4. Spec Ops: The Line
Released amongst a glut of third-person cover shooters and wannabe modern military blockbusters, this reboot of the Spec Ops series did nothing via its promotional stages to convince people it wanted to be anything else. The results were an underwhelming reception in a saturated market when it released.
On the surface it was solid if nothing special, a polished shooter with better-than-average squad mechanics and team A.I. It hardly rewrote the rulebook but still ran like a well-oiled machine, providing enough frantic set-pieces to get the blood flowing.
Yet it was through the storytelling that developers Yager Development managed to flip this jingoistic genre flat on its face. It wasn’t a game striving to encapsulate the latest Jerry Bruckheimer event movie, instead it spiralled into the nightmarish pathos of Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.
As a three man squad heading into a war-torn Dubai, the standard action/adventure crumbles into hell-on-earth, yet the developers bravely also hold your protagonist responsible for some of the bloodcurdling devastation. One specific key scene is held as the most harrowing moment in video gaming, and with good reason - it’s all your fault.
It was a brave game that tried something different with a cookie cutter formula. Thankfully that reputation has grown large, with gamers and critics alike championing it as some of the strongest storytelling in the medium.