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‘Wolfenstein 2’ Shows More Respect for World War 2 Than the Latest ‘Call of Duty’



If Call of Duty: WW2 is attempting to be the video game equivalent of Saving Private Ryan, then Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is most certainly Inglorious Bastards. Two AAA first person shooters, both released relatively close to one another, both created by renowned developers with the backing of massive publishers. Yet why is it that the game about killing robot Nazis is more respectful to the past and more emotionally moving than a game that attempts to show you a genuinely horrific moment in history?

As an immediate disclaimer, I have no love for either of these series. My first taste of Call of Duty was a decade ago. I thought Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was fantastic. World at War was less engaging. I skipped Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops. Then I played every Call of Duty from Modern Warfare 3 onwards. I walked away from each title disheartened and un-phased by the lackluster experience I’d trudged through. The only exception being Advanced Warfare, which I believed was an adequate shooter. I felt that other shooters offered more satisfying moment to moment action and the near future settings the series seemed so focused on quickly became played out.

So it filled me with the upmost excitement when I heard 2017’s Call of Duty iteration would return to World War 2. A more grounded experience coming from arguably the best of the three COD developers, Sledgehammer.

In regards to Wolfenstein 2, I didn’t even know if I was going to try it. Despite the critical buzz around the 2014 reboot, I was unimpressed by The New Order. Combat felt repetitive and I didn’t feel any real connection to the games plot or characters. So when The New Colossus rolled around, I almost let it pass by.

There’s no love for either franchise here. Which is why I hope you take what I have to say next seriously.

Wolfenstein 2 in its bombastic absurdity is a far more respectful World War 2 story than the latest Call of Duty. An annual franchise which has completely failed in creating a genuine experience due to shallow storytelling, sub par gameplay and an amount of patriotism that almost feels like American propaganda. Let’s break this down into three clear cut components. Tone, gameplay and the representation of different cultures and ethnicities. For the sake of this argument I will be ignoring WW2’s (the game) multiplayer and excellent Nazi Zombies mode, focusing solely on its single player campaign.

Tone: World War 2 becomes cheesy

Call of Duty: WW2’s campaign begins on June 4th 1944. Private Ronald “Red” Daniels and his company take part in the Normandy Beach landings. From the outset the game tells you that this was one of the most horrific wars in human history. You play a recreation of the opening scene from Saving Private Ryan. Desperately scrambling up a foreign beach as your friends and comrades are shot dead or eviscerated by explosions. Your ears are ringing and there is a man dragging himself into cover, his legs nowhere to be seen. This is what I wanted from this campaign. People forget the horrors of World War 2. This was a cataclysmic event that some individuals still remember as a moment in their lives. If you’re going to craft a game around this setting, you better show it an appropriate amount of respect.

But as I liberated France and eventually took Germany head on in their homeland, the games tone became muddled. In this respect I don’t think Sledgehammer intentionally tried to be disrespectful, but their lack of writing ability sullied the narrative of WW2’s campaign. Private Daniels and his company are never fleshed out. Sledgehammer had the opportunity to tell the tragic stories of real men, in some cases teenagers fighting for their lives. Yet the majority of the campaign is a trek from one over the top set piece trope to another, complemented with awful writing and cheesy one liners that no real person would say.

The New Colossus on the other hand takes a completely different approach. It moves away from World War 2 and tells a hypothetical tale of a world where the Nazis won. You are B.J. Blazkowicz a.k.a. Terror Billy. An all American one man army, liberating the American population from the Nazi occupied 1960’s. By building a narrative around an insane dystopia rather than actual historical events, The New Colossus is able to continue on the story of World War 2 in an absurd way, while still showing ample respect for the past. You’ll chop up Nazis with an axe, ride giant robot dogs, and journey to Venus, and yet such childish gameplay fantasies are coupled with arguably the best narrative within a game in 2017. The writing is superb in a way it has no right to be, comfortably moving from laugh out loud moments to genuinely concerning issues, tackling domestic abuse, mortality and racism.

