Our Villain Frau Engel has captured Caroline, leader of the resistance. Caroline is paralyzed from the waist down, but in New Order she got a power suit that allows her to walk. It telescopes out to envelop her body like the Iron Man suit of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Frau Engel has captured both her and Wyatt, and removed Caroline from the suit.
So now it’s time for our character to surrender. The writer has a lot of things they need to accomplish in this scene:
- BJ surrenders.
- Introduce the character of Sigrun Engel and establish her as the daughter of our main villain.
- Establish the conflict between the two, showing how General Engel humiliates and abuses her daughter, setting up her betrayal.
- Have Engel decapitate Caroline with a fire axe, and then wave the head around and use it to further humiliate her daughter.
- Have Sigrun betray the Nazis.
- Have Engel disfigure Wyatt without killing him.
- Get BJ into Caroline’s suit.
- Somehow resolve this standoff in a way that doesn’t kill our villain or any additional characters.
That’s a lot to do. Like I said earlier, this sequence takes 11 minutes. That’s a reasonable span of time to accomplish all of these story beats, but it’s still a really long time in terms of first person shooters. And like I keep saying, this one doesn’t break up its cutscenes with little bits of gameplay. Even worse, this sequence breaks the rules the writer previously adhered to. Instead of sticking to BJ’s viewpoint, the director cuts over to do a “Meanwhile, at the enemy base” scene for a conversation that BJ couldn’t possibly be privy to.
Longer cutscenes. Less immersive cutscenes. Less interactive cutscenes. We’re making a lot of concessions here in service of the story, and we’re not really getting anything out of it. The most concise description I can give of this scene is “self-indulgent”. The graphics are nice and they certainly spent a lot of money on motion capture and voice actors to make them look good, but none of this pays off in terms of making a better videogame for the player. It also doesn’t make for a smarter or more enjoyable story.
The cutscene doesn’t even make a lot of sense. When Sigrun betrays her Nazi friends, she gives her pistol to Wyatt. Then – despite his massive woundIf you’re got Fergus instead of Wyatt, then Fergus is missing an arm, making his aimbot behavior even more implausible. he spins around in a circle, perfectly headshotting all three of the heavily armored soldiers. For their part, the guards stand by and do absolutely nothing as Sigrun gives her weapon and Wyatt performs his miraculous shooting.
Wyatt then gets pinned by a soldier in a huge suit of armor that probably weighs as much as a Volkswagen. Volkswagen Guy and Wyatt are then somehow in a stalemate (as are Sigrun and General Engel) while BJ puts on Caroline’s power armor. Engel and Volkwagen then flee the scene, even though Volkswagen should be able to end the fight in two seconds by pulverizing Wyatt and then killing the still-unarmed BJ. The writer put our characters in an impossible situation, broke all rules of physics and common sense to enable them to escape, and depicted it using a camera position that highlights just how implausible the whole thing is.
You could probably make these scene work in a movie where you can use camera cuts to hide your cheating from the audience. If you point the camera at Sigrun and Engel and then at BJ, then the audience might not think too hard about what Wyatt and Volkswagen are up to. Or they might think the events are all happening at the same time and the entire sequence only lasted a couple of seconds. But we’re in a videogame where every single character is visible at the same time, and the whole thing looks absurd. The Nazis became suddenly and inexplicably impotent and then quit the battle so the plot could happen.
You might expect some heroic cheating like this at the end of a story, but here at the start? It feels like the writer is openly saying that the rules don’t matter and anything can happen in the cutscenes. Yes, this is a big dumb shooter and they’re known for big dumb action scenes. But I feel like if you’re going to spend all this time and deprive us of any interactivity, then you need to do better than this. If you’re not up to the job then just keep the cutscenes short and simple out of respect for the player’s time.
Once BJ is wearing the suit, the game can begin for real. Your max health is reduced to 50 to reflect BJ’s compromised physical condition, while his max armor is raised to 200 to reflect his increased durability due to the power armor.
BJ fights his way through the airship, releases the submarine, and flees back to the sub with Wyatt and Sigrun. He also has to run around the sub and clear out a few dozen extra Nazis who’ve been hiding in the secret areas of the boat. Once it’s over he delivers the following po-faced monologue for Caroline’s funeral:
INTERIOR – SUBMARINE
The resistance has gathered in the torpedo room. The body of Caroline Becker has been loaded into a torpedo, which Max Hass has painted with vibrant psychedelic patterns. A candle burns beside a portrait of Caroline. The crew is grieving. Some are sobbing.
BJ Blazkowicz: (Voice over)
Like that. A life. All they’ve known. All they’ve felt. All the shit they’ve gone through.
All of it gone. In one moment.
BJ punches the button to fire the torpedo, and Caroline speeds off into the darkness.
BJ Blazkowicz: (Voice over)
Like it never was.
You know, his speech might be a little less hilariously dissonant if he hadn’t just gunned down a couple hundred dudes. But it’s fine. I think BJ’s overwrought monologues are actually part of the charm of the series. The absurd juxtaposition might even be intentional.
After escaping the airship, our main characters meet and set up the plot for our game. The good guys are going to America to ignite a revolution, hoping to liberate the United States and use that as a base for fighting the Nazis around the world.
