Wolfenstein II Part 1: Introduction

By Shamus Posted Thursday Feb 1, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 182 comments

This game came out to critical praise. The trailers looked good. Outside of the technology problems on the PC, there’s wasn’t a lot of negative press. But then the game was 50% off just one month after release, which isn’t something you normally see with successful games. Yes, that was a black Friday sale and those are always a little crazy. But even so, I didn’t see any other 1-month old AAA games going on that sort of deep discount. Was this an anomaly, or was the publisher struggling to sell this game?

I have no idea, but after playing through a couple of times I can say there is definitely something off about Wolfenstein II.

The Legacy of Wolfenstein

I remember when people thought this game was EXTREMELY VIOLENT. Ha ha.
I remember when people thought this game was EXTREMELY VIOLENT. Ha ha.

There have been a total of eleven games in the Wolfenstein series. They are:

  1. Castle Wolfenstein (1981)
  2. Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (1984)
  3. Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
  4. Spear of Destiny (1992)
  5. Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001)
  6. Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (2003)
  7. Wolfenstein RPG (2008)
  8. Wolfenstein (2009)
  9. Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014)
  10. Wolfenstein: The Old Blood (2015)
  11. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017)

In the world of Wolfenstein, protagonist BJ Blazkowicz is an inexplicably unstoppable Nazi-killing machine. Sometimes the game is set during WWII, and other times it’s set in an alternate-universe where the Nazis won WWII.

The first two games were top-down RPG-ish stealth games that are divorced from everything that followed. The third game was the birth of the series as a first-person shooter, and also the birth of first-person shootersActually Catacomb 3-D came first, but Wolfenstein was the first FPS to be a hit and thus that’s the one history remembers.. You could argue that the series has been rebooted in 1992, 2001, 2008, 2009, and 2014. Or maybe some of those reboots were just loose continuations on what came before. The series has always been a little casual about things like story and continuity and there’s not a lot to be gained from trying to put the whole thing into a coherent timelineAlthough people do try..

Regardless of whether you see it as a reboot or not, The New Order relaunched the game with a specific tone, presentation, and set of mechanics. These last three games can stand alone and
are firmly connected by recurring characters and storylines. They share a couple of characters with the 2009 title, which suggests the games are linked. But if you go by the sequel numbering then the 2009 game isn’t part of this series.

(I tried to play through Wolfenstein 2009 for this series, but you can’t get it on Steam or GoG.)

Anyway. You can argue about what is or is not a reboot, but it’s very clear that these last three entries are connected to each other more than they are connected to what came before. So for the purposes of this series I’m going to be looking at these games as a sort of standalone franchise.

Why Are We Talking About This?

Heads up: I had to turn down the graphics settings to get the game to run smoothly. The screenshots in this series are not representative of the quality of the game if you've got mid-range hardware. I know I'm due for an upgrade. I'll do it when I can.
Heads up: I had to turn down the graphics settings to get the game to run smoothly. The screenshots in this series are not representative of the quality of the game if you've got mid-range hardware. I know I'm due for an upgrade. I'll do it when I can.

This isn’t an RPG. There aren’t a lot of complex leveling mechanics, branching storylines, moral choices, or philosophical conundrums for the player to puzzle over. The game throws Nazis in your way and you shoot them. This is a fairly simple game in both a narrative and mechanical sense. So why am I bothering to do a deep-dive on a linear shooter?

Basically, because I think the gaming press whiffed on this game. As of this writing, New Colossus is scoring an 88% on Metacritic. I realize that tastes vary and I’m not arguing that any individual review is wrong. If you think this game really is an 88% that’s fine. But this game is rated far above New Order and I think when you examine it closely it’s clearly inferior.

New Colossus looks and feels superficially like its immediate predecessors, and so it was given a pass. But I think it was a clear regression from the last two games and yet somehow it received greater critical praise and was nominated for many best-of-2017 lists. The Telegraph even called it “one of this decade's best”. (Which is slanderous to a lot of other things that came out this decade, including the previous two games.)

I really liked Wolfenstein: The New Order. It was an old-school run-n-gun shooter with just enough gritty storytelling to make it interesting and just enough camp to keep it fun. Our hero BJ Blazkowicz takes the world seriously so you don’t have to. He gives these grim monologues like he’s Max Payne, but he’s fighting cartoonish mega-Nazis in a mad alternate history where the Nazis conquered the world with super-science.

Wolfenstein: The Old Blood wasn’t quite as fun and seemed to be missing the driving spark that the previous game had. The emotional core was built around a couple of NPC lovers trying to find each other amidst the chaos. I liked it, but I only played through it once and I never really had any desire to give it another go.

Unless you rate a game based solely on the running time of its cutscenes, New Colossus is inferior to both of these games.

As a single example of the sorts of problems I’m talking about, let’s look at…

Dual Weapons

I've got two guns. One for each of ya.
I've got two guns. One for each of ya.

These Wolfenstein games allow you to dual-wield weapons, including two-handed weapons like automatic shotguns and such.

In The New Order, the game was super-silly about this. You could hit reload and BJ would pull the mag out of his current weapon. But then a Nazi would come around the corner while you were reloading, and you could resume firing (assuming there were still bullets left in the mag) even though you’d supposedly unloaded the weapon. Once you put the Nazi down and hit reload again, BJ would start the process over from the beginning, pulling another(?) mag out of the gun.

I’ll admit it didn’t make a lot of sense. Then again, I don’t think that making sense was high on the priority list here. BJ carries half a dozen weapons at the same time. If you assume the dual-wielding means he’s got two of everything, then it’s entirely possible that his arsenal would outweigh him. He adds armor to his body by collecting Nazi helmets and repairs gunshot wounds by eating apples he finds lying around the Nazi base.

But here in New Colossus they seem to have taken a step towards realism, and I have no idea why. If you start reloading one weapon, BJ will reload both before you’re allowed to shoot again and you can’t cancel the process. Worse, reloading feels a lot slower in this game. Same goes for weapon switching. This makes sense in terms of realism, but it basically makes dual wielding useless. Sure, you can output twice as much damage, but reloading now takes twice as long and happens when one gun runs out of bullets, even if the other has ammunition left.

Given that the tradeoff here is that we’re getting “You might be able to kill dudes faster” at the risk of “You might get caught in a double-long reload cycle and be unable to defend yourself at a really bad moment” this doesn’t seem like it’s worth it.

Is this gripe petty? Yes. This is a small feature. It doesn’t ruin the game. It barely detracts from it. But it’s something they changed and it’s not clear why. You might argue it was for balance, but the difficulty curve on this game is incredibly uneven and small little adjustments like this would barely register in the grand scheme of things. You could argue it was for realism, but like I said I don’t think that’s anyone’s priority.

It’s not a big deal, but it is something that The New Order did better. This is a theme you’ll see repeated throughout this series. I realize this one was a little weak, but I promise we’ll get to the important stuff once we start going through the game.

Next time I’m going to talk about some of the wonky technology problems we had in the PC version.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Actually Catacomb 3-D came first, but Wolfenstein was the first FPS to be a hit and thus that’s the one history remembers.

[2] Although people do try.



From The Archives:
 

182 thoughts on “Wolfenstein II Part 1: Introduction

  1. Matt van Riel says:

    (I tried to play through Wolfenstein 2009 for this series, but you can’t get it on Steam or GoG.)

    Which is a shame, because it’s actually a solid game if you CAN find it. It’s on consoles (where I first played it back in 2009), but…. yeah, console + FPS = lol. You can sometimes find the old GFWL PC version second-hand on Amazon or wherever, but it’s rare and can be expensive.

    Also, Shamus correctly using mag instead of clip. This alone is enough to recommend this site :)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Umm, I believe it’s pronounced “clipazine”. :P

      1. Matt van Riel says:

        In all my ~35 years as a gamer, I can honestly say I’ve never seen that portmanteau before ;p I consider myself fortunate lol

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I stole it from Iraqveteran8888 In one of their Gun Gripes videos (or possibly several), they complained about newscasters using incorrect terminology. The average person doesn’t need to know the distinction, but a professional disseminating news has an obligation for accuracy, with the rest of their factual obligations. While they were explaining (and partly mocking) a typical newscast, they used the term, “clipazine”. :)

          1. Matt van Riel says:

            Neat, didn’t know that :)

    2. Andy says:

      I prefer “clipazine” for teh lulz.

      Edit: dang, clipazine ninja’d.

      1. Primogenitor says:

        Shouldn’t that be “clipazinja’d”?

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Wait,is the 2009 the one with the town hub and the medallion?That one was the worst of the wolfensteins for me.It was just so dull,with boring gameplay,pointless backtracking aplenty and barely resembling any other wolfenstein before or after it.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Aye, it’s the one Ross covered in Game Dungeon. He was also not a fan – I don’t think he even completed it in the end (although don’t quote me on that), which (as you’ll likely know) is a massive diss when it comes to Game Dungeon:

        https://youtu.be/P4LaR1C6Xds

      2. Michael says:

        Mechanically, it was really interesting. Not so much, “interesting to play,” as from a design perspective.

        It was, pretty clearly, originally designed like a linear game, with an open world system grafted onto it.

        The medallion was hilariously underutilized, especially when you started getting into concepts like phasing through walls, or having ladders that only existed in the Black Sun Dimension.

