Spec Ops the Line: Phosphorus scene is bs.

#1 Edited by Beaudacious (930 posts) -

I reached the phosphorus scene in Spec Ops, and was shooting away the phosphorus. Then I reach the trenches and notice that none of the npc's are holding guns.

The first thought that pops into my head is they're all prisoners, but I can't exit the control center until the tank is blown up. So I blow up the tank by aiming at the edge of the bridge on its front.

Now suddenly there's phosphorus covering the entire trench magically, and my first thought is; Well fuck that? Then I go through the cut-scene and see all the refugees I killed.

This orchestrated scene is suppose to impact me emotionally?

-

I go through the scene a second time and zoom in closely on the trench, and hover for a while. The npc models used in the trench are that of the heavy class enemy, with the large backpack but no gun.

Not only do they orchestrate this whole scene, then try to trick you into thinking they're all enemy npcs if you zoom in closely. I call bullshit, for fucking lazy writing.

Not everyone plays games indiscriminately shooting every single thing that moves. It might also of helped if I hadn't just left over 500 bodies behind me with the almost infinite amount of enemies rushing me.

Artificial limiting choice by orchestrated narrative a or b isn't interactive story telling. Hey you can use this weapon to quickly dispatch the enemy, but you'll magically kill civilians since you wouldn't possibly use that dangerous weapon responsibly!

It wouldn't even of been that much work to have civilians under one of the tents. I also find it highly despicable to show trained soldiers not be able to use heavy weaponry responsibly.

These individuals go through years of training not only how to fire a weapon, but how to use it responsibly. If you're going to try and make a "serious" story in games don't half ass it lazy bums.

-

I find this to be prominent in modern games where choice is involved.

For example choices in Mass Effect 3 have been boiled down to;

  • A. I like you
  • B. I dislike you

Then you chose this short sentence, and suddenly Shepard goes on this giant fucking rant about ideology. That or he evokes genocidal tendencies from choosing " I dislike you" .

I known these aren't accurate examples, but am fairly sure you guys experienced this type of situation in ME3.

Any of you in the same boat? Or am I the odd man out?

(For some reason I can't separate paragraphs)

#2 Edited by AlisterCat (5575 posts) -

If you listen to the podcast that Jeff was on with the writer, Jeff took up these same points. The writer explains the intent, and how he wrote it. He seemed a bit unsure of how it was conveyed in the game. He didn't outright blame the people actually making the game, but it's clear there wasn't good design going in to how to convey that message. He wanted to make a point but it wasn't executed in a believable or sensible way and I don't think that's his fault.

Give it a listen once you finish.

Edit: As to the lack of choice. Well, that is built in, but he claims there is a choice. The infinite enemies are supposed to represent insurmountable odds and he says you have a choice to keep fighting them but eventually you're going to run out of ammo. It's a poorly designed way of conveying the message that they couldn't progress without resorting to this fucked up weapon. I think he concedes to Jeff's point on the podcast, and Jeff suggests it might have been better if he could have just gone down there and actually have been overwhelmed, not just infinite spawns.

#3 Posted by JazGalaxy (1576 posts) -

That's the clear problem of story vs. gameplay.

The a story writer wants to write a tight story he has to literally take control out of your hands to make you do what he wants you to do to tell the story he wants to tell.

I think it's stupid and I hate to see it in games. It immediately makes me not want to continue playing the game.

Moreover, I don't understand why critics give games like this credit for being "deep" and "insightful".

I've had instances in games like Skyrim where i actually HAVE killed innocent people on accident through my actions and I actually DID feel lousy about it.

Why is it somehow worth more in the grand scheme of gaming if the developer "writes" that into the game by taking away my control to do it.

#4 Posted by mordukai (7150 posts) -

@AlisterCat said:

If you listen to the podcast that Jeff was on with the writer, Jeff took up these same points. The writer explains the intent, and how he wrote it. He seemed a bit unsure of how it was conveyed in the game. He didn't outright blame the people actually making the game, but it's clear there wasn't good design going in to how to convey that message. He wanted to make a point but it wasn't executed in a believable or sensible way and I don't think that's his fault.

