About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier
Forums
"Music"



Wolfenstein II Part 11: Beating a Dead Panzerhund

By Shamus
on Thursday Apr 12, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

 
 

So the gist of this mission is that Frau Engle flew the Ausmerzer to Hollywood California so she could appear on the Jimmy Carver show, which is obviously based on The Tonight Show with Johnny CarsonCarson took over the Tonight Show in 1962, which means this is about the right point in the timeline.. He’s going to interview her on the show and talk about the time she executed Terror Billy.

Based on this setup, you’d think she’s going down to the surface, right? Like, Carver must have a studio in Hollywood and that’s where she’s going. But when you get to the control room of the Ausmerzer you find out it has a copy of the Carver set. Or maybe Carver runs his show from the Ausmerzer? But then why did the ship need to go to Hollywood?

Revenge. Sort of.

Are these two really supposed to be the final boss? Because we faced a bigger mech like five minutes ago. The only thing that makes these guys the ULTIMATE THREAT is their HP, and we can't see that.

Are these two really supposed to be the final boss? Because we faced a bigger mech like five minutes ago. The only thing that makes these guys the ULTIMATE THREAT is their HP, and we can't see that.

This is one of the reasons the ending feels so abrupt. The “final fight” wasn’t telegraphed at all. Two nameless robo-Nazis drop in and we kill them with no ceremony or buildup. After that we sort of blunder into a TV studio and the end of the game without realizing how close we were to Engel.

BJ’s allies all show up. He’s taken control of the Ausmerzer and shut down the automated defensesApparently you can’t shut off the anti-air systems without an access code only kept on Venus. This seems like a TERRIBLE security system, but whatever., so the rest of the rebels can land their chopper on the roof. They all meet up in the TV studio and his allies point guns at the TV crew to make sure they keep broadcasting.

BJ slips into the theater. Carver and Engel are doing the show to an empty room. It’s just the band and some camera guys. The audience is all cardboard cutouts. BJ slips in and executes Engel with an axe to the face on live television. The good guys win. Game over.

This is incredibly disorienting and unsatisfying. Apparently BJ killed a couple of hundred dudes and took control of the entire airship and nobody thought to get word of this to Engel? Nobody thought they should evacuate their prized war hero propaganda master celebrity general? She doesn’t see this coming at all? Hundreds of people died on the ship and nobody in the TV studio heard about it?

Engel STILL doesn't know we've captured her flagship, even though SHE IS ON THE FLAGSHIP WITH US? How is that even possible?

Engel STILL doesn't know we've captured her flagship, even though SHE IS ON THE FLAGSHIP WITH US? How is that even possible?

For all of the evil shit Engel did in the course of the game, her death is pretty underwhelming. BJ doesn’t have anything profound to say. He doesn’t throw any of her rhetoric back in her face. And call me crazy, but since cutting off people’s heads was such a big part of her schtick, doesn’t it seem like doing the same to her would be a more fitting end? She beheaded Caroline. Disfigured Wyatt in the process of trying to cut off his head. Executed Super Spesh. Finally she beheaded BJ on live TV, so it seems reasonable to expect that this whole TV studio situation exists so that he could return the favor. Shouldn’t these two exchange some words to acknowledge the weight of the grudge between them? Shouldn’t he say something to support or highlight some theme or idea? If nothing else, shouldn’t the writer humiliate her before her death? Shouldn’t she show weakness, fear, or otherwise be brought low, since that was what she did to BJ?

I assumed all those scenes showing Engel leering over the camera, torturing, humiliating, and ultimately beheading the player in first-person were leading up to some sort of karmic payoff. If you’re going to make the player sit through all of that, then it’s pretty reasonable for them to assume this is building up to some sort of horrific retribution.

But no. It’s over in less than five seconds. I mean, remember this moment?

That's not BJ Blazkowicz! The REAL BJ is much taller.

That's not BJ Blazkowicz! The REAL BJ is much taller.

In the context of a power fantasy, doesn’t that sort of graphic cruelty demand some sort of commensurate retribution? Some sort of poetic end? This milquetoast (by the standards of this setting) death actually reminds me of my series on Fable 2, where the bad guy spends the whole game murdering your family, your pet, your friends, and torturing you for months while inflicting untold death and cruelty on the world, and then at the end you shoot him once and he falls and dies off-screen.

You might argue that this is supposed to show how much more noble the good guys are. Sure, Nazis stoop to public beheadings, but WE wouldn’t ever engage in such barbarism! Except, BJ kills her with an axe to THE FACE on live television, so that excuse rings kind of hollow. This death is too gentle to be payback but too barbaric to let our hero claim the moral high ground in terms of methodology. It’s like this ending was written by someone who didn’t know what came before.

The rebels give a speech to the massesNevermind that broadcast television in the 60s wasn’t this centralized and all of the Nazi-owned affiliates would have switched over to “Technical difficulties!” the moment Terror Billy put the axe to Engel’s face. I don’t expect this universe to worry about things like that.. If Wyatt is alive, he gives the speech. If Fergus is alive, then he’s not really fit for the job. Impassioned public oration is not in his skill set, and besides it would be weird for a Scotsman to make this particular appeal to the American people. So if Fergus is alive, then Grace does it. Either way, the heroes tell the American people to rise up and fight their Nazi oppressors.

BJ also recovers his mother’s ring (Engel took it when she captured him back in Texas) and proposes to Anya on television. That’s sweet.

It’s a shame we came all this way to find the ending is so abrupt, unsatisfying, and poorly executed. With some tweaks this could have had a lot more impact.

And Another Thing…

Hey, nice of you idiots to show up after my wife and I killed all the Nazis for you.

Hey, nice of you idiots to show up after my wife and I killed all the Nazis for you.

I realize this last one is really petty, but it really got under my skin. I think the end credits music was the most poorly chosen music I’ve ever heard at the end of a game.

They play We’re not Gonna Take it by Twisted Sister, a hair metal band. The song was released in 1984, which puts it almost a quarter century out of place here in 1961. Worse, it isn’t even the original version of the song. This is a screamo cover, which puts it more like a half-century out of place.

But fine, you can pick an anachronistic song as long as the message is right. Except, this song isn’t about rebellion against autocracy, it’s an adolescent song about rebellion against parental authority. America isn’t mad because they don’t want to eat their vegetables. They’re not fighting for the right to stay up late on a school night. They’re supposedly fighting back against the most murderous regime in the history of our species and it’s obnoxious to infantilize the struggle like this.

Rock doesn’t fit with the style of the game anyway. Wolfenstein has always been pretty heavily focused on the orchestral stuff.

I admit it’s hard to find fitting music from this time period, because the 50s music was a little too timid and the 60s stuff was too anti-war. But the song we have here is stylistically wrong, it’s lyrically wrong, it’s tonally wrong, and it’s temporally wong. And this is on top of the fact that it sucks. Silence would be better than this.

