Wolfenstein II Part 8: Horton’s Heroes

By Shamus Posted Thursday Mar 22, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 111 comments

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.

Horton’s Heroes

Left to right: The Professor, the legendary BJ Blazkowicz, Paris Jack, and Horton. Only one of these people will be useful to the rebellion after this cutscene. I'll let you guess which one.
Left to right: The Professor, the legendary BJ Blazkowicz, Paris Jack, and Horton. Only one of these people will be useful to the rebellion after this cutscene. I'll let you guess which one.

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.

So which of you guys is responsible for keeping the Nazis from bombing this place into gravel? I'm really curious how you pull that off.
So which of you guys is responsible for keeping the Nazis from bombing this place into gravel? I'm really curious how you pull that off.

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.

BJ, you ride this fire-breathing Nazi robo-dog into battle while my team of useless hangers-on escape.
BJ, you ride this fire-breathing Nazi robo-dog into battle while my team of useless hangers-on escape.

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…

Nuke Orleans

The bad news is we just leveled a famous American city. The good news is we're no longer stuck in the mud. Whee! Yay good guys!
The bad news is we just leveled a famous American city. The good news is we're no longer stuck in the mud. Whee! Yay good guys!

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.

We use the shockwave of the nuclear blast to shove our U-boat back into the water. I sure hope no civilians live in the suburban areas around New Orleans! Maybe we should have asked about that first.
We use the shockwave of the nuclear blast to shove our U-boat back into the water. I sure hope no civilians live in the suburban areas around New Orleans! Maybe we should have asked about that first.

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”.


Horton's contribution to the cause is to suggest we go after the Ausmerzer. He doesn't even come up with HOW. He just says it needs to be done. I don't think that suggestion was worth more than the city of New Orleans.
Horton's contribution to the cause is to suggest we go after the Ausmerzer. He doesn't even come up with HOW. He just says it needs to be done. I don't think that suggestion was worth more than the city of New Orleans.

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.

Yep. We're on Venus now. It's apparently that easy.
Yep. We're on Venus now. It's apparently that easy.

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.



[1] Obligatory: But what do they eat?

[2] A giant robot dog that breathes fire.

[3] To be fair, the story says the Nazis built a wall around New Orleans and it looks like it’s a giant uninhabited ruin.

[4] Actually, it’s worse. I mean, here in 2018 we HAVE the iPhone X. But we’re nowhere NEAR building a base on Venus.

From The Archives:

111 thoughts on “Wolfenstein II Part 8: Horton’s Heroes

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    What happens when all these radioactive particles drift east over Florida?

    Would anyone be able to tell?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Of course they would.Such an improvement wouldnt go unnoticed.

      1. Agammamon says:

        I don’t know man. Florida *already* has giant roaches, giant snakes, and giant aligators along with cannibals and killer ants.

        If anything, it might *improve* things down there.

        1. Boobah says:

          No mention of Florida man? I guess his natural habitat of newspaper headlines (albeit on back pages and below the fold) was another thing the Nazi conquest cost the country.

  2. Galenloke says:

    I have to ask, is there context for why the Professor is laying on the table for a butt shot? The game didn’t sound very pandering in that sense before now, but maybe Shamus has been ignoring it?

    1. I think she was previously sniping out of the window

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      It’s not really a butt shot in context, she’s just in the middle of sniping nazis.

      1. Ivan says:

        So, normally, a sniper’s position is something that can be figured out, right? From things like muzzle flash, and how the body falls and how it’s wounded. So, why were they calmly having a chat then? Why were they calmly standing around chatting in that screenshot? Did this get mentioned?

        By which I mean, why were they not leaving posthaste to another location not about to be raided by Nazis?

        1. Nimas says:

          To be fair, assuming you’re sniping from *inside* the building, that should mask a lot of the report (rapport? I’m honestly not sure) and mean you can’t really spot any muzzle flash unless you’re looking from above.

          It’s also pretty difficult to find a sniper’s location from how a body falls usually, especially in the situation where you’re still able to be shot by said sniper. You’d likely probably locate the *general* location in that it came from right or left of you, but most people would be trying to get to some cover and not too worried about locating the sniper over making sure they don’t immediately die.

          However guns are *fucking loud* so having a conversation while firing is unlikely, although a standard hollywood conceit.

          Also, you are correct in most cases if you’ve fired a shot or shots as a sniper and remaining undetected is your aim, you should relocate post haste.

          1. Agammamon says:

            Snipers wouldn’t really be firing from a window they are almost falling out of.

            Especially wouldn’t be doing so with a bunch of people hanging around having a conversation.

          2. Boobah says:

            the report (rapport? I’m honestly not sure)

            It’s report, because the sound tells everybody around that there’s somebody firing a gun; it reports the gun’s location and use.

            Rapport is more about a group of people meshing well. Also, it’s presumably a Norman import since the t is silent.

            1. Gabriel says:

              Thanks for the rapport import report.