        The weapon list was uninspired (as I recall), but some of the upgrades were genuinely interesting (though, I may be wrong about this.)

        The actual level design was pretty solid. I mean, it was developed by Raven. That said, yeah, it didn’t all come together into a good game. I’m glad I’ve still got my copy, but it’s a game I’d be hard pressed to recommend if you had to spend more than 20 or 30 bucks for it.

        In some ways, you can see the burnout in Singularity coming in Wolfenstein. It’s already got some traces of chasing Bioshock leaking in. To be fair, I’d also say Singularity is an interesting game, even if it’s not always particularly fun. And… now I’m sitting here wondering if Singularity began its life as a sequel to Wolf2009.

        Incidentally, it’s not GFWL. It had the “Games for Windows,” tag slapped on it, but if you can find a disk, it will still install.

        1. Matt van Riel says:

          It’s a shame they didn’t do more with the Black Sun Dimension concept, it was pretty neat, something similar to the basic premise of the Legacy of Kain games.

  2. Redrock says:

    I was kinda surprised by the negative reaction from a lot of people to The New Colossus, especially when it comes to difficulty. I’ll admit that stealth is worse this time around, and I have problems with the story, but I personally felt that the dual wielding actually worked better this time around. It seemd to me like the game was much more geared towards mobility and darting around, whereas The New Order often expected you to use the cover system. This idea is at least partially supported by the differences in the perk system. TNO had a number of perks for shooting from cover, while TNC has none, as far as I can remember. Also, I think that you are actually able to move faster when dual-wielding, compared to TNO.

    I get the impression that maybe the core of the problem is that TNC expects you to play in a different way from TNO, which is very counter-intuitive. And I don’t think I remember noticing the reload time problem. In fact, I think I remember interrupting the reload animation by shooting the left gun? I’ll have to double-check that. Still, I have my own set of gripes with TNC, and TNO, for that matter. Will be interesting to compare them to yours as the series progresses.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Since this wave is the second(kinda)reboot,this article could also have been titled:

    Wolfenstein take 3 game 2 part 1

    1. Redrock says:

      We don’t talk about Wolfenstein 2009.

      1. Michael says:

        If we did, it would be, “…take 4…” :P

  4. Steve C says:

    Hey, the forums are up.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      You shouldve said that the link has changed as well,so that I did not have to wonder why my bookmark doesnt work.

      Anyway,its no longer forums.shamusyoung.com, its now shamusyoung.com/forums/

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Sooo… I probably missed someone mentioning it before but for me something is off about the menu at the top of the page. I seem to remember it was scrollable on the old site, but right now I don’t have that option and at the default font size on my monitor everything past “World of Warcraft” is cut off. I checked it on my work computer earlier, it has a wider monitor, and I think it was just cutting off the “music” or possibly “music” and “forums” links. I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker for oldtimers like me, since we know the content is there anyway, but thought I’d mention it in case it slipped under the radar.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Shamus just reorganized the top menu.Yeah,having a few more options up there might be a good idea.

  5. Lee says:

    I fell in love with Beyond Castle Wolfenstein as a kid. I tried the first 3d version, and was disappointed. I would love to see a modern version that actually felt like a successor to those two original games.

    “Halt. Kommen Sei. Ausweis?” is something I still quote in my stranger moments.

    1. Hal says:

      So, are those first two entries worth revisiting? “Top-down RPGish stealth game” sounds like it ticks a lot of boxes I enjoy, but a lot has changed in 30 years.

      1. Lee says:

        Honestly, not for me. Check out some Youtube playthroughs if you want to decide. Graphics are terrible, game play is not great either. But for the time, it was awesome.

      2. Dan Efran says:

        They’re Apple ][ games – calling them RPG-ish is being generous. Ever see the classic arcade game Berzerk? The original Wolfenstein games were a lot like that, but with stealth gameplay, limited ammo and some keys to find. Personally I think they’re worth checking out for nostalgia, and still sort of fun, but It doesn’t get much more old-school than these; you may be unimpressed.

    2. Matt van Riel says:

      Try the Commandos series? Probably best to grab from GoG but they’re also on Steam if you feel like braving it.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or,if you want a more modern game in that vein,try shadow tactics:blades of the shogun

  6. Liessa says:

    Yay, another in-depth game analysis series! I haven’t actually played any of the Wolfenstein games, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I played Wolf3D and a demo of Return To Castle Wolfenstein (or Spear of WOlfenstein?), but none of the others. I’d like to play The New Order, but:
      1) I’m on Linux
      2) Old laptop
      :C

      1. Liessa says:

        I did play Doom 2 as a kid, which I guess is a similar type of game (it certainly looks similar).

  7. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Speaking of reload animations, it’s always somewhat interesting to see what portion of a reload animation you’re allowed to skip (usually termed “reload cancel”) and then think about what that says about the weapon. I have a side arm in Destiny 2 that I habitually reload cancel. The full animation is the player sticks a fresh clip (magazine? I don’t know gun terms) into the weapon and then works the slide. But if you cancel, you can start firing the INSTANT the new clip enters the weapon. So that comes off as working the slide being some kind of affectation. Or in a recent stream I was watching about RE4, the person pointed out that for one weapon, Leon visually reloads 2 shells in his shotgun and this can load up to (in the MOST extreme case) 100 rounds in his weapon.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      In fairness to RE4, it’s playing by Army of Darkness rules, where Bruce Campbell was able to fire five times a weapon’s capacity without reloading at all.

      1. Redrock says:

        Nah, Bruce Campbell is just the man, he can fire as much as he likes. The RE 4 thing is often in problem in survival horrors and a few other games with weapon upgrades. The capacity upgrades will almost always run against the weapon design. Guns with obvious capacity, like revolvers and shotguns are particularly screwed. Ah hell, revolver reloads suck in most games. And what about keeping the ammo in the discarded mag-clip when you reload half-full? Very few games make you lose the ammo in the mag. Reloading in games is mostly whatever the gameplay needs it to be, just like health systems and things like that. No gun purists allowed.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          That’s what I get for commenting on a game I’ve never played; I couldn’t have told you that weapon upgrades existed in RE4. I just always got an Army of Darkness vibe from it.

          1. Redrock says:

            Well, you really should play RE 4. It’s fun, if more than a bit silly. Also, try Evil Within 2. You can skip the first Evil Within, but the sequel is a really decent game.

      2. Jabrwock says:

        They practically lampshaded that bit. In ED3:AoD, they show Ash reloading, and it’s super sped up. Then when the witch is flying through the air, the timing of the shots is spaced out just enough with the same speedy reloading sound effect in between. :)

        I loved Marathon 2’s shotgun reload, where you just flipped the gun (it has a massive ring around the trigger guard). So when you’re dual wielding, your character basically just pinwheels whichever one is out.

        1. Matt van Riel says:

          He’s shown reloading, sure, but has infinite ammo ;)

    2. Viktor says:

      Magazine or mag is almost always correct. That’s the thing that holds a bunch of bullets in a usually-vertical line that you shove into your gun to reload. There’s variants(drum mags are the circular ones made famous by mobsters with tommy guns), but if you say magazine you’ll probably be right.

      “Clips” are short for moon clips, a specific item for reloading a revolver faster. You will never have a reason to use this term, since most revolver users in games and movies prefer speed-loaders anyway.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        There’s also “stripper clips” for older guns. (WWI, I believe?) So named, because they hold the cartridges in a way that they can be removed from the clip while simultaneously loading them into the firearm. i.e. “stripping” them off of the clip.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yep, that’s what a Mauser C96 uses, as well as some rifles, including the Garand, I think?

          1. Matt van Riel says:

            Battle rifles of one form or another use them, yes. The battle rifle in New Vegas is a good example.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjgInRB84Sk

            Kinda sped up (probably has the fast reload perk) but you can still basically see it in action.

            1. Redrock says:

              God how I love that ting sound when you eject the clip in that rifle. So cool and pretty unique compared to most reload animations.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                Umm…if the rifle in the game ejects something when it’s out of bullets, it should be a mag, not a clip. The clip should already be out of the picture after the gun is loaded. Or am I missing something here?

                1. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

                  The M1 Garand rifle has a clip that works like that. It’s called an en bloc clip, rather than a stripper clip as Echo Tango is describing a few comments up from here. Still, it is always referred to as a clip, rather than a magazine.

                  EDIT: oops, didn’t notice that I was directing you to the comment you wrote, yourself. *shuffles away embarrassed*

            2. Michael says:

              Yeah, the New Vegas Battle Rifle is an M1A1 (if I remember correctly.) Though, the term applies to pretty much any combat rifle chambered in with a high power rifle round.

              Strictly speaking M1s were usually chambered in .30-06, but .308 variants do exist (they’re somewhat rare), and the .308 cartridge is used elsewhere in New Vegas. Generally speaking, Josh Sawyer was somewhat forgiving with the ammo types in that game to keep things coherent for non-gun nuts. (For example: Calling .50 AE 12.7mm to avoid confusing players with two different .50 cartridges.)

    3. turcurudin (Dave B.) says:

      Since you asked, here’s a very very general clip/mag explanation: If the ammunition is held in something like a box/tube/drum which fully encloses the shells/cartridges/etc., it is almost always called a magazine. Clips are usually not enclosed, and are much more rarely used these days.

