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Wolfenstein II Part 3: Legacy Problems

By Shamus
on Thursday Feb 15, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

 
 

Before I start picking at Wolfenstein II, I should point out that I don’t think it’s a terrible gameAside from the PC technology problems I talked about last time, obviously.. A lot of these things might seem trivial or nitpicky. “Hey, if the game is good then who cares?” But this is less about griping about a terrible game and more about chastising a series that seems to be settling into some bad habits. Let me repeat my main points one last time:

  1. I think this game doesn’t really deserve to be rated so much higher than its predecessors.
  2. We’re now on the third entry in this series, and so a lot of this stuff should have been solved by now.
  3. While the story isn’t terrible, it’s also not nearly interesting enough to justify the length of these self-indulgent cutscenes.

So when I mention a problem, it’s not because it’s some unforgivable sin against game design. It’s because I think there are things that could have been better. Please try to keep this in mind while reading this series, because I’m not going to put one of these “I didn’t hate the game” disclaimers around every piece of criticism.

Cool? Cool. Let’s do this.

The Old New Order

In case you missed it, the intro of New Colossus gives us a recap of the previous game.

In case you missed it, the intro of New Colossus gives us a recap of the previous game.

Wolfenstein: The New Order ended with BJ in the heart of the enemy base. After defeating Nazi scientist Death’s Head, a cutscene shows BJ approach his enemy, who surprises him with a grenade to the face. BJ, mortally wounded, crawls to the window to see his friends getting onto the escape helicopter. He gives them the go-ahead to nuke the base and we watch his friends fly away, leaving him to die in the explosion.

When this happened, I wasn’t sad that they killed off my hero. I was irritated that they painted themselves into a corner. My reaction was, “Hey idiots. Aren’t you planning on making more of these?”

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood was a prequel that took place before New Order, so it didn’t have to deal with the fact that the writer foolishly killed the main character at the end of the firstUnless you count Wolfenstein 2009 as the first of this particular continuity. Whatever. game. That worked, inasmuch as it let them kick the problem down the road, but it also saddled them with all the drawbacks of a prequel. The audience knows the future, so you don’t have a lot of room for twists and new characters. If someone on the team comes up with a brilliant game mechanic built around the idea of BJ having a robo-arm, you can’t do that because we’ve already established he doesn’t have a robo-arm in the future. He can’t find love, because we already know he was single and not grieving the loss of anyone in his past. Anything you do needs to be un-done before you roll the credits, which isn’t a fun proposition for a writer.

So now we come to New Colossus and we finally have to un-kill our protagonist. BJ was at the heart of the enemy base, cut off from escape by a broken elevator, a nuke was coming, and his friends had just left. New Colossus walks this back by having his friends somehow show up anyway and drag him to the chopper. They perform emergency surgery as they fly away from the explosion.

It’s an awkward kludge, but the blame for this mess mostly goes to New Order, not New Colossus. No matter how they fixed this, it was going to feel like a cheat.

The Cost of Favors

Guys, I appreciate the support and all, but can everyone who isn't a surgeon get away from the table and stop touching me?

Guys, I appreciate the support and all, but can everyone who isn't a surgeon get away from the table and stop touching me?

BJ is taken back to their submarine base and they sew him back together. And here the writer does something really important: They make this miraculous rescue cost him something. When he wakes from his coma, he discovers that he’s paralyzed from the waist down. This doesn’t change the fact that the writer needed to bend time and space to facilitate his rescue, but it does make it feel less cheap. If BJ had stood up after the surgery and went back to Nazi-killing without losing anything, it would have made it clear that the writer was only interested in wish-fulfillment and that BJ would never face any real hardship. Yes, he’s got plot armor because he’s the main character of an empowerment shooter, but it’s usually a bad idea to make that armor obvious to the audience. Maybe his rescue doesn’t work from the standpoint of logic, but it works in terms of the karmic accounting we all understand to be part of stories: Great favors must be paid for.

During his recovery, we cut away to re-live some of BJ’s childhood memories. I’ll talk more about his parents later in the series, but for now I just want to note how long this introduction is. This cutscene had to recap the events of The New Order, retcon the ending, show his escape and surgery, do the childhood flashback, and then finally cut back to the present and show BJ waking up with paralyzed legs and mild confusion / memory loss.

All told, it’s about thirteen minutes from the moment you start a new game to the moment you begin playing it. For comparison, The New Order takes less than a minute before it hands you control of your character. This is one of the reasons I’m comfortable doing a story analysis of The New Colossus. The designer put a huge focus on the story here. You can’t use the excuse that “The story doesn’t matter”, because they clearly spent a fortune on it. The New Order had roughly an hour and 47 minutes of cutscenes while The New Colossus clocks in at about three hoursI’m basing this on the length of their respective movies on YouTube, which is not an exact comparison. Some people include a bit of gameplay, or loading screens, or pause for interactive moments.. This is in addition to the fact that Colossus is overall a shorter game in terms of gameplay. It’s a shorter game with double the cutscenes, which means the cutscenes are a much larger percent of the overall runtime.

Most importantly, New Order used many short cutscenes while New Colossus tends to deliver cutscenes in huge blocks. The bulk payload cutscenes are a greater disruption to gameplay and thus it’s worth seeing if the story they tell is worth the cost.

While it might not be fair to blame the shorter playtime entirely on the cutscenes, it’s clear that there was a major shift in focus and priorities here and I think it’s worth looking to see if it was worth the tradeoff.

Wheels

Even if he wasn't paralyzed, I doubt those stick legs could carry that linebacker upper body.

Even if he wasn't paralyzed, I doubt those stick legs could carry that linebacker upper body.

BJ wakes up to find his legs are atrophied. I realize Wolfenstein runs on silly science and you’re not supposed to notice stuff like this, but this detail drives me crazy. See, back in The New Order BJ was catatonic for 14 years. He was struck in the head by shrapnel in 1946 and woke up in 1960 to find the Nazis had won the war. For those 14 years people in the asylum pushed him around in a wheelchair and fed him, because he was completely non-responsive. And yet somehow he retained the physique of a linebacker instead of wasting away.

This bugged me, but I got over it. Fine. I guess muscle atrophy isn’t a thing in this universe? But then we get to New Colossus and BJ’s legs have withered away to nothing after just a few months of coma. Look, if I’m not supposed to think about it, then don’t draw attention to it. And if I am supposed to think about it then establish rules and stick with them. I’ll go along with any silly premise you want, but pick something for crying out loud.

Gameplay starts with BJ rolling around in a wheelchair, shooting Nazis. This is the kind of fun, far-out premise I look for in these games. I’m here to kill Nazis in interesting ways, and this is exactly that. Wheelchair BJ doesn’t handle like a standard FPS character. You can’t go up stairs. You roll uncontrollably down staircases and slopes. Your movements have an awkward heft to them. It’s kind of strange that our initial gameplay tutorial is this one-off. This is basically a very unusual vehicle section. Imagine if Half-Life 2 opened with the airboat. That would be odd.

This should not be taken as a complaint. While this is an unusual idea from a gameplay perspective, it’s actually in service of the story. BJ is broken and he’s not going to shake this one off. Again, this reinforces the idea that cheating death has cost him something.

Fergus or Wyatt?

In New Colossus, there's a minor sub-plot (no pun intended) where Wyatt drops acid. It's supposed to be funny, but it didn't really do much for me.

In New Colossus, there's a minor sub-plot (no pun intended) where Wyatt drops acid. It's supposed to be funny, but it didn't really do much for me.

Once BJ kills his quota of tutorial Nazis he reaches the main deck of the submarine, where they’re under assault from Frau Engel’s Nazi airship of doomIt’s actually called the “Ausmerzer”, which I think roughly translates to “Eradicator”.. Engel is our main villain this time around. She was introduced back in The New Order. She spent a good part of that game terrorizing BJ and giving the audience lots of reasons to hate her. In return, BJ killed her lover and horribly disfigured her. So these characters have a personal rivalry that transcends the Nazis vs. Resistance thing going on around them.

Engel has already captured a couple of BJ’s friends, and she’s offering to let them go if he’ll surrender. Dutifully, he trundles over in his wheelchair and turns himself in. He doesn’t have much choice. The airship has grasped the submarine, so they couldn’t escape even if they were willing to leave their friends behind.

