Man, I Could Have Sworn I Was Done Killing Nazis

Man, I Could Have Sworn I Was Done Killing Nazis

I expected to hate the new Wolfenstein. I wanted to, even. The whole idea of rebooting the Nazi-killing epic for the umpteenth time disturbed me.

I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing when I first learned that the Wolfenstein franchise was being brought back to life by a new Dr. Frankenstein — this one in the form of untested Swedish studio MachineGames. But I know exactly what passed through my mind once the information settled in.

“Dear god,” I thought, “another Wolfenstein game? Another game about killing Nazis? Another ridiculous attempt at mass entertainment that pulls us further down the rabbit hole of dealing with human suffering and oppression by shooting it in the face? Another excuse to absolve our collective guilt and continued misapprehension about the Holocaust by slaughtering digitised representations of The Third Reich?”

Ok, so maybe I got a little carried away. More than a little. But I stand by the sentiment in theory if not in practice anymore.

Let me explain.

I was born in 1989. This puts me right in the age group for which id Software’s 1992 classic Wolfenstein 3D stirs no deep emotions. Doom, the landmark shooter that id released the following year, triggers no feelings of nostalgia either.

Both games are profoundly influential, of course. But while I appreciate that in some intellectual sense, the first major shooter that tugs at my heartstrings is Quake, the company’s 1996 classic that made the giant leap into fully rendered 3D environments.

Playing Quake was my train coming at you moment. After seeing bodies burst into chunks of flesh moments after I tapped my dad’s keyboard to fire a rocket, I didn’t want to do anything else. Though Wolfenstein and Doom were just a few years behind Quake, they seemed insufferably outdated in comparison. Playing them was like trying to sit through Metropolis after I’d already caught a glimpse of Terminator.

Wolfenstein’s persistent ability to coax talented developers into rehashing the game over and over again has always confused me, therefore. In terms of World War II-themed shooters, I always preferred Call of Duty and Medal of Honour for the way they captured a Saving Private Ryan vibe. Wolfenstein’s campy approach to a similar subject just seemed odd.

As I matured and continued to play more video games, curiosity gave way to boredom. Killing Nazis of all shapes and sizes started to seem like a mundane testament to the game industry’s lack of ambition.

Eventually, it started to offend me. After making countless Hoorah-type action movies about crushing the Nazi threat, filmmakers had slowly but surely shifted towards more complex and disturbing inquiries into the horrors of the Second World War. The same thing happened in literature and the fine arts. Couldn’t video games do the same thing?

Apparently not — at least in any major way. Instead, action movies featuring arse kicking, Nazi-killing Jews like Inglourious Basterds and Defiance started to pop up, suggesting that Hollywood had grown tired of the pathos of Schindler’s List-style Oscar bait and wanted to give the Wolfenstein approach a go.

That’s not a bad thing necessarily. But I’m a Jew who lost a portion of my family to the Holocaust. Video games’ continued inability to give any voice to the Jewish experience has begun to frustrate me. The fact that Kotaku editor Stephen Totilo just barely got Wolfenstein’s creators to admit that iconic protagonist BJ Blazkowicz was “of Jewish descent” didn’t make me feel any better. And the overwhelming Übermensch vibe that MachineGames gave off in an extended profile prior to Wolfenstein’s latest release felt a bit, well, scary.

I’ve killed enough virtual Nazis, I thought. Maybe, just maybe, I wanted a chance to talk to those Nazis instead. Hear their side of the story. Their hopes and dreams, the horrors they were subjected to as well.

This is all the baggage that was piling up in my head when I got my hands on the case for Wolfenstein: The New Order that arrived at my desk the day after it came out. I glumly tore the plastic off, then texted my friend Jake who’d been hungrily pestering me about the game. I’ve been trying to convince Jake to get a Wii U ever since we first played Super Mario 3D World together, so his noticeable excitement over this other game reminded me of my frustration and disappointment with his hesitation.