      That said, use the terms you’re comfortable with. Your meaning will almost always be perfectly clear.

    4. guy says:

      The magazine is the thing that physically feeds a new bullet into the chamber when the gun is fired, while a clip is a thing that holds a bunch of bullets together to more conveniently load them into the magazine. Depending on the design of the gun, the magazine may be internal and have clips inserted into it, or be external and inserted fully loaded, then swapped to reload in the field.

    5. Michael says:

      The “magazine,” is where a gun holds ammunition before firing it. (Phrased this way, because the term magazine can also refer to things like artillery or ship mounted weapons.)

      A “clip” is a device that can quickly load rounds into the magazine.

      Generally speaking, if you attach something to a firearm, and it pulls ammo from that, it’s a magazine. If you temporarily attach something to shuffle rounds into the weapon, it’s a clip.

  8. Ninety-Three says:

    Was this an anomaly, or was the publisher struggling to sell this game?

    Steamspy paints an incomplete picture, but in this case it’s a really grim one. New Order has 1.8 million owners on Steam, Wolf II sits at a quarter of that.

    1. Redrock says:

      Huh, that’s sad. It is sitting at mixed reviews in Steam, and although a major part of the negative reviews have to do with performance, people generally compare it negatively to The New Order too. So I think the PC version got into extra trouble when compared to consoles.

  9. Simplex says:

    “I know I’m due for an upgrade. I’ll do it when I can.”

    Don’t check current GPU prices and availability, unless you want to get a heart attack.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Freaking bitcoin miners, man.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        We’re through the looking glass here people:

        Thanks to Bitcoin, Buying a PC Is Better Than Building One (for Now)
        https://www.howtogeek.com/341365/thanks-to-bitcoin-buying-a-pc-is-better-than-building-one-for-now/

      2. Will says:

        Etherium miners, actually. Bitcoin hasn’t been profitable to mine with GPUs since… well, for a long time.

        However, the bottom is falling out of the profitability of mining pretty much all cryptocurrencies right now, and it seems likely that the bottom of the used GPU market will fall out when miners try to cut their losses and unload their no-longer-profitable cards.

        1. CoyoteSans says:

          The thing is, once the resell market gets flooded with these cards, I still can’t recommend anyone buy them because you’ll have no assurance to the state they’ll be in. The obvious concerns about thermal wear-and-tear actually aren’t that bad: anyone who keeps them open air with fans is probably actually keeping them at a cooler constant than folks who actually game, and the actual screw-ups will have probably already caught them on fire anyway.

          No, the real concern is that some not-so-clever miners may have tried to flash a bad BIOS onto the cards, and you’ll have obviously no way of knowing that they did so, and how many people buying these cards will be both knowledgeable and comfortable enough to both look for that after they buy the card and reflash it if that ends up being the case?

          It’s a really miserable situation, and all I can really say is pray your current video card doesn’t crap out before the bottom finally falls out of this mess. Although, given the fall of cryptocurrency may very well coincide with a general economic collapse, you might still be screwed there anyway…

          1. Redrock says:

            I think amateur mining will be dead within half a year, particularly in the US, where electricity isn’t all that cheap. I wouldn’t go predicting the bursting of the cryptocurrency bubble, that’s a bit too complex, but at-home freelance GPU mining? Yeah, that’s almost done.

            1. Echo Tango says:

              This is why people are researching proof-of-stake for crypto-currency, as an alternative to proof-of-work. Needing to burn up a tonne of energy just to keep the accounting records tamper-proof and reliable, isn’t a good way to run a monetary system. :)

      3. Naota says:

        As someone with few other options that just recently spent $700 (Canadian) on a 1070 Ti, amen to that.

    2. Baron Tanks says:

      Yeah, as soon as I read new graphics card this is what I thought. I’m glad I bought my 1070 in 2016 (apparently it sells for ~100 euros* more today as two years ago!). I was going to suggest this as a topic for an offshoot column for Shamus. I figured I’d check the comments first before posting something redundant. I’m curious to see the perspective of a programmer on this and would like to read the comments delving into this, what a bizarre dystopian window into our future this is.

      *a cursory quick google search, not an in-depth exploration for price and shop reliability I did at the time.

  10. Hal says:

    By the way, I notice I’m not being asked to prove I’m not a spambot since the move. Is that deliberate, or an oversight? Is it finally time to start hawking my homemade herbal mortgages?

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      That has been there for a while long before the move.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Is that the kind of thing where you click through, and there’s a bunch of fluff that boils down to “Live in a tree”?

    3. MichaelGC says:

      I am in the market for some cheap custom NHL jerseys, if you’ve any pointers.

  11. Jimmy says:

    I actually saw a lot of criticism for this game, but it was mostly from Youtube people like Jim Sterling, Super Bunny Hop and Totalbiscuit.

    1. Matt van Riel says:

      So people who expect games to actually be good, rather than professional critics who keep their jobs based on giving AAA games good scores?

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        They’re also people who can take a couple of days to really reflect on the game because they’re not rushing to play through the whole thing and quickly summarize their thoughts down to a few hundred words to meet a publishing deadline.

        1. Redrock says:

          And, in all fairness, also people who can’t be bothered to make a review, instead churning out an “impressions” video (because that’s what TB’s “WTF is” are, and his favorite defense at all times). Except for Super Bunnyhop, who either really does very deep reviews. Now, I love both TB and Sterling, make no mistake, but Jim’s decision to give up on real reviews mostly because of their poor effort-to-gain ratio has been really bugging me. He was one of my favorite game reviewers, to be honest, and now I’m kinda stuck with ACG and that’s it.

          All that said, I’m not sure that the polarized reception of TNC can be chalked up to the old journos vs youtubers debate. This one seems to be trickier, with a lot of people genuinely not experiencing the same gameplay annoyances as others. Right now I still think of it as what I call the Vanquish problem – a game needing to be played in a particular way to be fun, but not being very good at communicating that and also counterintuitive to some.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            His brief looks are still better actual reviews than those things labeled as reviews by kotaku and co.He checks how the game plays,its difficulty,bugs,multiplayer support(if its advertised(which it almost always is),is it any fun,…..The only thing that he omits is the final score in the end.

            1. Redrock says:

              As I said, I like both TB and Jim, so I’m not saying their work is trash. However, the fact that they don’t complete the games might be a problem. They also don’t look at the broader context of the game and its place in the medium. Now, Kotaku or Polygon might go overboard with this stuff, but I think there is a middle ground to be found there. I also think that the whole “impressions” label is mostly their to get away with mistakes and reluctance to get into the game’s systems. Again, that’s more of a criticism towards Jim than TB. I think it’s telling that Hellblade was one of Jim’s last reviews, and we remember how that went. Gosh, that sounds overly negative. What I’m trying to say is while I’m not a fan of gaming media as it is now, I think that the “Youtubers good, journos bad” approach isn’t completely fair or helpful either.

              Also, TB, Jim and Super Bunnyhop tend to be super picky with what they review or “review” or whatever. You can’t really rely on them for stable coverage. While the media covers almost every big release at the cost of some of the reviews being rushed or phoned in. It’s a complex issue, is what I’m saying.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                The Hellblade situation is really illustrative for Jim. He found a literal game breaking bug in the game and rated the game poorly by his model, despite thinking it was a fantastic, admirable game, also by his own model. People shit all over him for going too easy on a game breaking bug and also for rating it poorly for a bug that would probably be patched out and that they personally had never seen. The need to put out some kind of “final judgment” on the thing clearly weighed on him and he had the epiphany that… he didn’t need to do that at all and scores are bullshit.

                1. Redrock says:

                  I agree with you on the scores part, I’m a fan of buy-wait for sale kinds of scales, of just the recommendation boxes that Kotaku does. But in that particular case, he could ask around before giving the game a score, he could, being Jim Sterling, contact the developers. He could do a lot of things, as a journalist. Instead he got emotional and slapped on a score and published it. That’s just not very professional. And that’s my issue with the “first impressions” format. It’s an excuse to be unprofessional. A way to always be able to say “well, who cares if I missed this or that? It ain’t a review, mate, it’s just my impression”. And that’s his right. It’s tough writing scored reviews in such a toxic environment, I get that completely. But I did read his reviews, because he is a good critic and a real review means I can expect that effort was put into it. Effort to understand the game as well as its potential audience. Jim’s impressions videos strike me as effortless ways to keep making content for the sake of content.

                  1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                    What you’re saying about the Hellblade situation makes no sense and shows ignorance of the situation. Jim was in contact with the devs. But if they say “oh dang, we’ve never seen that one before, we’ll try to patch it” explain to me what the “professional” score is, exactly? Should he take them at their word and imagine a score that exists at the end of the game he has not seen? Should he not publish a review that’s 98% done because of their mistake, a mistake his readers should CERTAINLY be wary of?

                    Saying Jim “got emotional” is some bullshit and just shows your biases. He shouldn’t have given a game breaking bug a negative value in his review? Why shouldn’t he?

