Afterwards, they tell you, “You had a choice!” — when in reality, you didn’t actually have a choice. In real life, if you had noticed you might be dropping white phosphorous on penned in civilians, you might stop yourself from dropping any more. Spec Ops doesn’t afford you the ability to stop mid-way. That’s a choice that’s been taken away from you. All the while, they show your reflection in the white phosphorous launcher’s monitor, to drive home the point that you’re playing a video game. And later on, the imaginary Konrad you’re talking to in your head says something along the lines of “What is this? A video game?” It’s all very heavy-handed. This game was developed by a German dev house and I wonder if a developer from America, Canada or Britain would’ve been so heavy-handed about it.
Choosing The Solider or The Thief
In one of the early trailers for Spec Ops, there’s a choice you’re shown where Walker has to shoot one of two men. One is a thief (who stole water for his family) and the other is a soldier tasked with arresting the man (and in the process killed five people). It’s an interesting question — who would you shoot — if you had to shoot one of them?
But here’s the problem with this whole situation: neither of them was alive when you shoot them. After you find out that Walker’s been hallucinating this whole time, you find out that the game’s big choice that they were so proud of that they put it in the trailer was a big lie. It didn’t have any effect on anything. And even worse, it’s totally unbelievable that the other two soldiers with Walker would continue listening to him after that.
Fifth Ending Comment by Developer
“We wanted the player to be stuck in that same kind of situation, even to the point of maybe hating us, as the designer, or hating the game for, in many ways, tricking them, making them feel like we had cheated the experience and forced them to do this thing,” said Williams. “They would have to decide whether or not they could choose to keep playing a game like this after this moment, or if they would be pissed to the point of putting the controller down and saying ‘No, this is too much for me, I’m done with this. Fuck this game.’”
This is apparently how the developer Yager feels about taking your money and making you feel bad in the process. If I had my way, this would be the fifth ending to Spec Ops: The Line, but sadly, it’s not.
If you’re interested in the moralizations in Spec Ops: The Line, take a look at this video about the reoccurring mannequins throughout the game.