Do You Feel Like A Hero Yet?

[Warning: This analysis will have both spoilers and deal with content which is not for everyone. If you are squeamish or faint of heart it is not recommended that you read this article due to the images that will be used in it or play this game since the images are scenes from this game. This game is fully and vehemently recommended by the author even with it being of a more brutal nature.]


War. In games its a beautiful thing, because, let’s face it, we get to become the heroic soldier or masterful tactician that saves the day in each battle, turns the tides and, finally, wins the war after performing some great and dramatic act. As gamers we forget, however, that war… war isn’t so simple. We forget that the soldier bleeds and panics. We forget that the tactician has to sometimes sacrifice men to win that hard fought battle. Games nowadays prefer to not make you understand what certain actions mean sometimes. The Line has posed such a rare and deep questions about its story and characters books such as Killing is Harmless by Brendan Keogh and how he talks about the beautiful and intricate layers that exist within the game. What will be looked at in this article is how Spec Ops: The Line handles the player’s perception of being a hero and the question about how you truly feel about your role in the game when faced with the true blurred lines of war.

Spec Ops The Line

A Hero











To understand The Line it is first pertinent to understand some of the background. Lieutenant Colonel Konrad is the leader the Damned 33rd battalion which is sent to perform a rescue operation in Dubai. This mission consists of evacuating the civilians of Dubai out of the city and away from the massive sandstorms which are killing them through dehydration. To begin the game and give us the hero’s call to arms, we are given a single, static-riddled message which the we, the player, are given.


This is Colonel John Konrad. The attempted evacuation of Dubai ended in…complete failure. Death toll: too many.

Damned 33rd

This is simple line is to be our call to arms given to us in the beginning of the game. Where many games such as the acclaimed Call of Duty: Modern Warfare use a terrorist threat or an attack on Americans by Russians as a call to arms The Line uses this single, sorrow-filled line to make Captain Walker, the player, and his small team brave the storm to find the men and women of the Damned 33rd. Given this simple information it is easy to see that as in many other shooter games we are to be the hero. Games where we are to be the villain never start off with us looking for our fellow countrymen nowadays, no, they tell you that you are the villain through making you quickly perform villainous acts such as killing cuddly sheep in Overlord or murdering innocents in Postal or the upcoming Hatred.

Something I left out, but many of you will have filled in from the above synopsis of the beginning of Spec Ops: the Line is that your mission is never to rescue any of the 33rd. Your mission is to find survivors. Now, many will see this as semantics, but it is not. Your mission details are to find if there are survivors then contact for evac, not to rescue anyone from any conflict. This is, like in true battle, you don’t know all of the details. You don’t know you are walking into a war zone, you don’t know you willing be finding murdered Americans, you don’t know that you will disobey orders and escalate what is happening in Dubai just like heroes normally do in FPS games.


This trope of ignoring orders is common in the shooter genre as orders are seen as binding and prevent you from being the hero and saving people. As you go through the sand-filled levels of Dubai and find darker secrets you see why this trope is a poor one to follow. You find the Damned 33rd, the American battalion, embattled with the CIA and civilians of Dubai as they butcher anyone who does not follow their force employed status quo.


Soon, you make choices as you repel deeper into the heart of Dubai and its sand walls. The first is simple just like in any FPS. Do you kill the murderous, screw-up of a soldier or the water thieving civilian?

First Choice

Simple, right..? Maybe not. Many would give the choice of neither, shoot both ropes, but 33rd snipers train on you as Konrad, the man you bucked orders to rescue, tries to make a point to you. You must make a choice and many of us, myself included, find that the soldier deserves it more. We must remember that we are playing a game about war. CoD and its ilk love to make it into simple blacks and whites, but with each choice those colors begin to warp and mix. Your companions in this game notice it long before the main character does, but it is even scarier when they might even notice it quicker than you the player does. Moving ahead, you and Delta force soon must fight and try to stop all of this evil and stop Konrad, the goal which you cling to like a drowning man to a log. Things spiral downward in Dubai as you charge through squadrons of Americans and put them down. Your allies no longer cheering like they did when they killed the Dubai rebels, but lamenting and trying to reason with the soldiers before soon just yelling at them as though they were no better than the rebels. Soon you join with a man named Riggs and escalate things further. You end the 33rd’s hold on Dubai. You destroy the last drinkable water supply. And you are given another choice, one that I will only describe as logical. The request is simple and many find it logical to obey since respect and logic, though not heroism, dictate what it is.


Don’t let me burn.


Slowly, logic takes place in many portions of the game, but the most terrifying and unnerving part is that the choice no longer seem easy since you are fighting between what would a “hero” do and what you feel you should do.  Soon you face down the trope of the hero, shining light in the dark, and the trope of the revenge driven man who must find vengeance for what he has been made into. Insanity from head trauma slowly begins and hallucinations from wounds and PTSD make combat nightmarish as you see things move and the dead talk to you. The worst part is that this creeping insanity doesn’t just remain in the active part of the game, but also shows up earlier than any of the active portions of the game in the load screens when you die. One such unnerving loading screen is the one showing you “The Gate” at Dubai and how the wind slowly blows across the image, moving it ever so slightly, as you must look at till the game reloads.


Even at the end of the game, the climax and the resolution, The Line rips away the normal comforts of heroic tropes such as the climactic battle. No, you don’t get to fight the final evil.; you speak with it. Many would suggest this is almost as lame as a short QTE to kill the final boss, but I assure you as a loather of story cop outs this is handled perfectly. You are even told in this small monologue between Walker and Konrad after you are shown what you’ve done, what you “heroically” did in Dubai, without the gloss. In the end, you are given one more choice after all of this. A choice which even as a hardcore and varied gamer I found was hard to determine which was the “right” or “good” answer. If you choose the one which I chose, Walker activates his radio and gives a line which is too similar to the line which you hear Colonel Konrad speak across the broken airwaves.


This is Captain Martin Walker. Requesting immediate evacuation of Dubai. Survivors… one too many.


In the final part of Spec Ops: The Line, the question after everything is said and done is not, “Are you a hero?”, though games like CoD which dominate the shooter genre or even RPGs it would not even exist as it would quickly and thoughtlessly be a resounding YES. This is too complicated of a question, because to some you are, but to others you are the villain. This question also could be too easy to answer since you are playing the main character and in such a scenario you would be the hero; you do after all stop the renegade Damned 33rd.  No, the true question is much simpler and very easy to answer once you have played the game and can think for a second. A question that games should pose to us more nowadays rather than give to us on a platter and not think twice about it.


Do you feel like a hero yet?







A Good Person







No, and you aren’t supposed to, but that doesn’t mean you’re monster either. You’re just human.





*All images belong to 2k and their respective artists. I own none of these and are used for purely education purposes.

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