It’s not gonna be that great, I cautioned him. I had attended a preview event for the game back in February, and I left feeling disappointed by its opening passage.

I took the subway over to his apartment with my coworker Chris after work that night and watched Jake play through the same section. We cracked open beers and happily jeered at the game’s ridiculousness. I cracked a smirk every time I saw him struggle to find his way around some unnecessarily confusing part of a German bunker.

Yep, this game is gonna suck, I thought. I felt vindicated.

I brought Wolfenstein: The New Order home with me. Actually, I was in the process of moving, so I brought it to my new place. The night I finally got around to unpacking with my friend George who’d come over to keep me company, one of the first things I did was unpack my PS4 and boot it up again.

There were still boxes and piles of junk everywhere, but I didn’t care. Maybe it was morbid curiosity or egotism plain and simple, but I wanted to see the game fail. In turn, I wanted to be proven right.

Then, something weird happened. I got through the game’s clunky opening section and watched as BJ sat helpless and paralysed as World War II wound to a close. Spoiler alert: it didn’t end in his favour. When he woke up 14 years later, he seemed like the only guy left who was ready to keep fighting.

But boy, was he ready. Once one German soldier got close enough to his wheelchair, BJ leapt at the first real chance to kill a Nazi he’d had in over a decade. He did so with a fierce passion, sinking a blunt kitchen knife into the man with palpable fervor.

Actually, BJ did none of those things. I did. I looked around hurriedly as the SS man stepped towards me. I found the knife, and I sank the knife into him. And when the Nazi was still squirming and coughing up blood, I gritted my teeth and murmured how does that feel, arsehole?

Wait a second.

I lowered my controller. It fell out of my hands, clattering on the floor. George, who’d passed out on my couch, stirred and opened his eyes.

What the hell just happened?

I was supposed to be hating this game. For a while, I was. Everything was going according to plan.

Was I suddenly…having fun?

I started chattering near nonsense about how killing Nazis was suddenly making me feel things I hadn’t felt in years of playing bland first-person shooters about killing Nazis.

George went back to sleep. I kept talking. Sometimes, he’d mumble in agreement. More often, he’d wake up for a moment and ask me why I couldn’t get off the couch and let him spread out there for the night.

Hours passed. Well into the early hours of the morning, George gave up and wandered over to a spare mattress to flop down there instead.

I haven’t finished The New Order yet, so I don’t have any more fully-formed thoughts about my experience to date other than: it’s been fun. “Fun” is an understatement actually. This is one of the best shooters I’ve played in a long time.

I find that all the more impressive every time I consider the fact that The New Order is only a single player game. Leaving out multiplayer is a gutsy decision for any studio making a blockbuster-sized shooter since it’s considered so central to many of the reigning pillars of the genre like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and now Titanfall. Even if one year’s Call of Duty sucks, plenty of fans (such as myself) will still gobble it up because we all know that the game’s deathmatch and zombie-killing modes will still be awesome.

In comparison, Wolfenstein: The New Order put all of its eggs in one basket. A big, beautiful, Nazi-killing basket.

Enjoying Wolfenstein as much as I have been so far has left me feeling incredibly conflicted. I really wanted to think I was above killing Nazis at this point in my life. Apparently, I’m not.

One night this week, a music critic friend of mine started messaging me to ask about something related to the console wars. He grew up a Nintendo fan, but he’s become increasingly disappointed by what he sees as the company’s lack of innovation.

A game like Super Mario 3D World was fine, he said. But it was still “just another Mario game.” It didn’t feel new to him in the same way that BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us did.

I used to feel the same way, I responded. Or at least I thought I did. But then I started to play the new Wolfenstein. It didn’t take me long to recognise I was having a much better time in The New Order than I did in the last BioShock.

Sure, the floating city of Columbia is a stunning spectacle unlike anything I’d ever seen before in video games. But shooting Nazis? Well, that never seems to get old — provided that it’s placed in the right hands.

