*There will be spoilers for Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.*
Couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Wolfenstein: The New Order and called it a Nazi killing simulator with politics basically as subtle as a punch in the face. Today, I want to talk about Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
The focus of this installment in the Wolfenstein franchise is the United States of America. Unlike The New Order, The New Colossus is very serious about how much it wants to comment on its setting. After all, Berlin at the heart of Nazi Empire probably isn’t home to a whole lot of dissent. But the United States is full of rebellious people who just won’t accept the Nazi boot on their face.
This is where things get interesting. When I say rebellious, I’m not just talking about your Hollywood revolutionaries – although that’s 100% what B.J. Blazkowicz is. Instead, we have a very eclectic crew of revolutionaries.
Throughout the game, you go to different parts of a war-torn, occupied United States to recruit different groups of people. The first group of people are led by Grace Walker, who is a member of the Black Revolutionary Front, which is clearly based on the Black Liberation Army.
Initially, Grace is very reluctant to trust Blazkowicz and rightfully so. He is a muscular, white man and Wolfenstein’s 1961 is even worse in terms of race relations than was the real 1961 in the United States.
Almost naively, Blazkowicz tries to explain that he wants to re-ignite the flames of the revolution, that the people of the US are only following Nazi orders because they have to, not because they chose to.
Of course, Grace isn’t having any of it, because she knows its not true. In the first game, J had touched upon the racial tensions that existed in the US. But now we hear from Grace that things are much worse than just segregation. It sounds like the US surrendered to the Nazis a little bit too enthusiastically.
That racism always existed in the US is one of the driving themes of The New Colossus, straight from the beginning. The game’s prologue brings us back to Blazkowicz’s childhood, which, as it turns out, was very traumatic thanks to his racist dad. An unstable man, Blazkowicz’s dad forced him to kill his dog because he had a Black girlfriend. Later in the game, it even turns out that he turned Blazkowicz’s mom over to the Nazis because she is Jewish.
The New Colossus touches upon classism as well, although it doesn’t go as in-depth as it does with racism. The second group of people that we recruit are led by a self-appointed preacher named Horton Boone. More importantly, perhaps, Horton is a communist, which naturally puts him at odds with Blazkowicz when they first meet.
Blazkowicz is pissed at Horton, because he was an anti-war activist during World War II. Maybe if he and his Bolshevik friends had fought against the Nazis, the world wouldn’t be what it is today. Nevertheless, Horton sticks to his guns, arguing that regardless of what happened, the war would only benefit the capitalist class and serve to fill their pockets.
In the real world, it would be rather difficult for communists, Black liberationists, and “soldier libertarians” to ever work together – yet this eclectic crew makes sense in the context of The New Colossus. In the real world, it would be very difficult for them to find common grounds in anything. In this game, they can all unite against Nazis.
It is funny how a really over-the-top Nazi killing simulator looks and feels like biting commentary these days. If this game had come out five years ago, its politics would not have been all that biting. Instead, we’d be facing yet another game in which the Nazis are the bad guys.
But now, with the rise of white nationalism across the US and Europe, the game feels too real. After all, there are actual human beings out there who were actually outraged about all the Nazi killing that takes place in this game.
If their arguments were about how the game was too violent in general, I guess that would be ok – but these people are calling the game anti-white, that it is pushing some sort of a conspiratorial political agenda.
To be fair, the game (as do most things) does have a political agenda: It’s bad to be racist. Don’t be racist. In fact, don’t be prejudiced against anyone.
It is a weird one, but there is this one scene very late in the game where Sigrun Engel (the daughter of the game’s main antagonist and a Nazi defector) gets furious at Grace, who repeatedly calls her a Nazi.
“Don’t you ever call me a Nazi again,” Sigrun says, holding Grace by the throat. “You do not have the right to label me as something I am not. As someone less than yourself. As someone less than human.”
It’s an interesting storytelling choice that this line, which sums up the political agenda of The New Colossus extremely well, comes from a Nazi defector. But of course, Sigrun was never truly a Nazi in her life. Her mother never liked her, because she was fat and therefore did not fit the “Aryan” qualifications that were demanded of her.
All other ideologies seem good compared to fascism and if anything, that’s this game’s political message. It is a warning that nothing good can ever come out of fascism.
I had found the previous game somewhat lacking in its political commentary; however, The New Colossus has more than made up for it. Thanks for all the Nazi killing action!