        2. emptyother says:

          Been a while since I played the game, so I’m probably misremembering things.. But there were no calm chats there. Just a lot of yelling and name-calling between BJ and the priest, then they had a drinking match, while the sniper were just in the background taking outthe occasional nazi who dared try to scout out the place. Remebering it being completely ridicilous, but i liked it and was looking forward to learn more about these people… Disappointed I didn’t get to see more to them.

      2. Matt Downie says:

        It can be two things.

  3. King Marth says:

    Getting to Venus isn’t that much harder than getting to the moon.

    Of course, if you want to (a) survive the trip (what do they eat?), (b) land more-or-less intact through the sulfuric acid clouds, (c) construct anything in a hellscape hot enough to melt lead with air pressure equivalent to a kilometer below water level, or (d) get home, then you’re out of luck.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Burning for escape velocity from earth and a transfer orbit aren’t exactly nothing.

      On the other hand, as long as you aren’t planning on landing, it would be pretty easy to make an airship-city on Venus, seeing that the atmosphere is so much more buoyant than on Earth.

      1. Agammamon says:

        If you’re doing a minimum deltav (Hohlman transfer) burn it is. ‘Course that trip might take a couple years. What are you going to eat?

        OTOH, if the Nazis have the ability to do a brachistochorne transfer (accelerate halfway there, turn over, decelerate the remainder) then they have a torch drive – and so they have fusion power and advance materials technology that we can’t even begin to touch today so the Resistance has already lost – they just don’t know it.

        Half the delta v required to get anywhere in the Solar Sytem simply comes from getting to earth escape velocity. Once you’re in orbit you’re halfway to *anywhere*.

        1. Nimas says:

          Good god I’m praying for a space elevator, despite knowing how ridiculous that seems (come on, diamond nanofibers!)

          1. Decius says:

            It’s basically ONLY a materials problem and a politics problem at this point.


          2. Daemian Lucifer says:

            While its dubious that one will ever be built on earth,having one on the moon and mars is a possibility.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      I was going to ask things like this. I am not at all an expert (and would like to know if someone has the answers to my questions/points) but from what little I do know…

      -The moon is – astronomically speaking – very close to Earth. Venus is…several light-minutes away? That makes communication alone difficult and problematic, let alone getting materials there and building anything. The Nazis would have had to launch their Venus settlers/builders years earlier, possibly even before they won the war.

      -Once you get there, the atmosphere is ridiculously hostile. So you’d have to overcome that, which would probably require even more material sent there. Not so much of a problem on the moon.
      (Isn’t this why, when people discuss settling other planets in real life they usually talk about to Mars, as it’s got a much less problematic atmosphere?)

      -How different are the orbits of Venus and Earth? Because theoretically, the distance between the two could vary massively – another problem for maintaining the city there/sending help etc. The two planets might not even be able to communicate if they’re on either side of the Sun…right?

      1. Agammamon says:

        Before they even started the war.

        If they could do this they would be so advanced they wouldn’t have *needed the war in the first place*. Everyone would be paying them for their stuff and they would be a lone superpower – the delta in German power vs the rest of the world would be an order or two larger than the delta between the modern US and the rest of the world.

        1. trevalyan says:

          Need the war, no.

          -Want- a war, because there are some Jews still alive? But of course. Still, I thought the notion of a Nazi empire that has completely dominated the planet would be sufficient to establish their superiority.

          The moon base in Wolfenstein TNO was cute, btw, I do not have a problem with sci-fi ideas. My problem is that in this game, the Ausmerzer and the Venus moon base are far beyond anything the Jews could have invented. If the Yichud could develop such a weapon, the Americans would have done so before the Nazi invasion. I’m sure the writers aren’t praising the creative genius of the master race, so let’s go to the backup explanation.

          Criminally shoddy writing.

      2. Xeorm says:

        For reference, an astronomical unit (AU) is ~500 light seconds, or 8.3 light-minutes. Venus is .73 AU away from the sun, so at its closest you’re looking at .27 * 500 or 135 light seconds so 2 minutes. At worst it’s 1.73 * 500 or 865 seconds (14.4 minutes). You can’t have a phone call or use robots operated from Earth, but you can leave messages and the like. It wouldn’t be that bad communications wise.

        Colonizing Venus is completely fictional. There’s no way we know of that you’d be able to do more than orbit the planet as the atmosphere is too hostile. So any discussion of timeframes is completely plot dependent.

        Mars is a good choice because it can support a livable atmosphere theoretically, and is close enough that it could possibly become warm enough to sustain life. What also helps is you can build on there now, and slowly work your way towards a real colony. Any other place is too harsh to live on now and/or too fantastical to imagine being hospitable for humans.

