This month I spoke with Gamespresso’s Sheldon Jones about his favorite game, which was a shooter from 2012. This one, however, may not be one of the big multiplayer leader board games you might think of.
Ok Sheldon. What is your favorite video game?
My favorite game has to be Spec Ops: The Line. Probably the best shooter to come out of this decade, if not the 21st Century.
I hate to say it Sheldon, but I myself have never played Spec Ops: The Line before. What would you say sets it apart from other big shooters like Halo and Call of Duty?
It goes beyond the typical “shoot the bad guys, be the hero of the day” motif that’s plagued shooters since the evolution of the 90’s shooters. The plot becomes about this soldier just trying to be a hero by saving lives, trying to keep the peace, and checking up on this US army battalion. By the end of the game, it takes Bioshock’s original question of “do players have control?” ten times over, asking them if killing for entertainment should be fun, whether we register on some subconscious level that what we do in video games is real, and whether we’re always really being the hero in shooter games.
Wow. It definitely sounds like it has made an impact on you and most likely others. Since you seemed to enjoy the plot so much, did you know that it was partially based off Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness,” which is also the basis for the film Apocalypse Now?
Yea, the key is that it’s partially based. It’s a depressing tale of the nature of man, the psychology of the individual, and of our propensity to fool ourselves into believing that we’re constantly being the good guys in everything. Also, don’t start Apocalypse Now at 1 in the morning like I did. Bad decision.
Haha, I can see how it would be. The last movie I started at 1 in the morning was Caddyshack and it was a great decision! Spec Ops: The Line is actually the 11th title in the series, but was the first to be released since a decade earlier. Were you a fan of the series prior to The Line?
I hadn’t really heard of the series until Spec Ops. A friend actually was commenting on how he thought it was a really generic shooter and put it down after 30 minutes. I picked it up later on and tried it out. He definitely should’ve kept playing.
Seems like he should be kicking himself now. Well if he wasn’t a fan I imagine he didn’t play any multiplayer with you then. I know your real love of the game came from the single player campaign, but did you also duke it out online as well?
No one really did. It did a piss-poor job at creating a multiplayer scene. They did such a good job though on the single-player plot, though, that I’m surprised they even put in a multiplayer mode. But they knew they wanted to focus on creating an intricate narrative for the game, so them knocking back resources for the multiplayer was probably a good thing. Although I’d hate to be the guy with “developed Spec Ops: The Line multiplayer” on his resume.
That’s probably what kept Spec Ops: The Line out of the scope of many gamers like myself, when compared to other shooters as I mentioned earlier. Would you like to see a new installment in the series? If so, would a better multiplayer be one of the things on your wish list?
Oh God no. I’d hope to see it stripped of having any multiplayer. Yea, financially it sold horribly because of it. And because of that, we probably won’t be seeing another successor to the series, or at least one as good. But it’s exactly what gamers have been banging on about: games as art. It’s a game with meaning behind it, purpose for it’s other than banging on about heroism and being a badass. It’s the result of creating a plot and narrative-focused single player shooter rather than creating a tagged-on campaign and supporting a huge multiplayer network.
Well put Sheldon. You certainly have made a strong argument to make me wanna go out and try this game out myself. Since this interview is about you and your favorite game, I’d like to conclude by asking, what was the best moment you ever had playing Spec Ops: The Line?
There’s no real “favorite moment in that game, being that most of the game is quite depressing. But I guess my most memorable part of Spec Ops: The Line was the scene where SPOILER ALERT, you use white phosphorous to knock out a military barracks, and it ends up being a civilian camp where they were protecting civvies. Captain Walker just walks through, half-dazed at what he just did, with his squad behind complaining, and then Walker just blames the American soldiers and sets out to take revenge for the civvies. It was the turning point of the entire game that let you know that shit hit the fan.
Sounds like a really great, cinematic experience. Thanks so much Sheldon, for talking with me about your favorite game, Spec Ops: The Line.