I recently played through Spec Ops: The Line, which was recently made “free” thanks to PS+. I have to say, the game was pretty good; worthy of all the praise lavished on it last year. True, it played like a bog-standed cover-based 3rd person shooter (which was a surprise to me; I expected it to be a wholly COD-esque experience and be a FPS.) However, it excelled at presentation (similar to how Brütal Legend was a fairly unimpressive game but a memorable experience). Not just the story, which becomes unusually trippy (for a game of this genre) in its narrative, but also its brazeness at lambasting itself. After one of the major events (sadly, all of the shocks had been spoiled for me shortly after the game was released, as I’d convinced myself I had no interest in playing something I expected to be COD-like) the game makes sure to make sure a particularly horrid display is shown to the player. Even the title and loading screens play a role in the narrative of portraying to decreasing mental state of the protagonist (and maybe even the player.)
I played the game on “Suicide Mission” difficulty (the hardest available the first time through) because I’m an experienced game player. I died … a lot … at certain points but with every iteration I got just a little better (only to be screwed over by the generally inept AI partners who eagerly ran into enemy fire, got shot up, and forced me to expose myself to try reviving them, usually resulting in my own death.) It’s been a while since I’ve put up with that sort of punishment from a game, mostly because I felt like my failures were my own fault as opposed to shoddy game design (see my issues with Killzone 3.) The experience reminded me of a short story I’d recently heard titled “Run,” Bakri Says, wherein a time machine allows a girl to relive a dangerous mission over and over until she can complete it (without dying.) The people she murders aren’t aware of how many times she failed; they only know that the final time she runs the mission is because she’s endured it so many times that she knows the situation inside and out and is finally an unstoppable goddess of death. Actually, Tom Cruise will have a similarly themed movie coming out next year.
Of course, maybe you want to relive life not to better kill things but just to live it the best way possible? I recently read Ken Grimwood’s Replay. It was one of those books I picked up back when Borders was going out of business, and thanks to shelves being mostly empty (and prices being nonexistent) I noticed books I probably wouldn’t have otherwise noticed or bought. I thought this was a really fantastic novel. Like a lot of great science fiction (and time travel stories especially) the sci-fi aspect is secondary to real story. There were some very touching characterizations and moments. But I wouldn’t dare call it revelatory.
- Zero Punctuation Review of Spec Ops: The Line @ The Escapist
- “Run,” Bakri Says @ Escape Pod
- All You Need is Kill @ IMDB
- The Ken Grimwood Novel “Replay” @ Wikipedia
- Time Travel Movies @ Filmspotting Podcast