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Wolfenstein II Part 10: Party Time

By Shamus
on Thursday Apr 5, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

 
 

Note: This post is going to show both gore and nudity. Together. I’m going to share a particular screenshot from the game and I don’t want to undercut the point I’m making by censoring stuff out.

Just, you know, be aware of this if you happen to be reading at work.

Party!

Damnit, game. Do I REALLY need to know that there are 17 unread tutorials right now?

Damnit, game. Do I REALLY need to know that there are 17 unread tutorials right now?

Once BJ gets back from Venus, everyone throws a party. The team gets drunk and acts silly. It’s a fun scene and sort of hints at the stuff that goes on around the submarine while you’re off doing all the work.

Having said that, this is a really odd thing in terms of tone and story structure. This is like the rebels throwing a party just before assaulting the Death Star. This is the point where most stories bring our heroes low with self-doubt, personal loss, or internal conflict. Normally you’d expect the writer to remind us of the stakes, or even raise them. If the stakes have been large and abstract before now (the city is in danger) then this is where it would become personal (your partner / parents / dog is in danger) and vice versa. Maybe the writer would spend some time to drive home just how bad things have gotten. Show us how terrified the villagers are, or how much the hostages are hurting. Remind us of the personal drama that made our hero begin this journey in the first place.

This story hit the emotional low point at the two-thirds mark when BJ lost his head, and then we did the fetch quest to Venus. It’s fine to have an unconventional story structure if that’s what you need. Having a party at this point isn’t strictly wrong or anything. The rules of storytelling aren’t written in stone and having a party before a big battle is a real thing some people do to take their mind off the stress.

The problem is that we’re going into the last stage of the game and it doesn’t particularly feel like it. You can have an unconventional structure, but you still need to maintain the sense of tension that pulls an audience through a story.

Sigrun

Wow. Sigrun might be carrying some extra weight, but underneath all that she apparently has serious upper-body strength. She's got Grace in a one-handed death-grip and Grace can't do anything about it.

Wow. Sigrun might be carrying some extra weight, but underneath all that she apparently has serious upper-body strength. She's got Grace in a one-handed death-grip and Grace can't do anything about it.

You might remember we picked up Sigrun Engel – daughter of main villain General Engel – back in the introduction. She’s betrayed both the Nazis and her mother to join up with the good guys. The problem is that Grace, the new resistance leader, hates her and keeps calling her a Nazi. Sigrun is shy, gentle, overweight, and lovesick, and at least half of those problems are the fault of her tyrannical mother. Grace has been disrespecting her since the two of them met, and Sigrun has been putting up with it.

Until now, anyway. Sigrun is finally sick of being called a Nazi and stands up for herself. She demands to be treated like a human being. Grace, a black woman living in Nazi-occupied USA, already understands how cruel and destructive prejudice can be. And yet here she is treating Sigrun as less than a person because of her heritage. This is a turning point for both characters and a pretty cathartic moment if you’ve been quietly cheering for Sigrun all this time.

Lots of characters have ongoing drama or side-stories, but Sigrun’s is by far my favorite. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the entire game. It’s the most emotionally resonant and it even dips a toe into messing around with stuff like themes. Something like, “In a game about fighting hatred, the good guys had to get rid of their own hatred before they could overcome the hatred of others”. Or whatever. I’m not saying it’s deep or anything, but it’s good stuff.

Although…

The whole thing is undercut by the fact that the writer doesn’t spend the time to set it up properly. See, Grace didn’t join the team until after Sigrun defected. Does Grace know that Sigrun saved the entire rebellion? Does Grace know that she did this at risk to her own life? Does Grace know that Sigrun’s dedication is so strong that she betrayed her own mother?

Grace spends a lot of time disrespecting Sigrun, and nobody ever stops to explain to Grace what Sigrun did. Is Grace “prejudiced”, or is she just uninformed? Is everyone else prejudiced? If not, why didn’t they speak up for Sigrun? Or maybe Grace was deliberately provoking Sigrun, hoping to get this exact reaction out of her to make her loyalties clear? We have to turn to authorial intent to figure out what the writer was trying to accomplish here, because they were too busy having Super Spesh make wacky toilet jokes and couldn’t find time to properly frame the Grace / Sigrun conflict.

Yes, I enjoyed when Sigrun stood up for herself. But the message was muddled and somewhat lost in the noise of all the other stuff the writer is half-assing in these overlong cutscenes.

In any case, we’ve reached the final stage of the game. It’s time for the good guys to…

Attack The Enemy Base

Call me a sexist, but I feel like we need a middle ground between "get back in the kitchen" and "come to the gunfight with me despite your lack of combat training".

Call me a sexist, but I feel like we need a middle ground between "get back in the kitchen" and "come to the gunfight with me despite your lack of combat training".

BJ obviously isn’t going to assault the Ausmerzer all by himself. That would be crazy, right?

He takes his pregnant wife.

This is absurd. Ludicrous. Poppycock. Nonsense. I might even go so far as to say it’s really dumb.

I’m sure some people will defend this by pointing out that pregnant women have done extraordinary things in the past. Granted. Pregnant women have run marathons, slain feral beasts, fought fires, climbed mountains, and assembled IKEA furniture. I’ll agree that in this universe, such a thing is easily within the realm of the possible.

The problem is, in The New Order Anya was a simple nurse. Once she joined the resistance, Caroline gave her a job doing research and signal intelligence. But here we are just a few months later, and suddenly she’s the most qualified person on the boat to accompany BJ into a gunfight?

I realize it’s obnoxious to point out something so obvious, but the Nazis are dangerous. Engel cut off Caroline’s head. She disfigured WyattOr cut of Fergus’ arm. with an axe. She executed Super Spesh during the failed escape attempt. She cut off BJ’s head. And those are just her accomplishments since the game began. If we look a bit further back on her resume we see she was in charge of hunting down non-Aryans and running a concentration camp.

BJ does not fear any foe. He’ll fight monsters, giant robots, platoons of Nazis, and gunships. He’ll brave fire, ice, radiation, blood, hunger, torture, chemical weapons, and loss of limb for the cause. He is a natural-born Nazi killing machine, a grim reaper specifically targeted at all adherents of one particular ideology. He feels pain while being undaunted by it. He loves without it compromising his convictions. Tireless, selfless, unwavering, William Joseph Blazkowicz is an unstoppable agent against the Nazi empire. He is the ur first-person protagonist.

Except…

The only thing he fears is seeing something happen to Anya. (And by extension, his unborn children.) This theme is repeated again and again. Her glory is what keeps him going. She was there in his daydreams at the start of New Order, representing the paradise suburban life he’d be living if not for the Nazis. Even when he thought he was dying, his central thoughts were how he could make it less painful for the woman he loved.

SO WHY WOULD HE BRING HER TO THE LAIR OF HIS NEMESIS WHO KEEPS CHOPPING PEOPLE UP?

He wouldn’t. Full stop. He just wouldn’t. This doesn’t work.

Oh, it's time to take credit and NOW you idiots show up? Where were you when Anya had to fight a Nazi death squad all by herself?

Oh, it's time to take credit and NOW you idiots show up? Where were you when Anya had to fight a Nazi death squad all by herself?

Sure, you can do a hand-wave and say that Anya is just a badass capable of doing this stuff. But is she really the best person for the job? Isn’t there anyone back at base capable of running around and shooting Nazis? Don’t they sort of owe it to him to not make his wife do this, seeing as how he does so much of the heavy lifting for the group?

And hang on… Didn’t we just spend a big chunk of the game rounding up all these supposedly badass allies? Why are they staying behind while Anya the pregnant nurse goes into battle? If nothing else, this should wound their pride. They would demand BJ take one of them in Anya’s stead.

Or better yet, make it sound like everyone is assaulting the Ausmerzer together. Maybe have the sniper protecting Horton while he plants explosives to open a door so Grace’s team can shut down a defense system that Sigrun has mapped out for them, and all of this is going on while BJ is doing his thing elsewhere. It would make it feel like this is a resistance movement of talented people and not like a group of do-nothing losers who follow BJ and his pregnant wife around while they kill everything.

Yes, they show up at the very end and pretend to participate in the conflict. The problem is that this is a couple of minutes before the closing credits. They needed to be more involved so it feels like recruiting them wasn’t a waste of time. From BJs perspective, he saved both of these resistance groups. Then he did all of their work for them. Then they sat around while Anya accompanied BJ into battle. Then they showed up at the very end when it was time to get on TV and take credit for everything.

Seriously. Screw these idiots.

Anya’s Big Scene

This MOMENT OF EMPOWERMENT would work so much better if the story had ever bothered to make us feel that Anya was lacking in power.

This MOMENT OF EMPOWERMENT would work so much better if the story had ever bothered to make us feel that Anya was lacking in power.

After the big fight, BJ reconnects with Anya and we get a cutscene where she saves his life. An elevator opens to reveal a huge group of Nazis. She throws a grenade into the group and tackles BJ out of the way. She catches on fire and has to rip off her top. The grenade goes off and the room is showered in blood.

The whole thing builds up to a shot of pregnant Anya, bare-breasted, drenched in blood, firing two machine guns into the remaining Nazis while belting out a primal scream.

Ah. So that’s why the writer made us bring her. I get it now. It doesn’t work, but I see what they were trying to do.

You know, I’m not against this scene in theory. This could have been a cool moment if the writer had given it the proper buildup. Maybe there would be this theme about how desperate war makes us that we would send a pregnant nurse into battle. Maybe they could give Anya a character arc where everyone at base keeps treating her like an invalid and it pisses her off because she’s still fit and able-bodied and she doesn’t want this patronizing bullshit. This would be the moment where she silences the doubters. Or maybe she would be dealing with a bunch of rage after BJ’s nearly-lethal beheading, and this is her cathartic release. But as it stands, this feels like it comes out of nowhere.

Just to be clear, that's not Anya's blood. That's the blood of her enemies. She's fine.

Just to be clear, that's not Anya's blood. That's the blood of her enemies. She's fine.