So that’s The New Colossus. It’s not a terrible game, but it’s not as good as what came before and it’s far short of the game it could have been. Which means it’s time to talk about…

Review Scores

Even the PC version of TNC did well, which is pretty frustrating.

Even the PC version of TNC did well, which is pretty frustrating.

So here we have the weakest entry in this series so far, which somehow landed the best review scores. So how did this happen?

I guess it’s time we finally talked about the Nazi elephant in the room: Nazis were in the news last year. A lot of people were worried / pissed off about Nazis. This entire franchise was built around the idea of using the Nazis as punching bags as part of a cathartic power fantasy, so this early-90s nostalgia title suddenly found itself in tune with the national zeitgeist. To me this was no more or less valid than all the anti-Soviet action movies of the 80s or the “terrorist” videogame bad guys of the aughts. “Here is some external force that you find scary / enraging, go to town on them”. This might not be the most mature or nuanced way of thinking about these concepts, but that’s not what power fantasy entertainment is for.

The point is, I can understand why reviewers might really enjoy a Nazi-blasting videogame in 2017. I think think this won New Colossus a lot of slack it doesn’t really deserve.

This situation is really insidious because it mixes lazy “Rah rah Nazis bad!” type cheerleading with crass, clumsy storytelling. It’s like an embarrassing shitty poem praising Martin Luther King Jr. We love MLK, so it’s terrifying to critique the poem because this is the internet and there will always be that one person who accuses you of hating the poem because you’re “a racist”. Criticizing this game puts reviewers into a situation where they need to say, “I’m not a Nazi, BUUUUT…” and that’s never a fun spot to be in when you’re reviewing something for the eternally aggrieved randos of the internet.

These novelty scenes could all work. Gross Hitler with dementia? Badass pregnant woman? The last hope for freedom in America is a black woman breastfeeding her infant? These are all good ideas. Somewhere out there are a handful of people who have always DREAMED of getting that kind of gratification in a game, and this could make them very happy. I actually appreciate the break from traditions and stock characters.

But you can’t just jam random cheap gratification into a story and call it a day. You still need to maintain tension, establish characters, set things up, pay them off, maintain cause and effect, and obey the established rules of the world. It’s not just that you’ll make a shitty story, it’s that even the cheap gratification itself will fall flat if it’s not part of a world we can buy into.

To be clear, I’m not saying the journalists were corrupt or stupid. I’m saying I think our current system of reviewing games is sometimes broken in ways that makes insightful analysis difficult.

Publishers make sure game journalists don’t get a review copy until just before launch, even though games typically go gold several weeks (sometimes even months!) before that point. Technically reviewers could get their hands on the game the moment it goes gold, but publishers use these last-minute review copies to make sure there isn’t enough time for thoughtful analysis. Journalists generally only have time for a single playthrough and not a lot of time for reflection. This forces them to stick to superficial stuff like the state of the basic gameplay and the graphics. They can do analysis later, but by then the sales surge will be over and the Metacritic scores established.

Game journalists need to pay the bills, and what pays the bills is previews, hot takes, and having reviews up on day one. If you’re running a site like Kotaku, IGN, Giant Bomb, Eurogamer, Polygon, or Rock Paper Shotgun, then your choices are to put up with this horrible system or surrender the most profitable traffic to rival sites.

Short deadlines keep journalists from analyzing in depth before launch, and the threat of backlash encourages them to favor safe, conventional positions when assigning review scores.

To reiterate the points I started with:

  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 many of the long-running problems should have been solved by now. Instead of refining the formula, the designers are stagnating in some areas, regressing in others, and failing to fix things that have been a problem since The New Order.
  3. While the story isn’t terrible, it’s also not nearly interesting enough to justify the length of these self-indulgent cutscenes. I don’t have anything against games telling stories that require long cutscenes, and I don’t have anything against simple stories that only exist to facilitate gameplay, but I stand by my rule: You can have as little or as much story as you like in your game, but cutscenes need to be worth watching regardless of length.

But the cutscenes in Wolfenstein: The New Colossus burn a lot of screen time, a lot of money was spent on them, and they’re not as economical as the cutscenes in The New Order. The original did more with less, and I wish that had been reflected in the critical reception of this game.

So that’s a novella on The New Colossus. I didn’t care for it, but I’m still interested in the series and I’m hoping the team can make some creative corrections before the next one gets too far into development. If you enjoy this kind of long-form analysis, please consider supporting my Patreon.

Thanks for reading.

Footnotes:

[1] Carson took over the Tonight Show in 1962, which means this is about the right point in the timeline.

[2] Apparently you can’t shut off the anti-air systems without an access code only kept on Venus. This seems like a TERRIBLE security system, but whatever.

[3] Nevermind that broadcast television in the 60s wasn’t this centralized and all of the Nazi-owned affiliates would have switched over to “Technical difficulties!” the moment Terror Billy put the axe to Engel’s face. I don’t expect this universe to worry about things like that.


 
 
Comments (100)

  1. baud says:

    First!

    (Yeah it’s petty, but I’ve always wanted to do that and I rarely have the opportunity).

    Edit: Also thank you for the serie, Shamus. It was an interesting read.

  2. Redrock says:

    Oh god, I totally missed the fact that the studio was on the Ausmerzer. I just assumed that they flew to the studio offscreen. And that Engel didn’t know about the assault because she was busy preparing for the show or whatever. Granted, I wasn’t paying all that much attention by that point. But still. The true version makes even less sense.

    Props to you for being that kind to game journalists. I have a strong suspicion that most reviewers’ approach to handling The New Colossus wouldn’t have changed if given extra time with the review copy. It would seem that the political message, however crude it may be, is considered more important than both intent and execution. Which, while understandable, is profoundly unhelpful when it comes to consumer advice.

  3. Aaron says:

    on the music for the credits they could have gone with something recognizable from the american revolution, while it would be temporally wrong it would fit with the message of the states rising against an outside tyranny. An added benefit is that those musical pieces actually came out of a nation rising through violent struggles

  4. Dev Null says:

    “And call me crazy, but since cutting off people’s heads was such a big part of her schtick, doesn’t it seem like doing the same to her would be a more fitting end?”

    To be fair; executing someone in the manner they used on you _that didn’t work_ would seem a _little_ bit of an odd choice. This is GameLandia; no one is dead until you’ve personally inspected their brains on the end of a hammer. And all of their clones.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Wolfenstein II: Episode II; Attack of the Engel Clones
      Laugh all you want, but it would save a ton on character modeling.

    • Jabberwok says:

      So just cut off her head, then have him split it with the axe, or squish it with his boot. This game already sounds disgusting enough to have done something like that.

      I honestly do not understand it when games, or movies for that matter, seem to linger so long on a villain + torture porn dynamic. It makes me think that the writer likes their villain better than their protagonist. Which is fine in some movies, but in a power fantasy game, it’s just irritating. I guess Shamus basically already said this in the Fable 2 review; it’s like a GM inserting himself into the story.

