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DUBAI: Video game set in post-apocalyptic boomtown could face censorship

December 16, 2009 |  6:21 am

Dubai's once-glittering skyline has been reduced to a wasteland of concrete skeletons and jagged steel, half-buried under the dunes that are slowly reclaiming the so-called "city of superlatives." In this macabre dreamscape, corpses swing from streetlights as Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, looms in the background.

Picture 14The story behind Spec Ops: The Line, a new video game by 2K Games, follows a U.S. Army captain and his team of elite special-ops forces as they launch a suicidal rescue mission after Dubai is destroyed by a series of cataclysmic sandstorms.

Although the premise was decided upon long before Dubai's recent financial troubles, the images of well-known landmarks ravaged by disaster and war have an eerie resonance for those who invested heavily in the debt-ridden boomtown, and United Arab Emirates officials have signaled they may ban the game, which was produced by the same firm that created the raunchy and violent game Grand Theft Auto,


“It’s such a fantastic location from an architectural standpoint,” the game's producer, Greg Kasavin, told the National. “The contrast between the exterior devastation and the interior opulence and beautiful architecture seemed to be a really beautiful and effective image."

The game's website promises to "challenge the players' morality by putting them in the middle of unspeakable situations where unimaginable choices affecting human life must be made."

But reeling from the fallout of a debt crisis that has shaken confidence in the city-state, the Emirates' censors want to take a look at the game more closely before deciding whether to allow it on Dubai store shelves.

“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 UAE's National Media Council, according to the National.

The game's trailer, which was screened last week at the Spike TV video-game awards, has piqued interest beyond the gaming community for its ironic timing and stunning visuals, although the game is not expected to come out until late next year.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Video: 2K Games is preparing the release of Spec Ops: The Lines, which takes place in a devastated Dubai. Credit: YouTube

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