Bringing Anya on this mission didn’t make a lot of sense, but the writer did it anyway because they wanted this moment of “I am woman, hear me roar!” Which would be fine if at any point the writer had implanted the desire to see Anya roar in the hearts of the audience. The writer set up things they never paid off and here they’re trying to pay off an idea they didn’t set up.

If you’re going to turn your videogame into a movie, you need to do better than this.

The New Order didn’t attempt anything like this so I can’t say New Order did it better, but New Order didn’t turn your friends and allies into useless do-nothings just to set up novelty scenes that don’t work.

Final Fight

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.

While you wouldn’t know it from the pace of the game, we’re actually in the home stretch now. Not only has the story not bothered to build up this assault or raise the stakes, but the gameplay isn’t really giving us a lot in the way of fireworks either. We do get a big fight against a couple of large mechs, but they don’t feel anything like a “final boss”. It’s a hard fight, but not an interesting one.

The bare-minimum for a fight like this would be to give Engel some brutish henchman. Give him a name and make him seem like a big deal, so when we face off against him we understand we’re having an important fight. We don’t even get a half-assed line of dialog to hastily introduce them. This would be something like, “Once you reach location X, you’re going to have to face off against Engel’s elite Totenkopfhunde!”I just typed “Skull hounds” into Google translate. I have no idea if this works in German, but you get the idea.. That would at least create some vague sense of anticipation. Instead we just walk forward until we meet a couple of nameless monsters, and when it’s over you don’t even realize you’ve just beaten the “final boss”.

In New Order the game established the imposing London Monitor early in the story. Then the game showed it looming on the horizon. Then you had to fight it directly. It followed a nice arc that introduced a threat, raised the stakes, and then resolved the problem. While I wasn’t a fan of the fight against DeathsheadI don’t remember what my problem was with the fight, but I remember being disappointed., that fight was at least built up and resolved. But here New Colossus just drops you into boss encounters without warning or buildup.

Who am I shooting? Is this a famous one-of-a-kind Nazi badass cyber-soldier, or is this just the next tier of mook I’ll be facing going forward?

Say it with me now: The New Order did it better.

We’ll wrap up this series next week.

Footnotes:

[1] Or cut of Fergus’ arm.

[2] I just typed “Skull hounds” into Google translate. I have no idea if this works in German, but you get the idea.

[3] I don’t remember what my problem was with the fight, but I remember being disappointed.


 
 
Comments (154)

  1. Gary says:

    My German speaking wife says that “Totenkopfhunde” would mean “dead-head hound.” So, close enough.

    Also you have a “light” that should be a “like.” “For a fight like this.”

    • Scampi says:

      As a German native speaker, let me tell you, “skull hound” translates precisely into “Totenkopfhund”, as the skull (Schädel) is also known as a “Totenkopf”, at least when talking about stylized skulls like a jolly roger or such. For symbolic skulls, “Totenkopf” may sound more appropriate than the anatomically correct translation “Schädel”, as “Schädelhunde” would sound way less menacing and even a bit ridiculous in German.

    • Agammamon says:

      “dead-head hound.” So, close enough.

      I think that’s more ‘dog’s owner really likes Jerry Garcia’ than anything.

  2. Christopher says:

    The final boss of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater gave birth on the battlefield during the D-Day landings at Normandy via Caesarean section. So that’s about the wavelength Wolfenstein is operating on.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Yeah, but at least the Boss had an excuse for being there: the best soldier the country had, who formed all the special forces (all of them!). Anya… she’s a nurse.

      • Hector says:

        Also – and I say this as somebody who admires Hideo Kojima – you *really* don’t want your writing compared to Hideo Kojima.

        Yes, he’s cool. His stuff is also basically a master class in how NOT to write. Also, a lot of his flaws seem to be really similar to how this game’s story turned out: endless cinematics, constant breaks in the game flow, weird or disgusting scenes just to have them, a lot of nonsensical plot points that are never really explained, and an inability to establish just what the heck is actually going on in the world when that might be required to understand the stakes.

        In both cases, “serious” writers wrote things shamefully below the standard of fan fiction. One of those cases just happens to be so much fun people don’t care.

        • Kylroy says:

          I’ve always maintained that Kojima’s writing was flashy trash that happened to be stapled to games that were awesome fun to play. Because he made his plots (way, *way*) more complicated than necessary most video games, I think people just *willed* them into being profound.

          • Hector says:

            Well… yeah.

            Some people have gone to crazy lengths to turn it into some kind of multi-threaded work of genius whose brilliance is only revealed through the entire span of games, but… yeah he’s just having fun and writing whatever sounds cool at the moment.

        • Nessus says:

          Yeah, even in MGS3, that whole thing about The Boss giving birth via (self administered!) C-section in the middle of a battle is only “not ridiculous” by comparison to all the other hilariously mad shit the player has been conditioned to up to that point.

          Plus it’s not actually shown, it’s a story you’re told about her. In a less crazy game, the player’s reaction would probably be to read it as a “fireballs from his eyes and lightning from his arse” exaggeration. It’s only because the rest of the series is really that batshit that one takes it at face value.

          I can only speak for myself, but the reason I enjoy MGS’s crazy when other stuff like that just feels like bad writing is because MGS for me always has a strong sense of ambiguity as to whether or not Kojima is really joking. The whole series feels like it’s in a superposition state between intentional tongue in cheek parody, and a totally serious attempt by someone with a deeply broken sense of story and a tone deaf sense of cool.

          Most “bad” stuff tips it’s hand one way or another. We can tell, for example, that Kai Leng was just a bad idea and not a parody, even if we don’t know how exactly that bad idea happened. We can tell that Bayonetta’s ridiculousness is winking at the audience the whole time. We can tell that Resident Evil started out as straight bad writing, then morphed into deliberate bad writing as the series runners realized what people were seeing in it and decided to lean into that. But as a MGS player I spend my whole time with the games in a state of mouth half open, one eybrow arched disorientation.

          Somehow the consistency of that feels like the point. Capturing that deliberately would be incredibly difficult, so if it’s intended to be the point, that’d make Kojima a genius, but you can’t tell if it’s the intended point.. It inceptions itself like that all way down past the “Death of the Author” level, and that’s amazing.

  3. Olivier FAURE says:

    I don’t remember the London level that well, but I don’t remember all this Londong Monitor foreshadowing you’re talking about. I mean, I definitely remember fighting the thing, it was easily the coolest fight in the game (and cooler than any boss fight in Half Life 2), but I think when I saw the giant robot I thought “Oh, *that’s* the thing they kept talking about this level!”.

    Speaking of which, do you know which game had really, really cool boss fights? Resistance 2. It had everything: bullet sponges bosses, “shoot the bright red spot three times to win” giant robots bosses, a bug swarm boss that had puzzle-elements to it, and a Half-Life like final boss where you had to shoot it, then destroy his regeneration sphere when he tried to use them.

    All with a dramatic entrance where the boss killed a bunch of redshirts, several stages where you fought off / ran away from the boss and did something else for a while before meeting him again, etc.

    • TheJungerLudendorff says:

      The monitor (or something like it) was stomping around during the intro level on the beach, blowing stuff up and looking very big and hard to kill.

      It was also mentioned several times to have crushed rebellions and whatnot, and I think it’s shown on the horizon during one or two missions post-timeskip.

      • Olivier FAURE says:

        Oh right, I remember the beach now. Yeah, I remember seeing the big “you can’t kill this thing yet” thing, but I didn’t connect it to the anti-monitor boss fight later. My bad.

    • RichardW says:

      I really think the Resistance series is criminally underrated and weirdly forgotten by a lot of people these days. They were some pretty great (and one amazing) games.

      R2’s bosses were pretty much confined to one level, so there wasn’t a long-term buildup (except for the giant squid-shepard that’s established in the prologue) but they did do a good job of establishing an interesting key threat for each chapter that you had to deal with. Leviathan still sticks with me as one of the most spectacular fights i’ve ever played. Even if it was pretty linear, going up against a skyscraper-sized chimera was pretty epic. I remember the first time seeing it through a gap in the Chicago skyline and my eyes just going wide.

      Resistance also did the whole alternate-history thing as well. Always liked the whole “WW2 with Aliens” vibe they had going on. I’m replaying R3 at the moment and both the story and gameplay still hold up well. For those who missed it back in the day, here’s Yahtzee’s review..

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ue8TujFWKjQ

      • Olivier FAURE says:

        I haven’t replayed the Resistance series in a while, but I think if I did, I’d probably be disappointed.

        From memory, I think the series had an evolution similar to Mass Effect: a first down-to-earth, military-focused episode with poor gameplay; a second wilder more colorful episode focused on a few superhero-like characters; and a third, somewhere between the two, with a very unsatisfying ending that left tons of loose ends dangling.

        The story for all three Resistance games was overall very basic and kind of frustrating: you keep slaughtering your way through thousands of Chimeras, and yet they keep winning and pushing you back no matter how many strategic objectives you complete (the first game ends with you blowing up all towers in London; the second game ends with you nuking the Chimera fleet; the third starts post-apocalypse).

        The bosses in Resistance 1 were just bullet sponges; the bosses in Resistance 2 were cool for a first playthrough, until you start poking at the edges and realize how gimmicky they are (eg most of them aren’t really a threat unless you’re *trying* to lose; the only ones with a decent chance of giving you a game over are the Kraken and the giant insect thing on the Perimeter tower).

        (okay, and the insect swarm boss; I have nothing, that one was just great)

        I mean, they were as cool as you could expect from the “Call of Duty meets Half Life 2 developed by the Ratchet and Clank guys” concept, that is, pretty damn cool, but I wouldn’t call the series “amazing”; it was all over the place.

  4. Paul Spooner says:

    It kinda sounds like the “writing” here was just a bullet-list of key scenes the producer wanted in the game. As you said, it appears the main problem is a lack of coherence, which is what you get when the highlight reel is also your road-map. A few editing passes would have been nice.

