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Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus might be the best movie of 2017

The story behind Wolfenstein’s radical cutscenes

Patrick Gill (he/him) has been making serious and unserious videos for Polygon since 2016. He also co-hosts & produces Polygon’s weekly livestreams on Twitch.

I’ll admit that I had no expectations when I picked up Wolfenstein: The New Order back in 2014. I was really bored, and I had $60, so I brought it home and cracked into its opening chapter, which I would describe as “very video game-y.”

It wasn’t until the game jumped from WWII to 1960 that I realized the team at MachineGames had an artistic vision for Wolfenstein, and it was a strong vision.

A cutscene covers B.J. Blazkowicz’s lost decade and a half with incredible style. His internal musings pair rhythmically with composer Mick Gordon’s bed of snaps, stomps and slap guitar.

In just a minute, The New Order introduces you to the people that you want to protect and the monsters you want to protect them from. The scene is beautifully constructed, and a powerful distillation of Wolfenstein’s themes of brutality and humanity.

The New Order’s ambitious cinematic approach drew me in and kept me engaged during the game’s competent, but less brilliant shootouts. And they kept drawing me in, again and again. Today, I’ve played through The New Order three or four times, and I’m still noticing new details about its story and characters.

I didn’t think anything could top the “14 years” cutscene for me until I demoed a segment of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus at a recent Bethesda event.

After fighting my way through a fairly standard Wolfenstein level, I was treated to a cutscene that did so much so fast that it took me a solid two minutes to realize my mouth was hanging open in a grin.

The scene center’s around B.J. Blazkowicz’s efforts to recruit socialist revolutionary Horton Boone to his resistance movement. In a bank vault converted into a distillery, they hash out their political differences as a sniper rifle and a clarinet play a duet in the background.

The clarinet is diegetic. The characters in the room can hear it as Paris Jack improvises over the gunfight. But it also blends in and out of the game’s electric score.

The sound of bullets is timed to drum hits. A crunched-out guitar bursts into the mix when tempers flare. The camera pans around B.J. and Horton for nearly two minutes in an uninterrupted movement. The performances, editing, camerawork and music play around with each other brilliantly.

I was desperate to know how the whole scene came together, so I got in touch with creative director Jens Matthies and composer Mick Gordon to talk shop. Check out our conversation in the video up top to learn more.