        The two orbits aren’t that different. Venus goes around the sun in about 2/3 a year, and appears at the same place relative to Earth every 584 days. A direct communication line between the two planets wouldn’t work when they’re opposite the sun from each other, but it’s trivial to setup a satellite on the sides to work as a go-between. We’ve got some that handle that right now even.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Actually,there are ways we could colonize venus.With floating domes.Seeing how dense the atmosphere there is,its much easier to establish a bunch of cities high up in the atmosphere where the conditions are more hospitable.Of course,theyd all still have to be completely sealed but at least they wouldnt end up being roasted,crushed or eaten.

          1. Nope says:

            Course, Sulfuric acid is corrosive to most materials, especially 60s materials, and for the 60s, that distance is still ridiculous.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              At the height proposed for colonization(around 50km),sulfuric acid happens only sporadically,in the form of clouds.That means that it could be either avoided by having the cities be essentially dirigibles,or shielded against in various ways(using cloud dispersal methods or having layers of protective coating).Its not ideal,but its definitely possible,even with 1960s tech.

              Getting all the necessary equipment and air there however,that is a near impossibility even with current tech.

        2. Matt van Riel says:

          The problem isn’t the atmosphere, it’s the lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, you’re boned. That’s why Mars has no atmosphere in the first place, it was stripped away by the solar winds. Even if we somehow added a new atmosphere, without that spinning molten core we have on Earth, you’d constantly have to be regenerating the whole thing artificially.

          You could build underground to get around that to some degree… but you’d still need to be able to do that without dying horribly. So automated robotic diggers and things are probably going to be a necessity unless we magically come up with some sort of energy shielding that also stops the various destructive meteorite impacts and other hazards of the Martian surface.

          And we’re not even getting into the other problems, such as relative position and distance from Earth, that would cause issues even getting to Mars more than once every couple of years ;p

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Venus does not have a magnetic field produced by the core like earth,but it still does have an induced magnetosphere due to its thick atmosphere.Because of that,its not as good of a shield as earths,but it is much better than nothing of mars and moon.

            1. Matt van Riel says:

              Acidic and toxic atmosphere makes it just as pointless ;p And I was specifically talking about Mars.

      3. Hal says:

        According to Space.com, the distance between Venus and Earth will vary (roughly) between 25 and 162 million miles, depending on their orbits. That 25 million mark occurs about once every 584 days; for reference, that’s about 100x the distance from the Earth to the Moon (238,000 miles.) In other words, this is a long journey.

        Spacecraft sent there in 60s took about 4 months to reach Venus.

        This has to be one of those situations where you can’t think too hard about it. Just asking the basic question of, “Why would you even build this thing?” makes it break down. You can’t possibly retrieve natural resources from this place in a way that makes them worthwhile to retrieve. Maybe it’s an isolated base, making it super secure, but it’s not like you can’t make secure facilities on Earth, and there’s already a Moon base, so that one already has the benefit of isolation via space travel.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          It’s worth noting that, in space travel, the issue isn’t distance as much as it is velocity. When you blast out of Earth’s orbit, you’re still in the Sun’s orbit, travelling around it at Earth’s orbital velocity. Reaching Venus means that you have to change to Venus’ orbital velocity.

          Distance is a problem that you can just throw more time at. Since there’s no air resistance in space to slow you down, you can travel twice as far just by waiting twice as long. Changing velocity requires burning fuel.

          1. Hal says:

            Distance is a problem that you can just throw more time at.

            That’s not an insignificant problem, though, if what you’re sending into space is people. People need food, oxygen, and water (among other things.) They generate waste. The longer a trip you’re taking, the more the logistics of keeping the humans alive impact the factors under consideration.

            I entirely get the point that you’re making, but given the extreme distances, and thus the travel time these trips require, “throwing more time at it” can just make the problem more complicated, not less.

            1. Decius says:

              “What do they eat”
              “What do they breathe”

              Those are problems that the setting has already ignored.

              1. Hal says:

                Fair enough. Though the time element could still be meaningful. I don’t know what the general pace of the game is, but it tends to be a problem in storytelling if the protagonists step out of the picture for months to travel to a destination. The Nazis aren’t going to just twiddle their thumbs during the trip there and back. There’s also a strong possiblity that a journey of such a nature couldn’t possibly remain undetected. They should either arrive to a seriously hostile welcome, or get shot down en route.

          2. Decius says:

            Changing velocity is easy if you are near a gravity well that is roughly infinitely larger than you.

            You don’t need to burn fuel for the delta V between Earth and Venus- you need to burn fuel for escape velocity from Earth, and pick a vector that meets Venus, then burn fuel to land.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              That is true if all you want is to just reach the object exerting gravity.If you want to land on it safely,you most definitely need to burn fuel as you are approaching it.

              1. Richard says:

                Actually no. Landing on Venus is pretty easy because the atmosphere is so dense.

                Aerobraking will dump a huge amount of delta-v for free, you can land with barely any lithobraking.

                Getting back – hah! Forget it.

