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How Spec Ops: The Line Subverts The Military Shooter Genre

Autor:   •  May 28, 2018  •  2,093 Words (9 Pages)  •  118 Views

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The mechanics of The Line are also used to subvert the military shooter genre, such as the use of slow motion when the player achieves a ‘headshot’, at first appearing to be a reward for the player efficiently killing their enemy. However, this mechanic quickly becomes irritating, slowing the progression of the player, and forcing the player to confront each enemy killed. This effect is intensified through the changing of the enemies. In the opening chapters of The Line, the enemy is typical of the genre, being a collection of Emiratis who have formed an insurgency to fight Americans. However, even this is shown to be a limited view of the conflict, as we are shown that, despite the potentially violent nature of these insurgents, their distrust of the interventionist American forces is more than justified, as they have been caught in a conflict between an occupying rogue American military force and a CIA cover-up operation attempting to destroy the city. However, the CIA’s attempt to destroy the city is in order to prevent a potential global conflict. As the game progresses, the enemies change from faceless insurgents who speak a language different to that of the target audience to American soldiers, who speak and scream in English. This change may seem small, seeing as the player’s actions are the same. However, this change in the context of the player’s actions is enough for the player to empathise slightly more with those they are gunning down. This also challenges the player’s image of themselves as the hero, which is reinforced by the loading screen’s questions “How many Americans have you killed today?”, going so far as to ask the player “Do you feel like a hero yet?”, a question echoed by Konrad at the end of the game. Despite the apparently sarcastic tone of the question, it could be argued to be a sincere question to the player. Indeed, it could be argued that this question is Yager’s ultimate intention in making The Line, to create a military shooter that shows the truth behind a player’s actions, and the cost of their decision to progress through a military shooter, and then to ask them: “Do you still feel like a hero?”.

[pic 1]

Figure 2 (Top): Footage of a US apache helicopter firing on Reuters journalists (Wikileaks 2010)

Figure 1 (Bottom): Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, “Death From Above” mission

[pic 2]

Figure 3: Cpt. Walker’s face becoming visible on targeting monitor during Chapter 8 of Spec Ops: the Line


In conclusion, Spec Ops: The Line, while challenging the conventions of Western interventionism, succeeds in challenging and subverting the conventions of the typical military shooter through three stages: first, by creating a generic environment in which a player feels safe to act as they would in any typical military shooter through a player being distanced from both the actions, the humans affected by their actions and the consequences of their actions, in a similar way to that in which UAV pilots and helicopter gunners are distanced. Second, by removing the distance the player has, from their actions, the humans affected and their consequences. This forces the player to consider their motivations, as well as the implications of those actions. The third stage is the direct challenging of the player’s expectations. Indeed this formula can be seen in The Line’s narrative; the first chapters creating the safe atmosphere and distance, the later chapters tearing this atmosphere apart, closing the distance, while the final chapter, in which the character and player confronts the apparent antagonist, Konrad, who is revealed to be a figment of the PC’s imagination. It is Konrad who challenges the player’s preconceptions, asking if, disobeying your orders, destroying a city, leading your squadmate’s to their deaths, and being responsible for immense civilian casualties, whether the player feels like they wanted to: “a hero”. This effect can be seen in the game’s mechanics as well, such as the change in enemy, the reflection of Walker in the targeting screen and the slow motion headshots, all forcing the player to confront their actions.


Yager, 2012, Spec Ops: The Line, 2K Games

International Humanitarian Law Research Centre, 2009.,“IHL Prime #5 – WhitePhosphorous Munitions.”

Der Derian, James, 2009, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media- Entertainment Network , 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Brendan Keogh, 2012, Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line, Stolen Projects


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