                    1. Redrock says:

                      The thing is, I remember watching the review, and I remember him getting angry and rant-y in it. Also, what bias? As I say time and time again, I’m a long time fan of Jim’s. It’s okay to criticize someone you like. In fact, the fact that I criticize him so much makes me Jim Sterling’s one true fan. You know, like he is Nintendo’one true fan. :)

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  the fact that they don’t complete the games might be a problem

                  Not for a review.A review is basically a guide for the audience to decide whether theyd like the game if they bought it themselves or not.An in depth critique,thats where knowledge of the entire game(and the series,if its part of a series)comes to play.

                  @shoeboxjeddy
                  Bugs definitely should be included in reviews.Especially massive ones.If they get patched in later,great,update the review accordingly*.But ignoring them completely,giving skyrim or new vegas high marks on their release dates,thats just silly.People who can tolerate bugs can just ignore that part of the review,and people who cant tolerate them will appreciate such a review much more.

                  *Which is why text review are better than video ones.Though youtube does allow you to put a text over it to say “this has since been patched”,or even reupload a changed video if you want to go the extra mile.

                  1. Redrock says:

                    Well, you can’t really give a fair assessment of the game’s value unless you play a decent chunk. At the very least, it’s helpful info. Again, despite their questionable articles, Kotaku does that well – the reviewer details how much of the game they played and what exactly they did.

                    1. Matt van Riel says:

                      The problem with this is that big publishers are increasingly doing their level best to ensure the critics who’ll actually be critical don’t get review code early (or at all!). Difficult to play a good chunk of a game and give a proper review when you only received it a day before release, or in some cases have to buy it yourself (like Jim).

                      Just look at Bethesda’s bullshit policy on this.

                  2. Nope says:

                    Not completing is probably a poor way of putting it. An impression as you go is not a good way of reviewing anything, especially when you’re playing for entertainment. Sterling, for instance, has turned the Pewdiepie/Markiplier format into game criticism. WTF is at least has a little more consideration, even if TB needs to edit himself a lot more.

                    What it is is that first impressions given on entry into the game really don’t do anything justice. It might work for The Slaughtering Grounds, but what about a slow paced story game that takes a while to get going? It’s really not going to do well in a squirty play. That’s why a review is usually a postmortem re-view. And in the case at least of Sterling (Though anal, TB has some technical consideration), even when playing something which is riddled with beginner programmer errors like TSG (For instance-setting an integer by adding to it, rather than just assigning a value, which demonstrates basic unfamiliarity with coding), Sterling really can’t say anything substantial. It’s bad, he doesn’t really know why. Reducing that concept down to impressions really is the worst case scenario.

                    He’s still a funny guy I enjoy, but it’s like Yahtzee. Entertainment value takes precedence over useful criticism.

                    1. Decius says:

                      In what case is adding to an integer the wrong way to increase the current value by one?

                      When used instead of “get the current value, add one to it, and set the value to that” or “Get the current value and set the new value to one more than that”, ++ is clearly the correct operation.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      In what case is adding to an integer the wrong way to increase the current value by one?

                      In the beginning when you dont have a set integer.Its a mistake often seen in early entry programmers,where the code would execute,but the given result would be something unintended.

              2. Sleeping Dragon says:

                I’d say at least part of the reason for “impressions” is also an attempt to escape some of the expectations that surround the term “review”. One fine example would be the quasi-mythological “objectivity” that some people expect from a reviewer, which 99% of the time is another way of saying “if I disagree with the reviewer on anything that means they are wrong”. If they call it an impression (unspokenly “their own”) it communicates to the people “this is what I think about the game” “this is my experience” “this is my opinion”.

            2. Nope says:

              He’s still not wrong though. It’s just a long, rambling impressions video, and in the case of TB, too often bogged down in technical detail without real consideration of mechanics or story.

              Sterling and TB have switched to the impressions format because it’s easier, the comedy is easier, and reviews are entertainment, because it requires a lot less completionism, and because those things all pay better dividends in a video market (Even absent monetisation, making more, funnier videos, more often, attracts a wider audience).

              There is a massive gulf between say, Super Bunnyhop, and Sterling or TB, and there’s a reason it takes the former a long time to make a comprehensive video and the latters days to barely edit some rambles. The fact that Sterling does the same while reusing the same clips of gameplay while stretching out played out comments on the gaming industry that he himself has made before from 2 and a half minutes to 12 minutes for the algorithm shows eminently where priorities lie.

              Barring Bunnyhop, Redrock is dead on. Sterling and TB can’t be bothered to make a review, much less write a decent script and edit one. I like them both two, for different reasons, TB’s Port Report is essential viewing for many games, and Sterling is entertaining, but the latter makes Kotaku look like they’re putting too much effort in, and the former makes it look like even Polygon enjoys actually playing games more than they do.

              1. shoeboxjeddy says:

                Sterling is one guy so shouldn’t be held to the standards of a staff (like Kotaku) and covers more material over time than someone who goes in hard and deep on a specific game (like Bunnyhop). There is value to both things. Jim’s audience is unhappy if he doesn’t at least touch on every major release, which would be literally impossible if he gave each game a 40 hour review while also releasing weekly content on time forever.

                1. Redrock says:

                  All true. And the switch to a bigger focus on Jimquisitons and videos that are essentially reactions to industry news makes a lot of sense for Jim. That’s his jam, the corps’ nemesis. I absolutely respect that. I’m just a bit sad to lose him as a traditional reviewer – his reviews were often very good and full of talent. I guess I’m just that minority in his audience that doesn’t appreciate fire and fury towards the publishers quite as much. It’s a very important job, but I don’t enjoy that type of content quite as much as I used to.

        2. Matt van Riel says:

          Yeah, which is why they’re superior and I see very little real reason for traditional journos to exist any more. The world is changing, to quote every Hollywood movie ever ;p

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Except for inertia.Theres a lot of money in the standard “developer->publisher->marketing->magazine” cycle.Changing that takes a lot of time.

  12. Dreadjaws says:

    Haven’t played The New Order yet (it’s in my huge, huge, HUGE backlog (and I believe the 2009 game is too, can’t check right now), but New Colossus already sounds dissapointing. Why add realism to a franchise like this one? It’s like Duke Nukem having a two-gun limit at launch (though that was more a case of consolitis, but still).

    1. ThaneofFife says:

      The New Colossus is excellent; it’s just not as good as New Order. The story is a lot of fun (after some disturbing stuff in the first 1-2hrs), and the reload thing isn’t that bad once you get used to it. I spent most of the game dual-wielding a rifle and a shotgun because it gave a good mix of short- and medium-range damage (if I wanted long-range, I’d switch to single-wielding the rifle, but you’re not at long range very often). The switch from knives to hatchets was a little silly, but throwing weapons made a lot more sense once you got used to it. I almost never miss now, whereas I used to have to re-calibrate how I threw knives every single time I played.

      1. Redrock says:

        Dual wielded semi-auto anti-armor rifles were the name of the game for me. Closer, far, wherever the nazi are, this setup shreds pretty much anything and is scary accurate.

        1. ThaneofFife says:

          I was playing through one of the assassination missions the other night and had a lot of fun actually using the scope on the rifle (for once) and sniping nazis from a building. That said, the most fun dual wield combo has to be the upgraded rocket pistols. They blow up things real good. :-D

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Why add realism to a franchise like this one?

      Realism is one of those often abused terms that does not mean what it actually means.Forcing you to carry just 2 weapons instead of a whole arsenal does not make the game suddenly more realistic.It affects the true realism of the game by precisely 0%.What it does affect is how the game plays and how the game feels.And,as movies have shown a bunch of times,unreal things often feel more real than reality itself.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Saying that a two-guns limit is adding zero realism is pretty hyperbolic. It’s not going to single-handedly make a game into a simulation, but it’s one thing which could be added with others to make a realistic simulation.”Realistic” isn’t binary; It’s a sliding scale, and applies to every facet of a game. For example, a game could have realistic bullet-drop, somewhat plausible hunger, thirst, and weight limits, the gun-reloading from Receiver, and a very cartoony visual aesthetic.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yeah, but I’d argue that the two-gun limit was never really justified. I think it only works in some third-person shooters for the sake of visuals – the neat use of models, etc. Like in Uncharted and especially in Max Payne 3. But in terms of gameplay it mostly sucks, especially in “modern warfare” FPS games, because you can’t really plan for different encounters, so your loadout doesn’t matter. You either use one of the variety of samey automatic weapons, or, in specific scenarios you are practically froced to use a specific weapon which is usually handed to you, like a sniper rifle or a grenade launcher or whatever. While in a game like DOOM or Wolfenstein or Resistance 3 the game can count on you having access to different tools and throw a mix of challenges and weapons at you at all time.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            There can be justification for a weapon limit.But realism is not part of that justification.Challenge,look of the protagonist,planning,etc. can all justify the weapon limit.Ultimately,the decision should come down to “Does the limit enhance the gameplay and feel of the game”.If not,its not justified.

            1. Decius says:

              Only because “realism” isn’t a worthwhile goal, while gameplay balance is.

              Take the Jagged Alliance 2 carry limits: two hands, plus four large items, plus eight small items, with penalties for too much weight. (and up to three magazines count as a ‘small item’.

              Oh, and your mercs can get shot three times with AP rifle rounds but get patched up and stable enough to limp in under a minute, dropped off with a doctor and healthier than before within a day, and depending on the merc you might pay them more for the hospital stay than you paid the hospital.

