You’ve just finished playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. Grappled with the microscopic amount of motivation you had to see it through to its end. Watched B.J.Blazkowicz sacrifice himself at the top of Deathshead’s compound; exhausted, just like you. You’re content, but it’s not because you’re satisfied with what you’ve just spent the last ten hours of your life playing, but because you don’t have to play it anymore.
You have opinions, and you’re steadfast in them. They’re harsh, they’re copious and they’re whirring around in your head so fast that you can’t seem to catch and solidify any one of them into a cohesive thought. Someone asks you why you feel so strongly about The New Order but there’s just so much and you don’t have a genuine answer to give. You write it down.
You write a piece – that, in hindsight, is predominately only for yourself – and you hit publish. But as it seems to go with anything Wolfenstein related, you don’t feel the satisfaction that normally comes with translating the mess in your head onto the metaphorical paper. Unsatisfied and unable to do anything about the predicament you simmer, until eventually, there’s no more residual heat and you don’t think about B.J. and his stupid prolific introspection all that much anymore.
Dear Past June, I am here to let you in on the cold hard truth, and you’ll have to trust me, if only because I am from the future.
Wolfenstein is a good series, actually.
In the two years of simmering time between playing The New Order and The New Colossus, I’ve had the opportunity to analyse why I felt the way I did, and going back through the 2017 article which I had eloquently titled: “Why I Can’t Enjoy Wolfenstein Like Everyone Else in the Goddamn World Apparently.” It became more and more obvious that the reason behind my frustration was the unfairly high expectation I had thrust upon a game that really – at its heart – is simply about killing Nazis in the most gratuitous ways imaginable.
I had gone into The New Order expecting a three-tiered cake, frosted ingeniously with strong characters and dusted with writing that would make sure I was able to relate with the blonde haired, blue-eyed epitome of the ‘American Dream’, when I should have started with the more reasonable hope of a good time – as I think most did going into this new, redefined Wolfenstein game. Perhaps then I would have come out with more than a deflated, lukewarm McDonald’s Apple Pie.
I should have torn off my cynical glasses and enjoyed the game for what it was.
This is exactly how I went into The New Colossus. In for a good time, out well-fed, satisfied. Everything that I had wanted to feel after playing The New Order. This isn’t to say the two games are on the same level of quality. The New Colossus stands a mountain higher than The New Order, if only because of its narrative. But this isn’t a piece about the difference in mechanics, (although I could easily write another thousand words on the disastrous changes in stealth) it is about expected opinions and subsequent unexpected narrative.
Because, dear 2017 June, I’m sorry to say that I adore William ‘B.J’ Blaskowicz and his now-fiance Anya Oliwa. You never needed to relate to the characters, that was never MachineGames’ goal. Only to live out this revolution beside them. Sure, Anya still feels like the stereotypical woman behind the earpiece, but she was also heavily pregnant with twins, gun in hand, jumping from a moving helicopter onto another moving air vessel, beside B.J. for a number of levels. And sure, maybe she sat over B.J.’s hips with her breasts on full display, dual wielding machine guns whilst covered in Nazi gore, but maybe that was fine too. Maybe that was the best part of the entire game, because I didn’t expect anything different.
I was hesitant during the first half of The New Colossus, rolled my eyes when B.J. started up his introspective monologues again but when I watched Caroline die, watched as Frau Engel held her head up to our face and forced me to look, when B.J. started slowly rotting away inside Caroline’s borrowed outerworld suit; those cringeworthy, out-of-character prolifics started to seem more and more deserved.
These character developments, as well as the new, steel-hearted friends, (Grace, in particular) helped me appreciate where the series had come from. The cutscenes too, ones that made me sit there fully immersed, hand over my mouth as if I’d just witnessed something akin to Shakespeare take place before my very eyes – because that is the only word I have to describe The Clarinet Scene; theatre, art – nudged me into thinking about how perhaps The New Order did the same. I was just too keyed up over expectations to appreciate them. The Frau Engel train scene, the recovery timelapse in Anya’s family’s hospital. This incredibly clever writing going to waste on me because I had tricked myself into believing I was not one for a game like this.
Except I didn’t even know what kind of game this was. If I had stopped to give myself a chance to think about what it was and not what it wasn’t maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this letter to myself two years later. But then I wouldn’t have learnt anything either, would I?
There is part of me that still believes The New Order didn’t live up to its hype, but without it, without its groundwork, The New Colossus wouldn’t be half of what it turned out to be. And perhaps, if I hadn’t so viciously disliked The New Order for so long then maybe I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate The New Colossus at all, maybe I wouldn’t have even given it the time of day.
You’re allowed to be critical, June. Don’t feel bad about running your mouth just to double back around and eat your words a few years later. But maybe think about your unfair bias, and the shoe that you force yourself to fit into. It’s okay to like different things, taste changes and no one is going to judge you for that. Have some fun, put aside your expectations and enjoy things for what they are, not what you want them to be.
Love, a more enlightened, unashamed June.