Back in Mass Effect 1, there was a scene where the player would have to choose which of their companions would survive a difficult situation: Kaiden, or Ashley. This choice carried forward into the sequels, so the player always had either Kaiden or Ashley as the survivor. The fans came up with the name Kashley as a shorthand for “whoever survived in your game”. The New Order had a similar branching decision. At the start you could either save Fergus Reid or Probst Wyatt III. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a nice portmanteau of Fergus and Wyatt that will let us talk about both characters without collapsing the waveform. Feratt? Wyrgus? No. Those just don’t work.

Whatever. In this writeup I’ll refer to Fergus/Wyatt as simply Wyatt, because that’s who I’ve got screenshots of. I’ve played through both timelines in both games. Both characters are good and I don’t really have a favorite.

Could this scene possibly take place in a more boring, nondescript room?

Could this scene possibly take place in a more boring, nondescript room?

So BJ is captured and the villain gets to cackle over him and kill and maim his friends. This mirrors a similar scene in The New Order where BJ is captured by Deaths Head. This establishes our villain and gives us a reason to want to oppose them. The difference is that the scene in The New Order is eight minutes long and has several bits where the cutscenes stop so you can do some brief interactive stuff. Meanwhile, the scene here in New Colossus is a whopping 11 minutes long, and there’s no interactivity at all. You just sit and watch events play out. Not only is New Colossus spending more time in cutscenes, but it’s doing a worse job of integrating cutscenes and gameplay.

So are these new longer cutscenes worth it? You can probably see where I’m going with this, but for the purposes of creating anticipation let’s pretend I haven’t already tipped my hand. I’ll reveal my shocking opinion next week.

Footnotes:

[1] Aside from the PC technology problems I talked about last time, obviously.

[2] Unless you count Wolfenstein 2009 as the first of this particular continuity. Whatever.

[3] I’m basing this on the length of their respective movies on YouTube, which is not an exact comparison. Some people include a bit of gameplay, or loading screens, or pause for interactive moments.

[4] It’s actually called the “Ausmerzer”, which I think roughly translates to “Eradicator”.


 
 
Comments (148)

  1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    So you say the tutorial in the wheelchair is a one-off, does that mean BJ gets his legs back somehow??

  2. Grey Rook says:

    Imagine if Half_Life 2 opened with with airboat

    Found an oversight. Otherwise an interesting and informative article. I never got around to buying TNC, even though I liked TNO. Pity that they messed it up this badly, really; it looked interesting when I first found out about it.

  3. Gethsemani says:

    I think it might be worth pointing out that having BJ as a cripple is not just important from the narrative point of using the trope of Great Favors must be paid for. It is also an important thematic decision based on this games absolutely central conceit: That Nazism is wrong, stupid and not worthy of serious consideration as a political belief and that Nazism’s only redeeming virtue (if it can be called even that) is that Nazis makes for great villains that can be killed brutally and en-masse without care because they are so cartoonishly evil.

    BJ is a cripple at the start of TNC, someone that Nazi-ideology thinks sub-human and fit only for death or maybe medical experimentation and then death. Yet this cripple (who’s also suffering from a suicidal depression post-coma) has more fighting prowess in him then a company’s worth of Nazi elite soldiers. This theme repeats throughout TNC, that people the Nazis think sub-human (Jewish people, Polish people, Black people, cripples, homosexuals, mentally ill people, fat people etc.) are more than capable of fighting the supposed übermenschen and win. TNC has an equality message at its’ core that it delivers by showing all these people that Nazis hate fight together and killing Nazis by the dozens.

    In that way, I think that the idea of putting BJ in a wheelchair was not only a way to actually pay respect to the consequences of the last game’s ending. It was also a way to drop the anvil of Nazism being stupid straight from the start. An anvil that just never stops dropping in this game.

    • Redrock says:

      I kinda doubt the developers were being that deep. I mean, they are really weird about a lot of themes regarding Nazism.

      By the way, Shamus, are you planning to cover Wolfenstein’s surprisingly weird coverage of anti-semitism and the Holocaust? Because that’s probably the weirdest thing about these games for me. TNO didn’t mention the Holocaust and the only camp we saw was pretty much a prison camp, not a death camp. I mean, Set just lives there, long after the war. So much for the “final solution”. And the games do push the idea that there actually was a vast secret Jewish society that had developed alien technology in secret and essentially let the Nazis win. I find this not so much offensive but very odd and inexplicable.

      • stratigo says:

        It’s not deep. It’s like basic theme 101. It’s something that’s eminently obvious when making a game about nazis.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        So much for the “final solution”

        Hey yeah,thats a really good point.I never thought of it.But how the hell is there even a single jew alive in a world dominated by nazis?In fact,why did it take 20 years for them to finally crack down on the hospital and start eradicating the patients when in just mere 6 years of their rule during the war they killed millions of people like this.

        • Isaac says:

          In TNO, BJ’s inner monologue explains that the Nazis used the hospital as a place to pick up mentally ill & disabled people for their experiments. That’s why they allowed it to stay open for so long (at least until Anya’s dad finally refused to hand over all his patients).

          • BlueHorus says:

            This makes sense – back in WWII a lot of the people who were – in theory – earmarked for extermination were used as slave labour/guinea pigs/etc.
            Just exterminationg them all would be destroying a resource that could be used elsewhere.

            • Redrock says:

              None of that explains why the Holocaust is never mentioned. Why BJ doesn’t find some secret nazi documents on it and make some horrified comment. Nothing. But we do get a Jewish secret society that unwittingly contributed to the nazis’ victory. So, like I said, not necessarily ill-intentioned, but definitely weird.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                The reason why its not mentioned is because its still ongoing.The purge of the hospital in the beginning,the camp,max having to be hidden like that,the attitude of engel when you talk to her.

                • Redrock says:

                  There is a difference between the Holocaust and the nazis’ persecution of the “incurably ill”, homosexuals, etc. Many other persecuted groups actually were sent to concentration camps that practiced “extermination by labor”. But the Jews held a special place in Hitler’s heart, hence “the final solution”. But in the world of Wolfenstein it’s heavily implied that the persecution of Jews was on par with all the other non-aryan groups. Which is interesting, I think. That’s not exactly Holocaust denial, of course, but it’s still notable once you think about it. And, I’ll say again, the whole Da’at Yichud is all over the place. I think it’s supposed to further undermine the nazis – that their victory in the world of Wolfenstein is based on stolen Jewish knowledge – but it’s still quite problematic and has weird implications.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Ok,this is a pet peeve of mine.Yes,hitler hated the jews the most.But saying how the others persecuted by nazis had it better,when at least FOUR MILLION of them were exterminated alongside the jews is really bothersome.Homosexuals had their own sign they were forced to wear,just like the jews,they were also enslaved,starved and experimented on,just like the jews,and saying how they had it better simply because there were just thousands of them is wrong.

                    Not to mention that unlike the jews,many countries after the war ignored the cruelty done to homosexuals due to their own discrimination of them.And they arent the only group whose victims went unrecognized for a long time.

                    • Anonymous says:

                      Let’s first establish that neither of us thinks this is a competition. Absolutely, the Nazi’s worldview and treatment was horrible for many groups, homosexuals and Romani are two good examples.

                      But I think you should remember that anti-Semitism was absolutely central to German / Nazi thought, and exterminating them was one of the major driving forces for their deeds. This can be clearly seen when comparing how Germans treated Jews, how quickly Jews perished etc. compared to other groups. I would recommend the Goldhagen book on this topic (Hitler’s willing executioners).

                    • Redrock says:

                      Come on, DL, no one was implying that other groups had it better. Hell, going by pure numbers one could say that Soviet citizens were the main victims of nazism. But as it stands now, the modern world recognizes the genocide of Jews, the whole “final solution” bit as a very special part in the bigger picture of the atrocities committed by Nazism. All I’m saying is that refusing to acknowledge that in the way the game does is a statement in and of itself. Whether it’s a good or bad statement, right or wrong – well, that’s not a discussion we should be having here.

      • Isaac says:

        Nah the devs did this on purpose. There are too many examples to point to that support this theme for it to be a coincidence. Heck, you play as a Polish Jewish man who fights Nazis. Those were like, two of the things (Slavs & Jews) the Nazis hated the most!