                1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  You can still crash into a gas if you are coming in too fast.So it would still be a good idea to slow down a bit before reaching the atmosphere.And of course,there is the issue of the angle of decent.Bouncing off of the planet would also not be a good thing.

    3. Nope says:

      So, it is much harder?

      As well as of course, being much further, requiring a much larger rocket than humanity has to date, ever fired, carrying enough supplies for both the voyage and the colony. Like, 60’s moon base is dumb enough, but Venus base to one up the moon base is another scale more dumb, to get you to a similar setting.

    4. Ingolifs says:

      I read a proposal on how to colonise Venus a while back. It involved:

      -First, colonise Mercury
      -Stripmine approx 3% of the mass of mercury for magnesium ores
      -Electrochemically reduce all that to magnesium metal
      -Build a giant railgun
      -Fire chunks of magnesium at Venus
      -The magnesium will react with the CO2 and Sulfuric acid in the atmosphere, reducing them and making the atmosphere less dense
      -After firing about 10^20 kg of magnesium (approx the mass of the dwarf planet Ceres) at Venus, you now have a somewhat less hellish (although still baking hot) planet to begin terraforming.

      1. Hal says:

        10^20kg of magnesium

        I laughed. When I read proposals like that, I can never tell if the people writing these things are actually serious or not.

        1. Decius says:

          “First, colonize Mercury”

          Congrats. You have reduce the problem to a harder, more complicated problem.

          Steps two and three are actually even harder than step one.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Well,for such a thing you dont actually have to colonize mercury,just seed it with automatic plants that can process and fire payload into space.But using it to terraform venus would be foolish.Living space is the last thing a space faring race requires.

  4. Nick Powell says:

    Is this game bad enough for a Goldun Riter? We haven’t seen one of those in a while

    1. Ander says:

      It’s coming off as more superfluous than truly terrible. As a waste of resources, it is notable, but there have been much worse. That’s my take, anyway.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        It’s superfluous AND it’s getting “best story of the year” awards. I’m starting to think the gaming media is about to get a Goldun Riter

  5. Mark says:

    At this point the “good guys” have set off more nukes on U.S. soil than the Nazis have.

  6. Paul Spooner says:

    The difference between a nuclear “bomb”, “canon”, and “missile” is all in the delivery mechanism. The warheads operate on the same principle. So, the fallout would be the same.
    Not that that justifies any of this. What a mess.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Theres also the size of the warhead.In order to have a viable cannon,the warhead has to be much smaller.I mean,unless you dont care about it being destroyed in the blast as well,in which case why would you make a cannon anyway?

      1. Matt van Riel says:

        A cannon is kind of a ridiculous idea for a nuke in the first instance. You want an ‘airburst’ for maximum damage, not a direct kinetic impact.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Depends on what you are targeting.For a bunker buster,you definitely do want it to trigger on impact.Which is why the nuclear cannons have been proposed for initially.The idea was scrapped though because you cant really shape a nuclear explosion,which is the most important thing for penetrating a thick shield.The emp of the explosion could be useful though.

          1. Decius says:

            Nuclear detonations aren’t very good at armor penetration at all. If you want to break a bunker from a distance, hit it with a pointed piece of tungsten.

            1. Matt van Riel says:

              IIRC, didn’t the US military try micro-nukes for bunker busting at one point? But yeah, kinda pointless when we have better options available. And especially so in a setting like Wolfenstein that has concrete-and-metal-melting lasers and the like.

        2. Bloodsquirrel says:

          You can still airburst with a cannon. Even conventional artillery shells can have airburst fuses.

          Nuclear Artillery made sense in the time it was developed- missile and rocket technology wasn’t advanced enough yet to be a viable delivery system, leaving aircraft as your main way of dropping the bombs. The bombs were also much smaller, and there was more of an expectation of them being used on the actual battlefield, as opposed to pure strategic weapons. Nuclear Artillery gave you a fast, on-the-ground way to fire a nuke at an advancing enemy.

          Also, survivability of the cannon really isn’t a big deal. A single artillery piece is a pretty low cost for the effect the nuke will have. Hell, the warhead probably cost you more to make than the cannon. The survivability of the crew is a bigger concern, although if they’ve got a good dugout they can jump into then they’ll be able to be closer to the blast than you think and still survive. Even in Hiroshima there were survivors, and those people were in wooden buildings, not bunkers.

        3. Mousazz says:

          A nuclear cannon definitely made sense for the Cold war, but as a tactical weapon, and not a city leveler. Here’s the smallest made nuke mounted on a recoilless rifle gun. Here’s it being used in one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time.

          Even then, it STILL had safety problems, namely the nuclear fallout being deadly to the operator of the gun.

    2. Boobah says:

      One might also build a weapon that is billed as a ‘nuclear cannon’ by propelling the shell with a nuclear explosion. Of course, that means A) an implausibly durable weapon (and why don’t we use whatever the nuclear cannon is made of as armor?) and B) you’re dropping most of the radioactive ‘exhaust’ onto and around the guys firing the weapon.

