Let’s take a moment to show some appreciation for the publishers who have the guts to keep kusoge available for purchase. Ziggurat. Nightdive. Thank you for giving me a megaphone to cry for help. Hopefully, someone will hear my pleas.
I’ve been fighting a losing battle to try and get Extreme Paintbrawl working on a modern PC. That game has the reputation of being the absolute worst game ever built in Ken Silverman’s wonderful Build Engine. While the engine was home to games like Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, and Blood, it also had a lot more questionable games. Last week, I covered 1998’s Nam. This week, we’re looking at another game by the same developer, World War II G.I.. Maybe next week, we’ll look at William Shatner’s TekWar if I can get it working. Let’s hope not!
The kids have to learn about TekWar sooner or later
Released in 1999 – one year after Nam – World War II G.I. is pretty easy to discern just based on the name on the tin. Once again, we’re taking Duke Nukem 3D’s Build Engine and transplanting it to another place. This time, it’s France during World War II rather than Vietnam.
At least with this setting, it’s one of the rare wars where intervention seemed necessary, unlike the Vietnam War. I still don’t really want to talk about it, though. That’s how exhausted I am from keeping up with the ongoing real-world wars. To sum up the backstory to World War II G.I., it’s 1944. The Axis still have control over most of Europe, and the Allies are launching a seaborne invasion of Normandy, France.
More importantly, the game was developed in 1999, a year after Saving Private Ryan hit theatres. It was a few months before Medal of Honor would start the avalanche of WW2 games that would become a hallmark of the era. The time was right, but there are plenty of reasons why few remember World War II G.I. Heck, at this point, Medal of Honor hasn’t been a household name in nearly a decade.
I hope I don’t get these screenshots mixed up with Nam
It’s bold for World War II G.I. to open with D-Day. Medal of Honor: Frontline in 2002 would do the same, and it’s an effective but extremely unfriendly way to introduce players to a game. What makes matters worse is that World War II G.I. did it without thinking it through. It’s not that D-Day is the best way to open a WW2 game, and it’s not that the devs considered how to implement it in a way that gave a good point of entry; it’s here because they really liked that scene in Saving Private Ryan.
It really sucks. This is not just because the Nazis are defending a fortified position but because your squadmates will gladly shoot you in the back. Constantly. You might not even realize why you’re dying, at first. It will probably take some time for you to figure out where you’re getting shot from. But let me tell you, your fellow soldiers really hate your guts.
Thankfully, friendly fire isn’t quite the problem it was in Nam. The game had your allies raining artillery shells and bombs down on your position, and there was little you could do to avoid exploding. World War II G.I. tones this down a lot. It’s still there. You’ll still randomly explode. But it’s nowhere near the problem it was in its predecessor.
Meanwhile, there are also fewer mines. The undergrowth of Nam was littered with landmines ready to separate you from your legs. Again, World War II G.I. still has landmines, and they’re just as annoying, but they’re generally clustered in positions that are off the path. I mean, not to tell the Nazis how to do their job, but I feel like this is the opposite of how you want to place landmines. Still, it makes for a much more enjoyable experience.
For that matter, the experience in World War II G.I. is, in general, leagues better than Nam. That’s a pretty low bar to step over, and it’s still not a very fun game, but you can tell the team is more experienced. Levels are a bit more intricate while also being more realistic about what the Build Engine can actually do. It still looks like a mod for Duke Nukem 3D, and the edges are still very rough, but it’s still a lot better than Nam.
Still, your quicksave button is going to get quite the workout. It still has a lot of the same problems that Nam had, especially because the developers liked to hide Nazis in the trees. The maps are still too big an open, so your gun’s spread is a constant obstacle that has no easy way of being overcome. Simply spraying your Thompson in the direction of where you think there might be Nazis is actually a workable strategy. Ammo is abundant, so why not just spray and pray?
Because of this, it has the difficulty curve of a buzz saw. It shoots up whenever there’s a tank on the field. These Panzers fire high-velocity shells and very rarely miss. On top of that, explosives are extremely rare, and most of them require you to walk straight up to the tank to place them. Whenever I could, I usually just tried to avoid the tanks entirely.
And weirdly, the S.S. soldiers employ some sort of invisible Nazi shield. I don’t get it. I could fire at point-blank range, and the dudes would just keep coming at me. I’d watch as the bullets would hit the wall directly behind them. Other times, they’d take two shots and drop immediately, so it’s not just that they’re wearing body armor. I really don’t understand what’s going on with them. I often just hucked grenades at them because it was the only way to get a sure kill.
Speaking of being baffled, one thing that World War II G.I. has added to the Nam formula is the need to actually patch yourself up. Health packs go into your inventory, and to use them, you need to stand stationary while it gradually adds to your health count. You can shoot, but if you take one step, it cancels the whole process and wastes the remainder of the medkit. It’s absurd. I think most of the time I spent playing this game was crouching in a corner, waiting for my dude to finish putting a band-aid on.
I get that’s sort of more realistic since it would be really difficult to suture a bullethole while sprinting across the battlefield. However, one of the weapons you can pick up is dual Colt 1911’s. I’m pretty sure dual-wielding isn’t covered in boot camp, but what do I know?
Meanwhile, your commanding officer starts off most missions by telling you what you’re supposedly doing on that stage. However, like in Nam, it is invariably drowned out by ambient gunfire and music. I started listening super hard to figure out what he was saying, and all I got was “In clear violation of the Geneva Convention.” Guy, this is 1944. If you’re worried about the Geneva Convention, you’d best be sitting down when the war ends. Some of the atrocities will floor you.
I feel like I need to say something nice about World War II G.I.. Okay, I have something: you can attack with your knife whenever you want, even if you’re holding a gun with both hands. It never stops being funny. Especially when you’re holding a Browning Assault Rifle. It looks like you’re pulling a violin bow across your gun. Literally, fiddling with your weapon.
As I said, World War II G.I. isn’t quite as bad as Nam. However, that is pretty far from praise. But on the other hand, it’s kind of neat to see a WW2 game in the Build Engine. It would be a lot cooler if it was Duke Nukem fighting against Nazis, but… Actually, there’s no “but” to that statement.
It was fun, though. Like I said with Nam, the games harken back to an early era of the first-person shooter, where experimentation was rife, and failure was just as frequent. Even if a lot of these games aren’t fun to play, and others might not even be finished, it’s interesting to see amateur developers leaving their fingerprints on new frontiers.