    • Daath says:

      That theme was already there in TNO. Kreisau Circle was, after all, a diverse group of resistance fighters including strong women (one even in wheelchair), kicking a totalitarian empire of purity freaks in the face. It wasn’t the only theme, however. It also employed the old Christian idea of evil being unable to truly create. It can only imitate and pervert, but in its pride it lies to itself about it. That was in part what made Deathshead such an interesting villain. For all his brilliance and cruelty, he had this fundamentally pathetic aspect. He could have been a great man, and maybe once was, but by the events of TNO he was just a husk from which the light had fled a long time ago.

      TNC narrows down its themes and makes them more explicit, while seeming to take itself quite a bit more seriously. That could have been fine, if it had something actually interesting to say, but it doesn’t. I wonder what happened. Maybe the devs let the praise for TNO go to their heads, and decided to make True Art with a Topical Message, while publisher yelled at them to hurry up.

    • ThaneofFife says:

      This is somewhat off-topic, and I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but it’s fairly offensive to call someone “a cripple.” You can say that someone is paralyzed, or has to use a wheelchair, or is disabled, but “a cripple” is generally considered a slur. Like I said, I’m sure that you didn’t mean it that way, but that’s the way it reads.

    • trevalyan says:

      It’s purely out of curiosity that I ask: how can an ideology be completely out of touch with reality (that it was savage and evil is undisputed), yet be able to conquer the world? Just remember, in real life the Nazis overran Europe, and the ridiculous notion that they stole their best technology from ancient Israel was obviously not a factor. In this game, they are able to do far worse.

      Really think about your answer.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        The simplest answer I came with is:They killed hitler early on.Even though he managed to unify the nazis,he was the most out of touch guy they had in leadership.Without him,thered be no fighting on two fronts,no delaying of the offensive of britain,and maybe even a less strict policy on killing off their brightest minds,depending on who ended up on top.

        • trevalyan says:

          You know, people keep saying that if Hitler was killed, the Nazis would have actually done better. I can’t overstress how wrong that is. The whole point of Fuhrerprinzip and gleichschaltung was to build a state apparatus uniquely loyal to Adolf Hitler: if he died, it is certain that vicious infighting would break out between the Goerings and Heydrichs and Himmlers. It would probably not be enough to end the war right there, but definitely enough to be a further distraction.

          Anyways, Hitler had a gift for taking advantage of idiocy and war weariness from the old Entente, not to mention his ability to unify the Nazi party, so I’m not even sure others would have had the nerve to conquer Czechoslovakia, much less France.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            Dan Carlin has a great podcast where he goes into the dysfunction of the Third Reich and how it affected the German military. Short version: you can’t really separate the problems that the Third Reich had from its ideology. The entire rationale behind invading the Soviet Union was based on something akin to a global conspiracy theory, A “more competent” Hitler doesn’t start WWII in the first place.

            Besides, Hitler mostly let his generals run the war until after the tide had shifted against them.

            • Redrock says:

              It’s a bit more simple than that, I think. Had nazism not been, you know, nazism, they would have had access to Jewish scientists and the atom bomb. So that’s a big inherent flaw right there.

              • Viktor says:

                Part of the reason the Jewish scientists were so good at the physics needed for the atomic bomb was also Nazism. Good German men focused on REAL science, chemistry for making bombs and engineering for making tanks, none of this weird theoretical stuff focused on things you can’t even see. Let the weaker races worry about that stuff since it doesn’t matter, REAL men will be winning wars with their knowledge.

                • trevalyan says:

                  German engineering research was good enough to conquer quite a few industrialized nations. While being less psychotic probably would have let Germany keep fsr more of its scientific and cultural credit, it would be unrecognizable. Favorably so. Still, they had more immediate concerns than the atomic bomb, and only a nation with America’s prowess had the chance to make it a reality at the time.

                  • Makoto says:

                    [quote]German engineering research was good enough to conquer quite a few industrialized nations.[/quote]
                    Except it wasn’t, as early war German engineering is mostly XIX century solutions. What secured German conquests was either utter unpreparedness and inability to cope with circumstances among defenders (Poland and France), or massive numerical advantage (Grece), both mixed with what little german generals understood of the mobile warfare ideas they got from their Russian teachers.

                    What is known as “German hi-tech inventions” only started after invasion of SU and was, in fact, mostly inept attempts at copying captured Russian technologies.

                    • trevalyan says:

                      This is absurd. Germany’s success in war was due to tanks, planes, and mobile infantry. Most were obviously better than WWI, to say nothing of the 19th century.

                    • Boobah says:

                      Well, I’d argue that a large portion of Germany’s success was their General Staff; despite the terms at the end of WWI, it survived largely intact into Weimar and later Nazi Germany.

                      The idea that the folks who had come up with the Schlieffen plan and spent three years running circles around Russian armies in the First World War needed post-Stalinist purge Soviets to tell them about mobile warfare is absurd.

                      (Yes, yes, not the exact same people (Schlieffen had retired before WWI), but the institutional continuity was there.)

            • trevalyan says:

              I listened to this podcast out of fairness- I previously had no idea that Speer was so completely unaware of armament production. But seriously- the podcast expects to tell me that Albert Speer, recognized as one of the few organizational geniuses within the Third Reich, should somehow not have gotten a job? This is disqualification without even using the benefit of hindsight. It doesn’t matter what your background is in wartime: the only question is, can you make the numbers go up? Could any of the Allied ministers match Speer as an organization? Unlikely.

              • tremor3258 says:

                Yes, and in fact exceed probably – much of what happened with Speer were policies put into place by his predecessors (economic changes have a bit of a run-up time) – he also spent a lot of time post-war taking himself up, and there were certain propaganda factors that making Nazi Germany seem like this incredible well-run mechanism both helped excuse the early mistakes in the West and to some degree help justify rebuilding Germany to fight Communism.

        • EmmEnnEff says:

          The offensive of Britain, had it actually gone through, would have been comically bungled. Operation Sealion would have been an utter failure. It would have turned out more like Dieppe then Normandy.

          Contemporary accounts of history really like to play up a ‘Britain stood alone angainst the Goliath’ angle, but they are… Largely dishonest. At the time of the war, the British empire consisted of almost a billion people, the world’s second largest industrial base, the world’s largest navy, and had the de-facto support of the United States.

          The real mistake was an attack on the USSR.

          • trevalyan says:

            The Soviets would have inevitably attacked Hitler when it suited them. Sealion would have been a hilarious failure, but then with better diplomacy Hitler would not have needed an invasion of Britain. Ah, you say, but to gain the trust of Britain Hitler would have had to forgo Poland and Czechoslovakia!

            That is the point though. The Nazi failure was that of grand strategy, in failing to convince sympathetic allies to join it against the Red Menace. Mitigating the perception of Nazis as naturally duplicitous bigots with an eye to military conquest would be difficult because, in the words of a better animated series in the 21st century, “you can’t undo who you are.”

            • EmmEnnEff says:

              They might have attacked, but they sure would not have done that in 1941. The Winter War demonstrated just how incapable the Red Army was at conducting offensive operations.

              Incidentally, in 1939, Stalin was quite willing to ally with the West AGAINST the fascist menace. Britain and France were unwilling to commit to such an alliance, and Poland was quite tepid on the subject, so he made a deal with the devil, instead.

              • trevalyan says:

                Absolutely- which is why the Nazis had to hit Stalin when they did. Circumstances were hardly ideal, but they were as good as they would get.

                I’m sure Stalin would have loved such an alliance. It would have saved the Soviets considerable pain. Buy knowing the alliance would be worthless, he took a different option to at least buy time. And hope the Germans committed to something truly stupid.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            That’s why my favourite WWII alternate history is Jo Walton’s Farthing/Small Change trilogy. The Third Reich never invades Britain, because the US remains isolationist (no Lend-Lease) so a pro-appeasement UK government signs a peace treaty with Hitler. Although actual historiography doesn’t like to deal with counterfactuals, this seems like one of the more likely alternate scenarios, far more plausible than Operation Sealion somehow not being a disaster, or Hitler deciding not to invade the Soviet Union.

            • trevalyan says:

              If Hitler had finished the job at Dunkirk, it would have meant the end of Churchill’s career and almost certainly led to a temporary peace for the UK. We were quite, quite lucky.

