No one deserves to die in a room this ugly.
The wallpaper is a gaudy shade of royal purple, emboldened by gold filigree and columns of cracked marble. It’s the kind of brazen opulence you would expect in a city like Dubai – the kind of city that would house an indoor ski resort, in the middle of a desert.
My boys and I are pinned behind overturned furniture being ripped apart by overlapping bursts of suppressive fire. I’ve spent the majority of this third trek through Spec Ops: The Line in similar situations – mostly debating whether or not to continue subjecting myself to this difficulty.
The reason for my self-doubt can be traced back to the colloquial military term, FUBAR which is colorfully translated as “F***ed Up Beyond All Recognition.” It is what developer, Yager, aptly titled their most challenging difficulty setting.
In the eternity spent huddled behind this crushed velvet loveseat, I wonder why this setting even exists. What could possibly be worth this hopeless endeavor and why is it locked away from us until we’re deemed worthy?
Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter
For the record, Spec Ops: The Line is an unmissable achievement in character progression and effective storytelling. It’s also a mostly joyless affair.
FUBAR is locked until the prerequisite “Suicide Mission” difficulty is completed. It’s a sizeable task in itself and doubly so if you chose an easier setting on the initial playthrough to avoid any dissonance between the intended and realized experience.
The road to FUBAR is a long stretch of diminishing returns with the worst patch of pavement lurking at the end. Those that persevere will find themselves now free to delve the virginal depths once locked away. Therein they may find enemies are indeed more difficult. They may notice a greater frequency with which hand-tossed explosives invade their personal bubbles or the now porcelain fragility of their man-child squad mates.
They may notice several small changes that coalesce into a maddening new lens through which to view the campaign – but in the end, these effects are illusory. FUBAR exists solely in the zeros and ones cascading behind the digital curtain – a series of numerical modifiers altering the properties of established mechanics: damage, accuracy, hit points.
In this place, there are no further revelations for the warrior-poet. No emotive spoils for the hardened champion. There is only the safe embrace of crushed velvet or the murderous hail of gunfire.
So why then would we forgo the bounty of other adventures for one more intensified, hollow exhibition of game mechanics? Is it to fulfill the individualistic fantasy of our indomitable spirit? To walk knowingly into the trap and emerge unscathed?
Yes, and no. Mostly, we do it for the prizes.
Click “next” below for part 2…