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Few video game genres instill power and satisfaction as easily as the shooter. While players can’t raise hell in titles like Call of Duty on the same scale as they can in games like Civilization, the immediacy of the former’s gameplay has proven time and time again to be far more efficient of an endorphin rush. Decades after players were first able to do so in Wolfenstein, unloading one’s clip into an unsuspecting enemy is still sublime like few other experiences in the medium; an unequivocal act of domination bereft of drawbacks or emotional trauma.

But every now and then, a shooter goes against the grain, and attempts to subvert these very foundations upon which it is built. Spec Ops: The Line was one such game. Released in 2012 on consoles and PC, The Line began in an unassuming fashion, casting players as the leader of a three-man team tasked with investigating the fate of a rogue colonel in a sand-swept version of Dubai. Those who kept with it, however, quickly discovered that underneath its modest premise laid a hellish odyssey, one that forced its protagonists into disturbing predicaments at every turn, and repeatedly questioned the ethicality of how they chose to solve them.

Like many subversive games before it, The Line received critical acclaim upon its release, but disappointed at retail, selling well below other, contemporaneous first-person shooters. Almost everyone who was involved in its production, however, was almost relieved that it didn’t end up becoming a massive hit – for bringing it into being had been its own personal hell, and nobody was ready to go for a second round.

This is the history of Spec Ops: The Line.