One Way To Save World War II Video Games

Illustration for article titled One Way To Save World War II Video Games

The cry goes out: Another World War II video game? Writer Rob Zacny argues that the war is not the problem. The tired perspective is.


It grows stale fighting World War II once more from the triumphant, glorious American perspective, Zacny writes in a fantastic essay on the website Gamers With Jobs.

Zacny was disappointed with R.U.S.E., the recent French-developed, French-published World War II strategy game that tells the story of a poor man's U.S. General Patton rather than any tale native to its nation of origin.

Consider the potential, the set-up laid out in Zacny's opening paragraph:

France went to war in 1939 in the wake of a demographic annihilation that no American born since the Civil War can really imagine or understand. A crushing defeat in 1870 followed by the bloodletting of World War I had badly eroded the confidence of French soldiers and, perhaps more importantly, the leaders who bore the literal and figurative scars of those experiences. For the third time in a century, the same enemy was poised on the border and whipped into a hate-filled nationalist fervor. France had every reason to dread what Germany was about to unleash, and little cause for confidence now that the Soviet Union and the United States were sitting out the conflict. And after the collapse, French soldiers faced the choice between abandoning France in the name of resistance, or collaborating with the Nazis in the name of service.

The writer calls R.U.S.E.'s tale "an uninspiring creative choice, but a familiar one from French developers who seem more interested in channeling American stories than telling their own."

How different it would be to play a World War II game focused on something other than the brave efforts of the American soldier and Marine!


How different it has been, when explored in the dark moments of the vengeful Russian invasion of Germany featured in half of 2008's Call of Duty: World at War.

Zacny reasonably believes the shortest distance toward a game about Vichy France would stem from a French developer and French publisher. We all play video games, however, in a world where the biggest-budget Vichy France game was made by ... Americans. It's hero was an Irishman.


Even the Americans, it seems, wanted to see the Great War anew, through different eyes. What fatigues the critic, if not as often the consumer, is the repetition of an old tale executed with the implication that it's the only one the crowd would buy.


The Fall of France [Gamers With Jobs] [PIC]



Two quick things:

1) The Saboteur was one of my favorite games of the last year. It's a flawed masterpiece, or a beautiful disaster. I can't tell which. The controls were sometimes wonky, the voice acting ranged from "over the top" to "Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque camp" but the damn thing was fun. Pure fun. I spent hours just shooting down zeppelins, and let's not forget about car bombs.

I think the biggest selling point of the game was the setting, which not enough WW2 games bother to change. We see Normandy, some hedgerows, a small French village, the Ardennes, and Berlin. Maybe we switch to Stalingrad; maybe it switches to the Eagle's Nest at the end. Maybe—just maybe—we get Guadalcanal or Iwo or Saipan.

Flying across wartime Paris in a stolen race car, then rigging a bomb, bailing out, and blowing up a checkpoint is an experience that neither CoD or MoH try to replicate. Yes, those games do different things, but for me, that was much more fun.

Unfortunately, the games that try to split the difference (Velvet Assassin, etc.) seem to crash and burn. Wonder what would happen if you got former Infinity Ward and Pandemic folks together...

2) World War 1 is begging for a good story-driven game, albeit one in a different style from CoD. Think of the events you have: Verdun, the Somme, the 1917 mutinies, Lawrence of Arabia, Zeppelins bombing London.... Everyone's perception of this war is shaped by trench warfare—take a cue from Red Dead Redemption and rewrite the story.