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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2006-01-11 03:26:58
Mein Fuhrer, I Can Valk!
There's a reason developers keep returning (successfully) to the World War II European theater for game settings: Nazis. They simply are, unequivocally, the best villains ever. An immediate and incomparable sense of evil gropes anyone who lays eyes on their crimson swastika-emblazoned banners. No explanation is necessary as to why you need to fight them. Nazis are iconic; it matters not if they are Wehrmacht soldiers in a realistic Normandy campaign, occultish zombie-raising mad scientists, or a gorilla with Hitler's brain - there is a simple and universal understanding that they need to be shot.
Games that have visited other wartime settings haven't fared as well. Several Vietnam shooters failed utterly: the moral ambiguity of "us vs. them" just doesn't drive a conflict as well as "good vs. evil". Consider the Indiana Jones trilogy of films. Which was the weak link? Yes, the one without Nazis antagonists.
Utah Beach may have become the new "Hoth" of video games, but what's cool about the Call of Duty series is that it changes up the pace by allowing you to kill Nazis on several different fronts. In CoD2, you get to perforate snowtroopers as a Russian, khaki-clad desert goosesteppers as the Brits, and as a new entry to D-Day recreations, assault Point Du Hoc as an American G.I.
Point Du Hoc was a 100 meter cliff with six 155mm guns overlooking Utah and Omaha Beaches. These guns needed to be neutralized or they would rain death on both landing zones. Even more ridiculous than the order for Army Rangers to scale this escarpment (while under machinegun fire) and seize these guns defended by an entrenched foe, was the fact that they managed to pull it off. Upon returning to the scene years later, one veteran stared at the sheer rock face and asked, "Can anyone tell me how the hell we did this?" The game recreation of this military feat was one of the high points in the excellent Call of Duty 2. You get to kill lots and lots of Nazis.