    Though maybe this is actually after editing. If this was the best stuff that was left, imagine what got cut!

    • BlueHorus says:

      The story fits with the theory that the game was rushed out a bit, though.
      There are good ideas here (Grace & Sigrun’s arc sounds like a great one in principle), but they just needed a bit more thought, a bit more time – some editing passes – to refine the story and get the delivery right.

      Less of the classic Bethesda ‘sod-it-that’s-good-enough’ approach to storytelling, and more of a ‘Yikes, look at the schedule! We’ve gotta get the rest of the team their assignments, no time left to work on the story anymore.’

    • FluffySquirrel says:

      Yeah, very much sounds like they just had a big brainstorming session and tried to think up cool ideas, then mushed them together with badly written and poorly thought out story to make them happen

      “Oh, oh, pregnant Anya covered in the blood of her enemies and firing twin guns!”

      “Sweet, ooh, I got one, BJ gets his head cut off and stuck on a superbody!”

      “With extendo legs!”

      “Haha this game is gonna be awesome”

      • I love the pure horribleness of that shot of Anya. You can see the seams where her hands are stuck on her arms. Her skin has some weird zombie texture to it, too.

        MAYBE SHE’S A ZOMBIE.

        • I had to go back and check, but OMG yes, you’re right! (I was too distracted by my brain screaming, “GET THIS WOMAN A DECENT MATERNITY BRA, STAT!”)

          And as someone with some distant familiarity with the SA80 (yay cadets when I was a teen), the whole “And now I shall, as an untrained amateur, dual-wield machine guns!” is….. ARGH.

        • KarmaTheAlligator says:

          Maybe she was wearing some bracelets that fell off at some point, so there’s no blood where they were?

          But yeah, I didn’t even realise the seams were visible. Poor show, guys.

  5. Echo Tango says:

    [Do stupid things] just to set up novelty scenes that don’t work.

    This is a big part of why I don’t play AAA videogames. With such a high likelihood of making a ham-fisted, trite, or even just boring story, the games aren’t worth the cost. Better to stick with games that don’t try to be deep or meaningful, like Doom, or to the indies, where everything’s like a quarter of the price. :)

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Pregnant women have run marathons, slain feral beasts, fought fires, climbed mountains,

    True.Some pregnant women are just that superhuman.

    and assembled IKEA furniture.

    Thats just silly.No pregnant woman would be able to do that.Heck,not even a bunch of non-pregnant,fully healthy women or men are able to do that.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Or better yet, make it sound like everyone is assaulting the Ausmerzer together. Maybe have the sniper protecting Horton while he plants explosives to open a door so Grace’s team can shut down a defense system that Sigrun has mapped out for them, and all of this is going on while BJ is doing his thing elsewhere.

    Wrong sequel.This is wolfenstein 2,not mass effect 2.

    You know, I’m not against this scene in theory.

    Or in practice.You are a fan of archer,and this is a scene from archer.Both malory and lana had pregnant killing sprees.

    after BJ’s nearly-lethal beheading

    Ok,the game let you write out that sentence with a serious face.You have to give it credit for that at least.

    Wait,those two are really the final boss?Those two?Thats disappointing.Yeah,the new order did that way better.

    Who am I shooting? Is this a famous one-of-a-kind Nazi badass cyber-soldier, or is this just the next tier of mook I’ll be facing going forward?

    And most importantly:What do they eat?

    • BlueHorus says:

      As I mentioned before, radio chatter in the background could do so much good in this game. Just have Grace, Horton et al talking in the background of the Ausmerzer assault to give the impression that they aren’t uselessly sitting around waiting for BJ to do all the work.
      You wouldn’t even have to show any of it.

      And most importantly:What do [the final boss Nazis] eat?

      Babies, obviously. I mean, not only are they Nazis, but they’re high-ranking ones, who help run the death-airship…

      Oh no, wait – that’s too much characterization for this game’s final boss, apparently.

    • Erik says:

      after BJ’s nearly-lethal beheading

      Ok,the game let you write out that sentence with a serious face.You have to give it credit for that at least.

      I can write that with a serious face of someone I actually know. She survived and recovered from literal decapitation. Really.

      In her case, she was in a motorcycle accident and her skull was completely broken from her top spinal vertebrae. Luckily, the car behind her was full of surgeons coming off shift. They stabilized her and kept the EMTs from even trying to take her helmet off. (IIRC it was sawed off in the ER after Xrays.) Her spinal column stretched some number of millimeters… but did not break, and although her top couple of vertebrae are fused so she can’t fully turn her head, she’s made a full recovery as the only known decapitation survivor who can walk.

      Felt like that should be shared. Truth can be just as strange as fiction, since it doesn’t need to be believable – it just has to happen.

  8. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Bringing Anya on this mission didn’t make a lot of sense, but the writer did it anyway because they wanted this moment of “I am woman, hear me roar!” Which would be fine if at any point the writer had implanted the desire to see Anya roar in the hearts of the audience. The writer set up things they never paid off and here they’re trying to pay off an idea they didn’t set up.

    The pay off was in the review scores. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest the likes of Polygon, RockPaperShotgun, etc. absolutely loved this scene. But I suppose we can’t really discuss that sort of thing.

    • Matt van Riel says:

      And this, right here, is why I felt this was an unwise choice for a game to critique. It has such heavy-handed political overtones that we can’t discuss that it makes the critique feel incomplete.

      I have plenty I COULD say about Grace (none of it flattering), but it gets into real world political territory.

      Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree with Shamus’s stance on ‘no politics’, it’s divisive and destructive by its nature, especially so in the current climate, and it’s nice having a place to discuss GAMES without devolving into polarised arguments over politics.

      But when the game in question has such a heavy emphasis on virtue signalling and the like, it’s really awkward to discuss openly without the banhammer coming down.

    • Christopher says:

      I’d say most every reviewer loved, if not this scene in particular, then at least some of the scenes that have been criticized in this series. Sorta the point of this whole retrospective, that Shamus thinks the critical reception was overblown.

      “Anya’s pregnancy doesn’t stop her from fighting, of course. The sight of her naked form, swollen with child and covered in blood, her face an ecstatic rictus of pleasure, is just one of many impossible moments in the game. She’s there to help her friends and kill some Nazis, and if she has to do so while temporarily topless, so be it. She’s happy in her work.”
      – Ben Kuchera, Polygon

      “A black woman leading a resistance group through hell and breastfeeding her baby daughter while she’s plotting the downfall of the Nazi regime and deconstructing the use of ‘balls’ as a synonym for bravery? That’s something I’ve never seen in a game or anywhere else, and as an image and a statement of what this game is all about it’s worth a thousand battles against enormous ubermachines.”
      – Adam Smith, RPS

      “Wolfenstein II’s audition scene covers a ton of ground in just a few minutes. It captures the grandiose pomposity of Hitler’s idiot ideology and self-important manner of speech, as he prattles on about Jews and submission to authority. You see the logical extreme of a cult of personality that’s assumed global control, as the deified leader continues to be treated as a god even as the infirmity of old age has him barfing and pissing all over the floor. It walks such a fine line between macabre and comic, with gratuitous violence deployed so casually that it’s both hilarious and uncomfortable to watch. Throw in a ridiculous cameo by a certain other political someone (which seems to have flown under many people’s radars), and the ability to kick Hitler’s face in and receive an achievement for doing so, and you’ve got the most jaw-dropping scene in a game so full of them that it rated its own category. It’s a great prelude for the direction we desperately hope this franchise is heading in a third game two or three years from now.”
      – Best Wolfenstein 2 Moment or Sequence, Giant Bomb

      “Thing is though, I really liked watching Wolfenstein II. The story is as ludicrous a rollercoaster ride as I’ve experienced in years. The developers at MachineGames know exactly what kind of story they want to tell, and the moments of dread and misery intermingled with the moments of levity and excitement create an intoxicating brew of violent weirdness. I loved the new additions to your team of ragtag rebels, and BJ’s arc over the last two games is one of the most fascinating reenvisionings of a boilerplate video game protagonist ever attempted.”
      – Alex Navarro, Giant Bomb

      “There’s Grace, the black power activist who, in one scene, treats you to a withering rebuttal of the use of “balls” as a metaphor for courage while breast-feeding a child. There’s Sigrun, a former Nazi who is the centre of a conversation about fat-shaming, and Max Hass, a mentally impaired man whose psychedelic crayon doodles slowly flower across the ship’s hull. There is a room containing a pig and a disco ball. Some of the best moments in the game are, in fact, scenes in which BJ is merely an onlooker – fully motion-captured encounters between characters that are stumbled on as you explore, and which are borderline essential in order to get the most out of the main story.”
      – Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, Eurogamer

      I think it’s a difficult discussion to have without going into the politics, though. Every single site I looked at would, at the very least, mention something to the effect of “In a year where fascism has snuck back into public discord, Wolfenstein is more relevant than ever, and it says fascism sucks“. I’ve largely refrained from commenting because not having played it or watched any of it, I have no reasonable opinion. But if the game is garnering a lot of praise explicitly for its politics, those politics should be talked about in a retrospective made to refute the positive critical reception it got. It’s overlooking their biggest argument and the reason it resonated for so many people in the first place. Nobody is saying it’s got improved gunplay or a perfectly coherent plot, they’re saying it felt really good to shoot nazis and see these outrageous cutscenes in 2017 in a game that looked at not just nazis, but fascism in America.

      • Henson says:

        As someone who didn’t follow any of the conversation surrounding Wolfenstein 2, this is all quite interesting. And while I would be interested in exploring the issues regarding reviewers and possible appeals to politics, I think it was wise for Shamus to completely avoid this question, up to this point so far. His goal is certainly to demonstrate where and how Wolfenstein fails as a story, and making any mention of the conversation around the game might be seen to undermine his argument. “Oh, you just didn’t like the game because political discussion x insert here. Better not to muddle the issue. For now.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Agreed, except that it’s probably best to avoid muddling the issue later as well.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          It’s not exactly a new problem. Modern Warfare suffered the same basic faults. And it is perfectly possible (as our host does below) to simply take the political point arguendo, and then point out that it is still terribly done.

