So, why Dubai?
Well, Dubai is very interesting for a couple of reasons. One: it's almost, it's like a real-world video game level, when you think about it. I mean, it almost shouldn't exist. It's like a real-world Rapture. These men just said, "I will build something here where there should be nothing. I don't care if it's practical. I don't care if people are able to use it. I'm going to build it because I have the money and you can all whatever, I don't care." And that's very intriguing on a level, because in Spec Ops our Dubai has been completely retaken by the desert, and this kind of hubris of man is something that's a big theme in our game which is that goes down through all the levels, which is Konrad, who went in the Damned 33rd to help evacuate these people, and he's like, "These people need my help. I can help them." And he fails. He doesn't complete his mission. And him and the people are trapped in the city. He's like, "Well, I can bring order to this chaos. I can make these people safe." But in doing so, only brought more suffering to the people in the city.
And then you go down further and you have Walker, who comes in later. And he's supposed to look for survivors and leave, but he sees the 33rd, he sees that Konrad might be in trouble, and he says, "No, I can go in. I can make a difference here. I can find out what's happening, I can make a difference." And it's all just a mirror of this same kind of expectations versus reality. And it's really one of the things we want the player to be thinking about when they play this game, or at least at the end of the game. What are the expectations of who I am when I sit down to play a video game? How do I see myself? And then, at the end of the game, who am I actually?
Because we can inhabit the shoes of these characters, we can become these characters, but at the end of the day, we're still controlling their actions. When we pull the trigger on the controller, that's the only reason the character in the game pulls the trigger on that gun. It may not be real, but we're still choosing to fire that gun, to kill that person, whether they be a combatant, whether or not. But we still want players to think about that expectation of who they are and who they really are, and how it relates to the games that they play.
There are plenty of games that destroy those deeper questions and immersion by having enemies constantly taunt and threaten you but there was very little combat banter during what I played. Was that a conscious decision?
The thing is—and it really depends at what point of the game you're in—because we were trying to make the characters really evolve. As the squad and the player character—Walker, Adams, Lugo—get further and further into the game and they've done more things, they've seen more things, they go from being these very casual, fun soldiers who are friendly and think they're just on an easy mission, to each of them go on their own path. Walker gets more demanding as the commander, much more abrasive, doesn't care much about his squad's opinion. Adams kind of pulls into himself and becomes much more about rules and about being a soldier. And Lugo—he's at the beginning the most jovial of the three—really just kind of shuts off. Like goes inside himself completely, not really able to deal with the things that he's seeing.
And the same thing happens with the enemies. At the beginning, they can be more professional, more quiet. Towards the end, you've wiped out a lot of them. They're now scared of you. The way that they do talk when you do hear them is going to be a lot different at the beginning.
Also, I mean, you're in combat. You're in a big open area. Guns are firing everywhere. You're not going to hear everything. When you just have people constantly yelling, it's much more obvious that you're playing a game, and we wanted the player to be thinking less about hearing enemies just screaming at them and thinking more about the squad and where they are and what they're doing in that moment and hearing the tone and the shift and the change in the people around them, and connecting to their squad and feeling kind of lost in all of this.
In the second part of the demo, it jumped forward in time a bit, and I definitely noticed Lugo making a lot less jokes.
Yes, definitely. This is Lugo's first mission as a Delta operator. Adams and Walker have worked together for a while, and Adams recommended Lugo for this mission and it's a good one to cut your teeth on. Just get out there. And none of them—I talk about them like they're real people now, that's so weird. I feel strange. But they weren't expecting what was going to happen there. Lugo, because of all that, he comes across as very abrasive. He deals with stress through humor and being sarcastic, and when things get bad, it doesn't work for him anymore. He's trying to figure out how he's supposed to deal with all this. What's his place in the world?
And that's a big thing that we want to do with all the characters is give them some way—because we as people, we have our defense mechanisms. How do we get through the real dark times? You've got the character the Radio Man who wasn't even a soldier. He was a civilian journalist embedded with the 33rd when all this shit went down and now he's trapped in the city with everyone else. He's built up this makeshift broadcast system which can help send orders to the 33rd, it can warn people of incoming sandstorms, but also he broadcasts music over these things, and for him playing a song over the speakers, pretending to be a DJ for a little bit, he can close his eyes and for two-and-a-half minutes think that everything is fine and escape just the shit that's around them.
And the same goes for the refugees. You see this art and graffiti in the world. Like, this is their way of expressing this horror that they're in, of getting it out there, which we do in all sorts of circumstances. Art is one of the most communicative things we can do as a species when we find ourselves entrapped in things. Everyone has their way of escaping, and it comes out through the world in the way they interact with each other. And it's a very real kind of emotionally true experience when you look and think about why all the characters are doing what they're doing. It's really cool.
Head to page four for the final part of our interview!