      Also, if you’ve got one of those you don’t need to fire it into the metropolitan area next to your sub to unground it. You don’t need the shell for the blast to move the boat… and it’s probably not possible to aim it in a way that won’t push the boat deeper into the muck.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        A cannon that uses fission explosion to propel a fusion warhead across the globe!Its so genius it should be in a video game!

  7. BlueHorus says:

    Did they get rid of the writers from the New Order and get in the Bethesda writing team in?

    It’s got all the hallmarks of that studio’s writing style i.e: ‘Get some good-looking set pieces, some striking visuals, some neat ideas, then string them all together and call it a day’. No need to worry about consistency or depth, just move onto the next big thing.

    (Speaking of Bethesda’s writing, it’s been ages since we’ve had an Overhaulout post. Has something happened to Rutskarn that I missed?)

    1. Pat says:

      Yeah, I was wondering what happened to Overhaulout. Is Rutskarn still here?

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        Didn’t he say he was sick and/or having family issues in his last post?

    2. camycamera says:

      I am pretty sure it’s the same writers as TNO. But I think the reason for the game’s huge story problems is that the game was simply unfinished. That’s my theory anyway. The quality between TNO and TNC is staggering. The cutscene direction and voice acting were all top notch just like TNO, but boy everything else felt all cobbled together in the end, rather than a cohesive whole like TNO. I suspect that the game was unfinished due to transferring from Id Tech 5 to 6? Not sure. But I definitely feel like a lot of its story and gameplay faults come from it being unfinished.

      Plus maybe another factor, but YouTuber Super Bunny Hop thought that it suffered from a lack of “write what you know”. TNO was set all around Europe and stuff, so we get great memorable levels and setpieces and stuff from that. TNC though was meant to be set in America, which the writers/devs aren’t from. There’s only one setpiece (Roswell) where we get a look at what American life is under Nazi rule, and that’s it. Plus most of the levels are bland and boring in comparison to TNO.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Theres also time.This game was shipped out in less time than the new order.

      2. trevalyan says:

        I would love to believe all that But I doubt it. In TNO, the Nazis were merciless sadists: when Britain resisted, they unleashed the Monitor on hapless London. A conversation on a train becomes more intimidating than a dozen armored goons, simply because an innocent woman might soon be at the mercy of a capricious harridan. And certainly, you never have to nuke a city to surf off the shockwave.

        You can chalk that up to Time, to the absence of hammering out dialogue in a focused writer’s meeting, but no. This game won tons of awards for narrative and story- from journalists less equipped to recognize the howlingly poor writing choices than your average Holstein cow. It’s not that feedback was missing, but that the team was trapped in a narrow and callow mindset which made TNC objectively inferior to TNO in simple logic. Never mind well crafted alt-history.

  8. BlueHorus says:

    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.

    Ugh, and even those I usually hate. I didn’t pay for a movie so you could sell me a different one, dammit! Though I might just be a bit tired of expanded cinematic universes. What’s wrong with a one-off film that isn’t tied to a load of others?

    Not that it can’t be done well….one sequel hint that I remember liking was in Iron Man 2: Tony Stark needs to prop something up for plot reasons, so he grabs the nearest object to hand – which just so happens to be Captain America’s shield.
    Just the right level of ‘you’d only notice if you care, and if you don’t then you’re not distracted by it.’

    1. Matt van Riel says:

      “What’s wrong with a one-off film that isn’t tied to a load of others?”

      It can’t be milked in perpetuity. Expecting originality from Hollywood and their ilk is like expecting Bethesda to actually hire some writers instead of just having their level designers do it. Never going to happen heh.

  9. Jabberwok says:

    So does setting off the nuke safely push the sub back into the water? Because that sounds highly suspect to me.

    Funny that all this recruitment stuff doesn’t pay off, because it seems like a really obvious missed opportunity. New Vegas and Assassin’s Creed: Revelations were games that both spent a lot of time on recruiting, and both had a payoff at the finale, fighting alongside your recruits. Saint’s Row 3 (and 4) did something similar, not to mention every Mass Effect. Wolfenstein seems like prime territory for a basic but satisfying ‘put together super team, then go kick ass together’ story.

    Anyway, good to know that I should avoid this game. Sounds horribly annoying. There isn’t much in games that annoys me more than cinematics coupled with bad writing. Except for melodrama…

  10. Jumbily Wobbly says:

    Here’s an unpopular opinion: Shamus repeats the same point too often.

    I understand that this is unavoidable in a scene-by-scene breakdown of a very repetitive plot, but I feel like there’s nothing else to add to the discussion. It’s just “You know how the plot, writing and cutscenes were bad in New York? Surprise! They’re bad in New Orleans too.” Maybe a non-linear autopsy is better suited to this sort of high-detail deep dive? Because otherwise it ends up like that Fallout 4 season of spoiler warning where everyone kicked around the same 5 arguments for 20 hours.