          I think the politics of Modern Warfare 3 were simplistic. But I can put that aside -many great movies have politics I don’t like, but are still great movies. John Wayne thought Spartacus was communist agitprop, he still helped Kirk Douglas in making it. What is irritating about Modern Warfare 3 is that it is so blooming ham-handed in making it’s points about nuclear war, or The Great Game of diplomacy, or the pointlessness of societal-scale revenge.

          And it is especially irritating because the first game actually was pretty good about its critique of American foreign military interventions. You can debate and disagree with the argument that America is far too cavalier in its interventions, and that Shock and Awe covers a multitude of sins, but will eventually explode (literally, in the game) in America’s face. And secondarily that the media is a little too happy to push intervention itself. (The Cobra getting shot down in reference to Black Hawk Down is having a conversation with Ridley Scott, who’s commentary on BHD indicates that, while it wasn’t the point of the movie, he was perfectly happy to have it read as a brief for intervention in the Middle East.) But the game delivers the argument well, and it speaks to the ability of the makers that the sequence can, in fact, be debated and discussed.

          Whatever Wolfenstein’s politics -real or perceived -it doesn’t look like it delivered nearly as well.

          • Preciousgollum says:

            My reading of the Modern Warfare Trilogy is that it is Captain Price’s responsibility.

            More specifically, the boast about ‘One shot, one kill’ which didn’t transpire that way, and, as a result of some old fashioned ‘special forces meddling’, is the instigator for the whole saga. I’m not blaming Captain Price, but it is worth highlighting that he is the catalyst for nearly all modern warfare game events based on him following orders in the Ppryat mission.

            And it is the irony that a bit of ‘preemptive assassination’ by SAS in that mission failed, which directly inspires Makarov’s campaign of global terror.

            I am aware how it seems trite that a charasser was retonned to witness an event when they probably didn’t even exist as a character in the first game, but that is what makes it all the more personal for Captain Price – In his relentless desire to follow orders and ‘do good’ he ‘created’ Makarov.

            Just thought I’d add that as an example where merit can be seen in sequels, even if it isn’t what the player/consumer might have wanted.

            Same could be said for Blasko in Wolfenstein – He had created the conditions for people see him as a damaged monster, but the more he carries on, and with a new super-soldier body, how long will it be before Blasko is unironically seen as and worshipped as an ‘Ubermensch’ by inhabitants of and in the context of the story?

        • BlueBlazeSpear says:

          I think that the Wolfenstein franchise falls into a similar category as the Duke Nukem franchise. They’re holdovers from a time in gaming before games were designed as narrative, cinematic experiences. It was a time where it was sufficient for a game to be considered fun and engaging solely on the virtue of being a parody or a farce.

          When we drag them kicking and screaming into the modern gaming landscape, they just don’t fit like they used to. The early Duke Nukem games were a parody of that 1980s action movie schlock that was still fresh on the minds of the pop culture landscape. But once we moved on from that, we moved on from Duke because he was a one trick pony and the trick had run its course. But nostalgia made people think more fondly on those early games, but not really thinking about how they would/could fit into modern gaming. So how did they drag Duke Nukem into the present? They made a parody of the original games. And a parody of a parody looks rightly ridiculous. What you get is Duke Nukem Forever.

          And the original Wolfenstein games were about mindlessly shooting what was pretty much a mutually-agreed set of “bad guys.” This seems like the moment where gaming was transitioning from first-person shooting mutants, monsters, and demons to first-person shooting fellow human beings. If you think about it, that’s a pretty important distinction. Of course it’s going to be humans who are a farcical parody of the ultimate bad guys. Nowadays, we don’t even flinch when mowing down realistic-looking brown people in real places in the world while using the digital equivalent of real-world weaponry. But when we crossed this line, it had to be Nazis.

          I think that this is another case where the nostalgia out-paced the genre. These games were easy when they were just about mindlessly mowing down guys in jackboots and Mecha-Hitler. But we’re now in a gaming landscape where we demand more from our games. And we’re in a world where there are people calling themselves Nazis marching in the streets and the most powerful man in the world basically said “Eh – they’re decent people.” This was a franchise that was never meant to advance a socio-political agenda, but we’re now in a world – crazy as it sounds – where it does have a ton of political ramifications to shoot Nazis.

          We’re wanting to have all of these ancillary discussions about what this game is trying to say socially and politically because of where we’re at in the world, but this game just wants to be a farce about shooting cartoon-y bad guys while applying the veneer of something that makes some sort of statement. I don’t think this game was built for anything deeper and when we try to apply modern day thought to it, we accidentally and mistakenly invest motives and statements into it. I think that to talk politically about this game is to give it too much credit.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Except that the new order did it.It was both a good nostalgic shooter AND a modern narrative driven game.Its a good blend,it works.Also,unlike duke,wolfenstein already went through a reboot earlier.And there,it also was a good reboot with a shitty sequel.

            • BlueBlazeSpear says:

              I’m completely at your mercy when it comes to discussions of quality of 2009’s Wolfenstein or 2014’s The New Order with me having not engaged them in any meaningful way. People who have played them are better suited for that discussion, but I understand that the latter seems to be pretty well-liked.

              While we had certainly reached the threshold of cinematic, narrative gaming by that point, I don’t know if they were on the cutting edge of saying anything meaningful about the current world? And the current world itself looks a little different. Are we talking about The New Colossus trying to put that genie back in the bottle? Or trying to be similarly provocative and failing? Or trying to hit the same tone in a world that’s shifted just a bit too much for it? I can only work with what’s in front of me, and if I’ve been reading any of this correctly, this game is too vapid to have anything resembling meaningful political commentary. And that’s something I can relate back to in my old days of Wolfenstein 3D and blasting my way through piles of Nazis and having it not mean anything.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                The problem with this game is the classic one two death blow of so many sequels:The need to repeat a thing,only on a bigger scale,and the less amount of time to do it in.So while the new order was fine with its political commentary,not going overboard with it,rather just having a thing or two to say about nazis being horrible and pathetic,and women being just as capable to fight in a war,this one aimed to say much more about nazis with parallels to the modern world and women being badasses.And it aimed to do it in roughly half the time.Hence why it all feels like a jumbled first draft of all these ideas thrown on a pile.Because thats precisely what it is.

                • BlueBlazeSpear says:

                  So, it’s your contention that The New Colossus attempted to double-down on its commentary from The New Order and that it just came across as a lot more ham-fisted because of a tighter production schedule? If so, I’m definitely missing some pieces of the puzzle. Which shouldn’t seem shocking. I haven’t seen anything in this critique series that suggests “They tried to be thoughtful and failed.” There’s barely been any “They’ve tried to tell a coherent story.”

                  And I can only assume that the game was well in the works by the time the 2016 election was happening. If this is the case, this game got hit with a double-whammy of bad timing. When you’re that far into production, can you even go back and fiddle with things so that the shift in the public consciousness can at least be recognized? My gut says no. If attempts like this were made, it could also account for a sloppy message. I still have a hard time processing the idea that there was any message here at all.

                  • Distec says:

                    I think you’re mostly right at the end there. TNC’s story was probably pretty baked in by the time the 2016 election had shaken everything up. The world definitely seems quite different now than it did a few years ago, and a new Wolfenstein release would find itself in a very different political climate.

                    And yet – TNC’s raw storytelling failures aside – I’m not sure the political ambitions of TNC’s story (assuming any were even intended) are wholly to blame for its failure among audiences. I thought the well was poisoned by marketing and media commentary, to be honest.

                    I can say that after their brilliant Twitter promotion and Pete Hines opening his mouth, my personal excitement for TNC probably dropped from a 9 to a 5. I can’t fault the lead writer, level designer, or any other dev staff for that.

            • Olivier FAURE says:

              Everything the others said about Wolfenstein II not having any meaningful political statements to make definitely applied to The New Order.

              Secret jew conspiracies aside, it didn’t really have anything to say politically, beside “these nazis are evil and you’re right to shoot them”. You could easily have swapped them with aliens, HL2 combine, communists, or any form of dictatorship at all and gotten roughly the same game.

              • Daath says:

                Consider that Kreisau Circle was an ethnically diverse group of personally flawed resistance fighters that included some strong women (one even in a wheelchair), taking on a totalitarian empire worshipping strength, purity and homogeneity. It didn’t yell The Message in the player’s face like TNC did, but it certainly depicted that contrast very clearly, and then in the end the Nazis lost. I think the conclusion about the sheer pointlessness of Nazi inhumanity in pursuit of power was pretty clear, and we were supposed to draw it. That theme wouldn’t quite work as well if you changed Nazis to Communists or some generic evil empire.

                Also, Da’at Yichud was a secret society, not a conspiracy. They didn’t have any nefarious ends, or indeed any intentions to change the world at all. That’s a pretty crucial distinction, because if they were a conspiracy, then yes, that plot point would be pretty iffy.

      • Echo Tango says:

        If as an artistic creator, you’re going to make a statement on some political issue, you need to put in the effort. Yes, it’s good that this game was taking a stance on something that the creators disagreed with, but if the story is weak, it breaks the suspension of disbelief in the audience. If the audience no longer believes in the story, they’re less likely to be persuaded by the political argument you’re making. For the people who already believe in the thing you’re arguing for, that’s nice, but as the phrase goes, that’s preaching to the choir.

      • Shamus says:

        This is really insidious because it mixes virtue-signaling 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”.

        These novelty scenes could all work. Gross Hitler? Badass pregnant woman? The last hope for freedom in America is a black woman breastfeeding her infant? This is all good stuff. 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. I can also understand who so many of those reviewers who might want to blow of steam by killing Nazis, for all the reasons you mentioned. Honestly, it’s not all that different from the Call of Duty games. “Here is some external force that you find scary / frustrating, go to town on them”.

