Weekend Confirmed 119 - Spec Ops: The Line, Halo 4

By Garnett Lee, Jun 29, 2012 11:00am PDT

After visiting with its designer last week, Spec Ops: The Line stands for inspection. Adam Sessler and Paul Semel join Jeff and Garnett in the discussion that looks at the game both on its surface as a shooter and its underlying ambitions to seriously address the carnage of a "heroic," one-man rampage. Along with the discussion of violence, the conversation also turns to the sustainability of the big-budget console game. Halo 4's commitment to episodic content and the demise of Radical Entertainment lead the news discussions. And of course, it all wraps up on Finishing Moves.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 119: 06/29/2012

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Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 00:00:38 – 00:30:19

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 1 00:30:58 – 01:01:38

    Whatcha Been Playing Part 2 01:02:26 – 01:31:24

    Listener Feedback/Front Page News 01:32:33 – 02:00:30

Jeff Cannata can also be seen on The Totally Rad Show. They've gone daily so there's a new segment to watch every day of the week!

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Paul Semel @PaulSemel

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Original music in the show by Del Rio. Get his latest Album, The Wait is Over on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter @delriomusic.

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  • Garnett,

    I disagree vehemently with your take on Spec Ops.

    There are a few important distinctions that I think need to be made when discussing the game that you missed.

    1) The Delta Force members are never the aggressor in the game. Every time you encounter a new enemy type (be it the 33rd or the Exiled), they fire on you first. In fact, the entire first gunfight with the 33rd is in self-defense, with you and your teammates continually telling them that you're friendly. There's no opportunity to humanize any of your enemies because they keep shooting at you.

    2) The other members of your squad constantly talk about the things that are happening on the battlefield, and the atrocities that Walker is committing. They question his orders over and over, and get into fights amongst themselves.

    3) The idea that Walker is looking for someone to blame is the KEY POINT of the story. That's the whole thing, right there. He has done such horrible things (especially in chapter 8), that he feels he needs to justify them and by placing the blame on Konrad, he feels as though that's a proper scapegoat. The whole thing is folly. There is no scapegoat that can make the things he's done right.

    4) There's a clear point in the story where Walker loses grip on reality. It's during chapter 8. The trauma of that moment puts the entire rest of the game's narrative into motion. Walker was so traumatized by what he ordered that he literally snapped and lost his grip on what was real. He went into an instant dissociative state. Just because they didn't beat you over the head with it (and risk telegraphing their ending), doesn't mean in didn't happen.

    I don't like to tell people they missed the point, but all of the things that you criticize the game's narrative for have their purpose in making the themes of the story clear.

    Thread Truncated. Click to see all 8 replies.

      • There are huge spoilers here for people who haven't finished the game..

        Considering Konrad is dead the entire time, and considering that Walker starts to "talk" to him IMMEDIATELY after the WP attack in ch 8, and considering that the first "flashback" in the ending is of Walker's face looking at the civilians in the WP attack, it's pretty clear that that moment had such a profound effect on Walker that he loses his grip on reality to the point of inventing Konrad talking to them for the rest of the narrative. If you're looking for a humanizing moment, how about something the player does being so bad that it literally drives the protagonist insane?

        The squadmates may be DF operatives, but they are still Walker's subordinates. Furthermore, the implication is that the three of them have a history together, implying a deeper trust which would keep them following Walker, even as the situation gets worse. Even when they disagree (Lugo's "Is that an order, sir? prior to the WP sequence), at a certain point they are trained to follow orders, and their trust of Walker bleeds into that. Besides, let's say they mutiny on Walker and desert the mission...what then?

        The squad is never the aggressor on *initial* encounters. The opening sequence has them being fired upon first. The first time they meet the 33rd the 33rd mistakes them for CIA operatives and opens fire. The DF squad *is* always a step behind, even before Walker snaps. That's the point. It's just as confusing to them as it is to the player, and the history of what happened in and to Dubai during the six months before their arrival has shaped that place in a way that they cannot comprehend until it's way too late, until they too have been shaped. That's what makes the WP scene so traumatic. They are so far behind and so out of their depth that they mistakenly do what they did, and by the time they realize it, it's too late. And what do you do after something like that? Do you go home?

        If you watch the different endings (I've seen 5 of them), you'll notice that it *never* ends well for Walker. Either he is shot by "Konrad" aka kills himself, or he radios for help and tells them that there are "1 too many" survivors. Then, if you allow the soldiers that come to peacefully take you back, Walker is obviously broken. If you kill all of the soldiers, Walker has become what he thought Konrad was, and if you die at the hands of the soldiers, well, you're dead. Suicide by soldier, perhaps.

        I really think something about the game is keeping you from seeing all of these things. Is it mechanics? Maybe. I don't think it can be ludonarrative dissonance, because the other characters in the story react realistically to your actions. They fight, they want to desert, they question you as soon as you reach the 33rd. Your actions are never celebrated, and you're never made to feel good for what you've done.

        Honestly, it's a shame you didn't take more to the game than you did, because the narrative here is, I feel, truly great.