      Frankly, Engel is one of the reasons that I will never bother to play this game. I find her unpleasant in every possible way, really. I don’t need my villains sugar-coated, but getting at least some level of aesthetic pleasure out of them is kind of necessary. I don’t understand the appeal of this character, or why I would ever want to sit through long cut scenes of her chopping up the protagonist’s friends. That sounds boring, obnoxious, and gross all at the same time.

      • PowerGrout says:

        Eww, GM self insert, I’ve never thought of it in such terms before now. It makes it a little easier and somehow also much harder to bear. Thanks, I guess?

        • The most successful horror moments I’ve ever had in games, I didn’t even actually describe what happened, I just, you know, HINTED at it, making the players draw the conclusion themselves.

          This is way, way more effective at actually horrifying someone than ANY amount of gore or jump scares. There’s something about what your brain does to draw the conclusion that makes it really hit you hard, because it’s not just seeing what happened but you have to actually follow the steps through in your brain, so it’s not like you saw it . . . it’s like you DID it. Explicit in-your-face goriness can’t match that–your brain somewhat acts automatically to shut it this externally-imposed stuff out so that it doesn’t bother you too much. But there’s no defense against a conclusion that comes from inside your own mind.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        I think some violent games make an extra effort to make their villains HORRIBLE so that the player feels justified doing whatever ultra violence the game allows for while comfortably remaining on the good side. For example, people always think it’s hilarious to point out how Nathan Drake is a mass murderer despite his opponents usually being a gang of pirates or militia companies who execute civilians on sight or whatever.

        • Asdasd says:

          You have to tread a fine line with a villain. A villain that the audience loathes is presumably better than one that nobody cares about – the latter simply isn’t fulfilling the role. The catharsis/pleasure from seeing a villain brought low rises in proportion to the antipathy which the audience feels for them and the amount the hero has to struggle against them.

          But you can push it too far. When your villain is excessively antagonising – and on this mileages will invariably vary – you risk ejecting the audience from their immersion in the story, as the sheer magnitude of puppy kicking going on becomes impossible to ignore.

          • Distec says:

            Fuck Ramsay Bolton (HBO variant).

          • A real villain should have some “good” qualities that the audience can empathize with.

            I don’t mean “good” in the sense that they’re nice to their mother or their dog. But they should have SOME sort of virtue (like bravery, or commitment, or intelligence . . . something), AND a chance to SHOW IT OFF that ISN’T just Hollywood Bullshit such as the old standby “I’m cultured and educated and intelligent because I like Vivaldi, Opera, Chess, or speak a Foreign Language”.

            A bad guy with no virtues whatsoever is a rabid dog, and defeating them is as meaningless as shooting a rabid dog.

            • BlueHorus says:

              Or a point, like Andrew Ryan from Bioshock: “Does a man own the sweat of his brow…” etc.

              Or they’re fun to watch, like the Joker (sometimes is).

              Etc. Something that makes them more than ‘bad’.

            • Viktor says:

              Every villain is the hero of their own story. – John Rogers.

              Fundamentally, a villain should have something they want, preferably something relatively reasonable, and then you just take “what are they willing to do to get it” to it’s illogical conclusion. Fame, wealth, power, sex, love…everybody can understand wanting those. People already sacrifice their health, their lives, their dignity for those. Now just make someone who wants those things so much they’ll sacrifice OTHER PEOPLE’s health, lives, or dignity for it. It’s very easy to end up with a real person who is nevertheless completely horrid by doing that.

              “I’m not evil, I’m just an innovator. Our society needs labor. All I do is enable our laborers to produce as much as possible, by injecting them with gorilla DNA. Sure it makes them rage monsters, but that’s what the collars are for. Yes, some of them object, but they signed the employment contracts. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lunch meeting at Estancio’s. Gorilla men, tear her apart.”

            • Jabberwok says:

              Yeah, this. Basically what I meant in a different comment, but you beat me to it.

          • Jabberwok says:

            Personally, I don’t think the catharsis of defeating a villain necessarily comes from how bad a person they are. It’s more from the liberation of removing the antagonist as an obstacle. In that sense, a villain that is more powerful and constraining means a more satisfying victory. In my mind, the relative morality of the two characters is fairly irrelevant. Otherwise, anti-heros might not work so well.

            I realize this is against the school of thought employed to create many villains, like that obnoxious Game of Thrones kid. Seeing characters like that get what they deserve may be satisfying, but being a dickhead is not what makes a good villain, imo.

            Seeing Luke defeat Darth Vader wasn’t satisfying because I hated Darth Vader, it was satisfying because Vader represented an immovable object in the path of Luke’s story arc. I knew Vader was evil, of course, but he was still a likeable character. We knew his motivations, we knew largely what made him do the things he did, and he made those things fun to watch. Engel, on the other hand, sounds like she does things mostly for the purpose of making the audience dislike her. Any story with what I would call a good antagonist, no matter how evil (or not) they were, always gave me some reason to like them as a character, even if I would never want to be in the same room as them. And good villains make good stories.

            • Syal says:

              Agreed. The villain doesn’t need to be nefarious, they just need to be dangerous and in the way. (Although they have to, you know, do something; Thanos sitting around not interfering in anything for however many movies isn’t villainous, or the Hand with its magical health insurance plan and no other goals for three seasons.)

              it was satisfying because Vader represented an immovable object in the path of Luke’s story arc.

              This leads into my take; I want my cameratime villains to represent larger intangible forces that are the real villains. Vader represented the Empire and the Dark Side as a whole. Joffrey Baratheon (and others) represented the hereditary, self-centered culture of Westeros. Nolanverse Joker represented… something. Unorganized Crime. Maybe power vacuums.

              But to make the cameratime villain a stand-in for an organization, their actions need to fit with what everyone else in the organization would do. Engel makes BJ suck a gun; would every Nazi have done that? BJ’s father is one of the bad guys; would his father have done it? If not, then she’s just one person, and killing her is similar to killing the faceless mooks from earlier; it’s not hitting the real villain.

              • Jabberwok says:

                “But to make the cameratime villain a stand-in for an organization, their actions need to fit with what everyone else in the organization would do. Engel makes BJ suck a gun; would every Nazi have done that? BJ’s father is one of the bad guys; would his father have done it? If not, then she’s just one person, and killing her is similar to killing the faceless mooks from earlier; it’s not hitting the real villain.”

                Good point. The emperor and Vader are literal and figurative manifestations of the Empire’s power. Hence why Luke’s confrontation with the Emperor works so well at the end of Jedi, set against the backdrop of the battle outside. That’s a pretty heavy-handed example, but yeah…

                Another one I was thinking of is the Six-Fingered Man from The Princess Bride. The revenge story in it gains strength because the villain isn’t just reprehensible; he’s also erudite, human, funny, and a defining aspect of the evil the kingdom is capable of. I suppose Engel might qualify for that last one, but I don’t get the sense from these posts that killing her would stop the Nazis from being Nazis (I mean, historically, why would it?), or that her character embodies the Reich in any way beyond general thuggishness.