              • Boobah says:

                Then you can thank Hermann Goering; he convinced Hitler to stop the Wehrmacht so Goering’s Luftwaffe could gain the glory of destroying the British expeditionary force.

                If you want an illustration of someone too big for his britches, you can’t get much better than Goering.

                • trevalyan says:

                  The particular debate about who is responsible for Dunkirk has been going for decades with no conclusive answer. I personally think Hitler believed the British were imminently going to ally with him, so he spared the expeditionary force in an uncharacteristic act of mercy. Regardless, maybe Goering counseled the same? I’m not sure, it’s as good an explanation as any.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    This is the explanation I most often came across as well.Hitler was always pro west oriented and was frankly surprised that england did not just let him have poland.

                    • trevalyan says:

                      While the idea that Hitler was pro-white is a common one, even setting aside the Slavs (which is unforgivably questionable) Hitler went out of his way to humiliate rivals like France… well, mainly France. He was a Teutonic supremacist, which is a pickier version of white supremacy with equally shaky justification.

        • Adeon says:

          I’m guessing you haven’t played New Colossus but Hitler isn’t dead in the Wolfenstien universe, he’s living on Venus. That being said he doesn’t seem to do much of the day to day work running the Reich.

      • BlueHorus says:

        Really think about your answer.

        Um, you do realise this is a Wolfenstein game, right? I don’t think you’re supposed to really think about much in them.

        But regardless, oppressive regimes like national socialism can succeed – even thrive – if they’re smart about it. Make sure that life is just good enough under the system so that the majority of people can, more or less, get on with their lives. Speaking out or protesting is really costly (i.e death or prison) – but also make it clear that if people don’t make a fuss, they and their loved ones can live in relative peace and security (also fear).
        Ensure that the people who are already powerful in your society (especially the army!) benefit from your system. Then they’ll be invested in it and will help.
        If you want to make an example, pick a well-known minority that is already mistrusted, well-known, and relatively powerless (like Jews in 19th/20th century Europe) to show exactly what happens to dissenters.

        And so on. Oppressive countries have been functioning in ways like this for centuries. And if one were powerful and smart enough, they could in theory conquer the world.

        • trevalyan says:

          I agree with everything you said, especially the notion that TNC is a thinking-optional game. You didn’t mention that fascist nations may be popular if they vigorously reduce unemployment, as the Nazis absolutely did from a shocking pre-Nazi peak, and with considerably more success than FDR enjoyed.

          But eliminating unemployment is beyond the ability of the grotesquely incompetent. It has been beyond the ability of most American administrations. In the same vein, soldiers competent enough to conquer America should probably be able to capture BJ. Unless he really is the Ubermensch, as opposed to just a burly brown-haired white dude protagonist with an extra serving of determination, which is an interesting thematic decision.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            But eliminating unemployment is beyond the ability of the grotesquely incompetent.

            Untrue. Eliminating unemployment is easy: Just give everyone a government job. Or just give them a government handout so that they leave the labor market. It’s creating constructive employment and a sustainable situation that’s difficult, and many people argue that the German economy under Hitler was based on an unsustainable military build-up that would have led to a collapse if he hadn’t started invading countries and looting them.

            • trevalyan says:

              FDR tried that path. His results, as I said earlier, were vastly inferior to Hitler’s. Yes the military would have been useless if they remained unused, but then you can hardly run a factory if you refuse to sell your product. Hitler was ruinous for a lot of nations, especially his own, but the majority of German workers enjoyed considerable benefits to his rule. At least for a while.

              At any rate, even a half decade of vastly improved living standards puts paid to the notion that no one in Germany knew what they were doing.

              • Bloodsquirrel says:

                FDR never went so far as to give everyone a government job. And his results being inferior to Hitler’s isn’t saying much- FDR’s results were catastrophically bad, extending a depression with no external cause for twelve years until WW2 created enough overseas demand to finally fix things for him.

                At any rate, even a half decade of vastly improved living standards puts paid to the notion that no one in Germany knew what they were doing.

                Increasing living standards in a period of time where industrialization and technology were advancing and when your starting point is the utter economic ruin following WWI is hardly a great accomplishment. Even the Soviet Union managed to increase living standards for some of the people who they didn’t manage to starve to death in man-made famines. When you’re starting from a point where lots of people don’t even have electricity it’s not that hard.

                • trevalyan says:

                  So Stalin made leaps forward. Which were still not enough to prepare the front line for Hitler. What other nations brought employment down from 30% to 1%? None, at least not until the war was in full swing.

                  • Redrock says:

                    The fact that the frontline “wasn’t prepared” for Hitler wasn’t an industrial or economic problem. The USSR had more and better tanks and people. The problem was almost exclusively tactics, discipline and lack of leadership. And, in all fairness, the wicked effectiveness of the German army. The fact that Hitler’s forces weren’t crushed in 1941 is due to sheer stupidity on Stalin’s part more than anything else. Which is why the way the war hit the Soviet people is really tragic.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        It’s purely out of curiosity that I ask: how can an ideology be completely out of touch with reality (that it was savage and evil is undisputed), yet be able to conquer the world?

        By taking advantage of existing institutions and people that were formed in more rational days. The Wehrmacht of WWII was built out of the pieces of the Imperial German Army of WWI, and of an ancient Prussian military tradition that preceded it. It included a lot of generals who weren’t hardcore believers, but who were still loyal to the German state.

        Nations are large, complex things that have a lot of momentum, and they can coast along for a while with crazy people at the top before they collapse. Realists, pragmatists, and opportunists still find their ways into positions of power and can keep things going for a little longer. The opposite can be true as well: sometimes even a competent leader can’t turn the ship around before it hits the iceberg. The Roman empire survived Caligula and Nero, but as things went on even the reasonably competent emperors couldn’t stop the inevitable.

        Hitler took advantage of an existing military institution to do things that he could have never achieved if he’d had to build it from the ground up, and likewise probably wouldn’t have been possible if the system had been left to decay under his leadership for another ten or twenty years.

        • trevalyan says:

          Historically, this flies against the record. The earlier takeovers of the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria were conducted in spite of the Wehrmacht’s leadership. Not because of them. Even then, there are two competing notions:

          1) Hitler made a serious mistake (in terms of practicality, not the obvious moral mistake) in ordering a massive miltary buildup and restructuring in preparation for conquest.
          2) The strength and ability of the Wehrmacht pre-dated Hitler and therefore he had no particular credit in empowering them.

          Either can be right. Both can be WRONG. But they cannot both be right. In particular, the generals empowered by Hitler are the ones who developed successful German doctrines. This matters, because the notion that Nazis are both completely incompetent AND world-conqueringly successful is one that is also present in the new Star Wars trilogy. And it drives me up the wall.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            The earlier takeovers of the Rhineland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria were conducted in spite of the Wehrmacht’s leadership. Not because of them.

            I’m not sure in what sense you mean this. The Rhineland wasn’t “taken over”, it was part of Germany that they had just been forbidden to move troops into. Austria was annexed without any fighting.

            But they cannot both be right.

            Yes they can. Hitler wasn’t building up from scratch. He didn’t find Rommel and Guderian working at a coffee shop; they were decorated military officers from WWI. The Imperial German Army wasn’t completely annihilated after WWI; a core of commanders and officers remained and they were the ones who rebuilt the Wermarcht when ordered by Hitler. Or, more accurately, who accelerated the build-up when ordered by Hitler, since rearmament had been in the works since before Hitler came into power.

            Hitler’s own men proved somewhat less competent. Goring, for example, was a party man put in charge of the Luftwaffe, and is largely considered to have bungled things. Himmler was appointed as a military commander despite a total lack of experience, and failed completely. If Hitler was building the Wermarcht from the ground up you’d likely see far more Gorings and Himmlers in key positions.

            Giving Hitler credit for the strength of the Wermarcht without establishing what, exactly, he contributed to the rebuilding other than ordering it to be done doesn’t make much sense.

            • trevalyan says:

              The Rhineland was not under German control. If you cannot move troops into a territory, you are not in control of it. Anyways, all three locations had German troops moved in to ensure Nazi order, and if any one had failed Hitler would have been deposed. That is how the Wehrmacht opposed him.

