We all know that during World War II the Nazis were doing all kinds of terrible things. They imprisoned millions of Jews, orchestrating the genocidal killing of many of them while engineering “cutting-edge” means of mass destruction. They committed atrocious “medical” and “scientific” experiments on their fellow humans. They dabbled in the occult.
The Wolfenstein games have taken those horrible events and blown them up to huge, ridiculously bombastic first-person-shooter proportions. And this latest in the series follows closely in those same bloody boot prints.
It adds one new wrinkle to the timeline, though. Wolfenstein: The New Order reimagines a history in which the bad guys get the big win. It’s 1960, and the Nazis have transformed the world’s landscape into a series of large, imposing cities built of drab gray concrete and steel. Their frightened citizenry is kept under jackbooted heel by supersized terrorizing mechs and sharp-toothed robotic guard dogs that patrol the streets. Any whiff of rebellion is quickly snuffed out with deadly force.
He Eats Brain Damage for Breakfast
Of course, there is one hero left who can rise to the task at hand. He’s a recognizable, hard-nosed soldier from past games who bears the name of William “BJ” Blazkowicz. Where’s he been all this time, you ask? Well, we find out that during his last mission in 1946—while fighting against the dreaded Nazi mastermind General Deathshead—he barely escaped with his life after taking a chunk of shrapnel to the noggin. So he’s been rambling around, nearly brain-dead, in a Polish mental institution.
Fourteen years later, BJ is feeling much better. Hey, this is the kind of never-give-up guy who can survive bullet holes, knife wounds and grenade blasts (all of which we see happen to him), so he’s not gonna let a little something like permanent brain damage keep him down.
As Blazkowicz, gamers must make their way into the heart of the nearly all-powerful Third Reich, free a few still-living resistance members and put together a team that can use the Nazis’ own supernaturally enhanced weaponry against them.
Translation: It’s time to shoot lots of baddies in the face.
But you already knew this was that kind of game. When BJ comes across an old comrade, they catch up on the past by recounting old battle wounds. “Head trauma. Four inches of cast iron shrapnel right in the conk. Still in there,” BJ reminisces. She responds, “Severed colon. Septic shock. Shattered pelvis.” Of course, this winking dialogue feels less like a nudging Jaws-inspired chuckle then it does a foreshadowing of all the savaging and raw death-dealing that’s only just started to unfold.
A Blunt Tool for a Blunt Game
BJ is little more than a bludgeon players use to cause lots and lots of bloody death. He can (and regularly does) slip up on an unsuspecting guard to slide a knife into his jugular. He might casually run somebody over with his speeding vehicle. He will drown a Nazi thug in the toilet he was just using. He loves turning enemies into dismembered ground chuck with an automatic shotgun.
His teammates and the Nazi thugs are always up for a bit of that too. In the Nazis’ case, though, torture is also a ready tool. We see General Deathshead, for instance, splay open a slowly dying man’s back with a scalpel, then use a large drilling instrument to open the soldier’s skull and suck out a chunk of brain matter. Naked corpses are impaled and hung on hooks, heads are blown up in a rain of splattering chunks, flesh is burned and charred by incinerator flames, guts are opened, and one woman’s face is left shattered and torn by a large mechanical claw.
And in the midst of all that, BJ falls in love with a Polish woman named Anya. That’s sweet, certainly. But we also see them in the throes of moan-filled sex on several occasions as the onscreen art depicts nudity and realistic-looking “interactions.” Repeated f- and s-words mingle with other harsh vulgarities, obscenely crude exclamations and abuses of Jesus’ name.
Will this outlandish alternate Nazi reality make you stop and focus on the real WWII and its tragic cost? Will you think of heroism and bravery? Or wonder what might have been?
This is just another over-the-top brain-bashing battler that just happens to feature swastikas. Surely a wolf in wolves’ clothing if ever there was one.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.