Spec Ops: The Line: 'War isn't pretty, it isn't good - we wanted to show that'

2K producer Denby Grace talks war stories...

The latest issue of Xbox World is on sale now.

German-developed, Dubai-based squad shooter Spec Ops promises to be one of this year's darkest horses.

We sat down with 2K producer Denby Grace, ironically a tester on the original PS1 Spec Ops game, and asked him how the company's latest shooter will stand up to the likes of Black Ops 2 later in the year...

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Spec Ops is based on Heart of Darkness. What came first, the story or the gameplay?

The first person shooter element came first. I think 2K wanted to move into the military shooter space and we knew we found a good partner in Yager. We knew we wanted a heavy narrative - it's just what 2K does. What draws us to Heart of Darkness is that it's the story of how war can affect a man. War is not pretty, war is not good, and war churns people up in a meat grinder and spits them out. That sort of human story is something that really interests us.

Are video games an appropriate place to tell thatkind of story?
I think it's a place where nobody has done it quite right, except maybe for Far Cry 2. They did a pretty good job, but I think telling that story in an interactive medium is a very particular challenge. I think that in itself is the aspiration for us - to really do something original. That's what all game makers want to do, right?

So why did The Line disappear for so long?
When we announced it, it was like: 'right, this is the game we're making.' Then things crystallised and we were like: 'right, how the f*ck do we make this game?' Nah, I joke. The story has been written and re-written several times to get it right. The controls of the game have been iterated on, I don't know, fifty times. We just want things to be right. We missed Gamescom last year because you guys would probably call bullshit if we showed up with another hands-off demo, and said: 'hey look the game is coming lads, honestly. Bear with us.' We knew the next step we wanted to take was to give you hands-on time.


How important was gettingthe music right?
Of huge importance. We took a different approach - we didn't do an orchestral score, we did a rock soundtrack. There's quite a lot of music we're looking at licensing, because we have this Radio Man character beaming tunes into the world. He's very much inspired by Apocalypse Now; we're really inspired by the soundtrack of that movie. He's actually played by Jake Busey.

Do you think you're the only ones telling a war story in a game and doing it right?
I don't know we can say we're doing it right, but the one thing Ithink we really believe in is that we're doing it differently. The standout thing for us is creating an emotional human story in a genre that's pretty devoid of stuff like that right now. Speaking from personal experience that's what I'm looking for in games, and it's something that we really believe in at 2K. It's about creating these experiences that two, three, four years from now people will say: 'oh man remember that moment in that game? It was f*cked up.' I worked on The Darkness, and people still come up to me today and say: 'the moment with Jackie's girlfriend on the couch' and 'that moment when she dies'.


You're looking to hit people with moments of that kind of power?
Yeah, but I don't want to get people so they're absolutely turned off, or emotionally drain them - it's still an entertainment project obviously. But ultimately we aim to send people on an experience. I think that as the people playing our games are maturing, they're looking for more than just the number of weapons and things to shoot. People are looking for experiences like when they enter a movie theatre and for two hours go on a journey. I think games is a medium that can do that in the same way books and film can. We're only about five years in to people doing that well, and it's really exciting. We're at about 1920 in the film industry, which is brilliant because it means we've got 90years before Michael Bay is making more movies