Maybe novelty is overrated. Maybe killing Nazis is underrated in turn. I can’t decide yet. So if you don’t mind, there’s a German war machine buried somewhere in my PS4 that still needs destroying.


  • See? Instead of trying to convince your friends to buy a kids console and play kids games youre having fun playing adult games.
    Good to see youve grown up since your last article.

    And yeah, I agree, Wolfenstein has been great fun.

    • I’m assuming you’re talking about the Wii U article, and I’m also assuming you’re joking or you’re a kid that wants to desperately sound like they are older, if you think the Wii U is a kids console you’ve clearly never played it, try and get a kid to complete DKTF or the latter worlds of Super Mario 3D world, or even WWHD and W101. Whereas a kid could probably finish Wolfenstein quite easily, I know how 15 year old boys think, but trust me, blood and shooting doesn’t mean it’s a game for grown ups.

      • Yes, I have owned a WiiU.
        I have two kids of my own.
        You missed the point of my post in the WiiU article (as did many).

  • Meh, still looks like it’s a gonna be a bog standard console-port shooter, the kind that we see every year and forget about by the next

    • Meh, looks like another PC fanboi who thinks if something is also released on consoles it is automatically shit. Don’t worry, We’ve already forgotten about your “complaint”.

      • As a PC fanboy I can honestly and unreservedly say Wolfenstein is awesome.

        • Same, runs well on my dual graphics card beast. This one is even better than Bioshock was in terms of porting. They’ve done an excellent job.

      • Love how you gotta bring the master race thing in when I’m commenting on a game. Insecure much, Gus?

        • Considering I’m playing AND enjoying it on PC, no, not insecure at all. But your comment about “it’s a gonna be a bog standard console-port shooter” just reeks of PC elitism for the sake of it, it’s not a valid critique of the game. I can happily say I enjoy games on whatever platform I choose and I don’t have a hissy-fit that it’ll be bad if it’s not a PC exclusive.

      • My middle names Michael, so from a THIRD Mike, this is indeed an excellent game! A triumph for shooters everywhere! It shows that a single player campaign done well is what we’ve been craving all these years.

        • Is it? Because I’m hoping it is, but… It just seems like each year there’s always an overhyped shooter (other than CoD) that falls flat, and it seemed we were due. I’m just sick of wasting cash and buying into the same by-the-numbers game with a great PR team, only to be left thoroughly underwhelmed. Plus, after the last Wolfy, I was sceptical about this. Though I’m liking that they’ve added some depth to the alternate history storyline, ie the German beetles, and whatnot. Reckon I’ll give it a look in based on you respective takes, Mikes, and Bath.

          • I love the hell out of it. It gives you a choice early in the game that gives you two variants on it, it changes something in the game slightly, giving you a reason to go back and play through it again. The campaign is anywhere between 15 – 20 hours long and it’s so fun it’s worth dipping into every now and then. Brutal difficulty is hard as hell. I find it to be a worthy keeper for my collection personally.

          • While I returned my copy (new self induced rule to not collect stuff anymore) I really got my money’s worth. I was expecting a half-ass shooter, superficial to the brim, but was instead pleasantly surprised by the story, characters and gameplay.

          • My son is 10, I don’t have much of a problem with him playing it (sue me) while he sits there with me. We enjoy blasting Nazis and robots. Yes there’s language, yes there’s a bit of gore, but I put the game into context for him, explained it and we’ve had a lot of fun so far. I’d prefer him to play this, a well paced, well thought out scifi game than the latest COD.

            Then suddenly the sex scene came on the tv lol!

            Immediately I was like ‘Oh dear, Liam look away!’

            He says ‘Why is killing people ok but people doing that bad?’

            I had no answer honestly. So I had to let him look.

