BJ drops into New Orleans to recruit the next batch of rebel scum. It’s a group of colorful characters with various personality quirks that you might find endearing or obnoxious, but are definitely not boring. My problem with the section is that it’s all setup and no payoff. When Grace sends BJ in to rescue Horton, she says that he “[…] has important connections to to the remaining fragments of the resistance all over the US.” Except, once he’s on our side we never make use of those supposed connections.
Ignoring the bit where we got side-tracked with BJ’s capture, execution, and resurrection, the structure of this game is as follows: Caroline’s notes send us to recruit Grace. Grace sends us to recruit Horton. Horton says we should deal with the Ausmerzer. But the Ausmerzer was right there in the opening of the game. We didn’t need to go on the three-levels-deep fetch quest to come up with the idea of stopping it.
Sure, this sort of plot is good enough for a dumb shooter. But it’s not good enough for a movie, which is what the writer seems to be making.
We meet these goofballs in the middle of the bombed-out ruins of New OrleansObligatory: But what do they eat?. Once again, BJ is obliged to have a long argument to get them to join the cause. It’s the same thing he had to do with the New York group: We find a group of hopeless holdouts fighting for survival who paradoxically don’t want to join BJ’s band of secure, technologically advanced, well-informed, famously accomplished, and well-supplied badasses. Instead they try to convince him it’s a lost cause. (Which makes you wonder why they’re still rebels. And if it’s because they’re cornered and have no choice, then why don’t they join to escape their current predicament?) Then he makes an emotional appeal by way of vague platitudes and they change their mind.
Ignoring the problem that we have to persuade rebels to rebel, this could actually be a good setup for the finale. You spend a game recruiting allies and that could lead to a big payoff at the end. The problem is that these people and their unique skills don’t really turn out to be particularly useful. We never rely on Horton’s alleged charisma or whatever it is he supposedly brings to the table. We don’t recruit an explosives expert and then have them demolish an obstacle for us later. The sniper lady is basically a Chekhov’s Gun that never goes off. Clarinet Dude doesn’t end up doing anything that couldn’t be done by any of the people we already have. Horton provides us with a PanzerhoundA giant robot dog that breathes fire. to kill Nazis with, but we only use that helping Horton escape the city so it sort of cancels out. You could argue that Grace brings her hackers to the table, but the story doesn’t ever make it clear that they accomplish anything pertaining to the main plot. We can infer that if we want, but that still doesn’t count as a “payoff” for the screen time we burned earlier.
It’s like a version of Return of the Jedi where we spend Act II meeting and befriending the Ewoks, but then they don’t participate in the battle against the empire. Our allies stand around holding guns at the end, but we already had a submarine full of people who knew how to point guns at things and it’s not clear why BJ needed to spend most of the game tracking these people down, earning their trust, and convincing them to join.
“Maybe this is setup for the next game?”
No offense, but I’ve heard that one before. And given how terrible this writer has been about setting things up and paying them off, I have very little confidence that all of these cutscenes are actually a setup for the next game.
Even if the writer does actually pay these characters off in the next game, that doesn’t really justify the setup with no payoff in this game. Sure, Marvel movies have setup scenes, but they’re usually a couple of lines of dialog, a quick camera cut to an object of interest, or a quick post-credits scene. They don’t dedicate a huge chunk of the running time to scenes that only serve to setup later movies. In fact, that’s one of the major complaints with the DC movies.
We spend a lot of screen time introducing these goofballs. Heck, we spend a lot of gameplay time getting them to join our cause. This entire New Orleans chapter is dedicated entirely to recruiting people who are ultimately superfluous to the plot.
“Shamus, aren’t you overthinking this? It’s just a Nazi shooter, not a complicated ensemble mystery where everything needs to connect at the end.”
That’s my point. This is a simple story, So why do we burn an entire chapter on these guys? Why does the writer spend several minutes of screen time having BJ arguing with Horton during a drinking contest to get him to join? If you’re not going to pay it off, then don’t waste our time with all this setup. Just have them shake hands, introduce the new people, and then segue back into the action. Or better yet, have these people use their skills at the end, even if they do so off-screen. The New Order actually did this in your very first mission. The radio chatter indicated your allies were hacking machines, stealthing into locations on hang gliders, bombing places, and otherwise pulling their own weight while you were blasting Nazi foot-soldiers. It felt like you were simply the most visible member of a larger team.
It’s not that this is a horrible sequence. It works well enough and gets us to the next shooty bit. But it doesn’t make economical use of its cutscenes and it doesn’t move the plot forward in the sense of getting us closer to our goals.
