In the wake of E3, lots have been said; lots have been seen. So much, that I actually bought a Switch right after seeing the Nintendo show. But nothing has left me so excited and in awe than seeing my man B.J. alive and kicking (killing?) again.
I felt the need to reach deep down inside my heart to try and understand why this man means that much to me (Or more why Wolfenstein means that much to me, but it’s always a joy to see Blazkowicz again). For that, I took a look at my gaming life, and a pattern started to emerge. There hasn’t been a time in my life where B.J. was not part of it, and I thank the maker for that.
For the sake of this thought experiment, I will not count Wolfenstein (2009) since it was the only game for me that never has the same impact as all the others.
To understand what I’m going to say, we have to be clear on what Wolfenstein is, really. We have to have the same vision of the game.
Wolfenstein, and I’m talking about the whole series and not just the First Person Shooters Wolfenstein, is at heart a series with a straightforward premise. Escaping while killing Nazis. That’s it. But on the opposite of most games, it does it with panache and craziness.
So, let’s dive in.
What’s Wolfenstein, to me?
The first time I played a game of the series was when I was 8-9, and it left me with a strange impression. By that time I knew who the Nazis were, but I didn’t fully grasp their history so for me the game was just that. A game.
The game was Castle Wolfenstein, on a DOS machine, one I found at a distant relative place and which intrigued me. They game me the right to turn it on when they saw how strangely I was looking at it. It was the first time I saw a computer that old. It was so old my relatives were not even sure it might still work. But it did, and after tinkering a bit with it, I was able to launch this game. I didn’t get the time to play a lot of that game, maybe an hour, but it was more than enough, I was hooked.
At that point, I started getting weary of action games and wanted to play more to management games and platformers. (I used to play on NES at that time, I was always late regarding consoles before the PS3, and I thank whoever force decided it was going to be that way because it gave me the opportunity to play games that most people my age wouldn’t even know of) but Castle Wolfenstein and his top down Infiltration/Action Mechanics made me want to play at other games like that, and who knows, maybe without this game I would have overlooked the best game ever when my best friend decided to lend it to me a year and a half or so later. I’m talking, of course, about Metal Gear Solid.
But now is not the time to talk about my boy Solid Snake, today we’re talking about my boy Blazkowicz, and it starts with the second game on the list. So, like I said, I was getting weary of action games. For me, at that moment, action games were games such as Power Blade, Army Men and the like. I was aware of First Person Shooters but I kinda dismissed them as being a subpar version of the action genre. Until I talked about Castle Wolfenstein to one of my friends.
He told me about Wolfenstein 3D.
You have to understand that I was born in 1991, and Wolfenstein 3D came out in 1992, by the time my friend told me about Wolfenstein 3D I was 9-10 (It was a few month after Castle Wolfenstein) and that friend has a brother which had this weird nostalgia for ‘older’ games. He knew I had a less than powerful computer and was happy to be able to share some games with me, so he gave me a box filled with CD cases, all with old games. All FPS. Each and any of them were incredible, and I had to hide them from my parents because none of them were ‘acceptable’ due to my age. I’m talking about Doom, Doom II, Duke Nukem, Blood, Blood II, Heretic and Hexen: Beyond Heretic
Quite some games, eh?
Well, I couldn’t care less about those games. I didn’t want to play them. I took the box to be nice, and not hurt my friend feelings but I wasn’t really going to use them. But all that changed when I installed Wolfenstein 3D. I was hooked for the second time. Finally, I knew what First Person Shooters were. I started playing and seeing the ‘gore’, the bosses and the craziness of the game were just enough for me. I finished most of the games in that box in about two weeks.
Suddenly, I’m in love with FPS, and my weariness about action games fades once again.
The story is still going on, I think you start seeing where I’m going.
The year is 2001, I’m 12 years old. I finally get a Playstation 1, when everybody is getting a Playstation 2 and I’m happy because my best friend is lending me all the games he has for this console since he’s playing on his Xbox and PS2, so I’m playing awesome games left and right, he lend me Metal Gear Solid (A game, I’m less than proud to say, he never saw again and is still at my parent’s house) and a lot of others. I forget a bit about FPS but I’m still playing them such as that weird Delta Force, Goldeneye (On another friend N64) and Medal of Honor. Games I like, but which start to feel too serious, boring a bit.
It’s about this time that I met another of my friends, and we start talking Starcraft. And then any other strategy games, then any kind of games, and then FPS, and then Wolfenstein. This is when he’s telling me, they’re going to make a new one. Return to Castle Wolfenstein and it’s supposed to be bonkers. We are waiting for this, looking at any news we can get, talking about the game and everything. And on that fateful day of December 7th, 2001, the game comes out. We found a way to get it and started playing on my friend computer. (My computer got better with time but I was always one generation behind. The only reason I played Morrowind was that everyone was talking about Oblivion when it came out and I couldn’t play it. So I bought the third elder scrolls instead of the fourth, best decision evah) We finished the game in about a week, I was each night at his house and the whole weekend. It was amazing, and once again it gave me this craving of playing similar games and ended up playing to all the versions of Half-Life. (Three years after the first came out, I know... But still.)
I also started playing multiplayer games with Enemy Territory which was my gateway drug to Battlefield 1942.
It was around that time I started closing the gap and getting more and more, each month, caught up with the newest games, no longer left behind.
Fast forward a few years. FPS are boring, they’re all the same. I’m playing Left 4 Dead 2, because that game is awesome, and I just yearn for old-school games. I can’t play any Battlefield because they bore me, Borderlands is okay I guess, and Call of Duty is way past his prime. Bioshocks are fun to play, though. So once again, I get weary of FPSs.
But then, like a knight in shining armor. Back from the dead to relieve me of my boredom, B.J. is back and it’s getting crazier than ever. Even worse than with the zombies and the crazy sh*t that happens in Return to Castle Wolfenstein, actually giving me feelings in a game where I mow down countless Nazis. Wolfenstein : The New Order is everything I love about that series, the escape, the action, the stealth, the fun, the weirdness and craziness and the relentless need for it to make me feel like FPS are fresh again. Proving once again that adapting old recipes are just an art.
This game made me wait for DOOM with impatience and made me trustin my need for games like that again. Yearning for maybe a real good Duke Nukem where the Duke is a has-been. Unfortunately, since DOOM no other FPS was able to make my imagination go wild. What was closer was Prey (And I don’t think of Prey as a FPS)
But it’s about to change with Wolfenstein : The New Colossus, and unless I’m completely wrong and it ends up being like Wolfenstein (2009) we’re in for a treat and another game giving me hope about First Person Shooters.
So, in the end? Wolfenstein?
In the end, Wolfenstein for me is a series about hope, about giving hope (to us players and also into Blazko’s world) and about taking hope from utterly bad people. Blazkowitz is a relentless killing machine which only started to get emotions about a time where I started struggling with mine. And I can’t wait for him to save us again from bad people, robots, and boredom.