                I mean, that last part is why Hitler is the obvious choice of villain for any story about Super Nazis.

                • Asdasd says:

                  I really like all of the replies I got in this thread. I definitely agree that the villain doesn’t have to be immoral or unlikeable – a lot of great stories have been told in that vein.

                  On the other hand, giving a villain too many virtues or making them too likeable introduces the possibility that the audience will begin rooting for them instead of the hero. Not necessarily a bad thing, and you can do all sorts of interesting things with sympathetic villains, unsympathetic heroes, heel turns, anti-heroes, and the various shades of white vs white / grey vs grey / black vs black morality.

                  But in terms of traditional storytelling, you tend to maximise audience satisfaction when you provide a clear delineation of sympathies. (Assuming that you don’t go overboard with it and take people out of your story.)

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    On the other hand, giving a villain too many virtues or making them too likeable introduces the possibility that the audience will begin rooting for them instead of the hero.

                    Heck,you can do it even when the villain is capital E Evil,just by making them too charismatic.Rich Burlew did this with xykon,even though he tried,numerous times,to show what an utter despicable skeleton he is.But xykon is just too cool and the fans adore him.

                    • Jabberwok says:

                      I feel like Xykon is actually a perfect example of what I’m talking about. I always enjoy his ‘screen’ time, but I still want Roy and the Order to defeat him. Personally, I don’t see him being likeable as a problem. He is still super evil, and the only way I could be unsatisfied is if his defeat itself is underwhelming for the character that has been built up (say, if he’s immediately killed with an axe to the face).

                      IMO, if a writer has built a villain that the audience enjoys, this is only a problem if the writer fails to make the audience empathize with the protagonist (and switch to only empathizing with the villain instead). Which is already a horrible failure for the story even if the former is not true. In the case of OotS, Rich has built an entire cast of relatable characters, and the confrontation between them and Xykon has been the crux of the entire story and setting.

                    • Yerushalmi says:

                      Rich also directly addressed the problem that Shamus discusses in this post: the dissatisfaction of a villain doing many horrible things but then the good guys fixed it by merely killing him. It’s at http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0763.html, and is one of the more subtly horrifying OOTS strips.

              • Smith says:

                Nolanverse Joker represented… something. Unorganized Crime. Maybe power vacuums.

                Freedom. He represents freedom to the point of chaos and anarchy.

                Ironically, he brings about chaos by exploiting the rules and The System, while Batman supports The System by acting outside of it, being a vigilante.

                • Syal says:

                  Thinking about it, if I had to pick something, I’d say he represents the Snowball Effect. He is what happens when a plan gets put in motion and gets moving too fast for the people in it to keep up. The first improvisations seem logical, the next ones seem necessary, and by the end of it it’s become something no one is comfortable with and everyone on every side is dead.

                  • Lewis Robertson says:

                    To add to this very point, it is made quite clear at the end of Begins that Joker is a manifestation of such a snowballing (bold for emphasis):

                    “Jim Gordon: Oh, it’s Lieutenant now. You really started something. Bent cops running scared, hope on the streets.

                    Batman: But?

                    Jim Gordon: We still haven’t picked up Crane or half the inmates of Arkham that he freed.

                    Batman: We will. We *can* bring Gotham back.

                    Jim Gordon: What about escalation?

                    Batman: Escalation?

                    Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.

                    Batman: And?

                    Jim Gordon: And, you’re wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy… Armed robbery, double homicide, has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.”

  5. Paul Spooner says:

    Typo in footnote 2 “an accenss code”.

  6. Lame Duck says:

    I’m not sure I would be as charitable towards games journalists as you are. You can explain away the reviews as a product of the time constraints limiting proper analysis, but you can’t do the same for all the awards it was nominated for and even won, especially when a lot of them seem to have been for the writing. And, unfortunately, when it’s received so much praise for the quality of the writing, it seems so unlikely that we’ll see much of an improvement in the next installment.

  7. GoStu says:

    While not deserving of the GOLDUN RITER award, I think this game is a great example of why game-makers should not keep trying to ape Hollywood.

    1) They’re not good at it.

    2) Even if they were good at it, it’s all wrong for the medium. Twenty to thirty minutes of gameplay between story beats doesn’t help out Hollywood. As elaborated on in an earlier piece, it gives the viewer a lot of time to think about how it’s not making sense

    3) It’s wrong for the audience, who is here to play a video game. Twenty-seven minutes of “not game” is damn near unforgivable. As described earlier, it is AT BEST self-indulgent.

  8. BlueHorus says:

    Oh man, the game ends with an impassioned speech about freedom from the support characters?

    *BARF*

    Even if the preceeding story hadn’t been a tonal mess that said little/nothing of value, who wants a freakin’ Wolfenstein game to preach at them?

    Also…if you wanted your game to feature the hero killing a symbol of the Nazis on TV (for cinematic effect) why not Hitler? Better than having him die in private, on another planet.

    Then, for the final boss fight, Engel gets in a mecha-suit and the final battle has some personal stakes.
    And maybe also a beheading.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Or even two beheadings! The first one is when BJ knocks the head off the robot, which then starts to fly around Dr. Robotnik style, and eventually he shoots it down RIGHT INTO THE TV STUDIO… etc. Wacky self-aware hijinks seem in embarrassingly short supply in this game.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You get a beheading!
        And you get a beheading!
        And you get a beheading!
        Everybody gets a beheading!!!

        • BlueHorus says:

          Now that, that would be a fun thing to have in a comedy/satire Wolfenstein.
          The Oprah show has been taken over by the Nazi regime (Oprah got arrested/shot) but it’s still running with a different host and very similar style: the Ute Schmeider Show.

          All the book recommendations are Nazi propaganda. The health advice is based on Eugenics. Any guests are nazi generals/high profile collaborators. And instead of prize giveaways, POWs are led into the studio and sentenced by Ute herself – then executed on air while the fake audience cheers.

    • Guest says:

      Pretty sure it’s not preaching, but payoff. Preaching would happen in the second act, as part of the rising action and as the moral message of the story is challenged and accepted.

      This is meant to be a triumphant speech to reward the player for having stoked the flames of revolution, and leave the story in the place for a sequel. I highly doubt that you’d call BJ’s ruminescing over the ending of the TNO preaching.

      That doesn’t mean it’s good, but it’s not preaching, which is a pretty weak complaint at the best of times.

  9. Jason says:

    So, having played none of the new Wolfenstein games, it sounds like it might be worth it to play The New Order, and then just stop. Is that a fair assessment? Or is The Old Blood worth playing?

    • Redrock says:

      The Old Blood is just about ok. No more, no less. It has less story than TNO and mostly more of the same gameplay, without some of the more annoying quirks introduced in TNC. Basically, try The New Order, and if by the end of it you feel hungry for more – definitely consider Old Blood before TNC. Old Blood, as I remember, isn’t a full-priced title, so that helps.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The older ones are still fun to play if you are into retro gaming.Except for that one with the village,whatever its name was.

