I was playing Yager Entertainment's Spec Ops: The Line when I came up for the idea for this article, and what prompted me to sit down and type this all out was the fact that the game wasn't, strictly speaking, fun. Was it a pretty game? Absolutely. Were the characters people I felt concern for? For the most part, yes. So why would I not call it fun? Said simply, it's far too real.
For those of you who haven't played this game it tells the story of one Captain Michael Walker and his two squadmates, who were deployed to Dubai after the whole city was caught in a giant sandstorm. The story of the game is ultimately one of survival, with Walker and his men overcoming all sorts of terrible odds as both their minds and their bodies grow increasingly battered.
War in Spec Ops: The Line
I don't have a problem with any of that…my issue with Spec Ops: The Line is not the story, or the majority of the gameplay, but that it feels too true to life. The protagonist doesn't have a life support suit that'll allow him to rapidly heal himself, or a variety of improbable gadgets that'll give him more of an edge against the groups of enemies that are arrayed against him…he's an ordinary guy with a gun, a rope, and a radio. If you stay out of cover, he can recover, but apart from that there's little of that comic book feel that, for me, make games fun. His experience may feel larger then life, but to me it seems too close to life in terms of gameplay.
When I sit down to play a game, what I want is a comic book-esque larger then life experiences. Bioshock, Dead Space, the Fallout games, all of these have situations that are just as life threatening as what you find in Spec Ops: The Line. It's like playing through a comic book, something that can terrify, excite, amaze. Mostly what I felt with Spec Ops: The Line was annoyed, or depressed, or in quite a few cases disgusted. The game delivered a real story, but when I play a game, that's not really what I look for.
War in Gears of War
Think back to when you were growing up, all those hours you spent huddled in front of your game console, while you rampaged across America as a giant mutant, drove a car loaded with such a wide range of optional extras that James Bond would've gone green with envy, or lead a heavily armed bare chested commando on a mission to DESTROY THE VILE RED FALCON. The only halfway normal guy in the group was Mario, and he regularly stomped on winged turtles and gobbled a lot of mushrooms.
I agree that Spec Ops: The Line is a very well done game, but it has a story that I feel would be better told through a movie then a game. You play a real person, whose mind is slowly tugged apart by the horrors of war, and not the war that you see in Gears of War, but the kind that you see on the daily news. Spec Ops drops you into the middle of all that and doesn't try to pull a sheet over the horror.
And what's fun about that?