You Have To Earn It

In gaming, when it comes to spectacle, we've reached the point of over-saturation.

There's a reason why when something big and grand happens in most first-person-shooters these days we barely notice; it's because something big and grand happens every 5-8 minutes. Didn't catch that building exploding? Don't worry--an oil rig is about to go up in flames.

We're going to talk spoilers here for Wolfenstein, so if such things matter for you, you might want to tune out right about here.


Wolfenstein, in many ways, is the antithesis of the modern first-person-shooter. While there are sections of it that are tight and controlled, there are many areas that are completely open for exploration as well as trial and error. The set-piece moments are often of a more personal nature--jumping out of an exploding castle while daydreaming of better times, a handicapped ally saving your life at the last possible second with acrobatic grace (thanks to the aid of a super-suit), and... the death of J.

This one moment pays off the past two hours of the game. You've put a serious dent in the Nazi’s operations: you've stolen ancient tech, sabotaged their moon base, stolen nuclear codes, and destroyed one of their major hubs and war machines upon getting back to Earth. You know that retaliation is on the horizon, and sure enough... they go after the resistance's secret base. Everything is up in flames. Everyone you know has been shot and killed. There's only a handful of survivors, and one of them is J, aka Jimmy Hendrix. Making your way through the vents, you come across him pinned down in his barricaded room. It will only be a few moments before the Nazi strike team breaks through, and you both know there isn't time for an escape.


He closes the vent, turns his wall of amps up to 11, straps on his guitar, and goes out the only way he could in this alternate-history universe: playing the star spangled banner. The iconic notes ring out across the occupied landscape, and he gets taken down by a hail of gunfire. It's as close to spectacle as the game gets in many ways, and when it hits, it's earned and has weight. It's a moment of spectacle that both crystalizes that moment, and puts the entire struggle of the resistance into perspective.

It's moments and events like that that are missing from most AAA-titles, and as a result most of them come across as shallow and uninteresting. There's nothing wrong with big set-piece moments in games, it's just that they lose all meaning when they come one after the other, and lack an emotional punch.

Mike Murphy
Mike Murphy

Contributing Writer
Date: 07/15/2014

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