      2. ThaneofFife says:

        Tend to agree. My main issue is that a two-weapon limit just makes the game less fun. For example, all through Bioshock Infinite (the last two-weapon game I played), I spent most of my time trying to figure out which weapons would be best to carry next rather than what was the most fun to shoot. It really diminished my enjoyment of the game. Wish they’d kept the weapon system from Bioshock 2.

        1. Redrock says:

          Spot on. The two gun limit in Infinite was exceptionally out of place, even more so than in other games.

  13. Kylroy says:

    “Realistic shotgun dual-wielding” has hopefully never been a goal for any designer, at any time.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      What, you mean you can’t even fire two shotguns at once? BJ says you need to become stronger! :P

      1. Redrock says:

        No, no, you can. Sure you can. Just once, though. Then it’s treating two broken wrists for you.

        1. Decius says:

          Wrists? Dislocated shoulder. And possibly breaking something when the recoil knocks you over.

          Unless you’re trying to fire a shotgun from the hip, in which case you aren’t aiming.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Having two video game shotguns that have a spread of a sprinkler,you really dont have to aim at all.

          2. Redrock says:

            I was thinking more about sawn-off shotguns. I think I’ve read about them breaking wrists. Just like some bigger revolvers, like a .500 S&W

      2. Bret says:

        I’ve seen video of people firing two M249s. Shotguns should be a walk in the park in comparison.

        The only problem is hitting anything.

        Of course, everyone the most realistic dual shotgun combat is in Marathon 2, where you reload by spinning the guns around with both hands occupied at all times.

        1. Nope says:

          Dynamic Stress vs Static Stress.

        2. ThaneofFife says:

          No need to aim when you have moar dakka!

  14. ThaneofFife says:

    Shamus, I’m really interested in what you think the story New Colossus is saying about violence. Having completed my first playthrough, it seemed like the first 1/3 or so of the story spent a great deal of effort showing why violence is never a good solution, while simultaneously concluding that it was the only effective solution against the nazis. Going off the first two hours of the game, I’d argue that it’s one of the most anti-violence shooters every made.

    (Spoilers ahead)

    That said, the game seemed to lose a lot of its narrative force after the scene with Hitler on Venus. The remainder of the plot just seemed kind of phoned-in from there. I was also frustrated that there was never a satisfactory explanation for how the crew escaped from the parking garage (off-screen) during their botched rescue of BJ. Even though the story remained engaging, everything that happened after BJ’s execution had a dreamlike quality that was never dispelled. It would have been nice if the story had engaged with that head-on.

    From a more mechanical perspective, I was really disappointed by what New Colossus did to the laser rifle. The ability to cut through scenery was completely removed, and the fire rate of the weapon was sharply reduced. They also removed the feature where using the scope on the laser rifle allowed you to target multiple enemies at once (potentially using your entire charge for one shot). The weapon just wasn’t fun any more afterwards. The only things I used it for in New Colossus were giant robots and heavily-armored enemies.

    1. Redrock says:

      Yeah, I noticed the loss of focus in the second half too, but I was really expecting an “it was all a dream” style twist. It was heavily telegraphed at one point, but never materialized. So weird.

      1. ThaneofFife says:

        I know, right?! The point where BJ explicitly calls out the fact that Anya gave the same non-answer as Super-Spesh when he asked how they would escape had me convinced that the game was about to pull the rug out from under me. If it was the result of a re-write, they really should have cut that line, or given a less-perfunctory explanation. I was even expecting a twist it right up until the ending sequence where BJ kills General Engel live on national television. If they had revealed that the entire second half of the game was all BJ’s dream right after being decapitated, then (a) that would have been depressing; and (b) New Colossus would have become the Brazil of video games, but it still would have been an amazing artistic choice.

        It was still a fun game and an entertaining story, though.

        Note on the reference to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil: Brazil is an darkly-comedic 80’s dystopian sci-fi film that, like Blade Runner (which is dark, but not comedic in the slightest), has had several different endings across different versions of the film. That said, in the director’s cut, the film ends with a sequence in which the protagonist escapes from a government torture facility, followed by a reveal that he has actually been tortured into insanity, and has dreamed his escape. By contrast, the U.S. theatrical release of the film ends with the escape sequence and no suggestion that the protagonist had dreamed it.

        1. Redrock says:

          I was thinking more of Repo Men, given the violent nature of it all and especially that sequence with Anya towards the very end, but yeah, basically same idea.

          Huh, I never knew they gave the U.S. theatrical cut of Brasil a happy ending. That’s a travesty, is what it is.

          1. ThaneofFife says:

            Yeah, same principle with Repo Men. I totally agree on the gratuitous topless Anya covered in blood while killing Nazis sequence at the end of Wolfenstein 2, too. It was kind of amusing, but felt unrealistic and forced (even in the context of such a silly story).

            Relatedly, isn’t it strange that two movies about people responsible for repossessing other people’s organs came out within months of each other? (The other one being the kinda-good-but-trying-way-too-hard-to-be-edgy Repo: The Genetic Opera). I mean, I know this kind of thing happens sometimes (like when Tombstone and Wyatt Earp were in theaters at the same time when I was a kid), but organ repossession is an awfully obscure movie subject…

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Months?Wasnt it years?

              EDIT:Yup,two years.

              1. ThaneofFife says:

                Oops! I saw them both become available on streaming at the same time, so I (foolishly) assumed they came out at the same time.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      BTW, did you know you can use strike tags to enclose spoilers?

      1. MichaelGC says:

        That’s weird – I use the ‘speak’ function on my iDoofer to reveal what’s behind spoilertags without having to cut & paste, and for some reason it thinks ‘enclose spoilers’ is French.

      2. ThaneofFife says:

        Thanks. I’d forgotten.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      I’d argue that it’s one of the most anti-violence shooters every made.

      More than spec ops?Thatd be a feat.Especially for a game where you run around dual wielding shotguns.

      1. Asdasd says:

        Unforunately, for me at least, Spec Ops’ anti-violence message was totally obscured by the developers’ decision to censure me over and over for daring to take the only option they made available that wasn’t uninstalling the game.

        1. Redrock says:

          Weeell, I like to think that Spec Ops is a bit smarter than that. It doesn’t exactly admonish you for the bad thing you do. It admonishes Walker, who is an actual character, not just a player stand-in. No, you, the player, get shamed for something different – for enjoying the act on a kinesthetic level. Because you probably were, as a shooter player, genuinely feeling satisfaction after each good shot and especially that last one, with that neat big fat cluster of white dots to destroy. That’s how it usually works, at least. That’s your part of the blame, not the choice, which you don’t have a say in. At least, that’s my reading.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Precisely this.In spec ops,walker is the commander,all the decisions are his.You are just the fourth,invisible member of this 3+1 man team.You control the running and gunning,but walker is the one who decides how situations should be handled.

            The only time you,the player,is given a meaningful choice,is in the end when you get to judge walker and decide his faith.

            1. Decius says:

              And when you look at it, Walker isn’t given a whole lot of choices either, and the choices he does have are typically “try to save an American soldier or turn around and report his death” or “continue with the only plan you have or give up and your squad dies”.

              Walker didn’t go insane, he started that way and had a break.

          2. Nope says:

            It’s not. It makes it clear with messages during loading screens about feeling like a hero, and how many Americans you’ve killed today. That may be aimed at Walker, but he’s an audience surrogate and you’re the one reading it.

            If you say, came in to hear the meditation on violence, the video game criticism by-way-of heart of darkness, that stuff makes you roll your eyes. The alternative, according to the game’s fans (Can’t recall if it was in the game) is to turn it off, and it’s like, uh, no? I’m not playing to feel like a badass, I’m playing to hear what it has to say. It assumes a mindset which would have turned the game off, in players who haven’t turned the game off.

            Also, it forces you to WP civilians (To the game’s credit, despite cheating elsewhere, these are rendered visibly as civilians). If you hold off, you get a fail. Even if you killed the military. Just some changes to the animation to trick the player into it through clever use of enemies retreating into the civilian area would have done. Contrast much later: A riot scene breaks out. I held off shooting as long as I could, then I shot a civilian and scattered the crowd. Damn I felt bad when later I was informed I could have fired a warning shot and scared them off. This wasn’t a scene governed by a game over, but by me legitimately falling into the shooter trap, of the only way to interact is shooting people, and making my own mistake

            Personally addressing the player with guilting nonsense when the player is only putting up with the gameplay and the guilting to hear the story out is a serious point against the game. It’s good, but if you have any knowledge going in, have any knowledge of Apocalypse Now or HoD, or are particularly literary, the game is going to feel blunt and stupid come the end, and it did not have to.

            1. Redrock says:

              My, how some people need to be the good guy. Your reaction makes me think even more that the developers were onto something there.

              1. Shamus says:

                But it’s entertainment, isn’t it? Like, I enjoy jumping the curb and running over people in GTA. That doesn’t mean I want to do that in real life or that I don’t know it’s wrong. I enjoy punching bad guys in the face as Batman, even though I’m fully aware that vigilantism is a terrible idea in practice. I’d be pretty pissed off if I started up a Batman game and the developers spent the whole time sneering at me and insinuating I’m some sort of violent thug because I enjoy being Batman.