        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, obey the established rules of the world, and so on. It’s not just that you’ll make a shitty story, it’s that even the gratification itself will fall flat if it’s not part of a world we can buy into.

        I’ve been very lucky here because there hasn’t been any backlash to my criticism, but I also know that if I was writing for a high-profile site like RPS or Eurogamer I’d have to worry about that sort of thing.

        Hmmm. I think what I just wrote would make a better conclusion to this series than what I’ve already written.

        Shit.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          This is precisely what was my reaction to the winner of 2016 eurovision song contest.The winner was from ukraine and won because it was a war song from someone in ukraine.Never mind that the war she was singing about was world war two,never mind that the song was about someone elses experience and thus rather weak,never mind that she was not a good singer,never mind that the song itself was lame,we simply HAVE to pick a war song from ukraine as the winner!

          Its not just insidious,its very frustrating as well.

          • Dev Null says:

            Ok, but having watched a few Eurovisions with friends, and eventually settled on a scoring system from 0 to negative infinity because there was absolutely nothing you could say about any of it musically that deserved positive points, and you _always_ needed to reserve the right to go even lower… I’m gonna say that “meh; it’s a war song from Ukraine” is as good a method for picking a least-worst “winner” as any.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Ehh, just write an epilogue to the conclusion.

        • Baron Tanks says:

          I do hope you come up with something close to that. I’ve been enjoying this series, as well as appreciating your choice to leave politics out of the discussion. But this game and story are so much about these conversations it’s odd to skip past it. I almost muttered YES! under my breath as I read this comment. This gets at the heart of why this narrative doesn’t work as a whole and is an important part of analysis. I hope we read something similar in your conclusion and hindsight 20/20, was probably appropriate to mention earlier. Keep up the good work boss.

        • trevalyan says:

          Don’t give up on yourself yet, Shamus. Personally, I think a searing critique of TNC that doesn’t rely on the sheer absurdity of its politics is unique. Women are apparently equal in combat to men, so why not pregnant ones? We aren’t murderous Jew terrorists straight out of the Protocols, and to prove it we’ll nuke New Orleans to give our boat a little push! Nazis only managed to do all this through stealing superior Jewish technology- maybe those danged Polish and French just didn’t have enough gumption, ya know? Ad nauseaum.

          But you managed to get through most of this series by pointing out only the obvious plot holes and apolitical absurdities. If it was me, I would point out that the ending is screamingly dumb, maybe because they want it to be prescriptive for America 2016. In the real world, people from the Warsaw Ghetto, to the White Rose, to the von Stauffenberg plot, did resist Hitler- and with considerably more chance of making meaningful change. They were all slaughtered horrifically- the fate of the July 20th plotters in particular is not something to ponder on a full stomach. “Making some noise” and random street violence is not only guaranteed to fail against ruthless secret police in a repressive dictatorship, but it was a favorite tactic of the Nazi brownshirts against a fundamentally decent democracy. If riots and civil disobedience work to shame a government, maybe those guys aren’t really that bad.

          And that’s before the insane notion that the America willing to sell black people into slavery/ concentration camps is enthusiastically getting behind Beyonce Guevara for their popular revolution.

        • Christopher says:

          It was a bit dumb to say you should talk about the politics of the game considering what your blog’s MO is.

          I have a hard time looking at Wolfenstein the New Colossus and not think about the politics – it’s kinda the inverse of when some critic reads way too much into a game that has no explicit politics. That’s annoying because it feels like he’s just looking at the game in a skewed way to draw out some mesage or theme to discuss rather than looking at what’s actually there and if they’re even trying to “say” something in the first place. Unlike those instances, the devs here put a lot of time into the politics angle and put it at the forefront, and as a vital part of the game it feels odd when it’s not talked about.

          But besides commenting on politics being very much not your thing, that’s also not where your frustrations lie. You don’t really need to comment on it to make your case for why you thought the cutscenes were too long, the gameplay too bad, and so on.

          I think it’s useful to recognize that the politics is why the game got so much press last year. Someone could read the retrospective and go “why does this piece of shit game get so many favorable reviews compared to the predecessor that seems better in every area?”, and the actual answer seems less to be “reviewers are idiots” and more “The New Colossus was the right game at the right time for a lot of writers in the games industry”. Most of the reviews and coverage I saw do acknowledge that the gameplay is worse than The New Order and the plot isn’t that coherent – there’s a reason Giant Bomb made a category celebrating the best(read: craziest) moments or sequences rather than award it their Best Story award, for instance. They just liked it anyway because it gave them what they needed when they needed it, while The New Order did not(and as I recall, got an above-average reception but no major press besides in a “this is way better than I expected of Wolfenstein” kinda way).

          But this game hitting those reviewers right in the heart despite its flaws doesn’t invalidate the frustrating experience you had because of them, either. I think it’s totally fair that you should be able to talk about the execution of the game without getting bogged down in the politics talk you try your hardest to avoid.

        • Erik says:

          You haven’t posted it yet – there’s still time for an edit pass.

          I do really appreciate that you’ve been able to separate both the politics from the game, and the attempted story beats from their actual execution. That fine resolution of analysis is so rare, and it’s absolutely why I bother reading a series about a game I haven’t played and probably will never play. It teaches me, and helps me to learn how to make my own distinctions in the future.

        • Dreadjaws says:

          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”.

          Is this a bad time to mention that I think Black Panther is merely decent and not the Second Coming of superhero movies, like the critics like to treat it?

          I think it suffers from this problem as well. And I don’t get it, it’s not like it’s the first black superhero movie (or even the first black superhero movie that’s not a pile of trash). In fact, the entire reason we even have good superhero movies now is pretty much because of Blade, which gave people pause and realize “Hey, we can have movies that are good, fun and actually respect the source material while going for a more mature audience”.

          I see this kind of thing all the time. I remember watching a kids talent show on TV several years ago and one night one of the contestants had Down Syndrome, to which, as soon as he showed up I thought “He’s going to be the winner”. I wish my cynism had been proven wrong, but it sadly wasn’t. He won despite not doing anything even remotely special, while all the other kids that had put lots of effort in their performances were ignored.

          Yeah, it’s a bad situation. If they were fair and judge the kids for their actual talent and performance, he wasn’t going to win (and, to be clear, I don’t say he wasn’t going to win because he had Down Syndrome, but because all the other contestants were simply better at what they were doing), but obviously the judges would be accused of discrimination, probably by the parents, who obviously knew their kid was going to win just for showing up. But even though they’re the ones treating their kid as a trophy, they would easily get all the sympathy if they went that route.

          And what about those other poor kids? You’re basically teaching them that there’s no worth in putting effort when victory can be taken off your hands by someone who happens to to be rule-proof. Yeah, it’s realistic, but come on.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            The critics may be wrong about the reason,but they are right about bp being the best superhero movie of all times.And that is because of two words:Armored rhinoceri.

          • Olivier FAURE says:

            Re Black Panther: Yeah, I thought this was a okay-ish superhero movie; it’s your average “fill the space between the Captain Americas and the Avengers” Marvel movie: very formulaic, with nice action scenes and witty dialogue, and nothing interesting to say. Again, that makes for an okay superhero movie.

            But it was worthless as a political or sociological exploration. It’s ridiculously American-centric, pays zero attention to actual real-life African politics, the character’s ideologies are all emotion and zero “What would actually happen if we did this?”, and essentially the whole movie is based around the one “Lol we’re African but actually have really advanced technology” gimmick.

      • poiumty says:

        Oh god I could not go over those insufferably navel-gazy quotes without cringing. THIS is what high art is now: token characters, bad storytelling, and hamfisted political activism. Disgusting.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          THIS is what high art is now

          If only this were a new trend.

          • poiumty says:

            Well it certainly is for the politics part.

            I’m counting “new” as “within the last 5 years”.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              Propaganda has always had low standards, whether or not the game in question qualifies. Time doesn’t change these kinds of things very much either. For example, people have been nostalgic for a mythical past for millennia, evidenced by essentially the same correction given in Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 when the Preacher says “Don’t ask ‘Where have the good old days gone?’ It’s one of the stupid questions.”

              Any time a societal problem appears novel, we should begin by examining our own lack of experience rather than suspecting the sudden appearance of a brand new human behavior. Same goes for the positive novelties such as fads.

          • BlueHorus says:

            If only this were a new trend.

            Yep. I’ve seen some absolute trash held up as ‘good’ long before this, because it just so happened to catch the zeitgeist, or because of the politics of the time. Nothing new about that at all.

            As long as you’re saying what people want to hear/already think, you don’t have to do it well to get applause.

        • Gethsemani says:

          Pre-face: I do read both RPS and Polygon and consider them, along with Eurogamer, my go to places for gaming news. That being said… It is not what high art is. It is what mediocre writers (who are, often, good game reviewers) think passes for high art. Look at those quotes and see how the writers have all tried their best to strike up an intellectual, lyrical tone. They are going for a very specific kind of writing, and they are failing. They are milking TNC for all the meaning it is worth, even if said meaning is buried under tons of dysfunctional storytelling.

          Which is, in the end, is one of the problems with gaming journalism: A lot of gaming journalists want their games to be more, to mean more, then what the game developers set out to do. Far Cry 5 is a stellar example of how gaming journalists lose their head because they wanted a game to be more political then it was (and seriously, if you ever played the prior Far Crys you’d know not to expect serious introspection on contemporary politics). TNC is the opposite, a game on their wave-length; a game that wants to be more political then it is capable of being, due to bad writing.

          I absolutely think we can have this discussion without going political, because the exact politics of a game is not really pertinent to this discussion. It is the impact of the perceived politics of the game that matters, and how other people react to it. High Art has often been political, games can certainly be, but for any work of art or media to work (political or not) the artistic merit has to be there. TNC doesn’t have the quality needed to be good politics, because in its’ eagerness to say something, it ends up tripping over its’ own point. It is, if you excuse a poor metaphor, more akin to a spray-painted slogan in an underpass then it is Guernica or Triumph of the Will.