    Rant over. Love you Shamus

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, this chapter was a little repetitive, to be honest. By which is mean it repeated itself. As in, it made the same point several times.

      1. Matt van Riel says:

        I see what you did thar.

        1. Mousazz says:

          I have noticed it too.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats the problem of trying to deconstruct a repetitive story.You end up repeating yourself because theres really nothing new to say.Theres only so many ways to say “We saw this already.Its stupid.Its pointless.”

      1. Matt van Riel says:

        For the perfect example of this, watch Joseph Anderson’s 2 hour long Mario Odyssey video, heh.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          Joseph Anderson should spend some of his Patreon money on hiring an editor. He BELABORES. EVERY. SINGLE. POINT. TO. DEATH. I think he makes some really smart points (and some ones I end up disagreeing with), but a video of his type should not be feature film length.

    3. BlueHorus says:

      I kind of agree (not to say that I don’t often belabour the same points when I post…). But in the spirit of constructive criticism:

      The comparison to the New Order (the background radio chatter) in this post is good*. Maybe some more ‘this game did it differently/better’ would add more variety? Or maybe just direct comparisons to TNO.

      Going back to the section about BJ’s encounter with his dad Rip, there was a bit of interesting speculation: ‘How could this have been done better/what opportunities were lost here?’
      I’d be interested in that.

      Just suggestions. Take or leave them as you will.

  11. Dreadjaws says:

    How does writing this bad even exists in this day and age? I mean, yeah, you see it all the time in fanfiction, but these people are paid, professional writers. You’d have to be actively trying to somehow write this poorly while having this job.

    I mean, I look at any of the Transformers sequels and I think “OK, whomever wrote this obviously didn’t watch the previous films in the series”, but here I have to think “OK, whomever wrote this obviously didn’t play the previous chapter”.

    Maybe that’s the problem. The writer suffers from amnesia like Drew Barrymore in My 50 First Dates, so every day he starts writing without remembering what he wrote before.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      Drew Barrymore’s character in 50 First Dates would probably be very interested in closely re-reading anything she had previously written, as it would be totally new to her each day she returned to it. I think this particular interest is one not shared by the writer of New Colossus.

      Much more importantly, she would be able to serve as a largely impartial editor of her own writing— an incredible and unique talent, to be sure. I’m not sure anyone edited this game.

      Drew Barrymore’s character might also likely feel a great deal of personal interest and dedication towards whatever she found herself co-writing with a legion of her unrecalled past selves. I doubt anyone really cared about this claptrap.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      How does writing this bad even exists in this day and age?

      Easy.You demand of the writer to give you the same result as the last time,with more flash,in less time,for the same(or smaller)amount of money.You need to be a genius in order to actually make something original and coherent under such constraints,and geniuses are as rare in this day and age as they were in any day and age.Thats why only every hundredth sequel will actually be good.

    3. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      Shamus admits the characters are unique and somewhat interesting. So my guess would be, one of the writers was tasked to invent new characters. They invented a personality, a job that would have a function in an FPS setting to add to gameplay (sniper, hacker, etc) and wrote a cutscene of how BJ would meet this person and get them to join him. That person did a decent job. Meanwhile, the level designers were tasked to design a level that involved meeting the character. They did what they could and did probably an okay job. At this point, either the boss or a gameplay lead should link the two. Add gameplay scenarios based around using the talents of BJ’s new friends. This step never happened, probably because of a rushed dev cycle or the goals never being lined up with “make sure the new friends are important to the story.”

  12. Hector says:

    Is this BJ’s “We figh or we doy!” moment?

    Of course, in his case, it’s “We doy then we figh!”

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Yes, but it’s Horton who declares ‘we fight or we die’. That’s why BJ & co. needed to go to so much trouble to recruit him and his friends.

      The resistance hadn’t considered that they might need to destroy the giant Nazi death-airship up until he pointed it out.

  13. Syal says:

    The problem is that these people and their unique skills don’t really turn out to be particularly useful.

    [Scene: the rebel hideout. HORTON, THE PROFESSOR, and PARIS JACK are standing around the rebel table, with BJ looking on.]

    HORTON: “Each member of our team brings with them a unique set of skills. For my part, I am a master barber.”

    [photograph of hair cut into the shape of antlers]

    HORTON: “The Professor is the world champion of Ball-And-Cup.”

    [video of THE PROFESSOR playing four ball-and-cup games simultaneously, hopping the balls from cup to cup.]

    HORTON: “Paris Jack rode an elephant once.”

    [black and white photograph of an elephant, with an arrow that reads “Here” pointing to the elephant’s back.]

    [BJ stares in silence; the others look on expectantly.]

    BJ: “Alright. Here’s the plan.

