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article imageOp-Ed: Should it be this much fun to kill Nazis in Wolfenstein? Special

By David Silverberg     Aug 29, 2009 in Entertainment
The latest incarnation of the game franchise Wolfenstein is a delightful first-person shooter where Nazis, even supernatural ones, become the targets du jour. Quentin Tarantino would be proud.
The video game Wolfenstein couldn't come at a more opportune time. The film world is buzzing with Quentin Tarantino's Nazi-murder fantasy Inglorrious Basterds, featuring creative ways to scalp Hitler's minions. Now, gaming fans can be their own World War II warrior in the Activision game riffing off the classic first-person shooter (FPS) from the 1981 original, Castle Wolfenstein.
If you remember the original, you'll remember the labyrinth and the cries of "Mein leiben!" when you gunned down the soldiers. In the latest game (reviewed on an Xbox 360), the Nazis aren't crying out in pain but strategizing while you hunt them around corners and down alleys. "Get him, he's reloading!" they shout, and like in many FPS games, the enemies are crafty and calculating. On the normal setting, they're not terribly hard to kill but in the difficult mode, they take cover in smarter ways.
A trooper in Wolfenstein
A storm trooper Nazi in the video game Wolfenstein
Courtesy Activision
What's the plot of this Wolfenstein? You play special agent B.J. Blazkowicz, who may or may not be Jewish. He's on a mission to find Heinrich Himmler's SS troupe and stop them from mastering an occult force known as the Black Sun. With a mysterious power source at its disposal, no army on Earth could overpower the Reich's path. At the heart of this mission is a strange medallion that B.J. eventually grabs, a medallion giving him powers to slow down time, see opponents' weak spots and walk through walls.
Yes, this isn't your retro Wolfenstein game. It's 2009, right? These FPS's need to keep up with the time, what with Far Cry, Bioshock and the Halo series all featuring super-power weapons. There is even a few scenes in the beginning where Nazis suddenly float to the ceiling due to a sudden supernatural occurence, and it's delightful fun to shoot them in the air like a game of Duck Hunt.
In Wolfenstein, you aren't just facing the regular SS guards. Enemies hurl energy balls at you like they're 1940s-era Gandalfs. It's unexpected at first, and feels out of place considering the setting, but any savvy gamer will roll with these punches. If the game stuck to Castle Wolfenstein's lame SS guard schematic, it would've been same-old.
A different kind of Nazi in the Wolfenstein game
Enemies in the Wolfenstein video game often have supernatural powers
Courtesy Activision
The graphics are top-notch, even if they aren't above and beyond what we've come to expect from FPS games. If you've played Gears of War, nothing will shock you. But the gameplay is smooth and fluid, and the sound effects of whizzing bullets and water sloshing underfoot makes for a realistic experience.
While navigating through the maps isn't difficult, it's fun to find new ways to surprise enemies. For instance, in the first 20 minutes I was able to discover two sewer passages that allowed me to appear at the backs of Nazis, and I slaughtered them from behind like the sneaky coward that I am. Playing the maps normally is for suckers.
Wolfenstein makes for a decent time-waster, but it won't revolutionize gaming. That's not what Activision set out to do. Rather, it's a worthy remake of an original legend, arriving in a month where murdering Nazis is all the rage against the SS machine. I wonder if Tarantino will grab hold of this one for blood-spattered film.
Wolfenstein is available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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