          • Viktor says:

            I’d argue that most games(most stories, actually) are political. Whether people realize it’s political, and whether the creators are any good at getting their message across, is another matter. How many Americans’ impression of the police is based off of Law and Order or NCIS? That has a serious effect on any discussion of policing in this country, which is a major political effect, but I guarantee you the showrunners aren’t thinking about their show as political. A lot of games are the same way.
            Now, is it better to try for a political message and fail because you’re not a good enough writer, or to write something with a political message you never intended? That’s a more complex question, but I don’t think it’s fair to condemn Wolfenstein for being political badly when so few games are political well. (Condemning Wolfenstein for WHICH politics it holds is a different thing entirely, and outside the scope of this site).

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              But if you base your story on ncis,you arent really saying anything political,you are just aping someone elses stereotypes.Talking politics in a work clearly inspired by other works is pointless.Unless the work itself specifically brings up the question,deliberately.

              but I don’t think it’s fair to condemn Wolfenstein for being political badly when so few games are political well

              True.But the problem here is that this game did its entire story badly,not just the political aspect of it.Meanwhile,as many have suggested,the new order kind of whiffed its politics with the whole “secret jew tech”.Yet that game had a solid story,which is why those unfortunate implications were mostly looked over.A few bad things can be overlooked if the whole is consistently good.

            • Gethsemani says:

              I think you’re right about most media being political, whether it intends to or not, but I also subscribe to the idea that the personal is political. No matter what you do, your media or art will have political undertones, because people will be able to find meaning or take lessons away from your work. Your example about Law & Order and NCIS being a good example of how apparently apolitical shows influence real world political issues.

              But I disagree with your assessment on Wolfenstein. I think it is totally fair to “condemn” it for being politically bad even if few other games are politically good. The difference between TNC and most other games is that TNC wants to be political, that’s the core of its existence. It wants to tell us something about modern politics but it bungles it so often and so repeatedly that the message gets lost. It should be criticized for that, because I believe a game should be measured by what it wants to do. If Doom provides us with bad combat gameplay it should be criticized, if Oxenfree had given us terrible dialogue it should have been criticized. In the same way TNC wants to give us a political statement, but it can’t do so in an effective way.

              That’s not to say that political games are inherently bad. However, just like a shooter needs responsive input, so does a game with an intended political message need a good narrative to deliver said message.

          • Ander says:

            “That’s something I’ve never seen in a game or anywhere else, and as an image and a statement of what this game is all about it’s worth a thousand battles against enormous ubermachines.”

            When Adam Smith says that, he might be making a personal value statement that is true because he really feels that way. I rather doubt that he’d be chill with the game if it didn’t have ubermachines, but let’s take him at face value. There are people who consistently claim that a message with which they agree overshadows the quality of the art or say that “Sure it’s not great, but it has a message that needed to be said.” If you disagree with that, do you say that you see their view (that message > quality) as invalid, weak, faulty? If so, how? I genuinely want to know, because I’ve had trouble convincing people that the awfulness of what are essentially religious propaganda movies/video games/books makes the message which you might agree with less effective and useful. This is directly relevant to me because I write game reviews for a religious-focused site.

            • Syal says:

              I genuinely want to know, because I’ve had trouble convincing people that the awfulness of what are essentially religious propaganda movies/video games/books makes the message which you might agree with less effective and useful.

              I don’t think that’s true. As long as it doesn’t become a go-to example of “What It’s All About” it’s the equivalent of a statement from a random guy on the Internet. It’s not like you can stop everyone in the world from saying stupid things. If a message can’t survive being expressed badly sometimes, it can’t survive at all.

              If you want to criticize a bad propaganda piece, there’s often non-message stuff you can point out to get the “this doesn’t work” part of the brain rolling. Or stuff that contradicts the message.

          • Joe Informatico says:

            Media that are mostly perceived to be low art/pulp in their storytelling will be praised as revolutionary when they’re perceived to have reached a level of sophistication that more respectable media are at, even if the other media have been doing so for decades. This isn’t bad on the face of it–it’s good for a medium to show it’s capable of mature or intelligent storytelling, even if it doesn’t have to be. But it can really weaken a critique if it feels like it’s investing a couple of superficial elements with the depth of a real literary masterpiece.

            • Asdasd says:

              It’s the dinner party problem. Games journalists want to be able to feel good about talking about what they do to their peers.

              If you work for Duder Gamer News and your peer group is your broski friends at the local dive then this isn’t a big deal. ‘Hey Joe, this is my buddy Mark. Check this out – he plays videogames all day and gets paid to write about them!’ ‘Get the fuck out, are you serious?! That’s awesome!’

              But if you’re a part of the Upmarket Boutique Games Media, and you get invited to dinner parties with Actual Journalists and Real Professionals, who are going to give you nothing more than a thin smile (and your host a meaningful glance) when you try to explain the importance of the father-daughter bond as examined through the lens of a game about a fungus-zombie apocalypse, you are going to leap at any title, no matter how fumblingly executed, that gives you an opportunity to claim there is real meaning to your work.

              • Ander says:

                you are going to leap at any title, no matter how fumblingly executed, that gives you an opportunity to claim there is real meaning to your work.

                It is unfortunate that explaining the significance in a game is, for many, an uphill battle. There are many games which, as games, communicate significant ideas in a way another medium couldn’t. A games journalist grasping at The Last of Us doesn’t really help because a Real Journalist might ask, “And how is that story better told than it would be in a movie, miniseries, or novel? How was it helped by being a game?” (not meant to criticize you for mentioning it at all) And the Real Journalist, if we’re talking about Naughty Dog and Co., has a bit of a point. Now, I think the video game-ness of TLoU brings something to the table, but there are other games that might make the point much more clearly that a game was needed to say this Significant Thing.

                In the short-term it’s frustrating. In the long-term, I try to remember that the theatre, the novel, the radio, and the talkie were demeaned as lacking in real worth at some point in all of their existences.

      • krellen says:

        I can’t help but notice that every one of those reviews glowing about the “strong women” in this game is written by a man. I feel like that’s relevant.

      • ccesarano says:

        I want to avoid being political myself, but I do wonder if catharsis, wish-fulfillment, and confirmation bias (sort of (I suppose pop culture isn’t exactly evidence of one’s beliefs being true?)) are what really helped this.

        As Shamus also notes, let’s really try to piece together what is and isn’t empowerment, or at least okay empowerment. If the above image were a naked BJ (phrasing!) covered in blood and blasting two machine guns, would that be referred to as toxic masculinity? What prevents the current scene from being cheesecake? Is it that she’s pregnant and that’s (insert “my fetish” gag) an atypical body form not often viewed in mainstream society as attractive? What makes this empowerment whereas the same with men would be toxic or juvenile? Is it the frequency in which it occurs?

        In a lot of ways just asking these questions suggests you’re not part of the progressive crowd, even if your questions are purely academic. Trying to understand where the lines are and what factors place them.

        To me, reading about TNC gives me the impression that it’s going to be a campy B-Movie. I mean, “topless pregnant woman covered in blood guns down Nazis” sounds like it’s taken right out of a descendant of the grindhouse flicks. When I look up cut-scenes on YouTube, however, this stuff is performed and directed with the sincerity of a wannabe Oscar flick. I’ve pointed out the inconsistency before, but it’s so jarring what you get on paper versus what you see and hear.

        When I first heard Anya, while pregnant, is involved in fighting Nazis, I thought it was in desperation. Why would a pregnant woman, regardless of capability, want to endanger the life inside of her? I suppose you could have a psychological story about a pregnant woman doing all these death-defying things because she doesn’t want the child and, for whatever reason, is unable or uncomfortable with an outright abortion. That would be quite a tale, I think, and wonder if a woman has already written it. But when I think of every pregnant woman I’ve ever known, no matter how strong, athletic, or independent, the notion of putting the baby in danger was unthinkable.

        So is this truly an empowering moment to women? Or is it simply what a man thinks would be empowering? Wouldn’t it have made more sense if overweight Sigrun had the moment, as others have noted, topless and her overweight belly covered in blood, as a statement for female empowerment regardless of what man thinks is hot?

        I suppose, in the end, I prefer Shamus’ no politics perspective on it. While I think there’s room to intellectually and academically ask each other “is this empowerment?” or “is this making a statement about prejudice and fascism” (speaking of, sounds like they tried with Grace and Sigrun what Inglourious Basterds already did… in fact, probably applicable to the whole game), you first need everyone at the table to not be coming in hoping to shout down another side from the get go, be it what you think of the modern Right or your grudge against the modern games writer/reviewer. Maybe we can get that in… um… our lifetime? but for now, the closest we can do is just evaluate the game as it is.

        Which, to me, seems like the writer thinking they were writing something different from the director.

        • BlueHorus says:

          To me, reading about TNC gives me the impression that it’s going to be a campy B-Movie. I mean, “topless pregnant woman covered in blood guns down Nazis” sounds like it’s taken right out of a descendant of the grindhouse flicks. When I look up cut-scenes on YouTube, however, this stuff is performed and directed with the sincerity of a wannabe Oscar flick.

          I’ve been feeling like this pretty much every Wolfenstein article for a few weeks now: this game should have been presented as a comedy/B-movie.
          The story seems just too stupid for the way it’s being presented: from a fat nazi girl attacking her armed mother over a diary to the non-fatal beheading plot to flying to Venus to kill Hitler and so on – this is the plot to a shlocky grindhouse game.
          Drop the pretension to a serious story and go nuts. You wanna kill Hitler in your story? Have BJ tear off the Fuhrer’s leg and beat him to death with it!

          …though apparently the pretension payed off. The quotes posted by Christopher – from professional reviewers! – kind of blow my mind. Just…what?

        • Gethsemani says:

          I think you are right and both TNO and TNC have a distinct grindhouse-vibe. My personal guess is that the grindhouse-style worked in TNO and the devs tried to keep it for TNC, but somewhere along the way they bungled the mix between shlocky grindhouse and earnest delivery that made TNOs storytelling work. The end result is a lot of scenes that are tonally inconsistent because they are grindhouse in their aesthetics, but the game seems to take them entirely seriously instead of winking at the player at the absurdity of it all.