              I’m not sure what will convince you that Hitler was instrumental in developing the Wehrmacht, when the term itself did not exist before 1935. The military swore oaths of loyalty to Hitler, at a time when such oaths were considered important. Developing the German military- in secret, to avoid stepping on Versailles- is a decision only the head of state can make. Turning Germany into a war machine, and later using captured weapons to arm his soldiers, was a decision that generals are not qualified to make. You are confusing personal development of tactics and local strategy, which Hitler clearly delegated, with the broader strategy which required his approval… and clearly had considerable input from his office.

              NB: Himmler was only appointed for his loyalty near yhe war’s end, and was in no way a serious commander. Goering had successes and failures, but overall was successful until the Battle of Britain- whose failure can be laid firmly at his door, and that of Hitler himself. Portraying Rommel and Guderian as not -actually- Nazis smacks of revisionism, and I want no part of it.

          • MichaelGC says:

            Uh-huh. So what’s your personal view, then? Incompetent and evil, or great? Really think about your answer.

            (Personal view of the First Order, I mean. It seems fairly clear what you think about Hitler.)

            • trevalyan says:

              Oh, the First Order is both incompetent and successful. It’s one thing for the Space Nazis to fail at two superweapon projects, but to build another in space Argentina with vastly fewer resources? (Which is Abrams’ explicit inspiration.) Yeah, that is just taking the piss. And the New Republic actually surrenders to these clowns! France put up a better fight.

              In the end, I’m not interested in debating the flow of power in new Star Wars. The strength of the players ebb and flow without anything backing them up. The Republic collapsed at a pace Hitler would have found unexpectedly fast: no doubt their victory will come from writer fiat. And that after being in a much worse position than the Rebels at the end of TESB.

              If I sound like I care way too much about making the Reich’s decisions look good, remember that I think their grand strategy was fatally flawed. Could I do better, even with hindsight? No, and neither could you. But the past must be understood, at the bare minimum, or future decisions will be disastrously bad. I don’t think Wolfenstein needs to pander to history nerds, but their complete divorce from the hows and whys of Nazi success in their world are severely flawed. And that has grim implications for the themes they try to express. Hitler was an evil monomaniac, but most of Europe did not fall because its love for anti-Semitism. The whole point of history is to discard the propaganda and learn.

      • Gethsemani says:

        Have you read Adam Tooze’s The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy? He goes into great detail on how the Nazi economy was inherently unstable, how pretty much all economic progress the Nazis showed were mirages meant to trick people into thinking it was going great, when it was coming close to crashing all throughout the 30’s. Much of the “Nazi economic miracle” was Goebbels propaganda concealing ever increasing shortcomings in the autarky plan, to the point that even the “employment miracle” mostly consisted of forcing unemployed people to show up for “work programs” where they, sometimes literally, dug holes and re-filled them over and over or performed construction work with manual labor instead of machines so that it would require more manpower. A lot of unemployed men were also conscripted into the army, and thus were taken out of unemployment calculations.

        Tooze also mentions the previously discussed instability of the Third Reich and how Hitler explicitly played his subordinates out against each other to maintain a power balance in which no one could ever have enough power to threaten his power.

        More pertinently, and this is veering dangerously close to Shamus’ No Politics-rule so he’s free to delete it if it crosses the line, the basic premise of Nazi ideology is wrong. The racial and eugenic theories at the core of Nazi ideology are wrong, as in they have since been disproven and were pretty far out there even at the time. The idea of discrete races (peoples in Hitler’s parlance) occupying distinct nations that took on the properties of the people is bunk. In Nazism the Aryan has always lived in Germany and Scandinavia and always will unless another people overtake them. The British people have always been on the British isles etc.. Yet today we know that this isn’t true. We know that the people on the British isles today displaced the old inhabitants and intermixed with other conquerors (The Celts were displaced by the Saxons, who intermingled with the Norse and the Normans), for example.

        Hitler literally argued that the Jewish people were crafty and sneaky because unlike other people they lacked a nation, instead infiltrating the nations of other people and sabotaging them from within. This was also his argument against the Roma, coincidentally. In Nazism war is inevitable because the races are constantly struggling for land, resources and dominance. Germany was on the brink of destruction in Hitler’s view because the perfidious Brit and Frenchman had managed to corner Germany (after the Jewish had tricked Germany into surrendering in WW1), forcing it into a situation where it could not expand sufficiently to allow its’ people the opulence it deserved. Hence, Germany had to fight now or suffer a slow death of starvation and displacement as the US, UK and France forced Germany into ever increasing submission.

        And as if that wasn’t enough the Jews had also tricked the Russians, making them adopt Bolshevism, which was actually a conspiracy to destroy the proud Aryan people. Marxism was not an actual political ideology to Hitler, but a Jewish conspiracy to trick people into thinking peoples could co-exist, when the truth in Nazism was that different people could do nothing but struggle against one another. If Marxism was allowed to spread, the Jews would achieve hegemony and neuter the strong peoples. This was of course in the interest of the US, which is why Jewish bankers in the US were so eager to help the USSR in Nazi propaganda.

        I mean, all of the above is bordering on paranoid delusion. Nazism was an ideology completely out of touch with political reality at the time, based on incomplete and flawed comprehension of darwinism and eugenics and a great trauma of having lost World War 1 (and loads and loads of anti-semitic conspiracy theories). That Nazis were out of touch with reality politically does not mean that they were ineffectual, however, and one should never make the mistake of thinking that the two go hand in hand. Hitler was delusional, but he was also extremely ambitious and managed to gather a lot of ambitious and capable people around him.

        One of the Nazis greatest achievements was how they managed to align themselves closely to the leaders of German industry, which allowed the Nazis to rapidly expand their military in order to seize the opportunity that the general disarmament around Europe presented in the late-30’s. That and the cult of the Leader, which would keep the war going long after it was obvious to everyone that it was lost.

        • trevalyan says:

          If I can stipulate that Killing Jews is Bad, which people here should be fine with, can we agree that a book which claims Nazi Germany mainly relied on pointless workfare programs is completely worthless? Economists were making similar arguments against the Nazis even at the time, sometimes up until the Nazis completely subjugated their governments. Galbraith and AJ Taylor, to name but a few public figures, realized the truth of the Nazi economic policies in building giant and effective projects like the Autobahn, which would compare favorably to unemployment/ wage increases in the Soviet Union. And resulted in millions fewer deaths due to famine.

          • Gethsemani says:

            So, let me get this straight, your argument is that the work which is currently considered the gold standard in understanding the economy of the Third Reich is actually not worthy of consideration? This based on one of its’ findings regarding the ‘Economic Miracle’ the NSDAP supposedly orchestrated in the 30’s.

            Mind you, the part about work programs is just a small cog in the elaborate jury-rigging that the Nazis engaged in to make their economy hold together until they could start gobbling up the gold reserves of their neighbors to keep their economy going. Things like state mandated pricing schemes, the four year plans, government enacted salary freezing, government regulation on who got to import goods (based on a weekly quota of Reichsmarks unevenly distributed to companies that wished to import goods), 25%+ of GDP going to the military (later rising to over 40%). We’ve also got Government take over of private companies (such as with Junkers), government enforced industry organizations created so that various industries could figure out how to sell their products at a loss to the state in return for unreliable bonds or future tax breaks. We’ve got literal government dictate on what should be produced and what shouldn’t be produced. We’ve got the Volkswagen scheme, where the Nazis demanded a car made so cheap it simply wasn’t possibly on the economy of scale that Germany had, yet “sold” tens of thousands of these cars to the German people prior to the war (and invested millions in the project), with not a single car being delivered. We are talking about the same people who realized Germany had a serious agricultural problem with too many farmers, too little land and too many landed estates, but who still figured it was a good idea to create “colonies” where cityfolk would move out to the countryside and get their own plot of land, in order to “reconnect” with the soil (all because Nazis are big on Blood and Soil rhetoric). Not surprisingly these colonies were disasters that wasted valuable farmland, because cityfolk didn’t know how to be farmers.

            Tooze is the current authority on the economy of the Third Reich and his verdict is that the Nazi’s were terrible at managing the German economy and that even if they had won the war, the economy would have been unsalvagable any way. Their strength was that their total lack of economic sensibilities allowed them to leverage the economy towards the war they sought in a way that no nation that sought to preserve their economy ever would have.