                Just like Batman exists in a world where Bat-themed vigilantism is a viable solution to crime, military shooters often exist in a world where military conflicts are black and white, the lines are clear, and you can make the world a better place by shooting all the bad people. No, the real world doesn’t work that way, but that’s what makes this an escapist fantasy. I actually enjoy SOTL’s deconstruction of the genre, but I can’t really fault people who signed on for something else and didn’t like what they got.

                The developers (seem to) have the position that people who enjoy typical military shooters are all sheeple:

                “None of you actually THINK about the games you’re playing. You’re just mindlessly gunning down dudes.”

                And I’m sure that’s true for a lot of people who play these games. But I’m betting lots of people who enjoy these games have the introspection to recognize them for what they are and realize the real world doesn’t work this way. And for them the rhetorical position of SOTL comes off as presumptuous, sanctimonious, hypocritical, and unfair.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The developers (seem to) have the position that people who enjoy typical military shooters are all sheeple

                  Telling someone “Have you ever thought how awful the people in that piece of entertainment you like are” is not the same as “You are awful because the people in that piece of entertainment you like are awful”.Spec ops is the former,but many confuse it for the later.

                  But it’s entertainment, isn’t it?

                  In the way that papers please is,not in the fun way of saints row.

                  EDIT:Seeing you embedding that picture makes me sad for the embedded youtube thing.Will you try and bring that back?That one made some comments so much easier.

                2. poiumty says:

                  This. Not that I didn’t like SO:TL, but if the criticism of people’s lack of sensitivity when it comes to bro-shooters was genuine, then it was really navel-gazy and way off the mark.

                  “HA! You like to shoot people in a video game! These are fictional videogame people with lives and feelings! You monster!”

                  Well put me in a cell and lock away the key, because I’ve rough-housed my teddy bear and now it’s dismembered.

                  I didn’t take it like that though. I took it as abstract, like if Protagonist Man really did all these things IRL with as much abandon as your typical player, it’d be pretty bad. Not that such a thing ever happens, but if it would.

                  1. Decius says:

                    There are people who actually believe that the Modern Duty: franchise is a depiction of how the military fights wars, or of how the military should fight wars.

                3. Redrock says:

                  The developers (seem to) have the position that people who enjoy typical military shooters are all sheeple

                  Playing the game, I had the impression that the developers were criticizing the genre first and foremost. Maybe an aspect of the military’s image second, and the players a distant third, if at all. At least, that was my reading. Basically, what DL said – criticizing a piece of media isn’t the same as criticizing its fans, which is why most arguments between fans are so silly.

                  Yeah, the game adresses you personally at times through loading screens and such, but it’s a bit like Max Payne games forcing you to admit to being a quitter every time you exit or, more relevantly, Wolfenstein’s difficulty level descriptions – not something to be taken personally. Insulting the intelligence and morals of gamers seems to be a bit too low of a goal for SOTL’s developers, who seem to be decently intelligent people. Maybe I’m being too generous, sure, but that was my impression of the game whenever I played it.

              2. Nope says:

                I don’t need to be the good guy. I’m happy being the bad guy. You’re making up something to ignore my take. Which is very Walker-esque of you.

                My issue with the game isn’t the moral, isn’t the message. It’s the delivery.

                There are some truly great moments in the game. I even explained one. I put it in spoilers because it was that personally effecting when I’d realised what I’d done. It wasn’t the WP scene. It wasn’t the “Do you feel like a hero” (Which, again, is just bludgeoning you with the most accusatory and simple form of the message, which anyone with a brain would know is the point going in-guess some people need to be the Walker like you m8). The moment I described, really hits home because it takes the way that the player has been trained to interact with these shooters, by killing, without any interpretation of the mechanics, and makes it your choice. A lot of people made that mistake, and that’s what makes it a great moment.

                By contrast, failing a section because I didn’t make a mistake written for the character (The WP scene), felt frustrating. You get a game over, have to go through a cutscene, go to the controls, and do it again. “Do it again stupid”. And “Do you feel like a hero?”. No, I don’t. I’m a pacifist, who’s familiar with the long history of literature this story is based on. I can do without the bluntness, because it doesn’t say anything of merit.

            2. BlueHorus says:

              In the particular example you mentioned, there might be a point in that the game gave you a choice you just weren’t expecting – because this kind of shooter doesn’t usually give you the chance to not shoot someone. A comment in itself; not necessarily one about you.

              In the big example, the game forces you to do something awful, but I can think of at least three times in Spec Ops game where you’re given a choice between shooting someone or not – and the game adapts to your choices pretty well. As organically as a linear story can anyway.

              But, I kind of agree with you – I think Spec Ops doesn’t really have a message beyond ‘you know this is fucked up, right?’ It’s a message that’s well done, and it’s definitely different, but it’s not really profound.

              In some ways it’s just a send-up of that other kind of shooter-
              (Remember the Call of Duty where all of South America banded together to invade the US and it was portrayed as a serious story? LOL)
              -and may not have much more to it than that.

              1. Nope says:

                Exactly-but the scenes where I made a mistake genuinely made me feel like shit and reflect on shooter design.

                The scenes touted by mouth-breathers that don’t, didn’t, and to some extent, it’s to the dev’s credit for not cheating, but it’s also not great writing.

        2. shoeboxjeddy says:

          That’s a bad reading on the game. They censured Walker for what he did, they censured the player for finding shooter gameplay a fun power fantasy and started interrogating why that was and if it was possible to change it. Was it still “fun” if you were explicitly killing American troops? What about if the player character is in the wrong, is it still “fun” then? Does the player need to feel as if they are a “hero” for the game to “work”? Getting butthurt over a linear storyline is FAR afield from the point of the game.

          1. Redrock says:

            Huh, funny how the “killing of American troops” part never really bothered me on account of not being American, but the killing of civillians did. I wonder if the developers were writing specifically for an American audience or for an international one. I know that Americans tend to really venerate the troops, and I respect that. It’s just interesting that the game worked for me in a lot of ways despite a part of it flying right past my head.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Killing the american soldiers was a subversion,because in practically all the other spunkgargleweewees you are killing ayrabs and ruskies.Sometimes nazis,for a change.

              1. Redrock says:

                Yeah, I get that. I’m just saying that the American troops thing didn’t get an emotional response out of me, while some other parts of the game did. I wonder if it was inteded to or not.

                1. Decius says:

                  The intention was to make the player identify “The American Troops are Bad Guys” and use that to validate killing them. I think the expected emotional state would be anger/disappointment at the American troops going rogue and attacking the civilians, leading to a foregone decision to use the WP mortar on their camp, followed either by “I couldn’t tell those were civilians” or “I tried to miss them and couldn’t”.

                  1. Redrock says:

                    Were you ever supposed to be able to surmise those were civilians? Because I just assumed they were soldiers and I didn’t think anything at the moment indicated otherwise. But then again, I wasn’t really paying attention at that point in the game. Maybe that’s the idea.

                    1. Decius says:

                      If you paid attention during the end of the mortar scene you could tell that they were unarmed.

                      If you didn’t pay attention, it was pointed out in the very next scene.

            2. shoeboxjeddy says:

              I definitely think the game was aimed at American players specifically, however they were smart enough to stack up other things a non-American player would also be upset by, like the killing of civilians, the loss of sanity from the Player character, and the loss of the sidekick characters as the game went on.

              1. Nope says:

                See, I’m not an American, and I can see perfectly well how American media glorifies American imperialism and have my own negative opinion of it. Maybe to an American who hasn’t done his reading it’s shocking, but to me, it’s just par for living in a world that contains this state.

  15. The coach says:

    The coherent timeline comment made me giggle. It reminds me of all the fans you desperately try to align all the Zelda games in a timeline.

    Can’t we all be satisfied thinking of these game’s as stand alone tellings of a similar story? I guess not.

    1. Armstrong says:

      Nothing gets fans gushing like the promise of inter-work continuity.
      Just look at comicbooks!

      1. MichaelGCi says:

        I puzzle over this phenomenon occasionally (and I’m not immune to it myself). I think it might be because stories are so essential to what it means to be human – we tell ourselves ‘stories’ about how little pieces of paper have monetary value, or … well, there are any number of similar examples, large and small. Stories is kinda the bedrock of being a person.

        So our actual stories can often feel superimportant, too. Thus if a creator seems to be taking liberties with them, this can make us feel bad.

        My own example would be in the LotR films where they allowed a moment of doubt over whether Aragorn would accept the Ring from Frodo. In my view, unlike Galadriel, Gandalf, Boromir, etc., Aragorn was never even slightly tempted, so suggesting for a split second that he might be seemed a little cheap. I exaggerate – in truth they did do it fairly well: it’s entirely possible to argue that it just looked that way; that film-Aragorn was never actually tempted either; and that it’s perfectly legitimate to manufacture a little drama for your 10-hour film epic where the demands of the medium are different from a book. But, it bothered me a little at the time.

        Er, anyway: the point being that it works the other way, too – if it seems that a story we like isn’t self-contained but instead sprouts branches, and links to other works, and in various other ways becomes ‘bigger’ than it was originally, then that can make us feel good. Amongst other things (such as there simply being more-of something we’ve previously enjoyed) I guess it helps ‘validate’ the importance we’ve placed in a tale, if it seems to have antecedents and consequences beyond itself.

