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News the notorious narrative focused Third Person Shooter “Spec Ops: The Line” has been pulled from all digital stores.

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Spec Ops: The Line will no longer be available on online storefronts, as several partnership licenses related to the game are expiring.

Players who have purchased the game can still download and play the game uninterrupted. 2K would like to thank our community of players who have supported the game, and we look forward to bringing you more offerings from our label throughout this year and beyond.
that’s the official PR response. but the removals have been happening over the past few hours, with the 360 version being the last to go.

while I’m decidedly not a fan of the game’s core narrative concept of being entirely linear and repeatedly blaming the player for every questionable action that’s impossible to avoid. it is still a historically notable title for being a curious response towards the rise of modern military shooters in the mainstream.

the “partnership licenses” mentioned in the statement is likely referring to the game’s usage of licensed music, most famously the appearance of Jimi Hendrix’s legendary (and appropriate, as the performance was done in protest of the Vietnam War) cover of “The Star Spangled Banner” on the main menu.

the lead writer of the game (who wrote a book about his experience) is still lurking in the industry, and is currently working on Insomniac’s Wolverine title.
 
Grabbed a steam copy before they all got taken down, they really should have mentioned beforehand this was going to be removed.
 
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Oh no! I was entertaining the idea of getting it the other day. Seems like such a cool game.
 
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Welp, it had a good run. Things must be bad if even dude bro shooters are getting taken down due to licensing issues.
This game is about as extremely far from dudebro as you can get. It’s a satire of those games and ends up focusing on the horrors of actually acting out those fantasies.
 
Welp, it had a good run. Things must be bad if even dude bro shooters are getting taken down due to licensing issues.
Part of what was so memorable about it was that it sold itself with the visual language of a ‘dudebro shooter’ and then made sure to tell those players ‘hey it turns out taking the easy options and gunning down civilians isn’t fun’. I wouldn’t call it ‘dudebro’ when it pretty much calls out all the crap nationalism of CoD and the xenophobia of Tom Clancy.
 
Really a great game, so it's a shame to see it made less accessible. Easily one of Nolan North's best performances too.
 
I would be curious about an analysis if it's still a good game or only really shined through the context of the gaming and culture landscape it was released in.

I've heard about average/plain mechanics and it relying on it's narrative, so is the narrative really good, or was it the message it tried to make that resonated.
 
I would be curious about an analysis if it's still a good game or only really shined through the context of the gaming and culture landscape it was released in.

I've heard about average/plain mechanics and it relying on it's narrative, so is the narrative really good, or was it the message it tried to make that resonated.
It's sill a good game because of the context of the landscape it was released in.
 
Welp, it had a good run. Things must be bad if even dude bro shooters are getting taken down due to licensing issues.
Spec Ops is one of the most important shooters of all time. Calling it a dude bro shooter is missing the market so badly it's almost comical.

I was able to get a copy on GOG before it disappeared. Hopefully they do a faithful remaster and bring it to modern consoles.
 
I would be curious about an analysis if it's still a good game or only really shined through the context of the gaming and culture landscape it was released in.

I've heard about average/plain mechanics and it relying on it's narrative, so is the narrative really good, or was it the message it tried to make that resonated.
I'll chip in on this:

While the shooting isn't revolutionary, the gameplay is a lot more solid than is often credited. Specifically, there's some pretty slick squad controls implemented alongside the core shooting, and some really nice environmental stuff with the sand directly tying into gameplay. While the basic shooting is very much in the Gears mould, it's not a mediocre clone and actually has very sharp, responsive mechanics.

On top of that, the way that the storytelling tied into those mechanics was damn near unprecedented at the time. Having characters sound more ragged and angry as they bark orders or get more violent in their takedowns is fairly commonplace now, but at the time it was a really new thing to see characterisation presented within the gameplay to that extent, at least within a third person shooter. You really got a sense of how strung out these characters were just from the way they'd shout "KILL FUCKING CONFIRMED!!" and that completely sold the feeling of everything going to hell in a hand basket.

Lastly, the story is still really good. There was a lot of complaining at the time about certain "choices" being forced on the player, but I think that's a misunderstanding of what the game was doing. The game wasn't trying to critique Mass Effect style multiple choice games. The game was offering a critique on how we engage with violence in media, and how we willingly consume stuff even when we know it's bad for us. If you go into it with the mindset that the game isn't trying to criticise your choices as a player, and is more of an essay on the general ethics and morality of playing war games for fun, then there's still a lot of really interesting thematic content to look at.
 