    “Paris Jack, you’ve got experience in high, slow-moving places; you’re going to use that to ride a hot air balloon over the Nazi base. Professor, you’ll be riding on Paris’s shoulders, carrying a stick of dynamite on a string. When you get over the chimney of the Nazi base, throw the dynamite into it. Horton, you’ll be riding on The Professor’s shoulders; once she throws the dynamite into the chimney cup, use your barbering skills to cut the string. Then, while the Nazis are distracted by the explosion, I’ll go in on foot and kill them all.”

    PARIS JACK: “How are we going to inflate the balloon?”

    [Closeup of BJ, his face solemn]

    BJ: “We’re going to need a birthday clown.”

      1. Matt van Riel says:

        Same :)

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          The plan itself gives me a strong Allo Allo vibe…

    1. Paul says:

      That was awesome, I hope you do more.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So in this game,you hear a horton?I thought this was set in the usa,not soviet russia.

    1. Redrock says:

      Valiant effort, but for the joke to really work it would need to be a Doctor Who episode.

      On that note, a Wolfenstein game in nazi-occupied Russia sounds fun. Although, one might say that the Metro series has that covered.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Wait, who hears a Horton?

      1. Redrock says:

        Yay for teamwork!

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Once BJ has liberated Horton and company and broken the Nazi siege, he has to get them them back to base. To do that he needs to…

    Two many thems.

  16. Redrock says:

    Maybe BJ and Grace don’t understand how fallout works, but the audience does

    Didn’t know you have that much faith in humanity and/or modern education, Shamus.

    1. Matt van Riel says:

      Seriously. People hear fallout and they instantly jump to the wrong conclusions because most people don’t in fact understand radiation or how it works. Like most people think a long half-life (insert HL3 joke here) is a bad thing when it’s really the opposite.

      Fun aside: the scene in the lift in Ghostbusters where Egon mentions the half-life of the power sources in their backpacks is helpful for the audience because it’s a BIG number that ‘sounds’ dangerous. Despite half-life being one of those things where the ‘shorter’ it is the more lethal it becomes.

      This is of course also one of the primary barriers to getting a real nuclear program underway, because first you have to get past that fear people have of the word itself.

      1. Redrock says:

        To be fair, the fear of the word isn’t completely unfounded, what with the experiences of Chernobyl and Fukushima. I’ve been to towns in southern Russia which were never officially in the fallout zone of the Chernobyl disaster, but still get way higher than usual cancer rates to this day. That being said, there is a difference between caution based on knowledge and fear borne of ignorance.

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          “Never officially in the fallout zone for Chernobyl” doesn’t mean much, since the Soviet Authorities tried to cover up the disaster as much as they could.

          Fukushima, for all of the panic surrounding it, hasn’t had a measurable effect on public health or the surrounding ecology. There was a projected death toll of around 130 people from radiation, but that was heavily criticized because the model it used wasn’t known to be accurate for such low exposure rates.

          Meanwhile, almost 20,000 people died from the actual tsunami and earthquake. The who thing is an excellent example of the media focusing on the completely wrong thing.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Fukushima was too soon to determine the exact impact it had on the marine life and the population sustained by that food source.Only in the mid ’20s to ’30s can we say with actual certainty how big of an impact the disaster was.

            1. Bloodsquirrel says:

              If the radiation wasn’t enough to have a measurable effect by now, it isn’t going to have a significant one in the longer term. Most of the marine being affected doesn’t even live long enough for it to develop cancer in 20 years. A tuna fish dying off at age 30 instead of age 40 isn’t a particularly big concern.

              Radiation effects don’t get worse over time. The more radioactive elements decay, the fallout disperses, and organisms that absorb it in the wild die off. The only real danger comes from eating too many plants or animals which have absorbed radioactive elements, but things humans eat are regularly tested.

              To put this in perspective, the Japanese government, in the aftermath, actually decreased the amount of cesium allowed in drinking water by a factor of 20. If you have the abundance of safety factor in order to do that, then you aren’t looking at a major impact.

              The overall impact will be, quite literally, immeasurable: it will fall below the statistical magines of error necessary to be able to say that “x number of people developed cancer because of radiation”.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                Radiation is not the biggest problem of a meltdown.Its that the fuel and many products of its decay are toxic and cancerous as well as radioactive.And while radiation tends to go down,the toxicity can increase,in one of two ways:

                First,it can get into the ground,absorbed by the plants,eaten by the fish,then when those die,get clumped in few places.This has a low chance of happening,even though it would be preferable,because then you could measure the increase of radioactive material in certain places and decontaminate or quarantine those places.

                Second,and much more dangerous,is that tiny amounts of it get into all of the sea life,and then eaten by people,where they would slowly accumulate over years,causing an increase in cancer victims.That is very hard to detect,because it takes years,decades even,for such a thing to get detected.But once it gets noticed,theres really nothing you can do.

                Of course,due to its unfortunate past,japan is very familiar with these long term effects,which is why theyve taken steps to try and mitigate them.But the question still remains if they succeeded,and we will only know in a few years after checking the medical data of the populace.