Give it a listen once you finish.

That's what it seems to me. Looks like it was a huge oversight by the devs. On any case on the same podcast the writer also commends to Jeff that he was more observant then most people that played it as the other dudes in the same podcast didn't mention it at all.

I myself didn't notice the civilians but you I did notice the little hints they throw at you throughout the game.

Personally I can't wait to see what comes out from that developer in the future. While i wouldn't want to see them do the Spec ops The Line 2 I will follow up on whatever those guys have planned.

#5 Edited by joshthebear (2700 posts) -

As someone who didn't notice it during my playthrough, I thought it was pretty effective. Although, I can see where you and Jeff are coming from if you noticed it.

#6 Posted by AngeTheDude (674 posts) -

The writer mentioned that no one took issue with it in focus testing so they left it as is.

#7 Posted by DizzyMedal (399 posts) -

Yeah, I thought the phosphorus thing was rather badly done from start to finish. The first time, I simply tried to snipe the guys below. They had developed a sudden immunity to bullets. I'm not kidding. Headshots meant fuck all to those dudes.

The second time, I tried to figure out how to get down, only to notice that the rappeling ropes were missing (they magically appear once you've done what the game wants you to.)

The third time was when I discovered I couldn't back out of the tactical screen until I'd destroyed the APC (I also had the magical phosphorus fairy dousing everyone in the trench despite the fact that technically my shot should not have even hit the APC, let alone anything else.)

Personally I think that scene would have worked better if it had been a choice. Either use the phosphorus or have a really gruelling gun fight with the soldiers. A super hard fight, almost impossible but not actually impossible. That way it would be have a really interesting case of "Look what you did."

Instead it was just another "Look what we wrote!" scene to shrug your way through. Whatever. Next.

#8 Posted by ThunderSlash (1731 posts) -

I think the writer justified this by saying that the story isn't really about you or your choices, but that of Walker's. I think he mentions this in the GameSpot Spoilercast, with the player being a mere observer, which was indicated by the "Special Guest: [Your Name]" pop up at the very beginning. I'm not saying this was a good or bad design choice, just pointing it out.

#9 Posted by Kazona (3068 posts) -
@ThunderSlash That actually does make it a little more acceptable to me. It doesn't mean that I don't think they should have found a better way, but that explanation is something at least.
#10 Posted by Morrow (1829 posts) -

@DizzyMedal said:

Personally I think that scene would have worked better if it had been a choice. Either use the phosphorus or have a really gruelling gun fight with the soldiers. A super hard fight, almost impossible but not actually impossible. That way it would be have a really interesting case of "Look what you did."

I think one of the messages Spec Ops wanted to convey is that sometimes, there simply is no choice. People are often faced with situations where they seem to have two choices: Do the bad thing, or do the worse. But the worse choice would often lead to incredible disaster, so the human mind will always pick the lesser evil.

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Facing dozens or even hundreds of armed enemies with tanks, turrets and whatnot as a three-man squad, or using your chance of a surprise attack that could give you an immense advantage, but with the possibility of casualties?

Sure, the usual video game would have given you the possibility to win this fight, or stealth-kill them or whatever, but in my opinion, Spec Ops was aiming to go beyond the structure of a video game, or "video game free will", and instead presented you with the stigma of real-life free will.

#11 Posted by aceofspudz (938 posts) -

Without Walker turning himself into a war criminal, the second half of the game doesn't even make sense. There's no alternative here in terms of the narrative.

Personally, I think it should have been a non-standard game over. You either agree to or refuse to use the WP. If you agree to it, the fight commences. If you don't agree, Walker and his team abandon the mission and are shown leaving Dubai, followed by a game over. Would you like to continue?

#12 Posted by Morrow (1829 posts) -

@aceofspudz:

That would have been a good addition. Dragon's Dogma handled your alternate decisions like that, and I thought it went well with the game.

#13 Posted by SharkEthic (1049 posts) -

Yep, it's total bullshit. I pretty much immediately identified the people in the trenches as civilians. Still a really great game (story wise) though.

