Spec Ops: The Line is one of those rare video games where the story often outshines the gameplay. Even though you might have tired of pumping bullets into sand-covered foes, it's the story in Spec Ops that will undoubtedly push many players forward.
With a story inspired by Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness, our film pairing recommendation for the game is obvious: Francis Ford Coppola's iconic Apocalypse Now – a film that has also heavily influenced the Yager-developed video game.
Apocalypse Now was the film that nearly unraveled Coppola and his sanity, much like what happens with the main character in the book it is based on. The story was passed around between Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, and at one point Lucas was going to film it as a black comedy. Even when Coppola decided to make it, things didn't go smoothly: Martin Sheen had a heart attack during the production, a typhoon destroyed the sets, and Marlon Brando showed up extremely overweight.
But Coppola persevered through 15 months of principal photography and editing millions of feet of footage, turning the morass into what is now generally held to be a masterpiece of the "New Hollywood" wave of films and directors that swept through the industry in the late 1960s until the early 1980s. Coppola had been chastised and mocked in the press as making a film that would be a disaster, and instead he created one of the most impressive films of all time.
The film has enjoyed a long life, with theatrical rereleases in 1987 and 2001, with the 2001 version being the much longer Apocalypse Now Redux, which was subsequently released on DVD. This cut adds 49 minutes of footage to the film, including a scene where Martin Sheen's Captain Willard steals Colonel Kilgore's (Robert Duval) surfboard. That scene adds some levity to the film, while much of the added footage underscores the disturbing nature of the film, and of the war in Vietnam.
If you're going to give Spec Ops: The Line even a cursory glance, you should first take a spin through this classic film. Colonel Kurtz' line "The horror... the horror" will resonate with you as you see what Captain Walker sees in Spec Ops, and Dennis Hopper's photojournalist character in the movie correlates closely with "Radioman" in the game. Coppola himself said during production of the movie, "We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane." You might feel the same way after watching this film, or playing this game.
If you have a Netflix account, you can stream the original Apocalypse Now or even the extended Apocalypse Now Redux through Netflix Instant Watch (in the United States). Xbox 360 owners can purchase either version of the film for 1200 points ($15) in high definition or 800 points ($10) in standard, while PlayStation 3 owners can pick either edition up in HD for $19.99 or in SD for $9.99.
But if you really want the complete experience, pick up the three disc "Full Disclosure Edition" on Blu-ray which contains Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, and the intensely personal and insightful documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse, which was filmed by Coppola's wife Eleanor during production. Along with a treasure trove of extras dedicated to one disc, this includes a booklet about the film with scans of Coppola's original notes.
No matter how you watch it, try out the demo for Spec Ops: The Line or fire up the full game and see how the two go together.
And for more on Spec Ops: The Line, read Joystiq's recent review.
Kevin Kelly is a writer and pop culture junkie with a fixation on video games, movies, and board games. His writing has been seen at Moviefone, io9, Film School Rejects, TechRadar, Wizard World, G4, and The Austin Chronicle. He lives in Los Angeles and does not know how to surf. Follow him on Twitter @kevinkelly.