I picked up Spec Ops: The Line on a sale while people were celebrating it as one of the best games of the year, particularly for its message about escapist violence and moral ambiguity. I have the problem that I have never played a military shooter game, so the deconstruction is wasted on me. The characters start doing things that are morally problematic and I immediately recognize it as such, from the first fight in the helicopters where no one seems to care that those are potentially occupied buildings you are shooting around/through. Bioshock’s “would you kindly” is not quite the same if you are not inured to obeying quest givers just because they are quest givers. Funny Games and Natural Born Killers do not fully work if you are not familiar with what they are critiquing.
On a different level, not having played a military shooter game, there is gameplay for me to get used to that the game takes as a given. All those bars and dials and buttons and mechanics we are so used to in MMOs can be bafflingly complex for a first-time player. Starting my first game, I’m not 100% sure where I should be looking for those, while this game obviously assumes some familiarity. Maybe I need to play it on newbie difficulty so I can figure out the buttons while people are shooting at me. Conversely, I have the opposite problem in games where I already know all the genre conventions: the introduction is ridiculously tedious as it walks new players through everything while I just want to know the three things that differ in this game, and they might not even cover that because the few differences are “advanced features” that will be explained well after the tutorial. It is hard to find a good middle ground between “you don’t need to tell me everything” and “hey, the game never explained that!” particularly with wide diversity in player knowledge. (Advantage: WoW for being the first MMO for the vast majority of its players.)