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Spec Ops The Line @VGR

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In recent years, the world of video game print media has experienced difficulties. Icarus is no exception. After two very successful first issues, which unfortunately sold poorly, the magazine is making a comeback. The success of his Ulule campaign, mentioned here on several occasions, is the direct cause. Scheduled in a few weeks, the editorial staff of JVL had the chance to preview the majority of this new issue, i.e. 140 pages out of 188.

Hitherto concentrating on cult licenses (God of War, Deus Ex), Icarus is tackling this time a more confidential game, but which has marked, in its own way, the video game world: Spec Ops: The Line. Released in June 2012, the title of the studio Yager had surprised by his transcription of the horrors of war, in the form, despite everything, of a classic TPS. It is perhaps this last point which could have left the impression of a banal game, where, on the contrary – and this is what the number demonstrates brilliantly -, it stood out from the crowd. But we are not here to re-test the game but to talk about Icarus.

This special Spec Ops opens with a series of letters written by John Konrad. Well written since you would think they were taken from the game, they serve to refresh the reader’s memory as well as to immerse them in the atmosphere of the game mixing sand and tears. Context put in place, it is then to a particularly rich story of the development of Spec Ops, full of anecdotes and revealing of the problems that a development studio can encounter. A rare document in the industry, it allows you to better understand what can happen behind the scenes, a treat.

This issue of Icarus is also the result of impressive research work. The author has studied the many references – philosophy, mythology, cinema, religion – to draw a coherent, unprecedented and fascinating analysis as it is full of details often gone unnoticed. Whether the player has completely missed the point or is more interested in it, these decipherings highlight the qualities of it. And there is something to be impressed with by this research and the discoveries that result from it. If the players and the industry have missed Spec Ops: The Line, Icare Mag is a real plea that highlights all its richness.

Sometimes very critical, like the part dealing with the representation of war in video games and American influence, the author assumes. While not all readers will agree with the ideas put forward, these reviews are never free, always present to dissect the values ​​carried by the media and reflect on a very specific theme. To read Icarus is to rediscover the game or the saga in question every time. It is also another point of view on the video game. An original point of view.

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If Spec Ops: The Line is widely covered, this third issue is also an opportunity to dwell on the traumas caused by the war. First thanks to the testimony of an American veteran, having served more than two years in Iraq. Touching, overwhelming, his letter throws us into the horror of war, the real one. This is not a fiction, but a testimony, anecdotes, pieces of life. This veteran gives us his experience both in the field but also in Spec Ops before explaining to us how the latter stands out from “Hollywood” games. Undoubtedly one of the most exceptional and landmark parts, his testimony allows us to move from the message carried by a work to the concrete life of a soldier, the border can be fine.

Still for the sake of completeness and relevance, the interview with a military psychiatrist concludes this testimony. While through the story of this American veteran, the notion of post-traumatic stress syndrome was tackled raw, without hindsight, this interview allows us to return more broadly to this state. Definition, symptoms, treatments, the concept is approached from all angles. Here again, the opinion of this professional finds its place. In truth, everything seems perfectly built in Icare: we introduce the player to the game with the letters, we examine the game and the messages he wants to convey, and we end up going further, beyond the game, to join reality. And each article proves to be relevant and daring.

While Spec Ops: The Line remains the major theme of the magazine, the issue deals with other topics as well. The environment of Dubai, the role of sand, allow the author to approach the unforgettable Journey. The presence of religion in the title, which is also incredibly hidden, is an opportunity to return intelligently to The Binding of Isaac, Dante’s Inferno and El Shaddai. Captivating articles which allow to go beyond Spec Ops, to bring diversity to the whole and to make very precise parallels in order to understand the treatment of these themes by the video game.

It is also through the bric-are-brac section that Icarus discusses other subjects such as the press or freedom of expression. We even find the participation of Sheldon Pacotti, screenwriter of Deus Ex. His paper resonates with the religious aspect of the magazine (“is the future a secular ideal?”) And deals with the way in which Deus Ex was able to predict the future or, on the contrary, be mistaken. But the article that seemed to us the most remarkable comes from the journey of an independent developer. The birth of his project, the difficulties encountered in making it a reality or even the release of the game are the different axes addressed in his story. Here again, we are faced with a rich, dense, striking article, where we discover the behind the scenes of another facet of the industry. As if the story of this development and that of Spec Ops were two sides of the same coin. In fact, most of the articles in this issue respond to each other and share concepts that they study differently.

Icare Mag # 3: Spec Ops The Line

Above, the second cover (on the back of the mag) made by Mathias Wiese, artistic director of Spec Ops: The Line, on Enslaved, game on which Alessandro Taini worked at the same position. The latter for his part made the cover Spec Ops: The Line, a way of having the vision of one artist on the work of another.

As you can see, this issue of Icarus is still a success at all levels. He seduced us, to the point of hoping that he will give Spec Ops a second life, allowing the player to discover its true value, its true purpose. The missing parts, the short story and the icareview, are also expected to be exciting. We are impatiently awaiting the second since it is Alessandro Taini who will lend himself to the exercise. Artistic Director at Ninja Theory, he has worked on Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, DmC Devil May Cry and currently on Hellblade. With such games to her credit, and given the previous icareviews, she promises to be exceptional.

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Regarding the future of the publication, the author is already working on a fourth number based on a much larger public license: Assassin’s Creed. While waiting for a release in 2016, let’s hope that the sales of this special Spec Ops: The Line will reward all the hard work.

Icare Mag # 3: In conclusion

Sold at a higher price than a traditional magazine (15 euros), Icare departs from it with exceptional substantive work. Whether it is by the quantity (the preview still took us 5 good hours of reading) or by the quality, this number, like the others, is essential to all the players even, and it is the force of the magazine, to non-gamers. Starting from Spec Ops, the articles are linked logically, without resembling each other, without tiring, offering analysis, references, concrete cases of the horror of war, psychiatry and poetry. Ultimately, it doesn’t just grab a video game, but a theme. In this he speaks to everyone in a different way. Unique!

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