    • Nick Powell says:

      I played both the New Order and Doom 2016 recently, and I have to say that if you’re looking for a big stupid power fantasy shooter Doom is a much better choice. I know that’s not what you were asking but I think TNO’s combat already feels kind of dated

      • Guest says:

        Doom 2016 made the new Wolfensteins massively dated, you’re right as heck.

        People said that turning Wolfenstein into a corridor shooter with combat arenas like every other modern game was the best adaptation of the original old school shooter sensibility, putting the player behind cover in what’s plays like a Call of Duty title minus the annoying, irrelevant allies, ceaseless spawns or tired weapon restrictions. It was ok, but it was ok in that context, it’s a good modern shooter.

        Doom 2016 says, screw that, you move at a stupid pace again, if anything, we’re going to make the gameplay faster, health packs? That was slowing things down, now if you want health, you have to kill something and rip the health out of it’s guts, cover is irrelevant, dodge or die, punch enemies to death and chainsaw bullets out of them. It feels like a modern interpretation and evolution of the original games. It’d be really cool to see other games adopting some of these sensibilities, and you’d think Wolfenstein would be the perfect place to start.

        • Duoae says:

          I think I must be the only person on the planet but I found Doom 2016 slow to play. Compared with old style Doom or Quake 3 Arena, that constant break to the flow of movement and shooting that the practically required melee finishers instituted really annoyed me and took me out of the game.

          I mean, those animations were LONG and going through 5-10 per encounter got really boring and old REALLY fast. I also found that most of the map design was not good for an arena shooter. Going on the Shamus “Valve let’s the player become accustomed to an area before throwing them into it” school of thought, DOOM really dropped the ball on that one. And the climbing mechanics also slowed down the movement somewhat as well.

          • Kentauroi says:

            I“““’m surprised you felt that the melee animations were long in DOOM 2016. Except for the big enemies like Mancubuses (Mancubi?) and Hell Knights I would’ve sworn the kill animations didn’t last much longer than a second.

            • Duoae says:

              Maybe you don’t get the same experience as me? When I’m doing something that requires a lot of quick actions and concentration time “slows down” and milliseconds feel like seconds.

              I’ve experienced it less in real life situations (though they have happened) but when I used to play Q3A in a league it got to the point where a second felt like a long period of time because my brain was working so fast. I guess that people who professionally play MOBAs and RTSes probably get the same thing. Not that I’m saying that I’m on their level or anything!

  10. trevalyan says:

    Grace said:

    Right on. And if tonight we see you on the streets with a knife or a brick. Or just your clenched fists, fightin’ the powers that be, then you are one of us.

    Grace: My brothers and sisters of the United States of America, when we stand together, ain’t nothing and no one can take our country from us. Tonight… they burn. Tonight… you… are one of us.

    To me, that feels completely appropriate for a general “screw you, DAD” youthful rebellion against some petty dictatorship. There are quite a few games like that and I don’t grudge it. Here, it’s horribly out of place. Nazis crush mass uprisings, it is one of their few efficiencies, and being armed against machine guns with axes and bricks promises a very bad time indeed.

    As for the aesthetic choice of Twisted Sister, the whole point of this game has been a relentless attack on the complicity of white America. Drawing on the history of slaveholders or Eagleland patriots would be hugely against the main theme of the game, so a punk rock anthem remix is really the best they can do.

    There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t been said before. You made a comprehensive and clever critique, Shamus, and I’m happy to admit it has influenced my thinking of how narrative should go. Given the sheer volume of narrative mistakes, handing TNC awards for writing admits to either deceiving your audience, or being too cliched and illiterate to hold your job. And that reduces the value of games journalism as a whole to me- which already had a very low value indeed. You can have a multi-site advertising campaign, invite people to the studio, but the consumer benefits from none of that. I only have one question to any designer: is this game worth $60 to people like me? If not, it isn’t getting my money until sale time. And maybe not even then.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      – Amerikanishe,you dont get to get up from the table until you finish off your subhuman.
      – But I dont want to kill my subhumans!You are not my real dad,nazi!I wish mom never married you!!

      • trevalyan says:

        This should have been an in-game sitcom. And then th child is executed as a dark punchline.

        • BlueHorus says:

          I’m stealing that for my list.

          Call the show Fuhrer Knows Best, and other plotlines include the daughter informing on her schoolfriend’s parents who are sheltering Jewish terrorists, the father’s inept-but-well-meaning attempts to organise a military parade in their home town, and special guest appearances by high-ranking officers.

          Just have it playing on TV screens in the background of levels.

    • Bret says:

      The thing is, the game (in a terrible, ham handed way) is trying to be about the potential of America to still be a force for good despite its failings. TNO had J play the Star Spangled Banner as his final act of heroic defiance despite being the guy pointing out how shitty America could be throughout most of the previous scenes. Discarding the good because of the bad is how you wind up with nothing at all.

      (Apparently, the band for the credits got the gig by saving a dev from a mugging. Nice story, but man. It does not make the song sound better.)

      • trevalyan says:

        I know that’s what they had in mind, but be real. When is the last time a regular American, someone who isn’t ready in your resistance cell, even offered sympathy, never mind help? In Shadow of Mordor, the human slaves you free end up attacking the orcs with picks, and it blossoms into a full scale uprising later.

        By contrast, your own father betrays you to the Nazis and just about every American is a collaborator.

  11. ElementalAlchemist says:

    To be clear, I’m not saying the journalists were corrupt or stupid.

    They’re BOTH!

    Baddum, tish.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Apparently you can’t shut off the anti-air systems without an access code only kept on Venus. This seems like a TERRIBLE security system, but whatever.

    I can kind of think of a workaround for this.Maybe venus is the place where they make the master codes for the current month that are then distributed daily via radio or something.And you cant intercept the signal,for some reason,so you have to get the master codes personally.While silly,the explanation is plausible enough for a light story.But it still wouldve been way better if the game gave us something like that instead of the players trying to fanwank one from thin air.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Journalists generally only have time for a single playthrough and not a lot of time for reflection.

    If even that.Some time ago there was that hilarious placeholder review of a song that accidentally leaked instead of the finished version,and people saw first hand that 90% of the thing was written before the reviewer even got to listen to the songs.They liked the album before they even got a chance to hear it because it was by SINGER and SINGER was the hot thing at the time.

    I suspect video game reviews are similar,being written about the trailers and other marketing more than about the actual first impression of the game itself.You only need to play the first half an hour or so to fill in the blanks about how the game feels while you are playing it,while the rest you can already extrapolate from pre release stuff.

  14. Hal says:

    BJ also recovers his mother’s ring (Engel took it when she captured him back in Texas) and proposes to Anya on television. That’s sweet.

    So . . . does BJ’s new body ever get brought up in this context? I know we’re talking about a world with Nazi superscience and all that, but I know my wife would be extremely weirded out if my head were transplanted onto another body.

    Plus, would they have more children? They wouldn’t technically be BJ’s, they’d be Nazi super-children. That’s not an inconsequential detail. (Well, in the focus of shooting Nazis and robots, I suppose it is, but still.)

