As promised, BJ is dragged around the country and put on television like a trophy. The Nazis call him “Terror Billy”. He’s given a show trial and sentenced to death.
Worst. Daydream. Ever.
As he’s sentenced, one of the guards turns his back on BJ and you’re able to do a melee attack. No wait, you’re obliged to do a melee attack. The story will literally not proceed until you press this one button. When you do, BJ suddenly breaks his shackles, kills the guards, and steps out of his restraints.Thus begins what is probably the hardest fight in the game.
If you’re taking this escape at face value then it feels completely unearned. BJ snapping those shackles is completely implausible and there’s no reason for him to be suddenly able to walk. Nothing has changed in the story to make this moment possible. On the other hand if you correctly realize that this is a dream sequence, then you also know that the whole thing is just a giant waste of time.
Like I said, this is the toughest fight in the gameAlso the spot with the WORST framerate, if you’ve got low-end hardware.. If you die, you start over. So how does that work? Is BJ failing at his own ludicrous fantasy? It ends with him daydreaming a conversation with his mother, but she’s dead so this doesn’t matter. She doesn’t say anything to help or change him in any way.
It would be one thing if we had to put the controller down and watch a movie, but this is a 25 minute movie where almost nothing happens but you’re forced to fight your way through a pointless daydream so the story can go back to spinning its wheels.
And then once it’s over you just snap back to the courtroom anyway, where you are sentenced to death. It’s the old frustrating videogame trope: Failure is forbidden until it’s mandatory. This fight is the only interactivity in the entire 25 minute stretch, and it comes off as stupid and contrived until your realize it’s actually just pointless.
Nobody Knows How No Body Feels
At the end of the ordeal, Engel executes BJ in front of a public audience. She cuts off his head, holds it up for the cheering crowd, and tosses it into a furnace.
What she doesn’t see is that a drone grabs the head, flies off with it, and delivers it to the resistance. They hook it up to a machine to give it oxygenated blood, and then stick it in a jar while they prepare the transplant.
See, scientist Set Roth (my favorite character) had the headless body of a Nazi super-soldier laying around, and he’s going to put BJ’s head on it.
To be fair, the story laid the groundwork for all of this, making sure all the elements were introduced ahead of time. This was both foreshadowed and established as a thing that can happen. If you visited the lab earlier in the game you could see the headless body. And earlier in the story they introduced a pet of Set’s, which he created by putting the head of a cat onto a monkey.
Having said that, this still doesn’t work for me.
Maybe the previous twenty minutes simply tested my patience and I stopped believing in the world. Maybe this idea is just too far out, even for this universe. Maybe this needed to “cost him something” so it didn’t feel cheap. Maybe I’m just an unreasonable crank that hates fun. I dunno. It didn’t work for me.
Maybe it seems unfair to argue with the writer about what can and can’t happen in their universe. But I think the problem with this scene isn’t necessarily this scene, but everything that came before it. So much of this story has been heavy-handed, clumsy, poorly justified, and overly verbose. If you want the audience to buy into an incredible premise, then you need buy-in. You need them to care about the characters so they’ll want to go along with it and they need to trust the storyteller so they can go along with it. But by this point in the
game movie I’d lost all interest in these increasingly cartoonish and ill-defined characters, and that whole dream sequence obliterated my trust in the author.
The writer just did some sort of fake-out dream sequence where they made us play through an absurdist fantasy, and now they’re presenting an even more absurd turn of events and expecting us to go along with it. The dream sequence is basically a plot-twist. “Ha! It was fake! Don’t you feel like a fool for believing me?” says the writer. And then they follow that absurdist fantasy with a turn of events that’s even more implausible. The author is asking a lot of the audience, right at the moment where we’re likely to have the lowest trust and investment.
Even if you’re okay with the idea of putting heads onto new bodies, there’s still a lot that makes this scene hard to believe. This execution takes place in front of tens of thousands. Security for a politicized event of this scale would be phenomenal for any country, much less one ruled by the most brutal and authoritarian regime the world has ever known. And yet these five people managed to sneak into the very heart of Washington DC with all of this complex medical equipment? And I guess they knew ahead of time exactly how the execution would goSure, you could make an excuse that this is sort of public execution is a regular televised event. Even better is if the WRITER had used that excuse. It would have helped justified the prescience of the good guys while also serving as a bit of worldbuilding. and where they needed to be? If Engel had even hung onto the head for an extra three seconds then this plan would have failed. Then they snuck out of DC through this massive crowd and back to their submarine with no problems, despite the fact that every one of them is a wanted terrorist?