            An absolute gigglefit from a 10 year old ensued. lol

            No I didn’t buy the game for him, I bought it for me btw.

          • He says ‘Why is killing people ok but people doing that bad?’

            Your 10 year old son makes a very valid point and is clearly smarter than many older people!

          • buy it from eb games if on console, seven days to return it no questions asked.

          • It’s for that very reason I miss renting a copy (which I get is not entirely feasible of PC games these days), or the demos from way, way back.

      • Yeah, almost, you know, except I had. Yannick has yet to sell me on anything. I actually give more credence to your and Weresmurf’s respective opinions. Nothing personal against Yani, just different tastes I guess.

    • It’s ‘going to be’? Reviews and general consensus say otherwise – it IS actually a decent shooter, and along the top rung compared to the rest of the genre.

      Hardly a ‘port’ either… When I think of a port, I think of the Orange Box for the consoles, or any situation where a game is offhanded post-release to another developer to fix to a console. Lost Planet is a good example of a port. Or Minecraft, which has a significant reduction in map size. Terraria, which has a dramatically lower resolution yet the controls/interface are better than the PC ever managed. I could go on.

      Wolfenstein was built on ID5, which is generally more PC-friendly given the size of the game files, but size aside it’s quite impressive on the consoles, and was released at just the same time showing very little difference; this is not a ‘port’, it is a multi-platform title with no significant disadvantages on any chosen platform apart from a mouse/keyboard preference retained by some.

      This is all to say I believe you throw the word ‘port’ around too lightly. I would also take your opinion on the game more seriously if it wasn’t based on looks from a distance rather than actually sitting and playing the game yourself. It really is quite decent, and I invite you to try it. I’m not keen on a lot of recycled shooters these days either, and I was worried too. But this one actually surprised me.

  • “Wolfenstein’s persistent ability to coax talented developers into rehashing the game over and over again has always confused me, therefore. In terms of World War II-themed shooters, I always preferred Call of Duty and Medal of Honour”

    I dont know whether the sarcasm was lost on me but these COD and MOH are 2 of the most rehashed games on the market.

    • It’s kind of a fair comment.

      Spear of Destiny was really just an expansion to Wolfenstein, nothing truly added to it (but then, nothing was overly needed…)

      2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein was a reimagining of the originals, instead of a sequel (I believe?). Though it was a pretty damn good game. It went for the remake route, ending up with the supernatural too.

      Wolfenstein in 2009, was just utter rubbish. I don’t know what they were trying there, it was half remake, half sequel, wierd ass alternate timeline, powers here powers there…. it was an absolute mess of a game.

      Wolfenstein : The New Order, being a direct sequel to the original Wolfenstein 3d (a reimagining of the Apple II game Castle Wolfenstein), is the first time someones gotten the balls to actually do something fantastically different, move away from WW2, drop BJ in an entirely different scenario and up the ante bigtime. No more war, no more supernatural and robots robots robots!

      It’s all worked out swimmingly!!!

      But the comparison to COD is not fair at all 😉

    • This. “Rehashing the game over and over”?
      Spear of Destiny (1 rehash)
      Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2 rehashes)
      Wolfenstein (3 rehashes)
      Wolfenstein: The New Order (4 rehashes)

      4 rehashes in 22 years… Where Spear of Destiny was more like an expansion rather than a rehash.

      That’s far less than Medal of Honor or Call of Duty in the same time period. Hell, it’s less than Halo (with all it’s litany of mediocre repetitive offshoots and sequels), and his apparently beloved Quake (including the decidedly awful Quake Wars: Enemy Territory).

      Sounds to me like the author simply has a bias against the subject material.

  • MachineGames are an ‘untested’ studio in that this is their first game under that name, but most of them used to be at Starbreeze where they did The Darkness and Riddick, so the fact they pulled off such a quality FPS with really well-done story elements and tone and everything isn’t that much of a surprise.

    • I was going to say something along these lines myself, but now I dont have to.

