Having finished Spec Ops: The Line
for the first time, I've just had an excellent idea for a video game; one that will earn its publisher throngs of respect as quickly as it destroys it from the inside.
Spec Ops: The Line
is a relatively exceptional game; not for its pop-and-shoot mechanics, which are fairly pedestrian, but for its systematic tearing down of the brotherly, fist-pumping machismo that permeates every other game it resembles. It came along with quite impeccable timing and, through a number of shocking scenes and player interactions, was willing to make a massive hypocrite of itself by berating gamers who blindingly accepted a game's orders to shoot things, despite itself offering little else in the way of conflict resolution.
Clever stuff, of course, but it never quite went far enough to completely subvert the expectations of the player. Take Metroid
, a game that spent its entirety convincing you the main character was a man only for this to be a complete lie. Or A Link to the Past
, in which collecting the three gems is only one half of the game's actual journey. Or even Brutal Legend
, in which what appears to be a fun God of War
clone is actually a massively shit strategy game. All very effective, but please.... humour me, as I take this bait-and-switch philosophy to its most egregious level.
Imagine, if you will, a game. It's a relatively generic military shooter in the vein of Tom Clancy's Medal of Battlefield Duty
. Let's call it Echo Squad: Revelations
, or something equally loathsome.
is backed up by a massively expensive marketing campaign funded by the art team's own mortgages. It's smeared all over buses, websites, television, magazines... soon, even the US military are gunning down innocent brown people with promotional Echo Squad
bullets. It is, as they say, the Hypest Shit.
Launch day explodes with tales of supply shortages and consumer fatalities. So many work days are missed for the sake of ES:R
's release that the economy collapses, only to rise again under the collective force of the game's sales figures. Somewhere, a teenage boy called Timothy is dashing home with his friends, clutching a copy of a game he is clearly too young to play. And yet, once the disc slides into his shiny new PS4, his trousers soaked in his own saliva, he grabs the pad in his sweaty hands whilst he and his friends prepare, for the journey that is Echo Squad: Revelations.
The game starts typically enough; Echo Squad are assigned with storming an enemy weapons cache using combat shotguns and colourful language. Enemies speak in strange, ambiguous accents that could be Russian or Mexican, but indicate sinister motives because they don't sound particularly American. Timothy guns them all down without so much as a blink, accumulating large pools of XP that will no doubt see him annihilate opponents once he jumps into the online deathmatch.
For two or three hours, the game continues in this vain. Phrases such as “recon”, “intelligence”, “sit-rep” and “fuck” are repeated often enough to have lost all meaning, but a climactic battle is nigh... For you see, Timothy is preparing to infiltrate the enemy's top secret base of operations.
Approaching the levels' end, Timothy kicks down a door and empties bullets into a large table full of foreigners. Russian, German, Iranian... no foreign representative is spared. One final, slow-motion bullet tears a Japanese sergeant’s arm clean off, and he collapses to the floor.
“You siwwy, siwwy, Amewi-can!” he splutters, blood leaving his lungs.
“This is only the beginning. Foh you see, the gweater enemy... is yet to weveaw himself!”.
Slamming a large red button under the table our Japanese adversary dies. The lights in the room dim and a large television screen falls from the rafters of the ceiling. Static crackles as the TV bursts into life, and nothing can prepare Delta Squad, or indeed young Timothy and friends, for the titular revelation.
The screen displays a full motion video of a trumpet, complete with ping-pong ball eyes, glaring back at the player. He has the voice of Gilbert Gottfried, and every now and then he releases a flatulent squeal, as if a cheeky boy scout has blown far too harshly into his mouthpiece.
“You've already seen too much, Delta Squad”, he squawks. “I wish it didn't have to come to this...”.
A low rumbling shakes the ground and the gamepad's rumble feature goes into overdrive. The ceiling lights quiver and rattle uncontrollably. In the distance is the high-pitched, unmistakeable sound of.... wait....no......
…..Surely, it can't be?
Oh, my God......
The far wall collapses and an absolute sea of ping-pong ball-eyed bicycle horns converges on Delta Squad. One member of your team fires wildly into the storm, only to be consumed by their sheer numbers. To your right, another squadmate crawls towards you on his hands and knees. “Oh, God, help me!”, he screams. “They're in MY BUM!”. He grabs you by the face, and bellows into it; “SWEET JESUS, THEY'RE IN MY BUM!!”. Then a bicycle horn bursts through his chest with an adorable squeaking noise.
From that point on, DS:R does not give a fuck
, friends. Hell, the bicycle horns are just that one level. We haven't touched upon the turret section, in which party poppers are aimed from a helicopter above an underwhelming garden party. Or the volleyball mini-game. Or the back-alley knife fight against a racist koala.
Not only that, we haven't covered the multiplayer. It's all relatively innocuous until the player levels up to prestige level 7, at which point multiplayer doesn't function at all, it just plays that years-old internet video of the monkey scratching his arse
– although players still receive xp per viewing.
All this is part of a long-standing wish – one I might even share with numerous developers – to outright prank a large portion of the populace. Not only as a hilarious practical joke, but as a cautionary tale; never take a game at face value. Never believe the powerful hype created by marketing. But most importantly, don't ever think that a game fails if it misses expectations. For you see, however many people are angered by DS;R
's ridiculous charade, an equal number will praise its bravery, originality and obscurity.
Whatever became of those involved in this imaginary game's creation, they would be forever remembered.