    I guess I’m just curious if the game even addressed it at all. Does Anya just say, “Oh, new body? Cool, glad you’re alive, let’s move on.” Does she even notice?

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      There’s always adoption. There will be shit tons of war orphans out there…

      • trevalyan says:

        It wouldn’t be the first Nazi body she banged, hue hue hue.

        Maybe it would be the first she didn’t murder afterwards? Or maybe she did murder this guy and then said “you know what, let’s keep him around for mad science, I mean DEM ABS.”

        I’m not sure how I’d approach this, if I were her Nazi-killing husband.

  15. GargamelLeNoir says:

    The “embarrassing shitty poem praising Martin Luther King Jr” metaphor was so good Shamus had to use it twice :D

  16. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    So… the ending song should’ve been Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)? That’s what I got from this.

    And perhaps that gaming journalists got a bit too lathered up with the idea of killing Nazis as the real ones were tiki torching their way through our streets. And perhaps with a touch of fear that they’d end up at the sharp end of Godwin’s Law if they didn’t say that murderface-ing Nazis made for the most primo game ever.

    The Mass Effect 3 ending still comes up in the circles of people I talk to, and with a retrospective eye, I find myself prefacing that conversation with “When I think about, most video game endings aren’t very good.” It’s just that most leave no impression instead of leaving a bad impression. But I see a couple parallels here. The ending doesn’t seem to understand anything that happened leading up to it tonally, thematically, or narratively and it doesn’t recognize what a player would want out of an ending. At least as I see it.

    I’ve enjoyed your coverage of this game, but I admit that it hasn’t inspired me to run out and play it. Which I feel like I should thank you for.

  17. zackoid says:

    It feels like there’s this thread running through the comments of this series that seems to imply that any journalist who liked this game is just a virtue-signaling disservice to their audience. You can’t remove a game from it’s context so it was certainly received differently in late 2017 than it would have been in 2010, but I don’t think that’s so.

    We need to remember that Seamus and (probably) most of us are details-first story people, so all the little details that conflict with each other or don’t make sense throw us out of the story. But drama-first people aren’t wrong to enjoy something we might not, they just care about different things. And TNC is basically pure, uncut melodrama.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even drama oriented people do notice when the sequel tries to pull of the same thing only worse.Thats why most sequels get lower scores from even the least interested people.

      And even disregarding the story,this game offers less playing,more watching,so is worse than its predecessor by the simplest metric for judging a video game.

      Also,no one said anything about people liking or not liking a game.The whole conversation is about reviewers.Its their job to pay more attention than the audience,thats what they are being paid for.If they are just pouring out sentiments that any joe average would have,there is no point in hiring them over any other joe average.

      • zackoid says:

        I was only talking about reviewers, but my whole point is that “same thing only worse” is an opinion.

        I mean, Bioshock: Infinite is currently the 13th most highly rated PC game of all-time according to metacritic. The gameplay in that game was mediocre and the story was awful, and yet it was extremely highly rated at the time based on the story and the palette. Like TNC, it’s reputation has fallen off a cliff in retrospect.

        I vehemently disagree with people who gave it a spectacular review, but that doesn’t mean I think they were dishonest or (necessarily) bad at their jobs. All reviews are subjective. But because TNC is “”””””political”””””, the reviewers are held to a different standard.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Infinite was political as all hell too.The very first scene every single reviewer talked about was the mixed race couple scene.Including a political scene will always get a reaction of “this game is saying IMPORTANT things”,even when a game is not saying anything at all,just including such a scene because it looks cool.

      • Guest says:

        What utter rot.

        Being details first over drama first is not a matter of objectivity. Getting hung up on other critics in this way is just stupid. It’s pretty fair to point out that the majority have taken this particular interpretation, and that it’s an awkward situation, but they’re not somehow wrong for doing so, unless you’re willing to place yourself equally in the position of being just straight up wrong by making this binary.

        “And even disregarding the story,this game offers less playing,more watching,so is worse than its predecessor by the simplest metric for judging a video game.” Hogwash. Hell, you’re talking about this on a commentary about the story, so I simply do not know what you’re on about. Quantity is not, and has never, been the be all and end all of game criticism.

        Nobody said they made comments any average joe would, and even if they were, it’d still be quite a few steps above your usual comments. Did you even read Shamus’ article? He even points out that a problem inherent to the thing is that these reviews are made for as close to the release date as possible, and at best, that means they play it shortly beforehand, and then have to write their piece. Shamus spent weeks on a comprehensive, beat by beat coverage of the story, of a game that had been out for a fair while. Which additionally, favours drama first analysis, because general themes and drama play better to a playthrough done on time constraints, in a relatively short piece which is going to be read by people who are more often looking for broad consumer advice than actual literary criticism. That the specific way that games are reviewed, and these are always going to be the majority of reviews on aggregators, disincentivises thorough critique, which if anything, raises a troubling question: If the only critique publishers care about is under that pressure, and so they don’t have to concern themselves with in depth critique, if it exists at all, then what incentive do they have to improve, and what criticism are they going to actually take on board?

        Rather than “Gee, this writers sure seem dumb, any idiot could have written this, we need better journalists, this is what they’re being paid for.” which says nothing, explains nothing, and just misses the point by a mile.

        Call it the “Drama first” reading of the series.

    • Retsam says:

      Yeah, while I think you can accuse the developers of virtue-signaling by including a bunch of “cheap gratification” in their game, but I don’t think it’s virtue-signaling that the reviewers were gratified by cheap gratification, in the same way, I don’t think it’s virtue signaling when others have a higher opinion of Wonder Woman (or Black Panther, but I really liked Black Panther while I found WW to be average) because of the “minority” protagonist. It’s just that the reason that other people loved Wonder Woman doesn’t appeal to me, just as the political “point-scoring” doesn’t appeal to Shamus in Wolfenstein (and wouldn’t appeal to me, either).

      Yeah, in both cases, their opinion is rooted more in the political climate rather than a more “pure” look at the actual details and content of the story… but art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and neither do reviews. An opinion driven by political climate isn’t something I want to touch with a 10-foot-pole, but I don’t think it’s wrong or dishonest (which Shamus didn’t claim) or even a sign of a flaw of our review system (which he did).

      I think the reviewers who liked the superficial political messages of the game would still like the superficial political messages of the game, even if they had a longer time with the game before putting a review out. I doubt it’s really a case where reviewers just aren’t seeing the flaws because they aren’t spending enough time with the game, but suspect it’s more a case where they feel so strongly about the parts that they like about the game that they don’t really care about the parts that don’t work so well.

    • Cubic says:

      Have some sympathy for the drama-enjoyers. It’s difficult to take this sort of drama seriously, yet apparently they must.

  18. Joshua says:

    Not sure that an axe to the face would be considered “less barbaric” than cutting her head off. Decapitation (if done in one swing), would be a relatively quick end in comparison.

