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Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of…

Killing is Harmless: A Critical Reading of Spec Ops: The Line

by Brendan Keogh

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Killing is Harmless is a rather poignant look at a game that attempts something that very few games out there have done before, commenting on the motivations and factors that drive us as games to slaughter countless virtual people and never question ourselves. It's an interesting look at how Spec Ops: The Line attempts to address these issues throughout the course of its plot.

Whether or not you agree with the author it makes for an engrossing read. It's well written and presents some interesting observations and is definitely worth a read whether or not you've played the game and especially if you're interested in the gaming medium being taking seriously and addressing issues that it far too often overlooks. ( )
  MerkabaZA | Jun 12, 2017 |
First important thing worth mentioning regarding this book: it contains heavy spoilers of the game Spec Ops: The Line, plus a couple of minor spoilers for the games Bioshock, Bastion and Grand Theft Auto IV. If you are playing any of these games and don't want to know beforehand what happens in them, you might want to avoid this book until you finish them all. If you're thinking of reading this book as you play Spec Ops: The Line, it may also be a bad idea, since the book is not entirely spoiler-free for further chapters of the Single Player campaign. One general recommendation is: finish the game first and ONLY THEN read this book.

That being said, my opinions about this book: while I don't agree with everything that has been said, I liked it overall. Not so much because of the theories about the whole story, but because it reminded me of how much I liked the game. And, indeed, at first sight, The Line does seem like one of those all-so-called "generic shooting" games and you don't realize how "different" the game is until you're halfway through the plot.
I liked the fact that the author went through each chapter, describing every single aspect of the game, from your enemies' reactions to the reason why certain objects have been placed in specific parts of the game (although I think I did miss any comments regarding the colors of the transition effects - did the author mention that a black fade-out occurred for every event that happened in "real life" and a white fade-out marked Walker's lack of discerning between what was real and what wasn't?). Keogh pointed several things that I haven't even noticed about the game, like Lugo and Adams' own points of psychological decay, or the meaning and importance of the music's lyrics playing in the background of every significant battle.

I had to disagree with the author's point of view of what was the "worse, most unsatisfying ending" though (the one in which Walker goes home). I don't see it exactly as the "most coward result of Walker's acts, in which I refused to make a decision". On the contrary, I think that yeah, maybe Walker did not deserve that redemption, but it was brave of his part to decide to go on in spite of everything he had done. I don't see it as him "denying what was in front of him". Maybe that is what it was meant to be when he shot Konrad, but choosing to go home was the same as choosing not to allow everything that happened to actually stay in Dubai. Martin Walker was going to take all those hellish events from Dubai with him and live with them, reliving them every single day for the rest of his life. In a way, he was actually accepting that everything that happened, including the death of his companions, was his fault, so much that when the soldier asked him how he managed to live through all that, he replied "Who said I did?". Walker was already dead on the inside, I would hardly call him a coward regardless of his choices.

Anyway, this was a very pleasant reading. It was really nice to read an analysis of what the game's plot really meant rather than a review complaining on how repetitive the game system is. I think that The Line's plot was brilliant and it deserved a detailed analysis like this one. ( )
  aryadeschain | Aug 26, 2014 |
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