I’m not saying it’s impossible for this small team to get here, I’m saying its a daunting enough challenge that you shouldn’t just casually pretend it’s no big deal. The writer spent so much screen time lingering on the execution, having the player experience the beheading from a first-person perspective. Then they lingered on Engel’s moment of triumph and the black screen that follows. But they couldn’t spare a couple of lines of dialog to help sell this crazy turn of events?
BJ Never Asked for This
So BJ has a new body. This one is stronger, faster, and more durable than his last one. Mechanically, the game shows this by raising your max health from 50 to 100, and then lowering your max armor from 200 to 100 to reflect the loss of the power armorI wonder what the Nazis did with that thing, anyway. It was pretty sweet.. His enemies all think he’s dead, and he’s able to resume his mission stronger than ever.
The bright side is that this super-soldier body finally gives us an excuse for why BJ is so unstoppable. New Order never explained to us how our main character was able to kill so many Nazis with impunity. Isn’t he just a regular human being? What keeps him going? Gordon Freeman has the HEV suit. Crysis has the nanosuit. Master Chief is both cybernetically and biochemically enhanced. But BJ? BJ was supposedly just a regular guy with big muscles. But now his superhuman combat prowess is explained by the fact that he’s literally more than human.
I mean, you don’t need an explanation for those kinds of questions, but it’s nice when you get one.
Before the surgery, you’re given a choice of a physical augmentation to add to the new body. You can get telescoping leg extenders to enable you to reach overhead catwalks and such. Or you can get a thing that lets you collapse your chest down and fit into really narrow vents. Or you can get something that lets you run through specially-marked walls.
Augmentations sound like a good idea, but all of these powers are different variations of “open a door”. None of them are really combat powersAlthough the running-through-walls one lets you plow into foes at high speed and do damage. It’s not as practical as killing them with melee, but it’s fun.. The game designer can’t let you use these powers to create shortcuts, since that would mean skipping gameplay and there’s barely enough of that to go around as it is. They can’t make any particular power a requirement for progress, since you’re only going to have one of the three.
Which means this ends up being a non-choice. Imagine if they gave you a choice of carrying around a red, green, or blue keycard. And then about once a level you come to a red, green, and blue door arranged next to each other, all leading to the same room. This is effectively what we end up with.
From this point in the game you’ll occasionally run into situations where you need one of these abilities to reach a cache of resources. Sometimes you’ll see a secret you can reach, and sometimes you’ll encounter secrets that require one of the other powers.
After the surgery the game drops you into a tutorial for whichever power you chose. That’s understandable from a game design point, but it exacerbates the ongoing problems with pacing. The main plot of “liberate America” slammed on the brakes about an hour ago when BJ began wandering around his childhood home. Since then we’ve been mostly watching cutscenes. The player isn’t engaging with the mechanics and the characters aren’t taking action to advance the plot. The player is very likely restless at this point and eager to get on with things, and so this is a lousy time to make them sit still for a two-minute obstacle course. It’s not the the tutorial itself is wrongAlthough at two minutes it’s at least twice as long as it needs to be.. It’s that the previous cutscenes are continuing to take their toll on our enjoyment of the game.
Once the whole “our hero dies and is miraculously resurrected” distraction is over, we can return to the main plot of liberating America.
 Also the spot with the WORST framerate, if you’ve got low-end hardware.
 Sure, you could make an excuse that this is sort of public execution is a regular televised event. Even better is if the WRITER had used that excuse. It would have helped justified the prescience of the good guys while also serving as a bit of worldbuilding.
 I wonder what the Nazis did with that thing, anyway. It was pretty sweet.
 Although the running-through-walls one lets you plow into foes at high speed and do damage. It’s not as practical as killing them with melee, but it’s fun.
 Although at two minutes it’s at least twice as long as it needs to be.
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