You are Captain Martin Walker, a guy who at first seems like a cookie-cutter all-American hero. You lead a squad of three into Dubai, which has been hit catastrophically by sandstorms. Your job is to covertly find out what happened to a previous team – the 33rd battalion led by a certain John Konrad. It was sent to Dubai to evacuate the inhabitants that were left behind after the rich and powerful had fled the city. As you walk into an unclear situation with multiple factions fighting each other, mistakes are made which escalate the situation, including one as harrowing as I’ve ever witnessed in a video game. Walker’s mind and body take a severe beating and his team begins to doubt him. Depending on what you do during the final mission and the sequence that follows after the credits, it leads to one of four downbeat, existential endings. None of them include bunnies, rainbows or unicorns. Despite this, all of them are worth watching and profound in their own way.
America, f*ck yeah!’ song from the South Park guys. The gore may be entertaining to some people (and in some other games it is to me too), but here it mostly feels painful. The faces of the soldiers you kill are generally detailed enough that they become individuals when lying dead on the ground. At some point you hear a couple of guards having a very normal, humanizing conversation, right before you inevitably have to kill them. If you’re not engaging with the game intellectually, all you’ll see is a bland shooter. And you’d be missing the point entirely. In a strange way, it would be less fitting if the killing was very creative and a lot of ‘fun’. Admittedly, the fact that you can get ‘achievements’ for certain kinds of kills is a bit dubious, but to avoid a financial loss with expensive-to-make games like this, you have to please gamers of all kinds, not just the ones with a philosophical bent. So, yeah, the game does make a few concessions that slightly weaken its point.
Heart of Darkness. (Note that the name of the ambiguous leader of the 33th battalion is Konrad.) If you’re a gamer on the look-out for something with substance, don’t miss out on this experience. Even – or maybe especially – if you normally hate military shooters.