x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Future fantasy is shoot-out in ravaged city

Maker of Grand Theft Auto to set video game in fictionalised version of Dubai some time after catastrophic sandstorms.

The game Spec Ops: The Line is set in a fictionalised sand-ravaged Dubai, complete with familiar landmarks
The game Spec Ops: The Line is set in a fictionalised sand-ravaged Dubai, complete with familiar landmarks

The US company behind the popular video games Grand Theft Auto and the Max Payne series is planning to make a futuristic version of Dubai the setting for its next big gaming franchise. 2K Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, one of the largest video game publishers in the world, unveiled a 90-second trailer for Spec Ops: The Line, which takes place in a war-ravaged Dubai set in the near future.

The trailer was shown for the first time during the US television channel Spike TV's Video Game Awards in Las Vegas last Saturday. "This is not a contemporary version of the setting," said Greg Kasavin, the producer of Spec Ops, a video game veteran who has worked on the Command and Conquer video game series. "It takes place after an unimaginable natural disaster has struck the region." In the fictionalised setting, the emirate has suffered from a number of catastrophic sandstorms, leaving the city half-buried under millions of tonnes of sand.

The player takes command of a character named Captain Martin Walker and an elite team of American soldiers to rescue a downed US army colonel named John Konrad and his crew. Mr Kasavin said landmarks, such as the skyscrapers towering alongside Sheikh Zayed Road, Burj Dubai and Burj Al Arab, were all incorporated in the game. He admitted he had not visited the Emirates, but said a number of project developers recently came to Dubai to photograph and video the area for artistic purposes.

"It's such a fantastic location from an architectural standpoint," said Mr Kasavin. "The contrast between the exterior devastation and the interior opulence and beautiful architecture seemed to be a really beautiful and effective image." The plot takes a great deal of inspiration from Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now. Mr Kasavin said: "During the course of the story, you go deeper into the ruined utopia of the city trying to find this character and discover that something even darker has taken place there than this natural disaster."

Government officials at the National Media Council (NMC) said they had not been informed that 2K Games was developing a game based in Dubai. "We will have to review the game first before issuing any decision on whether to ban it or allow it," said Mohammed al Mutawa, a video games censor at the NMC. Before a video game is released in the UAE, the NMC assesses whether it conforms with local laws and notifies authorities if it does not, said Juma Obaid Alleem, the director of media content at the council.

"If it becomes an international matter, various avenues are taken through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow this up." Mr Kasavin emphasised that the enemies the game players fight in the fictional Dubai would not have any clear religious or political beliefs associated with them. For most of the game, the players fight against rogue US army forces as well as local bandits and scavengers who survived the sandstorms.

"The game uses the location purely as a location," Mr Kasavin said. "It's not meant to convey any kind of message ... I would hope that people judge it on its on its merits." He said none of the shoot-outs took place in mosques. Video games that have recently drawn the anger of Muslim organisations include Little Big Planet, whose release was delayed after it was discovered to contain a song with passages taken from the Quran, as well as the first version of the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, which was banned in the UAE.

Although the new game has no fixed release date, it is expected to go on sale after November 2010. @Email:dgeorgecosh@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Awad Mustafa