                1. Bloodsquirrel says:

                  Second,and much more dangerous,is that tiny amounts of it get into all of the sea life,and then eaten by people,where they would slowly accumulate over years,causing an increase in cancer victims.That is very hard to detect,because it takes years,decades even,for such a thing to get detected.But once it gets noticed,theres really nothing you can do.

                  Again, they’ve got actual regulatory standards for how much of these things can be in food that’s being sold. This stuff isn’t undetectable. You also have to remember that the actual amounts of material released was extremely low. The best estimate I can find is somewhere around 4kg of material.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Long half life is good for elements that are just radioactive.But most radioactive elements are toxic as well.So while short half life deals massive quick damage,long half life deals massive long term damage.

  17. Zaxares says:

    Wait, a base on VENUS? As in, the second planet from the sun Venus? I… Did the writer know how crazy HOT it is there? Or how corrosive the atmosphere is? Us here in 2018 would still face insurmountable obstacles just getting a manned mission to Venus, and they expect us to believe that the Nazis could have cracked building a manned BASE there in 1961? Damn, I’m glad I didn’t play any of the Wolfenstein games past Enemy Territory now.

  18. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Obligatory: But what do they eat?

    Swamps are full of things to eat, and in 1960s New Orleans you don’t have to go far to get to one.

    In fact, if the city has been bombed out and has no more pumps and the levees aren’t being maintained, then it should more or less be one, since the city is below sea level and everything outside the French Quarter would flood regularly.

  19. Which makes you wonder why they’re still rebels.

    I assumed “Because the alternative is becoming a Nazi.” to be self-explanatory honestly. Knowing you can’t win isn’t the same as being willing to lose Shamus.

    1. Shamus says:

      Uh, you need to explain that to the characters, not me.

      “We should do X!”

      “No! X is pointless!”

      “So what are you doing right now?”

      “I’m doing X.”

      Yes, I get why rebelling is a viable course of action, Neil. But if they don’t think so then why are they doing it? And if they DO think so then why are they arguing against it?

      1. Well as I said, knowing you can’t win =/= willing to lose, so X =/= X.

        Ignoring that, the point of that scene is pretty clearly meant for these guys – Horton in particular – to determine if this stranger and his promises are the real deal*. “Can you hold yer liquor” is not exactly a subtle metaphor, but neither is The New Colossus. Now, if you got some issue behind these guys with a LOT to lose wanting to make sure BJ’s the basket they want to put all their eggs into…well, you have yourself a time I suppose. Yeah, yeah, he’s the famous “Terror Billy”. Wouldn’t be enough in my book, but YMMV and all that.

        *amongst other things.

  20. BlueHorus says:

    RE the radio chatter:

    This would have been great in TNC – background radio chatter is a fairly simple way to (at least try to) create the illusion of a world beyond the player, as well as give your side characters depth. Or just anyone in the story.
    Remember Benny from Thief?

    Take some of the money out of the ‘cutscenes of Frau Engel cavorting around like a cretin’ fund, and use it to record more lines from your voice actors.

  21. SharpeRifle says:

    Hunh…..the Hammer must be smaller than I thought if they could get to New Orleans undetected.

  22. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Every time I hear about the amount of cutscene time wasted in this game I’m reminded of something I heard in the commentary to the director’s cut version of DX:Human Revolution. At some point, might have been during the Missing Link segment, the topic of “cutscene budget” came up, if I remember correctly they had a very specific time allotment of “we can do X minutes/seconds of pre-rendered cutscenes, work with it”. It was interesting to see that they were working from this angle, having to choice pick what to show in this way, rather than the other way around, that is just deciding “to cutscene” parts of the content at their leisure.

  23. MadTinkerer says:

    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.”

    By 1960s sci fi standards, it would be fine. Understated, even. Bear in mind, this game isn’t set in a realistic world, but a 1960s science fiction world that borrows tropes from 1940s science fiction.

    Our post-Space Race sensibilities tell us that no alternate series of realistic events would lead to a Nazi Venus Base, even if they had a moon base. But this game is set in the early 1960s. If hippes don’t show up in the third game and beat the Nazis with flower power, that will be far, far more genre-inappropriate than any man-made structure on Venus.

    1. Good point. Mariner went by Venus in 1962, and a lot of the older sci-fi has Venus being just a more tropical Earth simply because we had no idea how extreme the differences were until the Soviets started sending the Venera probes in 1966. Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of Eryx” is a good example of the tropical Venus idea, and I believe some of Edgar Rice Burroughs works also have Venus as tropical. Venus was the first planet we ever sent probes to, so I can see how a Venus base could happen in a reality where the planet isn’t so inhospitable.

      But, while it is entirely possible that the writers were doing that, it’s also possible that they just didn’t bother to look anything up and decided that a base on Mars was too derivative/everyone does it/echoes of Doom….whatever. I’d be a lot more willing to think it was the clever option if I hadn’t been reading the rest of this series.

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