      • Cubic says:

        What this tells me is game reviewers are terrible* and this was a game built for them.

        * Present company excluded, of course.

    • Nimrandir says:

      I’m tempted to say that someone finally found the AAA-gaming equivalent of Oscar bait.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    And yet here she is treating Sigrun as less than a person because of her heritage.

    But is it just her heritage?I mean the “we cant trust someone who betrayed all the people they knew and were friends with for years” is a common trope in every story involving switching sides,and it does make sense.How can you be sure that her current loyalty will last long?

    On the other hand,its such an easy trope to invoke that many often throw it out without a thought.Not every traitor is as well written as zuko.

    • Was she friends with them though? Never played either game, but from what Shamus has written it sounds more like she was ostracized than embraced. I dunno if “this is all I know and it sucks, but wait, the enemy treats me better, WHEE SIDE SWITCH” is a trope, but if it isn’t, it probably should be. Heck, I’ve seen it happen in real life (friend of mine grew up fundamentalist, very sheltered, and miserable, and then discovered a group of pagan geeks (including me) and is now much happier and comfortable in her own skin). Assuming Sigrun’s transition was anything like that, I’d be vaguely worried about her switching sides again, but I certainly wouldn’t be antagonizing her, more trying to make sure she’s still okay with her choice and keep her happy on our side.

      Grace’s treatment seems like it’d just make any regrets or doubts Sigrun has far worse.

  10. Just looking at Anya in that shot makes my back ache in sympathy, and I’ve never been pregnant (I do have a old back injury that was made far worse by a large body mass shift, but it was weight loss over a year, not another being growing in 40 weeks).

    Isn’t there some rule about not risking medics if you don’t have to?

    I’d think Anya would be far more valuable caring for the injured, doing battlefield triage if necessary, that sort of thing, whether she’s male or female, pregnant or not. That just seems like a waste of an important resource, really. The ability to aim and shoot and fight is valuable, but I’d think the medical training she has that helps keep the others alive is far more valuable unless the Resistance is swimming in doctors and nurses.

    It’s nice she gets to be the badass warrior for a bit, but why can’t Sigrun do that and she can be badass nurse/medic? Heck, there’s at least one Cracked article on kick-ass medics doing amazing things under fire they could have used for inspiration!

  11. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    Here’s a subjective stance I have: Maybe narrative structure as we know it is so well-established because it’s the way that works and a game like this shouldn’t try to fuss with it because the writer doesn’t have the chops to do it successfully. Other storytelling techniques can work in more deft hands, but that’s because, in part, they understand the structure that they’re subverting. If you’re describing this game’s story accurately, it feels more accurately like a mish-mash of ideas that lacks a story structure.

    When it comes to video games though, I think I see why a mish-mash approach might be more desirable to the people making the game than having a rigid story structure that they doggedly need to stick to: When crunch time starts happening and deadlines start looming, it’s easier to start trimming things out of a pile of nonsense than out of the scaffold of a story. But once you’ve decided that you want to tell a story, you have to commit, right? I guess that is unless you go with the old school Bioware modular approach.

    I think that partying before the big push is not some nonsensical thing. It’s the whole “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” approach. But it still has its rules too. I think that for it to work, the main character has to have his/her fun with the companions, but then step away to have that moment of quiet introspection when they’re thinking about the odds and if they’re doing the right thing, or if they’re the right person for the job, etc. I think you have to have that space for the solitary dark thoughts, but then you have that moment right at the end where one of the revelers grabs the protagonist and drags him/her back into the celebration. That’s probably specific enough where it’s not so much a rule as it is a personal preference.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      There’s no reason you couldn’t do a nested modular storytelling system, of modules made out of sub-modules, each with their own arc, and each adapted to whatever setting you find yourself in, and the choices you make.
      That would take even longer than writing just one good story though, and while skill may have been lacking, it also seems like the writing staff lacked time as well.

    • KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Here’s a subjective stance I have: Maybe narrative structure as we know it is so well-established because it’s the way that works and a game like this shouldn’t try to fuss with it because the writer doesn’t have the chops to do it successfully. Other storytelling techniques can work in more deft hands, but that’s because, in part, they understand the structure that they’re subverting.

      One of my animation teacher always said the same thing when talking about drawing something in a different way: you need to understand why it’s drawn that way (in this case, we were talking about perspective, so this would be the basic perspective) before you can try to mess with it (like, say, try and force a fisheye effect).

      Seems to me some people just weren’t taught properly.

    • Viktor says:

      I get the feeling what happens in games is very simple. Writer A comes up with a basic outline. At that point, level designers start putting together levels to fit each story beat along that outline. Then Writer A fleshes it out into a full script based off those level concepts and the outline. The team starts scripting basic cutscenes. Editors and the publisher review the script and call in changes. The gameplay guys come back with “we want him to be able to do this after level 6, can you add a tech upgrade during that opening cutscene?”. Writer A’s team makes the requested changes. Voice actors begin recording lines. Level designers come back with more modifications they need so they can justify laser walls and helicopters. At this point, every change requires unbudgeted recording time for the VAs and the cutscene animators, so the writers have to justify things as minimally as possible. Oh, and also since we cast the CFO’s daughter as the love interest we need to give her more lines, could you do that this weekend?

      A few games of that and you’ll very quickly give up on having a cohesive story. A string of setpiece fights and cool cutscenes that aren’t actually connected is much easier to edit after the fact, and a lot of players won’t notice anyway.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Sounds plausible, though I feel like I’m missing where Writer B, C, etc come in to this summary.

        • Syal says:

          They don’t, they were cut for time.

          • Viktor says:

            That’s actually close to accurate. I originally had the writer changing repeatedly throughout the post with no comment, but I decided it distracted from the joke and went with just Writer A throughout.

        • Naota says:

          As Level Designer D, that sounds remarkably accurate. You’d be surprised how often it goes the other way, too – narrative makes requests of the level design team for the sake of the central themes of the game. For all the strangely tone-deaf things that get left in big budget video games, I’m willing to bet a few fun ones get taken out for reasons the average player would consider nit-picky.

          Writers B and C are probably part of a big hierarchy. They’re handling combat barks (yes, really), journal entries, and dialogue for pieces as small as repeatable side quests up to stuff like Destiny’s raids. They might even be isolated in other studios if you’re a big publisher, working on the piece of the game they’ve been tasked with. That they don’t even factor into the process Viktor mentioned is why you sometimes see big disparities between how a game’s main story is written, and its narrative content at the “extremities”, such as coop missions or low-importance quests.

    • Miguk says:

      it’s easier to start trimming things out of a pile of nonsense than out of the scaffold of a story

      This is why it’s important for that scaffold of a story to include parts that are non-essential. When crunch time hits, you’ve already planned from the beginning what can be taken out without hurting the story as a whole.

      • That sounds to me like a clear case for having a very defined, distilled “MVP” concept of the story arc from the get-go. Then feel free to add curlicues and strengthening and adornment that bolster the main gist if there’s time, but when cutting time comes, it’s clear what can hit the floor and what can’t (while still leaving a coherent arc).

        That said, I don’t think that’s at all an easy skill to learn. I suspect it requires rather more self-awareness, self-restraint, and objectivity than many writers/writing teams have.

  12. poiumty says:

    >Maybe there would be this theme about how desperate war makes us that we would send a pregnant nurse into battle.

    Well I couldn’t figure out how to possibly justify that scene (not that I tried), but it’s amazing how much it would fit if the mood was darker and the storytelling followed what I just quoted. Now I just feel sad for what never was.

    This scene kinda reminds me of the recent South Park. Specifically, it reminds me of Cartman as the writer of this series, going “God, player. Women are badass. Get over it.”

    The “boss fight” didn’t seem like a boss fight at all. In fact, I was kinda happy that the game started throwing slightly harder enemies at me – I was getting bored of quickly disposing everyone I met with a few akimbo assault rifle precision shots.

    Not that I didn’t have troubles with the game before this, mind you, the game just gets pretty damn easy at one point and I imagine it has something to do with getting your health and armor values equalized. Talk about an inverse difficulty curve.

  13. Joshua says:

    A bit of a tangent, but your discussion about Anya reminded me of one of the plot holes from the recent Annihilation film (skip if you’re not interested in a tangent or don’t want spoilers):

    The main character (Lena) meets a small group of women at a military outpost near “Area X”. They tell her that they’re about to go on a mission into the zone within a few days. Lena wants in, so one of the next shots is all five women walking towards the “Shimmer” with camping gear and automatic rifles. My presumption at that point was that despite being scientists, they all had military backgrounds.

    Fast forward the movie about 20 minutes, and an action scene occurs where some of the ladies either drop their weapons or fire very inaccurately. Lena manages to hold her ground and fire controlled bursts (she was in the army for 6-7 years). One of the other characters asks her “Where did you learn to shoot like that?”, and Lena reveals her military history.

    At this point, I’m thinking “Wait a second, you mean these ladies have no military background, and yet they were being sent into a dangerous area with automatic weapons they don’t even know how to use?” Isn’t there anybody else that could go with them or instead of them?

  14. The Rocketeer says:

    “… The Aristocrats!”

  15. Adeon says:

    So one thing about Anya I think is worth pointing out. The New Order established that Anya was actually an experienced killer, to the point that there were newspaper articles warning about a serial killer preying on German men. It’s not spelled out explicitly but if you look around in the asylum and read the various newspaper articles it’s pretty obvious that Anya’s “cousin Ramona” was actually Anya herself.

    Now that being said, it established her more as a sneaky assassin type rather than a frontal assault type like BJ. But I think in some ways that has even more potential for a narrative. BJ can blast his way through the Ausmerzer creating a distraction and blowing stuff up while Anya sneaks around killing key officers, setting off false alarms and opening up security doors for him.

