Nov 04 2017

Depressing: Wolfenstein II The New Colossus

Published by under Games,Software

Wolfenstein II The New Colossus is the first installment of the Wolfenstein franchise that I will not play to the end. In fact, I almost wiped the gamed from the hard disk of my Xbox One after the first five minutes of the game.

I have played all Wolfenstein games, starting from the original Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein back on the Apple II, over Wolfenstein 3D and Spear Of Destiny on PC, Return To Castle Wolfenstein on Mac and PC, Wolfenstein on Xbox 360 to now Wolfenstein The New Order, Wolfenstein The Old Blood and Wolfenstein II The New Colossus.

For me, Return To Castle Wolfenstein was by far the best of them all. It has great atmosphere, a good story line and great game play. The supernatural elements of the story mix well with the advanced Frankenstein-style Übersoldiers and the advanced weaponry and technology that can be found at the secret research compounds. The locations used in the game give a perfect scenery for the story and the atmosphere transported in the game. Playing Blazkowicz in this game is pure fun and entertaining, and you get to fight a lot of cartoonish evil. And that’s the point: The violence and evil in this game are right out of a dark comic book or movie, and it’s fun to mop the comic book floor with those characters. There’s no deep morale in the game. It’s about giving the player a good time in a twisted world that you know is not real.

Return To Castle Wolfenstein is the very definition of what a Wolfenstein game should be.

Wolfenstein The New Order already had way to many depressing and dire moments to give it a true Wolfenstein feeling. It tried too hard to be something that a Wolfenstein game shouldn’t be, it eliminated all the dark cartoon elements and its biggest problem was that when all is said and done, the game didn’t really know anymore what it even wanted to be. A lot of chances were completely wasted, especially the SS-occupied moon base which was just boring or the short visit to Germania/Berlin where the player did not even get an opportunity to actually explore the city. Ultimately, though, Wolfenstein The New Order was still acceptable – but not even remotely in the league of Return To Castle Wolfenstein.

Wolfenstein The Old Blood brought the franchise at least in the vicinity of its former greatness. The game was short, I hated the dog killing in it (even though those were mostly bionic creatures), but at least several of the elements that made Return To Castle Wolfenstein so great were in it again. At least we had a fistful of those Wolfenstein zombies again. They should have stayed with that formula and expanded on it.

Now what is wrong with Wolfenstein The New Colussus and why does everything in my soul rebel against the idea of playing that game to the end?

The game designers made the mistake of showing Blazkowicz’s childhood. We learn that he had an abused mother and a violent, abusive father who even forced him to kill his pet dog. That happens not even five minutes into the game and that was exactly the scene where I even refused to touch a button on my game pad.

For the record, I do not watch movies or TV shows to the end anymore where animals gets violated, killed or hurt. And also, for the record, I do not need to relive certain moments of my own childhood which look A LOT like Blazkowicz’s childhood in this game. I’ve had my own share of horrible, dire realism. I don’t need a GAME – which is supposed to ENTERTAIN me and be FUN and give me a GOOD time – to crush my mood and ruin my weekend.

I didn’t shoot at the dog in the game, but pointed away from it when I squeezed the trigger. Blazkowicz’s father then had a fit. At least the game destroyers from Machine Games/Bethesda had the decency to not show the actual shooting of the dog, so I sucked it up, gave the game one more chance and played a bit further. It didn’t help much. A bit later in the game, we see the  character Max Hass crying because his other crew mate asks him to kill the pig called Rosa with a knife, because that would be the natural order of things. “Piggies have to die so that humans can eat.” I’ve become a vegetarian because I completely disagree with that assessment. And now I have to see this hulk of a man crying and protecting the house pig. What an out-of-place scene for a GAME. But let’s focus on some more relevant scenes and levels in the game play.

The first encounter with Obergruppenführer Engel was… just disgusting and annoying. The story writers changed her character into something that resembles a completely psychotic maniac on cocaine, but this neither makes her a greater villain, nor does it help to motivate the player to actually want to go after that crazy woman. She’s just a pathetic nut job, but not the kind of villain that is interesting enough to pursue and fight against and where the player gets that gratifying feeling of fighting the good fight. Helga von Bulow from Return To Castle Wolfenstein was a much more interesting villain in her own right, even though she was only a lesser character in the overall plot. Totenkopf (Deathshead) was the real villain worth hunting down, and Frau Engel does not leave Totenkopf’s threating, evil impression – she’s just hysterically violent and insane. And in Wolfenstein The New Colossus, she actually feels flatter, only two dimensional, compared to her appearance in Wolfenstein The New Order.

