Featured: Wolfenstein

Okay so what happened is I was getting married, and I was stress-writing, and accidentally wrote a 24-part analysis of the central Wolfenstein games from Machine Games. We start with Wolfenstein: The New Order, and move to Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. They’re both really good, really interesting games with a lot to say about character and politics, and also you get to wreck some Nazis.

Wolfenstein The New Order: On Bodies

I’ve got a big long article about Wolfenstein 2 in my drafts. It’s been there for over eight months, and it’s 6000+ words. When I first played Wolfy 2, I was really struck by it – as evidenced by the absurdly long article! But I haven’t finished the work, and I need to get back…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein The New Order: Mental Health

This week we’re tackling the asylum level in The New Order. As mentioned last week, I’m going to go through The New Order and talk about themes roughly as they come up in the game. This week though, there’s actually a few sort of interrelated themes that all hover around the asylum – they’re not all necessarily worth…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein The New Order: Killing Nazis

So there’s a long-standing criticism in Game Studies about the way that modern first person shooters depict foreigners. Basically it’s shit. What’s interesting about something like Wolfenstein is that it’s basically reproducing all the same processes, but targeting them at Nazis, which is… better? Let’s chat about that scene where Blazkowicz drowns a Nazi in a toilet…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein, Tolkien, Brutalism

One of the big things about Wolfenstein is a really clear division between different types of material. Essentially, at its crudest, it’s a split between the mechanical and the natural. That’s a fucking awful distinction, and we’re going to try and nut out something a bit better, but really crudely that’s the sort of thing we’re…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein: On Resistance

Warning: Contains disturbing images Continuing with our Wolfenstein series, today we’re looking at the work camp episode – or, uh, Camp Belica. It’s the one where you find Set Roth, and it’s all modeled on Auschwitz and so on. I’ll reiterate a little bit of content from earlier articles, just to show some of the continuity…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein: On the Jews

Okay so this is the really jammy essay on Wolfenstein. We’ve been going for a few weeks now, it’s, uh, February (I’m writing this in November though), and this is the essay where we talk about the whole Jewish conspiracy thing. I’ll give you the plot summary, and then we’ll talk about why it’s stupid. It should…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein: On Heroic Disability

I’ve been thinking more about the issue of disability in Wolfenstein, because – well, with any more than two seconds’ reflection, you can see that the concept of ‘disability equals evil’ doesn’t actually hold true at all. I said it did a few weeks back, and that was dumb. Let’s make a list of all the…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein: Uncertainty and Klaus

I think this essay will probably be the final one on Wolfenstein: New Order. After this, I’ll be moving on to Wolfenstein II, which I’ll largely be talking about with reference to this initial set of essays. Over the past few weeks I’ve talked at a few different points about how New Order has some potentially troubling content, especially with…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein 2: The Bomb

So I’ve been playing Wolfenstein 2 – you’ll probably know about the whole No More Nazis ad campaign. You might also know that most reviewers have described it as bigger and bolder than New Order, but ultimately not as good. That’s about right – it has some little moments that are exciting (for example, both…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: The Approach, Technical Gripes

Alright, we’re getting into Wolfenstein II now. This post mostly focuses on the rules of engagement – how I’m approaching the text, what I’m looking for, how things are going to be arranged. It also talks briefly about some of the potential game design issues, with the massive caveat that these technical issues of lighting and sound…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: On BJ’s Father

The opening of Wolfenstein II is very busy. There’s a lot being crammed in. The game is a sequel, and it’s the rare sort of sequel that cares about the events of the previous game. So there’s a recap of New Order‘s events, juxtaposed against the current day where BJ is bleeding to death and being surgeried by…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: On Disability

Hopefully just a normal length post today team – last week’s got up to 2000 words. Turns out there was a lot to say about ol’ Rip. Anyway, this week I think the topic is a little simpler. We’re dealing with the whole wheelchair thing in Wolfenstein II‘s first level, on the stolen Nazi submarine ‘Eva’s…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Grace

I’m really conflicted about the character of Grace in Wolfenstein. On the one hand, there’s lots of cool stuff about her character that’s really great and new. On the other, she sometimes feels a little forced. Also, holy hell, would it have killed you to introduce the Manhattan refugee camp with a couple shots establishing that…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: The American People

What’s the overarching story of New Colossus? And given that story, what are some of the elements you might expect to see in the game? In New Order, there’s a very simple plan: kill Deathshead. That’s the big thing. As a result, the story is focused on the interpersonal relationships between a relatively small group of people.…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: BJ Nuked America

Okay I said last week that we’d talk more about the nuking of Roswell, and now it’s next week and we’re talking about Roswell. So one of the big segments in the game sees you go to Roswell, where there’s a massive Nazi command unit. You sneak into the base, pop a nuke in the…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: On Unreality

Okay, this one’s a bit mind-bendy. I’ll map out today’s territory, and then we’ll get to work. We’re talking about the section from immediately after Roswell up until the beginning of the trip to New Orleans (via Manhattan). At the start of this section, BJ’s body is continuing to grow weaker, and he feels like…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Killing Rip

I said at the start of these articles that one of the major themes of New Colossus is that of parenting. We’ve got BJ’s relationship with his parents, and Sigrun’s relationship with General Engel. I haven’t said much about Sigrun, but we’ll get to her in an article soon; in the meantime, I want to stay focused…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Narrative Efficiency

One of the basic rules of building a story is Be Efficient. People can tell when you’re just spinning your wheels and nothing’s actually going on – it’s a really bad look. It also suggests that you don’t really understand the essence of your story, because you’re spending a bunch of time on things that…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Replaying Missions

After the halfway point of Mesquite, Wolfenstein II has this thing where you can go back and replay through the areas that you’ve already explored. Ostensibly you’re supposed to be killing Nazi commanders who are hanging around in those areas. It’s also an opportunity to collect Max’s toys, which are inexplicably scattered around all the different levels…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Is Racism Real?

When BJ meets the communist priest Horton Boone, they have an argument about their relative methods and ideologies. Horton criticises the bourgeoisie, and BJ argues that Horton failed to stand up to the Nazis. It’s a pretty fucking heated conversation. It’s legitimately exciting to see in a video game. But here’s my question: why doesn’t Grace…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: The Black Holocaust

What’s worse – 400 years of slavery, or the Holocaust? Don’t answer that question. It’s a trick question. There are no good answers. There is only a minefield of offensiveness. Here’s the thing – we’ve talked extensively about how Wolfenstein II is about Nazis in America. As part of that whole white supremacist thing, the game explores…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: The Acting Motif

So we’ve already talked broadly about the theme of unreality in the Mesquite episode. That theme turns up again on Venus, when BJ gets to go meet Hitler and play himself and not be very good at it. The developers probably just thought it was funny, but it’s also some insane postmodern video game writing.…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Sigrun

Sigrun is one of those interesting little characters who probably plays a much bigger part in Wolfenstein II than you might think. She’s also, for my money, the strongest character following the style of New Order. One of the big things about New Order was that all the characters had their own little quirks and personalities and they did…

Keep reading

Wolfenstein II: Level Density

We’re largely finished with the moment to moment analysis now – I’m going to be moving on to some larger structural questions about Wolfenstein II. First on the list, possibly the most obvious question: in the wide view, how does Wolfenstein II arrange its narrative? Maybe the better first question – how does New Order?

Keep reading