Wolfenstein 2 and Call of Duty: WW2 show us the undebatable importance of writing within games. Poor writing can make an otherwise respectable story disrespectful, and good writing can make a game about robot Nazis the most emotionally moving narrative of the year.

Gameplay: World War 2 was won by one man

An aspect I only want to touch briefly upon is gameplay. You’d be surprised to know that Wolfenstein 2 and Call of Duty: WW2 boast rather similar gameplay experiences. An extremely low amount of stealth, the occasional vehicle sequence and a 95% focus on slaughtering wave after wave of Nazis. In The New Colossus this is appropriate. In conjunction with the games tone; running through hallways, dual wielding shotguns and killing Nazis in a visceral fashion is fitting and satisfying. Despite admirable efforts to add depth and nuance to his character, Blazkowicz at his core is a larger than life super hero.

But mowing down hundreds of Nazis doesn’t merge quite as well with a grounded story about a man trying to get home to his family. Daniels isn’t some Rambo-esque hero. He is a by the numbers soldier in a war of millions. Yet I killed hundreds of Nazis while perched on a rooftop, partnered with only a sniper rifle. Not only is this repetitive and dull from a gameplay perspective, but it doesn’t fit tonally. Games need to match the nuances of their story and setting with the challenges of gameplay and mechanics. Otherwise it can come across as unrealistic and muddled.

Cultural Representation: God bless America

I want to get this out of the way. I don’t dislike America. Sure it has its issues, but it is a place I would one day like to visit. However as a New Zealander I found myself constantly cringing at the American propaganda constantly shoved down my throat during WW2. The Americans weren’t the only country fighting Nazi Germany. In fact they joined the war effort relatively late compared to most other countries. Yet WW2 seems to try and convince the player that America single handily won the war. My ears were constantly bombarded with dialogue about how great a country America is. The efforts of other countries are trivialized through their lack of appearance and even when they are introduced (the French), they are only able to succeed thanks to the aid of the USA. I’m not trivializing America’s effort in the war, but when games like Battlefield 1 have done a far superior job at appropriate representation, it’s hard not to criticize.

The other obvious problem with WW2’s representation of different nationality’s, is that there is no grey, only black and white. Americans are good and Germans are bad. Americans help civilians, Nazi’s are cruel and callous. American characters who act like awful people throughout the game are actually just good men who have seen too much. Nazi’s are just straight up evil, who cares what they’ve been through. Sure there is no denying the atrocities Nazi Germany committed, but to paint them with such a broad brush, dehumanizing them to be nothing more than bullet sponges, it’s disrespectful.

Wolfenstein 2 understands that the world isn’t so black and white. Within its campaign it manages to display the flaws in multiple communities. Yes the Nazi party is tyrannical and evil but not all Germans are Nazi’s. Yes there were many American heroes during World War 2, but modern America is also populated by those who passionately share the beliefs of the Nazi’s. Yes many African Americans have been subjected to unscrupulous amounts of racism, but they can also be racist themselves. Wolfenstein 2 isn’t afraid to represent the good and the bad in every country and every culture. The New Colossus shows maturity by seeing the undeniable amount of grey in a world many games call black and white. Both America and Germany are the enemy. Both America and Germany are the heroes. It is not a matter of country but a matter of character.

I don’t think Sledgehammer actively attempted to do many of the things I have criticized them for. I still think Call of Duty: WW2 is a good game, but it isn’t the high point I thought it would be. Due to poor writing, by the numbers gameplay and a naive way of looking at the world, this game fails in many ways. It is at times disrespectful and at other times sickeningly patriotic. Whereas Wolfenstein 2 moved me. It told me a tragic tale of freedom, respected historical events and let me chop apart Nazi’s whenever I was bored. That in itself is a marvellous achievement and it is also why Wolfenstein 2 made it onto Goombastomp’s official game of the year list.

Feature Writer/ Reviewer for Goombastomp and founder of Quiet Stories For more info on upcoming books, podcasts, articles and video games follow me @OurQuietStories on Twitter. On a more personal note i'm a beard fanatic, calamari connoisseur and professional fat guy.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.



It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child



Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.



Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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