        1. Asdasd says:

          Absolutely. Continuity arguments (or even continuity consensuses) always looks deeply silly when you’re on the outside looking in. But someone who never became emotionally invested in any story would be unusual, to say the least. And once you care about a story, continuity is a fundemental part of the structure of the thing you’ve invested in. People can’t help that they care.

          (An example of this that I found striking was Eliott Kalan of The Flophouse movie podcast wondering dismissively why anyone growing up in the 80s would still care about Transformers as an adult. In the next breath he casually admits to being someone who still loved Spiderman so much he had talked his way into being a guest writer for some of the comics.)

          Which isn’t to say that it isn’t useful to step back and take a deep breath every now and then, while reciting the MST3K mantra :)

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            And once you care about a story, continuity is a fundemental part of the structure of the thing you’ve invested in.

            As a fan of a few shows that constantly screw continuity deliberately,I dont see it as that important.

            1. Asdasd says:

              Not sure I follow. Deliberately screwing with your show’s continuity *would* be deliberately screwing with a fundamental part of its structure. I wasn’t implying a value judgement at all.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                They mean that the continuity’s not fundamental if the creator is willing to screw with it.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Even if they dont,I dont see it as fundamental unless the focus is specifically on continuity.Say a key plot point being brought up in the sequel is due to events from one of the previous entries.Or character growth in one entry is transfered to the following one.

                  1. Decius says:

                    If character growth in one scene isn’t transferred into the next, best dispense with all character growth.

                    *Some* level of continuity is required, but not the maximum possible amount.

              2. Armstrong says:

                Many works simply don’t benefit from continuity. Take South Park, which traditionally had little-to-no continuity between episodes, but has recently introduced season-wide episode-to-episode continuity. This has done nothing to make the show more interesting or entertaining, and has arguably made it actually worse by constraining the writers and preventing the sort of absurd nonsequitur humor they were famous for.

      2. Dev Null says:

        See, that is part of what really bugs me about inter-work continuity, or “universe fiction”. Completely aside from the fact that it has a tendency to turn a story into a series of barely-related cameos (cf Marvel’s Civil War,) the very idea just feels like crossover fan-fiction at it’s worst. No Johnny, no one _cares_ what Captain Kirk would say to Harry Potter; he’d probably be too busy cracking on to McGonnagal to notice Harry anyways.

        (What? Kirk is _totally_ a furry, and McGonnagal actually _is_ a cat! It’s a match made in fanfiction.net/porn)

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Aye right – for me the best way to use it is so as to enhance things which were already good and which stood perfectly well alone, as works in themselves. If one is just creating ‘continuity vehicles’ which don’t work well as standalones, then there’s something a little cargo-culty about it. Good way to make a fast buck, p’raps – but artistic-integritywise tantamount to Mass Effect 3.

          1. Dev Null says:

            I agree… in principle. But since I can’t think of a single example where it enhances things (off the top of my head; happy to entertain suggestions) I end up against the practice in general. It doesn’t seem to even get attempted much outside superhero fiction, but from recent memory:

            I enjoyed the first season of Flash, and the first couple of Arrow, but the crossover episodes were terrible and it felt like both series went downhill rapidly overall once they started trying to do crossovers. Then they tried to do some kind of pseudo-Doctor-Who-but-we-don’t-own-the-copyright fanfiction crossover with Legends and it was so bad that I couldn’t make it past the first episode.

            Loved Jessica Jones and the first season of Daredevil (the second, not coincidentally, nosedove when they tried to cross-over to pimping Punisher for his own spin-off), but when they tried to lump them together with the lackluster Iron Fist and the awful Luke Cage the whole thing ended up flat and 2-dimensional; not even enough character to keep _dis_liking the ones whose solo seasons didn’t work for me.

            Even the Avengers movies have essentially given up an all character development (apart, arguably, from the villains.) They’re fun punchups with good special effects and one-liners, and well worth the cost of admission for an evening’s entertainment, but you wouldn’t say they actually told a _story_ of any sort.

            It takes a whole range of supporting characters to pull off something as essentially unnatural as a superhero story and end up with characters with any depth. If you try to do that for more than one character at a time, it seems inevitable that you end up with too many bodies on screen for any of them to get any development. Before long they’re each just a mask and a name and a catchphrase, punching stuff

            (Man, got a little soapboxy there didn’t I. Sorry…)

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              The first flash/arrow crossover was good.Its one of the rare examples where Ive actually liked douchebag queen.And the last crossover they had for their four shows,where they are fighting nazis,was good.Because you cant go wrong when fighting nazis.The rest,yeah those were meh to bad.

              As for continuity enhancing an episode,star trek had some.Especially the one where ds9 crew gets into the past to meet kirk and the tribbles.

              1. Dev Null says:

                I’ll buy the Star Trek example though – and I’m probably breaking Shamus’ rule against religious debate by saying this – I consider Star Trek much more one long series containing the sequels than crossover between multiple simultaneous storylines. Even though they do timetravel back-and-forth to visit each other with amusing frequency.

                1. Decius says:

                  TNG and DS9 have overlapping timeframes without time travel, but there’s so little interaction between them.

            2. MichaelGC says:

              No, that’s fine – I shouldn’t have used ‘enhance,’ as that suggests almost everyone will approve of a good attempt at building a continuity, which is putting the cart before the horse. I’d have been better off saying ‘add something extra to,’ or similar, as that doesn’t smuggle in a value judgement.

              What I guess I’m saying is that even for folks who do appreciate the use of continuity, there are good & bad ways of going about it. Bad would be the lazy sort where it’s just a bunch of references to other works, shoehorned cameos, etc., in an attempt to liven up a work which doesn’t otherwise have much going for it. Most’ll be able to think of plenty of examples, I suspect! – and Dev Null lists some good ones. Or rather, bad ones.

              For me the good sort are where there are linkages between works which are sufficiently entertaining or compelling to stand on their own even if you’re unaware of said links, and where the links which are used either clearly fit well to the solo narrative, or are kept small & subtle (or for preference, both).

              As an example – spoilers for a couple of movies, one of which only came out last year: Unbreakable & Split by M. Night Shyamalan. It turns out that these are both set in the same universe, and it’s a bit of an epiphenomenon: the fact that they’re connected doesn’t really change the story that much. Or at all, really – I suppose it minimally extends the first tale’s timeline, but that’s about it. However, I know that fans of the two movies really appreciated finding out about the connexion – it was nothing Earth-shattering, but just a bit of icing on the cake.

              If either one (particularly the second which establishes the connexion) had been a bad movie, then I think people would have scoffed at the attempt to link them, as it would have looked like an attempt to lazily glom on to some reflected glory. But for those who did like both movies and also appreciate a bit of continuity – which as Dev Null & Damien mention is not always everyone – it did add that little bit extra, and for them did enhance the experience of both.

              1. Dev Null says:

                Damn, I’m sorry I missed this reply til now; you make some good points. On the odd chance you’re still listening…

                I think I see what you mean now. As an example of what you’re talking about, done spectacularly well (IMO) I offer up Ian Banks’ Culture novels. Independent stories, with almost no character crossovers, set in the same universe. They almost all stand alone perfectly well in pretty much any order (though some of the later ones lean on your presumed previous knowledge of the universe a little more…) but they _are_ enhanced by your knowledge of how they fit into the larger tapestry, if you’re aware of it. Also Terry Pratchett, who has half-a-dozen or so recurring character threads running through his Discworld books, each of which could stand alone, but which benefit from a lot of common world-building (though he falls prey to a bit of the cameo bug towards the end.)

                I can’t think of any good examples from movies. Maybe Rogue One? Not a great movie, but not terrible, and it certainly stood apart from, but still benefitted from, the main franchise. Probably too much of a prequel to really count though.
                Not a big fan of M Knight Shambles – though I can’t manage the passionate hatred a lot of people seem to feel for him – but I might check out your suggestion.

                1. Dev Null says:

                  I really wish that there was a mechanism to subscribe to threads in these comments, and receive email notification of replies. I get at least some of the reasons why that is problematic, but that doesn’t stop me from wishing for it…

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Not a perfect solution,but you can use the rss feed and it will tell you when a new comment appears and the post it is under.

  16. King Marth says:

    I see now. The “II” in the title isn’t the roman numeral 2, it’s a stylized 11. Title clarity re-established.

    Ahh, dual-wielding… In Warframe, one of the many weapons is the Grakata, a critical-based automatic rifle with a huge clip and fire rate, which is visually and canonically the standard rifle of one of the enemy factions. Due to some ascended fanon involving an ally among that faction who really loves his Grakata and wields two at a time, they released the Twin Grakata, with the standard increased clip, fire rate, and reload time that dual-wielding versions of weapons get (although most dual-wielding weapons are dual pistols rather than dual automatic rifles). However, while the Grakata is classified as a primary weapon and thus cannot be used while holding mission objects (your hacking briefcase, energy cells for the drills, etc), the Twin Grakata is classified as a secondary/pistol weapon and is the default option when one of your hands should be occupied. Space ninjas!