            • trevalyan says:

              Gold reserves?! I’ll let you liberally quote from Tooze to show how this was a major component of the Nazi economy. If you have peaceful trade with other countries in the early 20th century, gold and foreign reserves are necessary to pay for trade. This was clearly not the case for the Nazis: with continental Europe under their control, nations were looted for resources and labor, to the point of actual slave labor being used. Nations that would consider trade with the Nazis (like Japan) would see incredible vulnerability to the British Navy. I can assert that among the many reasons for German collapse, lack of gold is well down the list. If you can argue otherwise with more than an appeal to authority, please do so.

              The notion of wage/ price controls and government regulations indicating an imminent collapse of the German economy is unconvincing. The major belligerents all needed measures at least as strong. Given how much Germay relied on naked force for state policy, I’m just surprised GDP to military never went to 40%. As a free market state Nazi Germany was clearly a failure. As a military juggernaut, their success speaks for itself.

              Above are my major points: the failure of the KdF-car was clearly because it would be an obvious waste of war production. As for the notion of Germany having too many farmers and not enough land: as of 1942, after implementing their lebensraum program, that argument is clearly insane. If Tooze made it, that is the only rebuttal his work requires. If it is your argument alone, it is fatally flawed for obvious reasons.

  4. Methermeneus says:

    I’ll reveal my shocking opinion next week.

    Same bat day, same bat blog!

    Sorry, nothing constructive to add, so I’m going for the cheap laugh.

  5. Redrock says:

    I thought the ending to The New Order was perfect. It made so much sense for BJ to die there. He was so haunted and tired over the course of the game, a man out of time, with a single mission – killing Deathshead. Them killing each other worked in so many ways. The final monologue and fire order was pitch perfect. And then they went and mucked it up by making a sequel.

    On the subject of Fergus and Wyatt, The New Colossus helped me make up my mind that the Wyatt timeline is supposed to be the default one. That’s based on the fact that he was in the trailer and that he gets a big speech in the finale, while Fergus doesn’t. The whole acid thing, while silly, just seems to connect better with other characters, like Seth and his artifact, while Fergus’s arm woes seem to be primarily about him.

    • ThaneofFife says:

      Having played both the Fergus and Wyatt timelines in New Order, I went with the Fergus timeline in New Colossus. I just find Fergus really likeable compared to Wyatt, who was kind of bland.

      Completely agree on BJ dying in New Order, though. It would have been great if New Colossus had either made Anya the protagonist, or done something crazy like making BJ a disembodied spirit who can possess willing members of the resistance, or something like that.

    • BlueHorus says:

      Absolutely.
      Next game stars a new recruit who’s inspired by BJ’s sacrifice. Put a statue of BJ (that sounds somewhat dodgy…) in the tutorial, make his death part of the plot of the next game.

      Would anyone really notice/care if the hero of the next game was a different grizzled white dude?

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or,make another kind of reboot,which is not unheard of for this franchise.Why have an actual sequel?

      • Redrock says:

        Why not Anya? Give her the power armor and off we go. Make her talk with BJ in her head if you want to keep the voice overs. Simple.

        • ThaneofFife says:

          Totally agree. Anya’s backstory suggests that she would be great at stealth gameplay, too. In New Order, during the underwater mission, Anya starts reading “her cousin’s” diary to BJ in audio logs. Spoiler: It’s basically a memoir of an adult life spent covertly killing Nazis without raising suspicion. And, of course, it turns out that it’s Anya’s own diary at the end.

    • Duoae says:

      Me too! I actually felt the ending was the perfect denouement to the story. I felt sad but cathartically-so.

    • krellen says:

      Making the sequel didn’t muck things up. Insisting that BJ Blazkowicz had to be the protagonist of the sequel did.

      There is no law saying “Game 2” has to star the same person as “Game 1”. They should have just introduced a new protagonist.

      • Redrock says:

        I mean, I get why they didn’t. BJ is the face of Wolfenstein. But I guess it’s not like that’s what people play the games for – it’s for the sweet, sweet Nazi murderfest. So, yeah, they should have taken the risk.

    • Soldierhawk says:

      I can’t choose anyone but Wyatt, ever. He’s so young, and so afraid.

      Fergus accepts his death, and asks you to chose him. I can’t ever do anything other than that.

      :(

  6. Nathan says:

    I have not played New Colossus, but I played the first one and was surprised by the reception it received. It was a decent game, a Half-Life style first person shooter, but I was really bothered by the ridiculousness of the premise (robo-dogs, zombie cyborgs) and grimness of the game (the concentration camp, the overall hopeless tone). We didn’t really have this in earlier Wolfenstein games, perhaps because they weren’t interested in BJ as a character. Does anyone else think that there is a tonal clash in these games?

    • Redrock says:

      I was really bothered by the ridiculousness of the premise (robo-dogs, zombie cyborgs)

      As opposed to what, transdimensional zombifying headcrabs? Or cybernetically enhanced demons from the christian afterlife on Mars? Or maybe Mecha-Hitler?

      • Ivan says:

        Also as opposed to: zombies with guns implanted in their chests, demonic/mutant posessions, travelling to hell or similar and killing the Angel of Death? (Which the previous games had)

    • Isaac says:

      there is a tonal clash but it works to the game’s benefit imo (like Metal Gear Solid!)

    • Hector says:

      I agree with this; I found a serious tonal split and just couldn’t get over it. There’s something *ugly* in this the core of this series that I can’t get over. It revels in the grossness of its world thinks that cartoon antics make up for it. It emphatically does not, for me anyway. The combination of trying to be ultra-serious and “realistic” alongside the over-the-top cartoonishness just breaks it for me.

      I understand not everyone has this reaction, and I don’t have this response to violent games normally. This one just hit the limit.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    but for now I just want to note how long this introduction is

    Its still in the safe margin of 10 millipersonas.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im on team wyrgus.It does roll of the tongue nicely.

  9. Lazlo says:

    I haven’t played the game, but your talk of many long cutscenes brings up another point about playing games in general: I have kids, and a wife, and dogs, and sometimes, stuff happens. Stuff that needs my immediate attention. I (and my family (but not my dogs)) understand that the very nature of multiplayer games makes them un-pausable. Which is why MMO’s are (for me) largely relegated to times when the kids and dogs are asleep and it’s unlikely that anything chaotic is going to happen in my home.

    But everything else in my life really needs to be pausable. Netflix is pausable. My DVR makes TV pausable. Kerbal Space, Skyrim, Fallout, are all pausable, even in the middle of highly concentrated gameplay. The big problem I have with most game cutscenes (and I don’t know whether Wolfenstein suffers from this) is that they are usually both un-pauseable and un-replayable. If they’re short, that’s excusable. If my dogs decide that they need a walk *RIGHT NOW* 30 seconds into a two minute cutscene, I can probably get them to wait for another 90 seconds. But if there’s an 11 minute un-pauseable un-replayable cutscene that contains important plot information, then I’m either going to miss out on that plot completely, or I’m gonna need to go get a mop once I’m done watching. Neither of those are pleasant options. For me, it’d be better to just not play that game at all.

    • ThaneofFife says:

      Completely agree–all cutscenes should be pausable, and include rewind and the ability to turn on closed captions mid-way through.

      I had a similar problem with Fallout 4 last night. The game almost treats conversations like they’re cutscenes, but then will interrupt them with random events. I was talking to the leader of Twinpines Bluff (or whatever it’s called) about his raider problems, and the settlement was randomly attacked by two super mutants. Afterwards, the settlement leader had disappeared, and I had no idea what he wanted me to do (until I checked my quest log, which had updated without telling me).

      (I accidentally posted a separate comment as a reply to this. I’m moving it to its own comment now.)

      • Nimrandir says:

        The Errant Signal video on Fallout 4 featured that particular problem. The protagonist was chatting with a ghoul while super mutants and different ghouls fired lasers and explosives at each other in the background.

        I had a similar issue crop up last night. I was roughly 60% of the way through a quest-related structure when I got one of those radiant ‘Settlement Foo is under attack!’ messages. My understanding is that those things are on a timer, which put a cramp on my desire to talk to an NPC at the end of the road.

        I’d think they could restrict the scripting on those events to trigger only when in the overworld.

    • Galad says:

      Oor treat it like a multiplayer game instead?

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I always wonder how it is that so few games implement cutscenes that can be paused at any time.Weirder still,how is it that its ubisoft games that implement them.

