Playing with Nazis

History is written by the winners, and in some ways, it looks like games are too. The battle between the Allies and the Axis has often been depicted in World War II games as the victory of freedom over fascism, as "good" over "evil." Think back to your experiences with mowing down Germans in these settings. Absent of any traces of humanity, they're often represented as hollow, bloodthirsty automatons that live for nothing more than blindly serving Hitler's will, and have become one of gaming's most common - and two dimensional - stock characters.

That's why our interest was piqued when we heard about how one of Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts' single player campaigns will tell the story of two German brothers in separate companies. You'll see how their relationship with their commanding officers and thoughts on the war change as the Germans attempt to halt the Allies' advance on Berlin.

But shining the spotlight on Nazi soldiers is something that needs to be handled with tact. "It's not about politics… it's about being in the trenches with your troops," explained producer Shane Neville when asked about Relic Entertainment's choice to break ranks with the norm of choosing American or British protagonists for a World War II game. "When you're fighting in a war, you're not fighting for your political beliefs. You're fighting for the man next to you… This isn't about the Third Reich or Nazi Germany. It's about defending your homeland. You've got a mother, a sister, a wife, and friends back home that are in Germany right now. If you don't fight this battle and win Operation Market Garden, Berlin falls and Germany falls," continued Neville.

We have yet to see a compelling story of Germans answering their country's "call of duty," or receiving a "medal of honor." While we doubt that Opposing Fronts will revolutionize storytelling in RTS games on a grandiose scale, it's interesting that Relic is willing to push past the norm of demonizing the entire rank and file of Germany's forces to make for convenient kills and a another simplified World War II story of "good" triumphing over "evil."


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