    1. Viktor says:

      “I see now. The “II” in the title isn’t the roman numeral 2, it’s a stylized 11. Title clarity re-established.”

      That sadly seems like the sort of thing that might be accurate. Devs, if you want to do something like that, you have to make it clear. Wink and nod, don’t just throw it out there.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      MDK2 still remains the best one,with you being able to quad wield weapons as the dog.

  17. Armstrong says:

    I don’t think the can’t-pause-reload-to-shoot thing is there for the sake of “realism”. There might have been a serious gameplay design choice behind the decision.

    Broadly speaking, when FPS do reloading, there are three possible routes a game designer may take:

    1.) Reloading prevents the player from shooting
    This makes for more tactical and careful gameplay. Taking away the player’s ability to shoot when they reload forces them to carefully plan every press of the R key. Leaving the player defenseless can also result in effective moments of terror if they mistime their reloads or runs out of ammo mid-fight. This is why every horror-survival game uses this technique.

    2.) Reloading is necessary, but can be paused
    This is the New Order system. The player still has to keep an eye on their temporary ammo pool, but moments of true panic only occur if things get hairy and the magazine runs dry. This removes some of the tension and real-time tactical thinking involved in option #1, while still keeping some degree of short-term resource management. It’s a more forgiving system, but not necessarily a better or worse one.

    3.) No reloading whatsoever!
    Just give the player a big fat ammo pool and let them go nuts mashing that LMB. Reloading is for sissies. Needless to say, this is the least tactical system.

    You could even go further “realistic” than even option #1 (e.g. have the game remember how many rounds there are in every discarded magazine instead of a generic pool of ammo). I don’t think you can go in the other direction much past option #3 , though.

    The different systems work better or worse depending on the type of gameplay the designers are aiming for. The amount of enemies to shoot also plays a significant factor. The more enemies you have, the more loose the reload regime must be to keep the same overall experience. Have it too loose with too few enemies, and the game gets boring. Have it too tight with too many bulletsponge enemies, and the game gets frustrating. Have it just a little bit too strict and you may hit a sweet spot of difficulty/horror.

    This is why some games employ some systems and others choose others.
    Older FPS game tended to rely heavily on the bullet-free-for-all because they kept things speedy and relentless. Even something as ubiquitous as reloading might spoil the breakneck pace.
    Games like Left 4 Dead go with option #1 for the tight experience. They want players to stay on their toes, and panic when things don’t go their way.
    Team Fortress 2 actually switched from option #1 to option #2 as the developers’ design philosophy changed over the years.
    Many games use a mixed system, where different weapon have different reload regimes to fit different situations. Half-Life does it masterfully: All early-game weapons have very tight reload systems with relatively few rounds per magazine, contributing to the survival-horror feel of the first few levels. Late-game weapons are ridiculous power trips that let you spray massive amounts of damage all over large groups of enemies without pausing to think, and appropriately they all use option #3.
    (yes, I did pull all my examples from Valve games)

    1. Naota says:

      You could even go further “realistic” than even option #1 (e.g. have the game remember how many rounds there are in every discarded magazine instead of a generic pool of ammo). I don’t think you can go in the other direction much past option #3 , though.

      This was a feature we carried over to Firearms: Source from good old fashioned Firearms. Back in the original mod, every magazine you took out during a reload was maintained in your inventory unless it was completely empty, and new magazines were simply the next in line. Thus, if you continued to reload carelessly, you might loop back around and drop in a half-empty magazine. To prevent this, you had to hold down the “merge magazines” button and wait around 6 seconds, immobile, for your character to condense his ammo pool.

      Needless to say, for the Source version we did a bit of streamlining: holding the reload button down for an extra second manually merged magazines in the field (taking 2-3 seconds where you could still move), and resupplying at an ammo box automatically topped off your half-spent magazines after it was done giving you any fresh ones.

      I still maintain that this was a cool feature! Obviously it’s not for every game, but it was an interesting technical detail that made the weapons feel that little bit more authentic.

    2. Redrock says:

      You forgot option number 4 – No reloading whatsoever, empty guns are to be thrown away, violently. Which Superhot implemented so, so beautifully.

    3. Decius says:

      Receiver tracked not only how many rounds were in each magazine, but how many loose bullets and empty magazines you had, and made you load the bullets into the mag manually.

      It also did reloading a revolver correctly; if you didn’t pick the loose rounds up off of the floor they stayed there.

  18. Christopher says:

    Giant Bomb had an entire GOTY category last year titled Best Wolfenstein II Moment or Sequence. So while they weren’t all that keen on the gameplay either, at least the story hit. I’m interested to see the comparisons to the first one.

  19. Dev Null says:

    I played New Order most(? I think I was on the moon?) of the way through and enjoyed it. I don’t think I ever dual-wielded anything, because it a) looks silly, and b) seems like it would eat through ammo too quickly. So I guess I won’t care about that particular change in New Colossus, but I look forward to reading about the others.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The Telegraph even called it “one of this decade’s best”. (Which is slanderous to a lot of other things that came out this decade, including the previous two games.)

    “One of the best” is also a stupid non informative accolade.So if the new order is the 500th best shooter to come in the last decade,you could still say that its “one of the best”.And from a certain point of view,it is.Without precisely defining what you consider to be the best (top 10 best looking,top50 best stories,top 5 best sounding,…..)you can say about anything that its “one of the best”,and it would be just as meaningless.

    1. Syal says:

      I was going to point out, it’s a Telegraph. They’re not in the same decade as the rest of us; they may well still be in World War 2.

  21. Duoae says:

    Holy crap! I had completely forgotten about the 2009 game. I think I may have actually played it on a console but I really don’t remember. I have a hazy recollection of glittering skeletons but that’s about it.

    On a different note, I could stand the next articles to be longer – I found this one a bit short and empty.

    1. Matt van Riel says:

      Shamus did in fact mention at the end that this first one was a bit short and he’d getting back to his usual style in the next one. This was more of a prologue intro post before the real meat:

      I realize this one was a little weak, but I promise we’ll get to the important stuff once we start going through the game.

      Unless he meant something different there, but that’s how I took it.

      1. Cybron says:

        I’m pretty sure he meant the reloading example was weak as an example as to why the last Wolfenstein game was better than this one.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    As someone linked this video to me last time wolfenstein came up,I feel its good to repost it.So here it is:

    A thorough look at wolfenstein
    by Noah Caldwell-Gervais

    He covers all of the wolfensteins you skipped here.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’ve been giving NC-G a miss since his sneering take on No Man’s Sky – essentially: the problems most people had with it were petty and stupid but the problems NC-G had with it were the serious actual ones.

      So, probably about time for me to get off my high horse… *horse emoji* *possibly with an up-arrow emoji or similar to indicate elevation*

      Wow, a picture really does paint a thousand words! OK, eleven words. But still.

  23. Matt says:

    The high ratings in the critical press for this game despite a step down in quality may have something to do with it coming out in the same year in which “When is it okay to punch a Nazi?” became a cultural question in the US.

    That said, I haven’t played this game, so I have no idea what its themes are or if it makes any kind of comment on this subject.

    1. Alex says:

      Oh, it made a comment alright. Bethesda’s marketing for the game was basically straight-up propaganda for a bunch of violent thugs, and the gaming media loved them for it.

  24. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus, Sorry to bother you, but my comment got marked as spam and now I can’t edit it to add strike tags. Is there anything you can do? Thanks!

    Ironically,this one was marked as spam as well.Since I can read it in the rss,but when I follow it it does not exist.

    1. ThaneofFife says:

      Dumb question: how do you follow a comment thread in RSS? I use Feedly, but I always click through when there’s an article I want to read.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Dont know about other readers,but smart rss gives me a “Full article” option that leads directly to the comment in question.

        1. ThaneofFife says:

          Thanks!

  25. poiumty says:

    Oh, this is interesting. I knew something was off about the game, but I couldn’t make a real good impression in-between the poor performance I got (with a GTX 1070 no less) and my constant mild annoyance at the hamfisted politics (even for a Wolfenstein game, and WAY more than The New Order).

    For the record, I found dual-wielding pretty useful. The assault rifles become way powerful after getting that armor piercing single fire mod, and dual-wielding them into a double-headshot kills things rather quickly. And the reload wasn’t that bad.

    Wonder if you’re gonna say anything about the constant headshot theatrics. Like, you shoot a guy in the head and he clutches and dives and moves so much and all you want to do is to get him to stand still so you can shoot him in the head some more. It was a constant annoyance with the SMGs since they don’t kill in one hit.

  26. Holzier says:

    being an avid “gamer”(I so hate that term although in my case accurate) as well as a arts and entertainment columnist (click here for more), I always love with video game stories and controversies make the paper. They are always overblown and stoked by people who either have an agenda or know nothing about games. In this case it is a social media driven “controversy” Can we stop caring about social media outrage? I mean really. We all know that it is selective so lets just ignore. I will definitely buy and enjoy since I bought and enjoyed the last Wolfenstein. Just wait till they get a load of the upcoming Far Cry 5 set in Montana where the enemy is a religious zealot with a militia like army set in Montana. Cant wait for that one myself

  27. Stefan says:

    The 2009 game was actually on Steam once, I have it in my library, but it was removed from sale on Bethesda’s behest after they acquired the rights to this franchise.

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