    • trevalyan says:

      I’m not sure making the protagonist more brutal than a serious villain, especially a Nazi, is thematically appropriate.

      Shadow of War does this, but that’s because they are deconstructing power fantasies in general and specifically condemning Celebrimbor’s increasing megalomania.

      I suppose one reason I dislike the gaming press so much is because most people engaged with SoW on the most superficial level. It is a brilliantly written deconstruction where even the flavor text is calling you an idiot for thinking this could end well. Whereas a game as poorly written as TNC gets awards, which I find utterly baffling.

      Shamus is excused from this, of course: Tolkien fans have particular expectations, and this game is even darker than the Silmarillion. Not to mention that even I think it goes against the text of Tolkien too many times to be canon-compatible.

      • BlueHorus says:

        I’m not sure making the protagonist more brutal than a serious villain, especially a Nazi, is thematically appropriate.

        I’d say it was, in a Wolfenstein game. It’s about shooting Nazis with dual-wielded machine guns, after all.
        And we’ve already had (many) axe-to -the-face murders, a half-naked pregnant woman covered in blood, two nukes set off (by the good guys!), and killing Hitler while on Venus.

        Of course, if they wanted a consistent tone, or their Political Messages to have any weight, you may well be right.

        Shadow of War does this, but that’s because they are deconstructing power fantasies in general and specifically condemning Celebrimbor’s increasing megalomania.

        Wait, they are? ‘Cos it seemed to me that they just put Tolkien-colour paint over some fairly standard murder-sandbox gameplay.

        I’m not necessarily saying you’re wrong – I’ve only played Shadow of Mordor, after all. But if the intent in that game was to deconstruct or satirise anything, they did a damn good job hiding that fact.
        In fact, they went out of their way to make SoM seem like a dumb, cliched revenge story that shit pretty hard over what little Tolkien lore I know.

        • trevalyan says:

          I thought that too, but then I started looking a bit harder. I wrote this before the Bright Lord DOC came out, confirming my theory about why Celebrimbor really needed the artifacts. It was stone proof that even in SoM he was a pathological liar, and that SoW would only deepen his evil. Anyways.

          https://www.reddit.com/r/shadowofmordor/comments/2idoiv/major_spoilers_shadow_of_mordors_plot_is_amazing/

          Anyways. I don’t think killing Nazis, especially Hitler is terribly bad. I do think it’s a problem when you are more vicious with an axe than a psychopathic villain, or when you start nuking American cities. No big deal, though, I might be tempted to ignore it if the rest of the game wasn’t so shoddy.

          • BlueHorus says:

            It’s a fun theory about SoM, and it would be awesome if confirmed. As I said, though, Monolith did a great job of making that game’s story look and feel like a dumb revenge story with no depth to it and at least one unecessary movie cameo.

            I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that most of the dev team for SoM were just doing their thing and didn’t give the story a second thought, and it was only a few people on the writing staff trying to cram the subtle hints and relevant lore – that showed Celebrimbor’s true intentions – in wherever they could.
            So only a small group were in on the ‘subversion’ aspect of the story.

            • trevalyan says:

              You’ve convinced me. I am going to do a full on writeup of how Shadow of War, from the main plot to the appendices, subtly and overtly undermines the game’s superficial premise up until the bloody and bitter end. Heck, maybe Shamus will give me a guest spot like Rutskarn.

            • Geebs says:

              I always thought that it was pretty obvious, given that Tolkein’s entire schtik with LoTR was about heroic figures being seduced and corrupted as a result of seeking power for (initially) noble reasons, that a game about a character in the Tolkein universe accruing increasing power for (initially) noble reasons might just possibly turn out to actually be about that character’s eventual tragic fall to evil.

              Nobody seemed to agree with me at the time, though, and what negative press there was, was mostly people complaining about how all this orc-murdering made them feel like they were doing something bad.

              • BlueHorus says:

                Yeah, I agree – it seems pretty obvious that Talion is going to get/is being corrupted by using orcs/rings as weapons. Fighting fire with fire etc.
                I just assumed that he and Celebrimbor (‘Big C’) were blundering into it, or they had noble intent that steered them wrong like Boromir.

                …or, it was something the writers hadn’t really considered much before Shadow of Mordor did well and they were obliged to think of a plot for the sequel.

                The fun bit of Trevalyan’s theory (he may well correct me OFC) is that Big C is stright-up lying – he doesn’t just want revenge on Sauron as he says, and possibly he isn’t really interested in it at all.
                Wat he really wants is Sauron’s power for himself. Or to kill Sauron and take over.
                And he’s been using Talion as a pawn from the very start, lying the whole time – a plot twist that was planned from the first game.

                It’s not quite ‘MIND = BLOWN’ stuff, but still. Just because a game talks like a dumb revenge fantasy and walks like a dumb revenge fantasy doesn’t mean it can’t be a bit clever as well.

  19. Shoeboxjeddy says:

    The most charitable reading of “no nonsense axe to the face” is that BJ didn’t consider Engel his nemesis. She was just another Nazi to him and the grudge wasn’t felt on his side. If you make it clear that’s what’s happening… that’s actually pretty awesome in a stone cold way. That he hates ALL the Nazis at least that much.

    • Shamus says:

      That would be a great way to handle this moment. We get the axe to the face and then we switch to third person. The rest of the team comes in, stunned.

      Grace: You did it. She’s actually dead.

      BJ: (Looks back at Engle and shrugs. He’d obviously stopped thinking about her already.) Just another dead Nazi. Plenty more where that one came from.

      There are so many way to improve this scene. What a shame.

  20. Mintskittle says:

    I think we can all agree that Miracle of Sound did it better.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAKM-pbZyiw

    In all seriousness, this just reinforces my decision to ignore what the big review sites have to say about anything, what with the short review cycle preventing reviewers from really examining the game in depth, score inflation pushing the numbers unreasonably high, and publishers challenging reviewers if their score is “too low.”

    You can’t trust any of it any more.

    • GoneRampant says:

      Bethesda’s review policy of only giving out copies the day before the game comes out (which I’m still convinced they do now so that critics can’t see all the bugs at launch) is still in effect right?

  21. Cubic says:

    While the story isn’t terrible

    It seems at best like a childish revenge fantasy if you ask me.

    I can live with odd or dumb stories in games when the story is brief and the rest is good. But TNC seems to be one of the cases combining the worst of two worlds. (Well, the shooting parts might be average rather than worst.)

  22. ccesarano says:

    To argue in favor of the publishers and developers, sending copies of your game after it goes gold increases the odds of it leaking well ahead of time and perhaps reducing sales at launch. I mean, it doesn’t stop leaks as it is, but I can see the argument.

    In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s… well, I have a lot of thoughts regarding the state of major game site criticism and the awkward questions of “Wait, are we analysis, or consumer reviews?” It’s a major topic, and I don’t even think film writers or reviewers ever properly addressed the question.

    Regardless, you’ve gone and saved me the $60 I would have spent for this on Switch. So thank you for that.