It's sill a good game because of the context of the landscape it was released in.
I'm confused, if it would be remastered and released would it then hold up, even in currents context?
I'll chip in on this:

While the shooting isn't revolutionary, the gameplay is a lot more solid than is often credited. Specifically, there's some pretty slick squad controls implemented alongside the core shooting, and some really nice environmental stuff with the sand directly tying into gameplay. While the basic shooting is very much in the Gears mould, it's not a mediocre clone and actually has very sharp, responsive mechanics.
On top of that, the way that the storytelling tied into those mechanics was damn near unprecedented at the time. Having characters sound more ragged and angry as they bark orders or get more violent in their takedowns is fairly commonplace now, but at the time it was a really new thing to see characterisation presented within the gameplay to that extent, at least within a third person shooter. You really got a sense of how strung out these characters were just from the way they'd shout "KILL FUCKING CONFIRMED!!" and that completely sold the feeling of everything going to hell in a hand basket.

Lastly, the story is still really good. There was a lot of complaining at the time about certain "choices" being forced on the player, but I think that's a misunderstanding of what the game was doing. The game wasn't trying to critique Mass Effect style multiple choice games. The game was offering a critique on how we engage with violence in media, and how we willingly consume stuff even when we know it's bad for us. If you go into it with the mindset that the game isn't trying to criticise your choices as a player, and is more of an essay on the general ethics and morality of playing war games for fun, then there's still a lot of really interesting thematic content to look at.
Ok, that was more of a response I hoped for.
Sounds like it wouldn't quite have the same impact reception but would still be a good game that stand on its own. The shooter gameplay back then kept me from it, I was never interested in that gears/cod/battlefield style gameplay, so even with praise it wasn't on my to check out list.

Still weird that it's being pulled ...
 
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I would be curious about an analysis if it's still a good game or only really shined through the context of the gaming and culture landscape it was released in.

I've heard about average/plain mechanics and it relying on it's narrative, so is the narrative really good, or was it the message it tried to make that resonated.
As a critique on war and violence, it's nothing special. It basically repackages the basic ideal of Heart of Darkness while spelling it out to the player, and it fails to really make the "player responsibility" part work because that responsibility is too limited. As a game, it's just kind of a relic of the budget and time it existed in. I wouldn't really say you're missing much in the year 2024 to look at this one. As a weird stand out piece of critique on the games industry of the time, it has some more merit going on. It clearly struck a chord considering we still talk about it. Still, I think if it were to be looked at again with more eyes now it would be mostly reduced to the landscape it existed in rather than its own merits.
 
As a critique on war and violence, it's nothing special. It basically repackages the basic ideal of Heart of Darkness while spelling it out to the player, and it fails to really make the "player responsibility" part work because that responsibility is too limited. As a game, it's just kind of a relic of the budget and time it existed in. I wouldn't really say you're missing much in the year 2024 to look at this one. As a weird stand out piece of critique on the games industry of the time, it has some more merit going on. It clearly struck a chord considering we still talk about it. Still, I think if it were to be looked at again with more eyes now it would be mostly reduced to the landscape it existed in rather than its own merits.
Yeah I think it’s fair to say that, given when it was being developed, the AAA industry was incredibly focused on shooters at the time. It’s where the ‘generic white bald soldier game guy’ memes came from, that you couldn’t move for games with angry men with guns gesticulating on the cover. In that sense it’s quite introspective of the games industry at the time, but also when by the late 00s investigation into war crimes in Iraq was ramping up too.

I’m just glad we got The Line and not that ‘Fallujah’ US military training sim that people were talking about a year or two ago.
 
As a critique on war and violence, it's nothing special. It basically repackages the basic ideal of Heart of Darkness while spelling it out to the player, and it fails to really make the "player responsibility" part work because that responsibility is too limited.

I just wanted to respond to this bit of your post specifically referring to Heart of Darkness, on a couple of points:

1) While the game does draw elements from Heart Of Darkness, to say it repackages the same ideals isn't really true. Namely because HoD isn't a war story. It's a story about colonialism in Africa, and war doesn't really come into it on the same way as Spec Ops.

Apocalypse Now is a closer comparison, as that takes ideas from HoD and sets them in a modern warzone, but even then Spec Ops has plenty to say of its own that it stands as it's own thing separate from Apocalypse Now.

2) Heart of Darkness is honestly pretty fucking racist. The underlying theme of the story (and something outright said in the text) is that Africa is a fundamentally evil, "dark" continent that the British Empire can never fully conquer. The African natives in it are presented as either dumb and listless, or as malevolent violent savages who embody the "Darkness" of the title. It's so problematic that it inspired African novelists like Chinua Abebe to write their own novels and essays specifically to call out and rebut the image of Africa presented in Conrad's novel.

I think it's good that Spec Ops can exist as it's own thing when the original source material has dated so badly when it comes to portrayals of non-white cultures.
 
A shame to see a game of this caliber "disappear" like this.


I still expect 2K to go "we listened!" a couple of years down the line and release a remaster or whatever and charge full price for it.
 
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The game is also worth it for in terms of VA performance by Nolan North. The good man gave it his all.
 


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