The submarine that the comrades of Blazkowicz have stolen has a Sektion F, the entrance to which is hidden behind a simple cabinet. Sektion F is still occupied by dozens of German sailors and a few officers who have MUCH more fire power than Blazkowicz’s friends. And they even have nukes. Why they never attempted to take back the submarine by force, we will never know. The game tells us that for weeks, the German crew was happy enough starving to death and only sending location coordinates to General Engel. That’s a nonsensical story line that usually only Hollywood writers can come up with, I guess. The premise simply is idiotic, and the game level design wasn’t really entertaining and fun either. What’s noteworthy, though, is that the Sektion F level felt bigger than destroyed New York which you get to visit after this submarine level.

New York lies in ruin, destroyed by a nuclear weapon. It only gets a very short visit in the game story, and again the level designers failed to turn this into a worthwhile experience. Metro 2033 Redux or STALKER: Shadow Of Chernobyl showed off what games can do with a location that has been destroyed by a nuclear catastrophe or a nuclear attack. And the only decent moment in Wolfenstein‘s New York was a visit to the subway system, which in turn was nothing but a complete rip off of Metro 2033. I had a strong feeling of déjà vu, and remembering the Metro franchise, yes, I actually had been there before – only better. In Wolfenstein The New Colossus, the reason the story gives you to go to New York is to convince a black woman with a big mouth and a heavy accent and who is breast-feeding a baby while smoking a cigarette to join the resistance and “ignite the revolution”. While this woman probably is one of the few more interesting characters in the game, this whole setup would even feel out of place in a sociocritical, bland and depressing 1970’s Sci-Fi movie written by Monty Python. (Note: I am NOT a Monty Python fan, but I know that Monty Python never made sociocritical 1970s Sci-Fi movies. I’m just trying to make a point here.)

I stopped playing after the successful return to the submarine. I watched the scene where one of the new arrivals is awestruck that there is a working toilet on the sub and that there even is toilet paper on board. I guess this was supposed to be funny and make me laugh, but after all the miserable things the game made me experience until then, nothing was funny anymore. I then watched Max Hass, the guy who has physically lost half of his brain in previous battles, beat the doctor of the ship at chess. The doc freaked out, wiped the pieces off the board and walked away swearing. Max picked up an unfinished drawing of his, which looked like a child made it, and kept looking at it with a sad expression.

That was when I switched off the Xbox One, disappointed and saddened.

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Jul 17 2017

Farewell, George Andrew Romero

Published by under Endnacht,Movies,Thoughts

George A. Romero, the father of the modern zombie movie, died on July 16, 2017. He was the director of one of my most favorite movies of all time, the original Dawn Of The Dead, the movie that lit my imagination as a teenager in ways like nothing else before. This is not an exaggeration: I was so hooked that only after the 100th time I actually stopped counting how often I had watched Dawn. Mind you: I merely stopped counting. I didn’t stop watching the film or letting it run in the background so that I could suck up more of its atmosphere while I was doing something else.

Dawn Of The Dead is the end time movie, and no other director could ever create such a cold, apocalyptic atmosphere in a film as Romero. He didn’t need a huge Hollywood budget to bring the end of the world on your screen, he didn’t need big name actors to make you believe that the end of civilization had come. And he didn’t need cheap close-ups on gore scenes to scare you for nights and days to come – but his movies use an almost comic-style, bizarre version of violence nonetheless; not because of cheap showmanship, but to make a point, to emphasize the dire reality his characters – and his audience – cannot escape from.

Romero knew how to capture his vision of the downfall of mankind on film, and he knew how to plant those images into your brain in a way that makes it impossible to shake them out of your mind.

He was an artist, a filmmaker extraordinaire, and he was the creator and unrivaled master of what we later came to call the zombie apocalypse. Attempts at copying his unique style were made countless times, and some decent movies, books and computer games were created along the way, but nothing ever matched Romero’s total vision or could hit you with the same impact his Dawn Of The Dead did.

We have lost one of our greatest movie writers and directors.

Farewell, George. You will be missed.

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