Note: This post is going to show both gore and nudity. Together. I’m going to share a particular screenshot from the game and I don’t want to undercut the point I’m making by censoring stuff out.
Just, you know, be aware of this if you happen to be reading at work.
Once BJ gets back from Venus, everyone throws a party. The team gets drunk and acts silly. It’s a fun scene and sort of hints at the stuff that goes on around the submarine while you’re off doing all the work.
Having said that, this is a really odd thing in terms of tone and story structure. This is like the rebels throwing a party just before assaulting the Death Star. This is the point where most stories bring our heroes low with self-doubt, personal loss, or internal conflict. Normally you’d expect the writer to remind us of the stakes, or even raise them. If the stakes have been large and abstract before now (the city is in danger) then this is where it would become personal (your partner / parents / dog is in danger) and vice versa. Maybe the writer would spend some time to drive home just how bad things have gotten. Show us how terrified the villagers are, or how much the hostages are hurting. Remind us of the personal drama that made our hero begin this journey in the first place.
This story hit the emotional low point at the two-thirds mark when BJ lost his head, and then we did the fetch quest to Venus. It’s fine to have an unconventional story structure if that’s what you need. Having a party at this point isn’t strictly wrong or anything. The rules of storytelling aren’t written in stone and having a party before a big battle is a real thing some people do to take their mind off the stress.
The problem is that we’re going into the last stage of the game and it doesn’t particularly feel like it. You can have an unconventional structure, but you still need to maintain the sense of tension that pulls an audience through a story.
You might remember we picked up Sigrun Engel – daughter of main villain General Engel – back in the introduction. She’s betrayed both the Nazis and her mother to join up with the good guys. The problem is that Grace, the new resistance leader, hates her and keeps calling her a Nazi. Sigrun is shy, gentle, overweight, and lovesick, and at least half of those problems are the fault of her tyrannical mother. Grace has been disrespecting her since the two of them met, and Sigrun has been putting up with it.
Until now, anyway. Sigrun is finally sick of being called a Nazi and stands up for herself. She demands to be treated like a human being. Grace, a black woman living in Nazi-occupied USA, already understands how cruel and destructive prejudice can be. And yet here she is treating Sigrun as less than a person because of her heritage. This is a turning point for both characters and a pretty cathartic moment if you’ve been quietly cheering for Sigrun all this time.
Lots of characters have ongoing drama or side-stories, but Sigrun’s is by far my favorite. It’s actually one of my favorite parts of the entire game. It’s the most emotionally resonant and it even dips a toe into messing around with stuff like themes. Something like, “In a game about fighting hatred, the good guys had to get rid of their own hatred before they could overcome the hatred of others”. Or whatever. I’m not saying it’s deep or anything, but it’s good stuff.
The whole thing is undercut by the fact that the writer doesn’t spend the time to set it up properly. See, Grace didn’t join the team until after Sigrun defected. Does Grace know that Sigrun saved the entire rebellion? Does Grace know that she did this at risk to her own life? Does Grace know that Sigrun’s dedication is so strong that she betrayed her own mother?
Grace spends a lot of time disrespecting Sigrun, and nobody ever stops to explain to Grace what Sigrun did. Is Grace “prejudiced”, or is she just uninformed? Is everyone else prejudiced? If not, why didn’t they speak up for Sigrun? Or maybe Grace was deliberately provoking Sigrun, hoping to get this exact reaction out of her to make her loyalties clear? We have to turn to authorial intent to figure out what the writer was trying to accomplish here, because they were too busy having Super Spesh make wacky toilet jokes and couldn’t find time to properly frame the Grace / Sigrun conflict.
Yes, I enjoyed when Sigrun stood up for herself. But the message was muddled and somewhat lost in the noise of all the other stuff the writer is half-assing in these overlong cutscenes.
In any case, we’ve reached the final stage of the game. It’s time for the good guys to…
Attack The Enemy Base
BJ obviously isn’t going to assault the Ausmerzer all by himself. That would be crazy, right?
He takes his pregnant wife.
This is absurd. Ludicrous. Poppycock. Nonsense. I might even go so far as to say it’s really dumb.
I’m sure some people will defend this by pointing out that pregnant women have done extraordinary things in the past. Granted. Pregnant women have run marathons, slain feral beasts, fought fires, climbed mountains, and assembled IKEA furniture. I’ll agree that in this universe, such a thing is easily within the realm of the possible.
The problem is, in The New Order Anya was a simple nurse. Once she joined the resistance, Caroline gave her a job doing research and signal intelligence. But here we are just a few months later, and suddenly she’s the most qualified person on the boat to accompany BJ into a gunfight?
I realize it’s obnoxious to point out something so obvious, but the Nazis are dangerous. Engel cut off Caroline’s head. She disfigured WyattOr cut of Fergus’ arm. with an axe. She executed Super Spesh during the failed escape attempt. She cut off BJ’s head. And those are just her accomplishments since the game began. If we look a bit further back on her resume we see she was in charge of hunting down non-Aryans and running a concentration camp.
BJ does not fear any foe. He’ll fight monsters, giant robots, platoons of Nazis, and gunships. He’ll brave fire, ice, radiation, blood, hunger, torture, chemical weapons, and loss of limb for the cause. He is a natural-born Nazi killing machine, a grim reaper specifically targeted at all adherents of one particular ideology. He feels pain while being undaunted by it. He loves without it compromising his convictions. Tireless, selfless, unwavering, William Joseph Blazkowicz is an unstoppable agent against the Nazi empire. He is the ur first-person protagonist.