      Starbreeze having been making SICK shooters for a long time now (The Riddick Games being a couple of my favourite shooters ever, especially Butcher Bay).

      Untested is certainly not a term I would use. I’m thrilled that Machinegames have achieved some success with this title and am really looking forward to whatever they do next.

  • I had way more fun with this game then I thought I was going to. I expected the story to just be something that gave enough effort to keep some mindless shooting going, but there were genuine moments of surprise with both the dialogue and characters (even though it was mixed in with some unbelievable scenarios). It’s obvious that a lot of attention to detail was applied when making this game, but that really isn’t a surprise considering that Machine Games was made up of key members from Starbreeze Studios (as NegativeZero has already stated). I think it was a damn fine effort that was well worth playing, and I love how they didn’t just tack on a multiplayer component for the sake of it (to give all the later half of generation Y and the very start of generation Z something shiny to play with because their goldfish sized attention span might implode and collectively start a black hole), but rather concentrated on making a really well rounded campaign that lasted much longer than your typical shooter (and far more entertaining).

  • @apk31

    to give all the later half of generation Y and the very start of generation Z something shiny to play with because their goldfish sized attention span might implode and collectively start a black hole

    Comment of the year 😀

    • Indeed. Im in a maths class right now as a student teacher, I absolutely lost it, snorting, the kids wondered wtf I was snorting at. lol

  • It’s pretty clear a LOT of people wanted to hate Wolfenstein. They couldn’t quite give it terrible scores but it didn’t stop a torrent of ignorance and accusations that Wolfenstein is the height of exploitation. The sheer extent to which people would grasp at straws to support their knee-jerk reactions was astounding. Kudos for the reflection; sadly it’s become a lost art.

  • “Eventually it started to offend me (killing Nazis)….Maybe, just maybe, I wanted a chance to talk to those Nazis instead. Hear their side of the story. Their hopes and dreams, the horrors they were subjected to as well.”

    So what you want is a game where Nazis are portrayed not as the vile scum that they were, but to hear the justification for their actions instead. Their “hopes and dreams” as you say. Like the dream of a Jew-free Third Reich? Yeah I’m sure That’d go over well with people. Especially those of Jewish descent…

      • Yes I did read it. I know he’s a Jew. That’s exactly what I’m saying. It sounds like he is stating he would rather a sympathetic view from the Nazi point of view. Which is quite ironic, considering he is of Jewish descent. I expect if they brought a game out like that, he would be furious.

        • Sounds like you’re trying to speak for him with your white knight politically correct bullshit. Let the man speak for himself.

          • And there it is. Didn’t take you long to bring out the douche comments. What part of what I said would you consider “White knight PC bullshit” exactly? I’m simply expressing my view on what I took away from the author’s article, which if I recall is on a public website that allows people to discuss the topic and express their opinions.

          • I’m sorry, I was having a really bad month there. I still think that he’s entitled to his own opinion though.

    • Here’s another scenario. Remember that round in Call of Duty Modern Warfare where you had to massacre an airport full of civilians? Now imagince that same scene, except that instead of a Russian airport you are in Templhof airport, your quarry is a Nazi officer, and you are surrounded by Nazi security. However, Templhof is a civilian airport, and there are many German men, women and children using the airport as well. Do you fire indiscriminately, in the hope of nailing your guy, but also taking out any innocent people? Or, because they are living off the benefits of a regime that grew on the fruits of their murderous deeds, they are also complicit in those crimes?

  • The Nazi’s where just another army in world war 2, i don’t blame them or hate them.
    They prob would of never attacked Poland to begin with if the polish didn’t blow up a couple German airliners filled with civilians. Also the treatment of German c ivies in Poland would be called torture murder.

    Hitler tried very hard not to actually go to war with the allies because of the communist Russia who decided they wanted to communise all of Europe, hence the cold war that followed WW2.