  23. krellen says:

    So I watched the ending credits to see how bad the song really was (it’s really bad), but I couldn’t help noticing something, and now it’s all I can think about:

    Was this game literally made by a “Jerk”? Is that what’s wrong with it?

  24. Preciousgollum says:

    Ok… For those that saw it, perhaps we can agree that the ‘very end’ of XCOM 2 ending did a more efficient job of conveying the theme of resistance – gives me chills every time.

  25. stratigo says:

    I think you’re being uncharitable to reviewers Shamus.

    Most of the discussion around the game is about people who genuinely like the story. They don’t have your problems with the narrative. Most issues come from a less satisfying gamepay loop, but outside of yourself, I can’t think of a reviewer who disliked the story.

    It’s not fair to just say that reviewers felt they couldn’t badmouth a game about killing nazis without being scared people would call them nazis

    • Distec says:

      People can prefer TNC’s story – or even really like it. I don’t understand them, but I’m not an Opinion Sheriff.

      Pairing that up with “This is an important story for our time” to justify your accolades is where I start to furrow my brow. If the game was actually trying to say anything (instead of just making noises), Shamus’ series lays out a pretty good case for its multitude of failures. I also can’t help but notice that there seems to no “breaking rank” on this point among most viewers. IMO a story this poorly handled should produce some divergent reactions in the critical consensus, and this was not the case?

      I’ll say it again: game journalists are not stupid, evil, or part of some conspiracy. But they are part of a context as much as anybody else, and there’s some valid reasons to give the critics some views askance when the disconnect is this great. This is supposed to be Award-Winning material , and it’s being nominated as such.

      I can derive no value from such critics. We’re not speaking the same language. And although it’s not personal (most of the time), I think it’s quite fair to argue there’s a small-p “problem” with the reviewer racket when their star-struck jubilations paper over the reality of a mediocre sequel.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Yahtzee made similar observations as Shamus did, re: TNC being worse than TNO. You just didn’t do a wide enough search on your critical opinions.

        It’s also important to note that Bethesda specifically sabotaged the critical process, refusing to give out review copies early enough for the reviewers to be able to mull over their opinions. If their reviews seem rushed… that’s because they are. And the suggestion of “delay longer, then” is like saying “just skip the lunch rush, then” for a sandwich place. Economically inconceivable.

        • Distec says:

          “Rush reviews” are a thing. I personally don’t buy that this was a significant factor in TNC’s critical reception amongst professional reviewers. Without thinking too deeply on it, I would expect Bethesda’s – or any company’s – withholding of early review copies to hurt the title’s Metacritic score, not help it.

          And “Yahtzee craps on a game” is pretty par for the course. I would have liked to hear his gripes voiced in some of the more “prestigious” outlets, rather than a few bloggers and the Escapist’s Resident Ranter.

          But you did help me come to a realization. I read far more than I watch reviews, but I’ve got a foot in both fields. I found that traditional print/e-zine writers were a lot more glowing in their reviews than the Youtube guy were. The most scathing and irritated review I saw was definitely from a Youtuber. If the critical divide truly falls along that line (Old/Nu Games Media), that makes things even more interesting.

  26. Chaotic says:

    See, Shamus, you made a mistake in looking at the review aggregate score instead of the user aggregate score. I mean the user review can also swing wildly, but I find it to be more useful in determining whether a game is good/well received than the review aggregate. But then maybe it just confirms my particular bias?

    In defense of the high review scores you could bring up the old “art as mastery of craft” vs “art has to say something” argument; Someone could say that simply by virtue of being relevant in the times and challenging the problems of the day The New Colossus achieves something important, and that the “technical quality of the work” is nigh-irreleveant. It doesn’t really dismiss the faults of the game as much as it sees them as less relevant than the subject of the work.

    Having said all that I do think that the quality of reviews in general is not very high. I guess most people who want to do reviews will instead just make videos or stream the game itself rather than go work in a “E-magazine”.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The problem with user scores is that people who haven’t even played the game come and give it a 0 or a 10 based on what some personality or fan board told them to do. If they played it and HATED it, fine give it a zero. But if you have no first hand experience, you shouldn’t be posting reviews.

  27. poiumty says:

    And this is why I hate shoehorned modern-day politics in video games.

    And this is also why I hate politically sensitive game journalists.

    Just keep your personal politics out of your appraisal of a video game’s quality! It’s not that hard. Set up a “personal review score” or something, and show it side by side. Just don’t lead me to believe that politically-charged crap somehow constitutes good quality writing and gameplay. Don’t praise mediocrity over quality just because it tickles your hate-boner for whatever today’s Problematic Issue is.

    I’m not some rebellious hipster, here. I want to trust the mainstream sites when they say a game is good. I want to consider these people professionals. Instead, I find myself growing increasingly bitter with them.

    Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Describe a “politically non-sensitive” game journalist. Such a person does not exist. And yes, “stop bringing up politics so much!” is a political opinion. Specifically, it’s one that is just fine with the status quo as is, otherwise you wouldn’t be so resistant to hearing different opinions.

      • Distec says:

        Somebody who ignores or does not heavily prioritize any potential politics in the object he’s reviewing could qualify for that term according to one of many valid readings. They aren’t unicorns. To say such people don’t exist belies a pretty arbitrary (and personalized) definition of “political”.

        • Kdansky says:

          As soon as you have an opinion, you are being political.
          Everybody has an opinion.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            An opinion becomes political when one tries to apply it to everyone. Not all opinions are political.
            The idea of a “personal review score” in the original comment plays directly into this idea. That way a reviewer could safely make value statements about generalized concepts.

            The difficulty is that the whole point of being a mass-media journalist is to have ideas that apply to everyone. Games critique doesn’t have to be political (as Shamus continues to demonstrate) but broadly-targeted journalism really rather NEEDS to be political. That is, it needs to speak to the mass of society, and tell them something actionable, even if it’s just “buy this game”.

  28. kikito says:

    Hey Shamus, completely offtopic, but I didn’t now where to report this: Your “buy my books” on your “about the author” page (http://shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?page_id=15033) are broken (they point to http://shamusyoung.com/author/?page_id=6, which doesn’t seem to exist).

    Regards!

  29. Kdansky says:

    I played only the first one about half-way through. I stopped when I ran into a bug that would have forced me to reload a much earlier save. But the thing is: If I had really enjoyed the game, I would have finished it.

    I did not. It’s not a train wreck, but I’ve always thought the game is mediocre. Comparing it to Doom 2016 is the best way to look at it. That game is more secure in its tone, looks, sounds and feels better, doesn’t waste my time with boring cutscenes, and most importantly: It plays much better. It’s faster, the guns are more interesting, the movement is better, the enemies are more varied, the music fits better, and so on. There is nothing that TNO does better than Doom, and they are by the same publisher, built on similar tech, probably by (some of) the same people.

    I still don’t get why people like The New Order this much. It’s a 7/10 at best. And clearly the sequels are worse.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>