#14 Posted by DizzyMedal (399 posts) -

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

#15 Posted by Baal_Sagoth (1261 posts) -

@Morrow said:

@DizzyMedal said:

Personally I think that scene would have worked better if it had been a choice. Either use the phosphorus or have a really gruelling gun fight with the soldiers. A super hard fight, almost impossible but not actually impossible. That way it would be have a really interesting case of "Look what you did."

I think one of the messages Spec Ops wanted to convey is that sometimes, there simply is no choice. People are often faced with situations where they seem to have two choices: Do the bad thing, or do the worse. But the worse choice would often lead to incredible disaster, so the human mind will always pick the lesser evil.

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Facing dozens or even hundreds of armed enemies with tanks, turrets and whatnot as a three-man squad, or using your chance of a surprise attack that could give you an immense advantage, but with the possibility of casualties?

Sure, the usual video game would have given you the possibility to win this fight, or stealth-kill them or whatever, but in my opinion, Spec Ops was aiming to go beyond the structure of a video game, or "video game free will", and instead presented you with the stigma of real-life free will.

That's very well said. Makes a lot of sense and it also was what I came away with after playing it myself.

#16 Posted by zudthespud (3281 posts) -

I don't like how they made you shoot the white phosphorus. I'd rather have had a choice between a quick, unchallenging set piece and another more difficult option. I guess that's the nature of the game, it's just telling the story of Walker not letting you decide his fate. Except for the epilogue I guess...

#17 Posted by Morrow (1829 posts) -

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Yeah, sure. Of course not everyone has a hero complex like Walker. He got himself deeper and deeper into a corner he could not escape from, but I was talking about the particular decision with the mortar. Of course, the best decision would have been not to start any of that bullshit and just abort the mission. Though it's always easier to say "you shouldn't have..." when you know the final outcome.

@Baal_Sagoth: Thank you ^__^

#18 Posted by DonPixel (2585 posts) -

Could've been done better, called it BS... Well that is just hyperbolic, I mean.. its not like ineternet statements are often bynary and simplistic.

#19 Edited by pyromagnestir (4324 posts) -

@aceofspudz: That would have been fucking perfect. If they put that in the game it would have been much better. The writer's suggestion that the other choice was to just stop playing the game was not quite good enough.

@Baal_Sagoth said:

@Morrow said:

@DizzyMedal said:

Personally I think that scene would have worked better if it had been a choice. Either use the phosphorus or have a really gruelling gun fight with the soldiers. A super hard fight, almost impossible but not actually impossible. That way it would be have a really interesting case of "Look what you did."

I think one of the messages Spec Ops wanted to convey is that sometimes, there simply is no choice. People are often faced with situations where they seem to have two choices: Do the bad thing, or do the worse. But the worse choice would often lead to incredible disaster, so the human mind will always pick the lesser evil.

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Facing dozens or even hundreds of armed enemies with tanks, turrets and whatnot as a three-man squad, or using your chance of a surprise attack that could give you an immense advantage, but with the possibility of casualties?

Sure, the usual video game would have given you the possibility to win this fight, or stealth-kill them or whatever, but in my opinion, Spec Ops was aiming to go beyond the structure of a video game, or "video game free will", and instead presented you with the stigma of real-life free will.

That's very well said. Makes a lot of sense and it also was what I came away with after playing it myself.

I agree with Baal. Well said! Still think they could have executed on that idea better in the actual game though.

Edit: Oh, I like Jeff and you knew they were civilians just by looking at them and was slightly disappointed by the lack of choice. But with what they did with the way the story played out I'll forgive them for limiting my options for that key scene.

#20 Posted by Hunter5024 (5688 posts) -

@Morrow said:

@DizzyMedal said:

Personally I think that scene would have worked better if it had been a choice. Either use the phosphorus or have a really gruelling gun fight with the soldiers. A super hard fight, almost impossible but not actually impossible. That way it would be have a really interesting case of "Look what you did."

I think one of the messages Spec Ops wanted to convey is that sometimes, there simply is no choice. People are often faced with situations where they seem to have two choices: Do the bad thing, or do the worse. But the worse choice would often lead to incredible disaster, so the human mind will always pick the lesser evil.