    I kind of feel bad for the nazi’s in wolfenstien because they made the world a better technologically.

    • You have to be kidding right? I think you need to read up about what the nazi’s did to thousands of innocent woman and children

      • Lol like America didn’t nuke over a 100 thousand people in japan. All in the name of peace, Hitler killed the jews in the name of peace too. There is no evil or good try to learn not to be naive.

    • Hitler didn’t try very hard not to kill the 6 million Jews you speak of. Not being naive or anything, but where does this sit on your scale of good/evil? That was a conscious choice and he wasn’t forced to do this as a retaliatory measure RE: America and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. I’m not sure how genocide can be skewed to something anywhere near “in the name of peace.” The bloke employed a shitload of anti-semitic propaganda in the name of peace? It ain’t called the Holocaust becasue it was good or in the name of peace. Anyway you wanna spin it, you’re the more naive one.

      • If there wasn’t a war there would of never had been concentration camps because they would of emigrated the jews out, the jews had called for a holy war on the Germans and a boycott of German goods, jews were selling Germans their goods for overinflated prices like a thousand dollars for a loaf of bread, eventually Germans got really pissed off at this as would i if a culture of people were screwing over my family and community.

        That’s why Hitler got power, not at the end of a gun the german people supported his anti jew campaign because the jews were literally out for blood by ruining the economy. Anyone who has read history books can tell you this. But it’s literally not told in any western school because allied propaganda. “who ever wins the war writes the history” so yeah the allies paint themselves as heroes of freedom but really they light the match and started the most bloody war in history.

        • Sorry i only just read this now because I never got a reply notification and forgot about until today. That said, you completely dodged the questions anyway…

          Your first paragraph – dude… Serious? For starters, don’t try and extrapolate from history with “if there wasn’t a war…”

          $1,000s for a loaf of bread – I know you’re using hyperbole here to explain a point. But yeah I’m sure these “economy ruining” tactics are justification for millions of innocent men, women and children were put to death. Come on. So I guess all of them were tainted with the same brush because Holy War? This gives me a good hint towards your own fixed mindset. So, what’s your own reason for disliking the Jews?

          The Allies lit the match?? They are called so because they are a collective group of supporting nations opposing the movement of the Third Reich. How do you think they lit the match by fighting back, for what was taken or to be taken from them? Pretty sure it was the German army marching across borders and occupying those countries that was the match ignition. The Allies and all the other countries didn’t light a match by sending Hitler an open invite to take their countries by force. You may be trying to show the other side to this history but you’re not getting any valid points across. And gimme some evidence to support this.

  • It’s actually a fantastic game, some pacing and so issues but it’s the most fun I’ve had in years. If u watch some documentaries I ww2 and holter and his maniacal actions, you will love being apart of this game and it will raise the stakes.

  • That moment you described where you put the scalpel into the Nazi’s neck… Man I had the exact same reaction. Like it’s about time I showed you self righteous Nazi’s what you’ve been missing while I sat out this war… It’s crazy how attached and mentally invested I got into BJ’s character after just an hour or so in the starting section. Bethesda and Machine Games have done a brilliant job.

  • Yes the Nazis were very nasty, true that they also did bring many technical advancements to the world as well, but to paint the entire population of Germany with same brush is a tad harsh. The Nazis in this game were all deserving, like many from the WW2 era.
    However, entertain me if you will. Imagine that you are a soldier with a family prior to World War two, War breaks out, the Nazi party reigns supreme, those who do not fall in to line with their actions fall into shallow graves with their family and friends.
    What do YOU do?

    This is no excuse for what they did, but imagine being in that untenable position.

    This game was great and they put in real effort to build characters for once, the Easter Egg of Wolf 3D was gold. The closing scene with Melissa Hollicks “I Believe” rendition was a superbly thought out contrast to the rest of the game, to the point where a majority of people complain that it didn’t even fit in. I was all round very pleasantly surprised.

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