    EDIT: I just realized the really bad pun with full frontal assault and her actions in the game. It was not intentional but I’m leaving it in.

    • trevalyan says:

      Pregnant ladies are not known for their stealth bonuses, high agility, or combat endurance, but I’ll take “implausible albeit previously hinted at” over “insane horseshit” any day.

  16. DHW says:

    One weird thing about building up to a big feminist statement in a game like this is… if you ask anyone what was so terrible about Nazism, its views on feminism will be fairly far down the list below all the, you know, genocide and concentration camps and world conquest and so on. Imagine if, as the Rebel Alliance is launching its assault on the Death Star, Princess Leia stands up and delivers a stirring speech about how finally the Empire is going to be punished for its mistreatment of animals. I mean, maybe, but that’s not really what everyone’s heated up about, you know? It’s just ridiculously out of place.

  17. Dev Null says:

    He takes his pregnant wife.

    This is absurd. Ludicrous. Poppycock. Nonsense. I might even go so far as to say it’s really dumb.

    I haven’t played the game, and I just scrolled down here from those lines, so I haven’t read the rest of your article yet. I did this just to say “Silly, yeah, but you _might_ be able to pull it off just so long as she doesn’t get captured or killed or in any way need rescuing. And probably everyone else on the sub would have to be coming too.”

    There. Now I will go back and read the bit where you tell me that the two of them go alone, and she is captured and used as a hostage at some point. Or something to that effect.

  18. Redrock says:

    Not touching the political aspect with a long stick. But I will say that at the time the scene with Anya cemented my suspicion that this was going to be a riff on the ending of Repo Men. It is very similar to the final fight scene of that movie in essence. It all has to be a dying man’s dream. It makes so little sense otherwise. There is no catharsis, no release and very little meaning. The whole thing is goddamn depressing.

  19. Jabberwok says:

    All of this just reinforces my conviction that the proper story arc for this game should have been:
    1. Get head cut off in prologue.
    2. Get rescued and Robocopped.
    3. Get band together.
    4. Steal a ship and fly to Venus.
    5. Have racially charged arguments on the way.
    6. Kill Hitler, together.
    7. Escape before Venus explodes (throw weird naked pregnant woman girl power moment in here somewhere)
    8. The end.

    Pretty much all of the ‘edgy’ moments they wanted to include could have fit comfortably in a more focused story.

    • Redrock says:

      No, the proper story arc for this game would have been:

      1. Realise The New Order had a perfect ending and didn’t need a direct sequel
      2. Do literally anything else
      3. (Optional, a tad excessive): cut off the head of whoever came up with this dumb idea for a sequel in the first place.

      • BlueHorus says:

        Yeah, BJ died at the end of The New Order, and the sequel features a new protagonist.

        Also the entire tone is an OTT comedy, featuring a malfunctioning nazi-supersoldier body that goose-steps or salutes nazi-style at inappropriate moments, armies of Hitler clones, and aliens from Venus that have been indoctrinated as a nazi army – that mean you have to blow up the entire planet to save Earth! (Great idea BTW.)

        And a scene where you beat Hitler to death with his own leg.

        Dammit if I keep saying it maybe it’ll happen!

        • Redrock says:

          Congrats, you just invented Mass Effect 3.

          • BlueHorus says:

            If only ME3 had been that coherent…

            I can certainly think of some scenes in Mass Effect that would have been improved by certain characters being beaten to death with their own limbs.

            • Jabberwok says:

              Okay, my new ending to the series is Shepard, Anderson, and the Illusive Man beating each other to death with their own severed limbs. Then the gates and the Reapers all explode for no reason. Now THAT would have been the kind of audience trolling I could’ve gotten behind.

              • BlueHorus says:

                Yes.

                Thirty seconds of Shepard, TIM and Anderson hitting each other with their own limbs and laughing maniacally, then hard cut to a five-second shot of all the Reapers/gates exploding.
                Then another hard cut to a picture of the moon.

                CHILD: Is that really what happened?

                BUZZ ALDRIN: Maybe. Buy the DLC to find out!

                Cue credits.

                …After enough fan outrage, relese the Extended Cut, which turns thirty seconds of Shepard & co hitting each other while laughing into two minutes. Nothing else is changed except the colour of the explosions.

                • Jabberwok says:

                  “Here at EA, we stand behind the artistic vision of our team. We strongly believe that this extra minute-and-a-half of limb slapping will provide the necessary clarity and closure that fans want.”

            • Redrock says:

              Doesn’t the Reaper Blackstar gun qualify? It is technically made from a Reaper, and you can use it to kill them too.

  20. Nimrandir says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for the NSFW flag. I typically read the blog during my lunch break at work.

  21. Smith says:

    For the record, if you read Anya’s diary or something in the first game, you learned that she’s actually a Nazi serial killer.

    Except she did that by seducing them, then murdering them. Not going into combat.

    I mean, I guess I get the symbolism. Anya represents the future BJ thinks he can never have, but he dares to hope for anyway. But it could’ve, should’ve been finessed a little. Maybe keep her someplace safe, but she comes under fire anyway.

  22. Joe Informatico says:

    I know writers like to use twins and twin pregnancies for all sorts of dramatic purposes, and that’s fine. But after being a first-hand witness to my wife carrying and bearing our twins, I’ve now become That Guy when I see a twin pregnancy in fiction treated just like a singleton pregnancy. Padme in Revenge of the Sith is one of the worst offenders: no one that thin is concealing a multiples pregnancy after Week 10. But this is right up there.

  23. Arstan says:

    The submarine party scene reminds me a lot of the citadel dlc in me3. What was the point of throwing the party in the middle of losing a war?
    And since dlc came late, i always had this feeling iny head, that me3 had ended happily, and then citadel dlc happened. Maybe it is possible to “imagine-squeeze” the submarine party the same way?))

  24. Smejki says:

    I’ve read this at work.

  25. Zaxares says:

    I’m more amused by the fact that Anya had to rip off both her shirt AND her bra (because I can’t imagine a pregnant woman with lactating breasts deciding to run into battle without any proper support) in order for that scene to happen. Seems like pure gratuitousness on the developer’s part. SMH

  26. Sartharina says:

    The closest “Gratuitous” scene to the Anya one to me from TNO was Jimmi Hendrix’ death during the Nazi raid on the sewer hideout. But that didn’t have any of the problems the Anya scene did.

  27. General Karthos says:

    FYI, the rebels DO throw a big party before the assault on the Death Star, at least according to the EU. (It’s still canon, because nothing in the new movies has contradicted it, and these scenes took place during (but off-camera) episode IV.

  28. Preciousgollum says:

    It was said by the lead writer of Wolfenstein TNC that they NEVER meant for the game to speak on any modern point or issue involving the USA – (in other words, yes, the plot is suppose to be schlock)…but that those parallel just sort of happened while the game was in development & nearing release, out of coincidence.

    The lead writer also said: “I (just) f***ing hate Nazis” in a Swedish accent.

    https://youtu.be/wb-tF7WilP8

  29. Preciousgollum says:

    I think the reason why people are so disappointed in thw sequel, (apart from technical issues, gameplay and graphics that aren’t Id Tech 5 or Half-life 2 style textures…)…

    Is because the first game was a complete surprise to people, and there was a novel sense of profundity in BJ being turned into a walking dispenser of purple poetry… and now it isn’t new anymore. The second game is ‘dirty’, ‘grimy’ and ‘darker’ in a way that is uncomfortable, after the first game tried to foster a sense of dignity.

    If The New Order is the loving family watching a dignified send-off of an elderly loved one (aka the good ending of Bioshock), then The New Colossus is that same elderly person, but being stuck in the National Health Service with inadequate care, periodically going thirsty and sitting in their own soilage, and perhaps dying alone on a hospital bed, for no single reason, and no family to visit them.

    The first one is that idealised, heroic world we all want to envision, and the other is something that isn’t nice at all, but still invites acknowledgement.

    Personally, I find Blasko’s insistence on himself doing ‘the right thing’ being as a result of his traumatising upbringing quite an interesting take, because it is basically the plot of most super-hero stories, albeit it treads a finer and more tortured line than the clear motivation of Bruce ‘dead parents’ Wayne.

    It also gets a bit difficult to separate ‘politics’ from a discussion about a game that is primarily narratively driven around the player being placed in an incontroversial situation of fighting for how (digital mannequin) people should be allowed to emote, organise and live their lives… and then your player actions are also (mostly) incontroversially deemed as ‘terrorism’ upon said digital facsimile world by the narrative voiced digital mannequins seen to be ‘in charge’ of said virtual world, to the presumed utter ire of the average player, who is imposing their will upon a world that is made for the player, but also that the player is expected to demonstrate culturally normal or tolerable behavour upon naturally constrained systems, to the benefit of real world.

    Eek… then it even gets into that theory of evil villains being created solely for the gratification of player-agent (who is actually in charge) … which is… vain?

    Will there be an Undertale-type game where the player talks to Nazis as a win state? Would that be considered culturally acceptable?

  30. Preciousgollum says:

    Or (with respect):

    “Hey, that lavishly produced spectacle about killing Nazis and being a catalyst for an emerging free world wasn’t good enough, because it ran poorly, or didn’t quite make sense in my head-space … it wasn’t very fun, because I’ve done this before… and it was more satisfying the first time I pretended to almost do it. How many times can I put myself in the role of standing up against Nazis before I get bored of this activity? Also, what role did the boobs have to do with all this?”.

    Hehe cognitive dissonance. Actually, this is sort of what drives BJ Blazko’s internal conflict as a character.

  31. Thomas Steven Slater says:

    A game that does a good “gather up the team to assault the enemy base thing” is a house of many doors. You choose 8 of the 32 possible crew, 30 of which have they own long quest and many you can end up in a romantic relationship with. You have several radically different roles to assign to them so even the fat grumpy accountant with terrible stats can help out, or you could mess up and get them killed.

    By the time you do this the game has throughly built up this place and you can a really good reason to you get what’s in their.

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