Gaming with a Grain of Salt: “Wolfenstein”

The game “Wolfenstein” follows B. J. Blazkowicz in an alternate history where the Nazis won WWII. The game opens with Blazkowicz, a captain in the U.S. army, on a last-ditch mission to stop Nazi scientist Deathshead in 1946. When the mission fails, Balzkowicz suffers a head injury that puts him in a coma. waking up in 1960 after the Nazis have taken control of the entire world. Blazkowicz sets off to reinstate a resistance and take down Deathshead.

To be honest, I had to google most of those details because in the hours that I poured into “Wolfenstein,” I didn’t even make it halfway through the story. From the first opening scenes, I knew “Wolfenstein” was not a game designed for casual players. The game even made fun of me for playing on easy, dressing my character in a baby binky and bonnet and calling me a “spineless” gamer. Even playing on the easiest setting, I was dead in the first five minutes of the game’s prologue, and at least 80 percent of the time played after that.

I’d blame it all on my own terrible skills, but I don’t think I was ever really taught how to play the game. The WWII intro scenes that were supposed to prepare me to fight Nazis just had vague button images I was expected to memorize immediately. Which of course I didn’t, leaving me to struggle and die whenever I needed to jump or run somewhere. Even after finally figuring out how to move around, I still had to learn which guns the game wanted me to use which ended up being a ridiculous amount. Honestly I spent most of my time anxiously pushing random buttons and shooting with the wrong gun, hoping that I’d somehow get it right if I just hit X hard enough.

 

Being unable to really play was a real shame, because “Wolfenstein” has an amazing story line. Early in the story, players face a tough choice of sacrificing one friend to save another, and the decision ripples the rest of the game into different timelines. The game also features an engaging love story between Balzkowicz and Anya, a fierce woman who adds a level of sympathy to the burly, monotoned Balzkowicz. The cinematic-level cutscenes complete with brilliant writing were the only things that kept me going when I got stuck in endless shooting matches.

The aesthetics also help make the game almost worthwhile to try to play. German propaganda posters cover a stunning, futuristic (though fascist) Berlin. Unmistakable 1960s flair is still visible under the red Swastika flags, such as Beatles hits infused with German and accordions. But the game is still bloody and brutal and its occasional beauty is far outplayed by the broken bodies, mechanized men and dogs used as weapons of terror and the constant reminders of the cruel extermination campaigns happening in the game’s background.

 

The story and artwork are actually so good that I’m going to keep trying to finish the storyline, despite the constant, aggravating failure. If you can play difficult games, “Wolfenstein” is definitely worth the effort. But for people like me, maybe just find the cutscenes on Youtube and save yourself the humiliation headache.

 

5/10

 

Photo courtesy of PC Gamer