Normally I’d gripe about having a focus on the US in such a global conflict, but this actually works for me. So far the series has spent all of its time in Europe. Plus, the US is located in one of those annoying hard-to-reach areas for European conquerors, forcing them to cross an inconvenient ocean before they can do any conquering. The US originally surrendered after NY was nuked. Which means a lot of the US infrastructure is probably in decent shape. Which means the US is a strong country that can’t be easily re-conquered. Our heroes don’t seem to have a way to prevent more atomic bomb attacks, but assuming they come up with something then the US seems like a good place to start.
Having said that, I’m kind of curious about the Pacific Theater. I’d love if one of these games showed us what’s going on in the Philippines, Japan, China, and Australia in this alternate timelineMaybe some of the found lore objects in the game explore this. I sort of stopped reading the lore items after I got the impression they were all about explaining the events of the previous game or providing context for our current adventures..
The first step to reclaiming the US is – for some reason – to make contact with a resistance group based in the Empire State Building. For once, I am not the first person to wonder what these people eat. Or more importantly: Why are they here at all? This little group is stationed at the top of the building, surrounded by a vast sea of wreckage, radiation, and Nazis. There are no civilians for the resistance to hide among. There are no useful military targets to attack. No way to get supplies. Since they’re surrounded, you can’t even argue it makes for a good secret hideout.
The problem isn’t that their setup makes no sense. The problem is that these nonsensical things are the only things we know about them.
Why should we care about these folks? Have they executed any successful attacks against the Nazis? Do they have useful sources and agents inside the regime? Do they have a stockpile of weapons and supplies that will be useful to us? Secret technology that will help in the fight? Intel on vulnerable Nazi assets? Personnel with unique skills? Access to the last cache of prewar Twinkie snack cakes?
I’m not asking for the writer to create some Tolkienesque world of exhaustively detailed societies. I’m just asking that they give the player some small carrot to chase after so these guys don’t come off like a bunch of impotent losers, pointlessly holding onto an irradiated ruin with no strategic value.
In New Order, BJ had to infiltrate a concentration camp to make contact with Set Roth and find out about the Da’at Yichud. The game presented us with a mystery and then sent us after the character that could explain it to us. Sure, the mystery was goofball nonsense about someone sabotaging Nazi concrete to make it moldy(??) but it was something. It’s not like Wolfenstein is a stranger to goofball nonsense.
But here in New Colossus we don’t get even that tiny bit of motivation. We’re sent into a nuclear wasteland to make contact with people who (as far as we can tell at this point in the story) have nothing to offer us. I’m not saying this is a plot hole. I’m saying it’s not interesting or motivating enough to make us eager or curious. Again, we have longer cutscenes that are worse about driving the story, If our only motivation is “just keep walking forward and shooting dudes until the NPCs solve the problem” then why are we wasting time on these cutscenes?
To be fair, there are a few fun character beats in the setup to this mission. Still, I think we could spend ten seconds of screen time to making these guys look valuable or interesting before we throw ourselves face-first into a storm of radiation and Nazis.
And then we come to this friggin’ guy…
This Friggin’ Guy
We run into this two-story robot patrolling downtown. He just sort of shows up. You can beat him effortlessly by standing in the doorway of one of these buildings and playing peek-a-boo. Jump out, unload on him, then duck back inside while he retaliates. Repeat until dead.
I’m now going to nitpick this guy by comparing this to various boss fights in the Half-Life series…
Remember in Half-Life 2 when you fought the helicopter? It hounded you for an entire section of the game, building up a grudge that ended in a cathartic showdown at the dam. Imagine how much less interesting it would have been if you defeated it in the same scene where it showed up, and you did so using your standard collection of small arms.
Remember how we saw striders at the opening chapter of Half-Life 2, teasing the eventual confrontation? That created an impression, which led to a payoff when it was finally time to fight one.
Remember in Half-Life 2 Episode 1, when you faced the strider at the END of the journey so it felt like a climax to the action? It wasn’t sandwiched between low-key mook fights.
Remember the strider fight in Half-Life 2 where it would constantly move around, duck down, and change position to dig you out of cover so that you couldn’t hide in any one spot for too long?
Remember the gunship fight in Half-Life 2 Episode 1 where the gunship gradually demolished the walls around you, leaving you more exposed as the fight went on?
Again, they spent all this money on motion capture, voice actors, and pushing this new graphics engine, and yet the gameplay is so rudimentary and uninspired. This monstrosity is so interesting in appearance and so imposing in its design, and yet you kill it using the exact same peek-a-boo strategy to use on the Nazi mooks.
How about teasing him ahead of time? We could see its head peeking at us over the building in the distance. Or maybe make him immune to our small weaponsBecause WHY WOULD THIS THING BE VULNERABLE TO PISTOL BULLETS? and force us to scramble from one mounted gun to the next. Or have him destroy our cover. Maybe have him harass us by knocking down buildings in our path, forcing us to take the “long way” through the ruins.
Just, something. Anything. Instead we fight a brain-dead AI in a static environment. Boo.
The New Order had a fight against the London Monitor. That fight was foreshadowed and featured unique mechanics. Again, we’re three games into this series now and this is supposedly the best of the bunch, but it seems like a regression.
Next time we’ll meet up with this NYC resistance group and talk about their introduction.
 If you’re got Fergus instead of Wyatt, then Fergus is missing an arm, making his aimbot behavior even more implausible.
 Maybe some of the found lore objects in the game explore this. I sort of stopped reading the lore items after I got the impression they were all about explaining the events of the previous game or providing context for our current adventures.
 Because WHY WOULD THIS THING BE VULNERABLE TO PISTOL BULLETS?
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