On January 30, X gaming account Wario64 spotted something strange: Yager’s seminal cult classic Spec Ops: The Line had been unceremoniously removed from online storefronts without warning. Developers who made the game were just as baffled as fans. “Makes no sense,” tweeted the game’s director, Cory Davis. “Especially because the themes portrayed in Spec Ops: The Line are more relevant now than ever.”
In 2012, Spec Ops was not at the forefront of the military shooter genre, where franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield were pumping out titles yearly. It had been a decade since the last Spec Ops game, and The Line was meant to reboot the series. Set in Dubai, it follows Captain Martin Walker and his squad through the decimated city; as its story ramps up, players are faced with increasingly horrific scenarios, like deploying white phosphorus, as Walker’s grasp on reality begins to deteriorate.
Its selling point, as argued by its creators, was that the game was doing something different than its peers—tackling a story that was more Heart of Darkness than military propaganda. The game’s launch was not a commercial success, but a critical one. “It was culturally significant, tectonic in terms of how we think about creativity and critical conversations about war games,” says Mitch Dyer, a former video game critic who reviewed The Line in 2012.
“For it to just disappear overnight—it’s a little bit traumatizing for people who it meant something to or had interesting things to say about it, because now it’s inaccessible,”...