Horton’s big contribution is to suggest we go after the Ausmerzer, but everything he says is either obvious (we should attack the bad guys!) or public knowledge (the Ausmerzer puts down rebellions) so his advice doesn’t really redeem the time we spent saving him. It’s like a version of Star Wars where it turns out the secret plans R2D2 has been carrying around are simply, “The bad guys are on the Death Star. You should blow it up.”
Gosh, thanks R2.
Once BJ has liberated Horton and company and broken the Nazi siege, he has to get them back to base. To do that he needs to…
The good guys bring their submarine base a little too close to shore to evacuate Horton’s people, and they end up stuck in the mud. So they launch a nuke inland, hoping the shockwave will shove the boat back into the water.
So we’re casually nuking American soil now? (I mean, aside from the earlier nuke we set off at Area 52. Area 52 was in the middle of the desert. Nuking New Orleans is a different thing entirely.) I guess we’re sure that all of New Orleans is clear of friendlies and it’s all NazisTo be fair, the story says the Nazis built a wall around New Orleans and it looks like it’s a giant uninhabited ruin.. But nukes aren’t just big explosions. Aren’t we worried about nuclear fallout across Louisiana? What happens when all these radioactive particles drift east over Florida? Maybe BJ and Grace don’t understand how fallout works, but the audience does and it’s hard not to see this as destroying a huge section of the country we’re supposedly trying to liberate and possibly killing or poisoning a bunch of the people we’re trying to save, all so we can get un-stuck from the mud.
Yes, this is a “nuclear cannon” and not a “nuclear missile”, so maybe you can argue this isn’t as destructive as a regular nuke. On the other hand, we get a familiar-looking mushroom cloud so this looks like an atomic bomb going off.
When we met Grace, the writer spent two entire minutes of screentime talking about the horrors of the nuke that hit New York. They didn’t spend any time explaining Grace’s plans, purpose, backstory, personal goals, or the makeup of her team. (Or even that she had a team.) Instead we get a “horrors of war” story about a little boy, blinded by the blast, wandering around and crying for his dead mama. The story drives home how cruel and indiscriminate nukes are, then it has us use one, and then it fails to note this discrepancy. After the nuke we don’t get a moment where the good guys discuss what they’ve done. They’re not shocked, worried, uneasy, or even angry about it. In fact, it never even comes up.
I don’t know what the writer was trying to do here, but it feels like the nuke was just a brute-force way to end this section with a bang and they weren’t thinking about the previous scenes they’d written. You can’t burn a bunch of screen time telling us what a cataclysmic atrocity nukes are and then have the good guys set them off like fireworks to make things more “exciting”.
To take over the Ausmerzer, we need to steal the control codes for its weapon systems. But those codes are only kept in the super-secret Nazi base… on Venus.
Back in The New Order, BJ had to go to the Nazi moon base. It was silly, outrageous fun. It was also thematically appropriate for the time period. The game was set in 1960, which is right at the start of the space race. It was fun to see the Nazi version of NASA and their Nazi-styled versions of all the moonbase technology. The low gravity areas were fun and it was nice to be able to wander around the base as a civilian for a minute before starting the murder spree.
But now we learn that here in 1961 the Nazis also have a city on Venus. This is not thematically appropriate for the time period. Building a base on Venus was never a goal of anyone involved in the space race. Also, the Nazi rocket technology in New Order looked roughly equivalent to the stuff we had in the Apollo program. But now we learn that they have this massive city on Venus. Building a base on Venus is so monumentally more difficult than putting one on the moon, it changes the entire technological landscape of the series. Note that it’s only been a few months since the events of New Order. Which means this base must have already existed during the first game. It’s like finding out the Nazis invented the Commodore 64 in 1960, but then a few months later you discover they also have the iPhone XActually, it’s worse. I mean, here in 2018 we HAVE the iPhone X. But we’re nowhere NEAR building a base on Venus.. It’s not that this is “impossible”, it’s just that it doesn’t mesh with how the previous game depicted technology.
But the real problem is that this section is just unimaginative. The previous game put us on the moon, so this game felt the need to one-up that. It’s a lot like the Starkiller Base from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The original story gave us this cool, far-out concept, and instead of coming up with another cool idea, the sequel just repeated the played-out idea on a bigger scale.
Again, I’m not saying this is some terrible failure or that the writer has ruined the lore of the Wolfenstein universe or whatever. I’m just saying this leads back to my main thesis, which is that Wolfenstein: The New Order did it better.
 Obligatory: But what do they eat?
 A giant robot dog that breathes fire.
 To be fair, the story says the Nazis built a wall around New Orleans and it looks like it’s a giant uninhabited ruin.
 Actually, it’s worse. I mean, here in 2018 we HAVE the iPhone X. But we’re nowhere NEAR building a base on Venus.
The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.
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