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Facing dozens or even hundreds of armed enemies with tanks, turrets and whatnot as a three-man squad, or using your chance of a surprise attack that could give you an immense advantage, but with the possibility of casualties?

Sure, the usual video game would have given you the possibility to win this fight, or stealth-kill them or whatever, but in my opinion, Spec Ops was aiming to go beyond the structure of a video game, or "video game free will", and instead presented you with the stigma of real-life free will.

Couldn't have said it better myself. In the end this game's narrative hinges on this one scene, and to allow the player to bypass it would've broken the story.

#21 Posted by Ryanmgraef (236 posts) -

I felt ripped off at the time but looking back at it now I feel like they presented a now win scenario.I dislike real life involved in my shooting guys in the face but,in war, I assume there is constant no win scenarios.looking back, this was a triumph of writing handlded by a mediocre design team.

#22 Edited by benjo_t (152 posts) -

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

#23 Posted by Village_Guy (2579 posts) -

In my experience it worked very well, I decided I didn't want to use the white phosphorous against them, so I held out and took down plenty of enemy soldiers with my rifle, but before long I realized that the amount of enemies attacking me and my dwindling supply of ammunition meant that this was only going to end one way unless I changed tactics...

So I decided to use the white phosphorous and fired away in the Call of Duty mindset - not realizing what I had done until it was too late.

#24 Posted by mnzy (2914 posts) -

I think the problem with this scene is that, throughout the game, you do beat enemy hordes like those in that scene, thus not making it seem impossible to win that fight. If you start shooting the snipers and the ground troops, they spawn infinitely and you will never beat them. It's just not a convincing way to do what was a necessary scene for the game.

#25 Posted by DizzyMedal (399 posts) -

@benjo_t said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

No, I didn't want to stop playing the game, I wanted to finish the game. I was just saying, having an option to bug out at any time and get 'an ending' would have been a nice touch.

#26 Edited by mnzy (2914 posts) -
@DizzyMedal said:

@benjo_t said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

No, I didn't want to stop playing the game, I wanted to finish the game. I was just saying, having an option to bug out at any time and get 'an ending' would have been a nice touch.

Well, that is an ending. To stop playing the game is your out.
#27 Posted by Pie (7099 posts) -

@DizzyMedal said:

@benjo_t said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

No, I didn't want to stop playing the game, I wanted to finish the game. I was just saying, having an option to bug out at any time and get 'an ending' would have been a nice touch.

But that wouldn't of been true to Walker's character would it?

#28 Posted by Shirogane (3574 posts) -

@Pie said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@benjo_t said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

No, I didn't want to stop playing the game, I wanted to finish the game. I was just saying, having an option to bug out at any time and get 'an ending' would have been a nice touch.

But that wouldn't of been true to Walker's character would it?

It would be an alternate Walker, not the one that we see from the rest of the game. Though none of this really means much cause if you took that ending, you'd still have to go back and do the other one anyway, unless you wanted to only play a third of the game. It'd be like at the start of Super Paper Mario or something where they ask you if you want to accept the quest or whatever they're sending you on, and if you say no it's an instant game over right there, before you even get control of the character. Mario would never say no, but in this case he did, so the world was screwed. Opposite case here though i guess.

#29 Posted by DizzyMedal (399 posts) -

@Shirogane said:

@Pie said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@benjo_t said:

@DizzyMedal said:

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Oh boy, but that's exactly what the game was trying to do. You did have that option. You always have the option to literally stop playing. You always had the choice as a free agent, a player of a video game, to decide things were going too far and walk away from the console. This is a game about the people who play action shooter hero-fantasy games, it gets pretty meta like that. Plenty of the loading screens were geared toward trying to get you to realize this.

No, I didn't want to stop playing the game, I wanted to finish the game. I was just saying, having an option to bug out at any time and get 'an ending' would have been a nice touch.

But that wouldn't of been true to Walker's character would it?