      • Nimrandir says:

        I want to say that most Square Enix games have pauseable cutscenes. I can’t say how far back they go, but I recall having the ability to pause cinematics in Final Fantasies XII and XIII.

        EDIT: apparently that only applied to the game’s in-engine cutscenes. Guess I got lucky.

      • Redrock says:

        I think that’s because Ubisoft’s cutscenes are in-engine. I’ve been playing the Tales of games recently, and they do the same thing. You can pause any in-engine cutscene, but not those rare anime-style cutscenes. Oh, and Bayonetta does the same, I think. Sorry, I’ve been really into Japanese games on PC for a while, so most of my references and examples are that way for now.

      • default_ex says:

        Not just pausing but the ability to replay or rewind them. It gets even weirder that we don’t get that stuff when you actually know what goes into creating an cutscene. Pre-recorded video is simple enough, very few codecs don’t expose the required functions for proper playback controls. For in-engine animation it would take a very minor amount of effort. Your typical video game animations are just a series of bone transforms and world transforms that get interpolated with a function that literally accepts a percentage (in linear algebra form) between start and end frames.

        I’ve only played one game that when I hit pause during a cut scene that gave me the option to replay it. I believe that was Star Ocean 3. None that gave me the option to rewind it without loading a previous save and playing up to it again. Far too often I wish I had that feature.

  10. ThaneofFife says:

    I love Fergus, but I felt like his story arc really got shortchanged. Not-so-briefly, he loses an arm to General Engel, and then gets a robotic arm in the next cutscene. The problem is that the new arm seems to be controlled by Fergus’ id. It punches him, makes obscene gestures, and gets into all sorts of mischief. Fergus has a crush on a fellow resistance fighter (which BJ can help by delivering a letter during one of the sections set in the sub base), and wants to prove his intentions are honorable. So, of course, when they all get drunk the night before the final battle, he works up the courage to tell her, and his robotic arm grabs her breast–so she slaps him and walks away. Fergus takes off his arm, beats it on the wall, and throws it away. During the next section on the sub, BJ finds both Fergus and his love interest sulking in separate rooms, and has to go look for Fergus’ arm before they can storm the Ausmerzer.

    Then the game… just kind of leaves it there. It’s like, is that really the whole story that you wanted to tell about this character? Did you want to tie that up somehow? Maybe have the voice actors say something during a section set on the sub (thus avoiding an expensive cutscene)? I love Fergus, but his arc in New Colossus just kind of fizzled out.

    • Redrock says:

      Which is why I think they left him in as an afterthought. I really think they should have commited to one timeline for the sequel. That two-timelines thing is getting stretched a bit too thin. The fact that it forces different wepons on you depending on your choice is also quite annoying, especially since you aren’t told that when you make the choice.

      • ThaneofFife says:

        Did you try the Wyatt timeline? How was the laser weapon there? I thought the Fergus version in New Colossus was clearly inferior to the laser from New Order, in which the laser targeting could hit every single enemy in your scope at once–usually draining your entire battery in the process. It was a great way to clear rooms when you were in a tight spot. They also removed the “cutting through walls” mechanic, which I had liked a lot.

        • Redrock says:

          You get a fire based weapon instead in the Wyatt timeline. Manually triggered sticky bombs. Nothing to write home about, but it’s new, so it doesn’t feel like an inferior version of something from TNO, which made it feel slightly better to me.

  11. BlueHorus says:

    The designer put a huge focus on the story here. You can’t use the excuse that “The story doesn’t matter”, because they clearly spent a fortune on it.

    This really reminds me of the two most recent Xcom games. XCOM: EU had (to me) exactly the right amount of story: the bare minimum, mostly delivered through background chatter between your two scientist/advisors*. There were short cutscenes for autopsies & interrogations, cryptic comments from an alien leader in the late game, and that was about it.

    But XCOM 2 decided it needed more story. And so now there were lengthy, expensive-looking cutscenes telling us this convoluted, cliche, nonsense story…that ends on a cliffhanger!
    The cutscenes would have been great – for a better story. Not for this. I’m reminded of Shamus begging Bethesda to hire an actual writer during the Fallout 4 Spoiler Warning series.
    And don’t get me started on the ‘plots’ of XCOM 2’s DLC…

    *(Incidentally, GODDAMMIT VAHLEN SHUT UP ABOUT THE FLIGHT COMPUTERS AND GET OFF THIS CHANNEL I’M TRYING TO RUN A COMBAT OPERATION HERE)

    • trevalyan says:

      I would like to be treasurer of your “XCOM 2 Sucks” club, BlueHorus. Hold onto that because the thing that irritates me most about XCOM 2 is almost exactly what irritates me most about TNC.

      • BlueHorus says:

        I don’t think XCOM 2 sucks. The gameplay is largely good, the strategic balance of progressing your combat ability vs slowing the enemy’s Avatar Project is an interesting addition, the tactical gameplay is fun – and there’s mod support, which is fantastic.
        (YMMV on all the above of course.)

        Its just the story. XCOM: EU was a cliche done well: minimally, because the story’s not the point. But the sequel…well, I already said it.

      • Redrock says:

        I thought what everyone hated about XCOM 2 were the timed missions. Don’t we all hate the timed missions?

        • BlueHorus says:

          Not once you install the True Concealment mod (timers only start to go down if/after you break stealth). Then the timed missions are both better and more immersive.

          Makes your force feel a tiny bit more like a guerilla insurgency, which the game has been trying – and failing – to convince you that XCOM is.

    • Syal says:

      And EU’s cutscenes were mostly just much more elaborate versions of the original game’s one-screen text blocks.

    • Decius says:

      There’s no cliffhanger. It’s the end of the part where you fight against the Ethereals, and a teaser glimpse of the aquatic elder gods that they were fighting.

      It’s not THAT hard to keep up with the lore of the seventh game in the franchise.

      • BlueHorus says:

        Sure, there’s some terrible thing at the bottom of the ocean that the Ethereals were fighting all along. It’s less ‘cliffhanger’ than it is ‘sequel hook’…

        …which is still something that irks me. What’s wrong with telling the whole of a story in one game, and then the sequel is a different, related story? Did you really have to explicitly leave unanswered questions, game?

        (Also, said sequel hook relies at least partly on a 22-year old game I’ve never played. I think. I know True Fans will get it, but still, bleh.)

        • Viktor says:

          Depends on what you mean by sequel hook. Done well, a sequel builds off existing elements from the original and expands on them. A good hook makes that easier, but that very much depends on the hook. A post-credits scene introducing a new villain is basically a teaser trailer and is worthless for building a world that feels real. The villain’s second-in-command escaping with the McGuffin during the climactic fight leaves options open for future installments. The villain is dealing with his own threats other than the heroes and someone unknown strikes at the villain, weakening him for the hero? That leaves people asking questions and eager for the sequel, which is what you want.

    • Philadelphus says:

      ALSO I’M SORRY THAT I BLEW UP ALL THE ALIENS YET AGAIN VAHLEN, BUT I REALLY NEED THESE ROOKIES TO SURVIVE SO THEY CAN GET PROMOTED AND WE CAN START TAKING A CHANCE ON KILLING THINGS WITH BULLETS RATHER THAN GRENADES.

      I rather agree with you in general. XCOM 2 has more interesting gameplay (and the ability to mod it to make even more interesting choices is great), and I actually rather liked the whole “you as the Commander are an actual character in the game” thing going on, but I play games like XCOM for the randomization that makes different playthoughs, well, different. (In fact most of my games library is made up of games that offer such unlimited replayability, rather than story-heavy games.) Having too much story that’s the exact same every time kinda detracts from the experience in my opinion.

      I’ve been holding off on getting the War of the Chosen expansion partly for that reason, now that I think about it; the game mechanic changes look great, I like a lot of what they’ve added and changed, but it also seems like they’re doubling down on some of the story-driven missions, which are fun the first time or two but start to drag after that.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Almost all of the new things in war of the chosen are great.Except for the zombies.Zombies are the most boring thing ever.Oh they start out interesting,as a third faction that will attack both you and the aliens*,but end up being just something you spend a bunch of time mopping up with ease.Because they are all the same weak trash all the time.Even the ones that have more health are the same ones.

        *This was actually done well in the spinoffs,especially afterlight.

        • BlueHorus says:

          Don’t forget the reveal animation for EVERY group of them that turns up on the map. Because regularly pausing the gameplay to watch a five-second clip of a zombie turning around dramatically is never going to get old, right?