The only thing he fears is seeing something happen to Anya. (And by extension, his unborn children.) This theme is repeated again and again. Her glory is what keeps him going. She was there in his daydreams at the start of New Order, representing the paradise suburban life he’d be living if not for the Nazis. Even when he thought he was dying, his central thoughts were how he could make it less painful for the woman he loved.
SO WHY WOULD HE BRING HER TO THE LAIR OF HIS NEMESIS WHO KEEPS CHOPPING PEOPLE UP?
He wouldn’t. Full stop. He just wouldn’t. This doesn’t work.
Sure, you can do a hand-wave and say that Anya is just a badass capable of doing this stuff. But is she really the best person for the job? Isn’t there anyone back at base capable of running around and shooting Nazis? Don’t they sort of owe it to him to not make his wife do this, seeing as how he does so much of the heavy lifting for the group?
And hang on… Didn’t we just spend a big chunk of the game rounding up all these supposedly badass allies? Why are they staying behind while Anya the pregnant nurse goes into battle? If nothing else, this should wound their pride. They would demand BJ take one of them in Anya’s stead.
Or better yet, make it sound like everyone is assaulting the Ausmerzer together. Maybe have the sniper protecting Horton while he plants explosives to open a door so Grace’s team can shut down a defense system that Sigrun has mapped out for them, and all of this is going on while BJ is doing his thing elsewhere. It would make it feel like this is a resistance movement of talented people and not like a group of do-nothing losers who follow BJ and his pregnant wife around while they kill everything.
Yes, they show up at the very end and pretend to participate in the conflict. The problem is that this is a couple of minutes before the closing credits. They needed to be more involved so it feels like recruiting them wasn’t a waste of time. From BJs perspective, he saved both of these resistance groups. Then he did all of their work for them. Then they sat around while Anya accompanied BJ into battle. Then they showed up at the very end when it was time to get on TV and take credit for everything.
Seriously. Screw these idiots.
Anya’s Big Scene
After the big fight, BJ reconnects with Anya and we get a cutscene where she saves his life. An elevator opens to reveal a huge group of Nazis. She throws a grenade into the group and tackles BJ out of the way. She catches on fire and has to rip off her top. The grenade goes off and the room is showered in blood.
The whole thing builds up to a shot of pregnant Anya, bare-breasted, drenched in blood, firing two machine guns into the remaining Nazis while belting out a primal scream.
Ah. So that’s why the writer made us bring her. I get it now. It doesn’t work, but I see what they were trying to do.
You know, I’m not against this scene in theory. This could have been a cool moment if the writer had given it the proper buildup. Maybe there would be this theme about how desperate war makes us that we would send a pregnant nurse into battle. Maybe they could give Anya a character arc where everyone at base keeps treating her like an invalid and it pisses her off because she’s still fit and able-bodied and she doesn’t want this patronizing bullshit. This would be the moment where she silences the doubters. Or maybe she would be dealing with a bunch of rage after BJ’s nearly-lethal beheading, and this is her cathartic release. But as it stands, this feels like it comes out of nowhere.
Bringing Anya on this mission didn’t make a lot of sense, but the writer did it anyway because they wanted this moment of “I am woman, hear me roar!” Which would be fine if at any point the writer had implanted the desire to see Anya roar in the hearts of the audience. The writer set up things they never paid off and here they’re trying to pay off an idea they didn’t set up.
If you’re going to turn your videogame into a movie, you need to do better than this.
The New Order didn’t attempt anything like this so I can’t say New Order did it better, but New Order didn’t turn your friends and allies into useless do-nothings just to set up novelty scenes that don’t work.
While you wouldn’t know it from the pace of the game, we’re actually in the home stretch now. Not only has the story not bothered to build up this assault or raise the stakes, but the gameplay isn’t really giving us a lot in the way of fireworks either. We do get a big fight against a couple of large mechs, but they don’t feel anything like a “final boss”. It’s a hard fight, but not an interesting one.
The bare-minimum for a fight like this would be to give Engel some brutish henchman. Give him a name and make him seem like a big deal, so when we face off against him we understand we’re having an important fight. We don’t even get a half-assed line of dialog to hastily introduce them. This would be something like, “Once you reach location X, you’re going to have to face off against Engel’s elite Totenkopfhunde!”I just typed “Skull hounds” into Google translate. I have no idea if this works in German, but you get the idea.. That would at least create some vague sense of anticipation. Instead we just walk forward until we meet a couple of nameless monsters, and when it’s over you don’t even realize you’ve just beaten the “final boss”.
In New Order the game established the imposing London Monitor early in the story. Then the game showed it looming on the horizon. Then you had to fight it directly. It followed a nice arc that introduced a threat, raised the stakes, and then resolved the problem. While I wasn’t a fan of the fight against DeathsheadI don’t remember what my problem was with the fight, but I remember being disappointed., that fight was at least built up and resolved. But here New Colossus just drops you into boss encounters without warning or buildup.
Who am I shooting? Is this a famous one-of-a-kind Nazi badass cyber-soldier, or is this just the next tier of mook I’ll be facing going forward?
Say it with me now: The New Order did it better.
We’ll wrap up this series next week.
 Or cut of Fergus’ arm.
 I just typed “Skull hounds” into Google translate. I have no idea if this works in German, but you get the idea.
 I don’t remember what my problem was with the fight, but I remember being disappointed.
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