It would be an alternate Walker, not the one that we see from the rest of the game. Though none of this really means much cause if you took that ending, you'd still have to go back and do the other one anyway, unless you wanted to only play a third of the game. It'd be like at the start of Super Paper Mario or something where they ask you if you want to accept the quest or whatever they're sending you on, and if you say no it's an instant game over right there, before you even get control of the character. Mario would never say no, but in this case he did, so the world was screwed. Opposite case here though i guess.

I think it would have been interesting. I don't know, my main problem with it was it felt like it was kind of all done badly. I got the feeling that someone just jotted down some of the 'big' moments in the game, and then they were forced to think of a way to link them altogether and it was just handled in a clumsy way.

I certainly can see what they were trying for, it just didn't really get there.

The whole thing doesn't really matter much though, when I finished I just came to the conclusion that the only 'real' thing in the game was the prologue and then everything else was some sort of messy hallucenation. Like purgatory or hell or a coma-dream or something. Otherwise the severe leaps in logic displayed by pretty much anyone and everyone are just too stupid.

#30 Posted by firecracker22 (546 posts) -

I think you, as the player, refusing to finish the game was one of those 'meta' options. You continuing to march forward with the mission (as mentioned by Konrad) is one of the ways the storytelling in the game conveys what Walker is going through.

The white phosphorus scene is necessary, I think, and key to the storytelling in the game. Where other things could have been rationalized by us because a decision needed to be made, doing what is "necessary" was something Walker and his squad continuously said over and over to try and shake off the guilt they felt for certain things during the game, I do think there needed to be something that could not be rationalized that way. And it sure has hell felt like the beginning of the unraveling of Walker's sanity.

#31 Posted by Dewar (44 posts) -

I was spoiled by listening to part of the GOTY podcasts, so I already knew that there were going to be civilians and I was going to be forced to kill them. At least there were other moments in the game where you did have choice (like whether to shoot the civilians after lugo's demise.) If anything, what caused this game the most trouble for me was how it was inconsistent on offering choices at some points and not for others. If I hadn't gone in expecting choices and played it like a standard military shooter, I think I would have been all right with it.

#32 Posted by iAmJohn (6120 posts) -

@joshthebear said:

As someone who didn't notice it during my playthrough, I thought it was pretty effective. Although, I can see where you and Jeff are coming from if you noticed it.

This, but they should have made it less obvious if you and other people were able to pretty clearly pick up on what was going on.

#33 Posted by thedj93 (1237 posts) -

the game is designed to make you question the tropes of the medium by making you a terrible person. so if you get mad thats ok

#34 Posted by hermes (1487 posts) -
@DizzyMedal

@Morrow said:

I mean, think about it. Imagine you were Walker, what would you have done?

Honestly, I probably would have aborted the mission. There were numerous incidents before that part where it would be absolutely acceptable to cut your loses and leave. Sadly the game didn't come with a command to do that. That also would have been a nice addition.

Yes, there is. Just pull the plug. Turn it off ... that is always an option and they call you up on that one when saying "you couldn't stop, could you. You have to keep pushing and see it through to the end."
In fact, obsession with completing the mission is a mayor theme in the plot
#35 Posted by Beaudacious (930 posts) -

I understand the scene being necessary,but the implementation was beyond horrid. They should of simply stated, and made it so that if you engaged in a firefight the tank would blow you up instantly. Then have the civilians under multiple tents, where the ones you didn't burn, would be reeling and yelling at you while the others were burnt.

My issue isn't the scene, my issue is the way they cheaped out in implementing the scene. I guess I shouldn't be surprised though since its more of a mechanic decision,and the gameplay in this game is horrid.

#36 Posted by SeanCoughing (269 posts) -

It was effective for me, it played into my tendency to say "fuck this I'm gonna kill these as quick as possible" in most video games. It hit me when I thought about it and realized I probably would have the same thought process if I were in the situation in real life.

#37 Posted by jarowdowsky (208 posts) -

I'm quite impressed this was the moment they have Walker say 'sometimes there is no choice' just before the scene. Just finished my first playthrough and loved the game, up there with Silent Hill 2 for me.

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