          But the lost aren’t the most boring/worst thing about WOTC. That honour goes to the way the Chosen call you up on the Avenger/tactical map screen to monologue at length about how you’re shit and they’re going to kill you.
          All the time.
          Unskippably.
          After a few of those calls I couldn’t have cared less about saving the world; I just wanted a way – any way – to shut those idiotic blowhards up.
          Now that, that really impacts repeated playthroughs – the exact same monologues, word for word, every game, only getting more and more annoying.
          Sometimes you just have to wonder what game developers were thinking: how the hell did that get through playtesting?

          • Agammamon says:

            WOTC made me uninstall XCOM 2. Completely.

            They *started out* with way too much camera grabbing where they’re going to show me something, focus on in on it, sit there for several seconds after focusing on it, and then be inconsistent about whether or not the camera returns to its original position or not so I’m always left wondering if its done or not.

            Tons of this.

            Then WOTC ramps that up by a hundred. Everytime a Chosen enters a mission there’s a stupid monologue. Then at the start of a turn there’s one. And you have to sit there until they finish.

            Frankly, given all the tactical mission in it already it was sort of a chore to finish and WOTC made it worse.

            I do think EU/EW were incredible games (even taking the strategy layer’s weakness into account) but XCOM 2 . . . just wasn’t that much fun.

            So I’m back to playing LW in the first game – simply because I can play that one without tearing out what little hair I have left in frustration.

        • Philadelphus says:

          Cool, I actually picked it up today after having written that since I was thinking about it and saw it was on sale. Just waiting for the 30GB (!) download to finish.

          I do feel like the new zomb—I mean the Lost—were a bit of a weird choice thematically, seeing as XCOM:EU/EW already had zombies due to chryssalids. Did we really need another flavor of them that we now can’t call zombies because the name’s already been taken? Maybe they wrote themselves into a corner by changing chryssalids in XCOM 2 not to make zombies anymore, I dunno. The different gameplay they enable (I’ve watched some videos/streams) definitely seems interesting, but…this was the most interesting lore spin they could put on it?

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Nah,the chosen are the most interesting lore spin.And it shows.They are cool to fight.The bonds between your soldiers is also a nice addition.

          • Droid says:

            Seriously, they don’t make Chryssalid zombies anymore? I’ve been playing Long War 2 for so long that I thought they did that in vanilla as well.

            Don’t forget there are ALSO Psi zombies. And they ALL work completely differently as well: the Chryssalid zombies were supposedly controlled by the unhatched Chryssalid, the psi zombies by the Sectoids and this seemingly uncontrolled third type of zombie shows up en masse and is both hostile to XCOM and the aliens.

            Is it really that far-fetched to say that three different types of zombies with three different behaviours and three different explanations for “waaah, zoooombeeee!” is a bit much for one game??

            • Philadelphus says:

              I actually had to check while writing to remember that chryssalids don’t make zombies in XCOM 2, as it’s been quite a while since I played, but yeah. Even two distinct types of zombies is pushing it a little, I think.

      • Decius says:

        There’s an option to start after all story missions are done.

  12. Timmareus says:

    Minor addition:
    While Ausmerzer would probably indeed be translated to Eradicator in English, the word ‘ausmerzen’ has a notable and particularly negative connotation. You would pretty much only use it while speaking about particularly vile vermin. It conveys your personal disgust with the subject.

    I only played the 2009 game so far, and in that the grasp of the German language was… limited, so I can’t say if they picked this word on purpose. It certainly fits very well with a fascist worldview however.

    • Gethsemani says:

      Most likely it was done on purpose. The developers are Swedish and they seem to have at least some people on staff with good grasp of German (as is to be expected in Sweden). This can be seen in the german dialogues, written german collectibles and the LP collectibles, where famous bands are singing their signature song in german instead). They went through a lot of trouble to keep the german authentic and proper, not just ‘can fool someone who doesn’t speak it’.

  13. Blake says:

    “At the start you could either save Fergus Reid or Probst Wyatt III. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a nice portmanteau..”

    Allow me to help:
    Probus
    Frogus
    Fergutt
    or Fatt

    I think my job is done here.

  14. poiumty says:

    I think the cutscene with you surrendering yourself to Engel is both nonsense from a motivation perspective (you know giving yourself in is a death sentence, why expect mercy) and an execution perspective. Like the only reason Engel doesn’t kill you is for a whole plethora of contrived reasons and dumb split-second decisions that all have to go off in sync in order for what happened to actually happen.

    But I’m sure you’ll display a similar criticism next time.

    • Agammamon says:

      Normally, I’d agree with you. Normally I’d say the character avatar should know (in the story) that the villain won’t let his friends go and will just try to kill them all once he’s surrendered.

      Normally this is a stupid hero trope.

      In this particular case, you could make the argument that they were all dead anyway – there’s no place for the player avatar to flee to – so this is just him choosing the heroic death rather than the ‘cowardly one’ (if he’d tried to flee the villain would just use that to tarnish his legacy).

      OTOH, there’s no reason for the villain to offer the trade in the first place.

      OTGH – maybe the villain offered the trade out of perversity, knowing the making the choice was pointless and takes glee in the mental anguish caused no matter which way the PA jumped.

  15. Cubic says:

    OK, so I guess this game wants to tell us Nazis … were bad? Just taking a shot in the dark here.

  16. Cubic says:

    Cut scenes are what makes a game come alive, after all. Maybe they could do a game which is just a single long cut scene next?

  17. Agammamon says:

    I am, nowadays, of the opinion that cutscenes are never worth it.

    Even if they’re well done you watch them once and . . . that’s it. Press skip every playthrough after. Except for the games (looking at you *console*) that make them unskippable.

    If they’re not done well you don’t even watch them once.

    And short ones that return and take control over and over again are as bad as really long ones. Worse really. I *freaking hate* having the camera jerked away from me over and over again.

    In general, if you can’t tell your story while I’m still in control – through the environment and diagesis – then you’re doing it wrong for a videogame.

    Exceptions to this – intro and outro scenes, for example and some stuff that is needed for the story but is happening elsewhere. But cutscenes tend to be either writers wanking off or producers looking for stuff they can put in the marketing trailer.

    • Agammamon says:

      Wait, there’s no ‘are you not a spammer’ button. HOW WILL I KNOW?

    • BlueHorus says:

      Well, I can remember times when I was interested in what a cutsence told me. It’s rare, but occasionally, games have a story I care about. And cutscenes are a good enough way to tell a story, iff you’re interested.
      Will agree utterly with others in this comments sections that all cutscenes – ever – should be: A) skippable and B) pause-able, though.

      I *freaking hate* having the camera jerked away from me over and over again.

      Ah, yes. “No, look at this now!” approach to game design. Just wrench the control away from the player to show them something they’ve almost always already worked out or seen before.
      Don’t let that interrupt the flow though, game devs!

    • Christopher says:

      I don’t think cutscenes are worthless at all. Obviously it depends on the game you’re making and the amount of story you want to tell, but if you’re looking to present some story and dialogue and actual scenes in your game? I think cutscenes are a way better option than awkward dialogue trees, or the sort of scenes where you can move around and do whatever while two npcs talk to each other or whatever other workarounds you’ve got. I see first person games in particular do this, because they don’t want to take you out of the first person perspective. Immersive sims have huge trouble with it, and usually try to solve things with audio logs and opponents that talk to you over the radio or from the other side of a glass door or something.

      Cutscenes are valuable when they do everything you can’t do in gameplay, and I think they’ve been used to great effect in for instance Yakuza 0, Saints Row 3 and 4, Persona 5, Bayonetta, Deadly Premonition and the Metal Gear series. They’re great for portraying conversation, or actions you can’t perform in the game, or characters behaving more intimately than normal. They can frame scenes in a filmic way, the difference between watching a _movie_ about boxing or playing a character that just sits in the audience at a boxing ring, watching. Pacing and control of the camera are not minuses, they’re pluses. Even games that are as story bereft and minimalistic as Dark Souls or Shadow of the Colossus benefit from having cutscenes set the stage for the occasional new area or bosses.

      You can still make a bad cutscene, and maybe the writing in one instance or another is too Hollywood, too anime, too whatever for your tastes. But I think cutscenes can be amazing.

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