So we are finally starting! The screen clears and we start to play? Well, no, just one more formality. We have to learn our level objectives – it isn’t all just randomly shooting Nazis! We get the following three screens below.
The first screen gives us our two objectives which are destroy all radio equipment and make our way through the village. It all seems simple enough.
Screens two and three provide some of details that Agent One hadn’t told us. If Agent One wants to contact us, should we be destroying these radios? I guess we’ll have to see. We also learn something about the locals; which is basically that we won’t be seeing too many of them. And generally, any we do see are likely under Nazi instructions and generally shouldn’t be trusted. Finally, the command post has some documents that will be of use to us so we better get looking for them. And that’s it! Press the Accept key and start playing.
So, this is the view we see at the start. It’s the tunnel which we saw earlier in the film and by now we have probably forgot that in the film, an armed soldier had just walked by at the other end of the tunnel. While this level has risk, including death, it is very much a training level and it has an annoying feature which wants it to point out every detail and feature you will come across. It’s OK, even good the first time around but after that, I wish I could turn it off.
The tunnel leads out to an Egyptian street though with the road closed off at one end it’s quite clear which way we should go. Unfortunately, up this street is the soldier that we saw walk past in the film. If it is timed right, he is walking up the hill with his back to us, so a quick silent knife in the back will sort it out. For this death, we get a Luger. While we shouldn’t look this gift horse in the mouth, the film showed him carrying a riffle or sub-machine gun. Just look at a still from the film below. OK, it could have been a different soldier but is that likely?
Now that we are out of immediate danger, we have a bit of time to check out how the level actually looks. I had to admit that I was uncertain how the PS2 would handle the game. The picture below shows the street and I have to admit, for something more than ten years old, it doesn’t look too bad. It has limited depth of view which suits the Quake III engine better and so reduces the number of polygons without looking like it is limiting our sight.
After killing another patrolling soldier, we trigger an effect which is (or was) typical in this game. As we enter a more open area, we hear the following conversation from some undefined window:
Boy: Mummy, I’m telling you. I saw an American!
Mother: Stop telling stories. You know there are no Americans here –
Boy: – but Mummy, I did! Maybe there are here to help us.
Mother: Stay away from the window Abed.
It’s all very touching for the American audience but it would be an odd conversation to be happening. Blazkowicz is clearly displaying an American flag on his left shoulder so it would be easy for the boy to identify him as an American but he would be unlikely to identify an American as a savior of the village. Why, well at this point in history, there was no real basis for the Americans riding in to save the day. They certainly had entered the First World War and their entry tipped the balance and they hadn’t collectively considered the Nazi threat worth the blood and cost of war until Pearl Harbor was bombed. If this was set in say the 1960’s, I would have bought this conversation as sounding possible but not in 1943.
Moving on, we come across the first of what will seem like thousands of letters and clipboard notices that add depth and backstory to this game. I believe I’ve found them all and I’ll try to add what context that I can. So, without further ado, here it is.
For all that set up, it doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know. What extra we do now know is as follows. First Ras el-Hadid is now described as a city. I guess a city size makes more sense that this place has an airfield next to it. We are explained the terms of the curfew though as a Muslim community would want to go to prayer five times a day, just two hours between 8am and 10am wouldn’t be popular. As there doesn’t seem to be anyone about, we have to assume that we are out of that time range now. I would have thought that trying to infiltrate the city during those two hours would have been a smarter strategy but I don’t want to make Agent One’s plan seem more difficult than it needs to be. One final thing we learn is that this is being sent by Major Gerhard Wechsler. As he is the one giving the orders, we’ll have to assume he is in command.
Moving on, I’ll show another shot from the village/town/city that we are in. I really only included this one to show some other details that have been put into the level. Here we can see clothes hanging on a washing line, a balcony and a collection of pots on display in what must be a market stall. Our journey continues either up the steps or up the stack of boxes that make an alternate stairway.
Either way takes us to another set of building around a garage building where a lone Nazi mechanic is working on a pile of motorbikes. I’m not sure if this supposed to be a specific motorbike but the most popular bike of the African Campaign was the BMW R75. But I don’t think that this is one of those. Firstly, these Germans are not part of the African Campaign and so they might not be using that hardware. Secondly, the BMW R75 is usually fitted with a sidecar and there doesn’t appear to be one here. Third and most importantly, these bikes are not painted yellow as the African bikes would have been. These seem to be olive green which would indicate that might have just recently have been shipped from Germany. Most strangely though, is why the motorbikes are being repaired here? Wouldn’t the motor pool be located near the airstrip? Anyway, it is easy to take out the mechanic by shooting the fuel can placed conveniently near him. The motorbike is made of stronger stuff and doesn’t even stop running when the can explodes!
Behind the garage is our first secret area, which the “training feature” all but screams out to us. This first one is a Luger and a helmet hidden away. This seems an odd thing for the Germans to hide so if we want to rationalize this one away, we could say that these items could have been hidden away by some sort of Egyptian resistance group who stole the items from the Germans and intend to use them to fight. Or, maybe they hid them to sell on the black market. Who knows!
After this find, onward progress involves going into an Egyptian home (possibly) and eventually emerging on another village/town/city street. Before we get to that street, we do find a few things of interest. Except for the few pieces of (breakable) Egyptian art, there isn’t anything of interest on the lower floor but upstairs, we come across a bedroom with a soldier inside. After dispatching him, we do find a couple of things of interest. First, we find a letter (below). Unless the soldier shouldn’t have been there, the guy lying on the floor is named Tobias Metzger.
We can’t tell who Sonja Fleischer is (not a wife but maybe a girlfriend or sister?), though since he provides his full name at the end of the letter, she could be much less than any of those. Either way, we do learn that the people here can be divided into soldiers and scientists and there is no general knowledge from the soldiers what the scientists are looking for. He doesn’t seem too concerned that the Nazis had been pushed out of Egypt, across Libya and into Tunisia in less than six months as he seems to think that they are safe there. He also feels that they will be leaving for Germany soon so they are not planning to stay too long.
The second thing of interest in the bedroom is the bottle of Chateau Latour 1938 wine. Chateau Latour is a wine of the Bordeaux region, specifically the Médoc wine region. Chateaux Latour’s close proximity to Gironde estuary moderates early cold spells producing a consistently excellent wine. It is specifically a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot though the exact percentages can vary. The estate is currently majority owned by the Pearson Financial Group but in 1943, it was owned by the Ségur family that originally founded the vineyard. There are currently three wines that the vineyard produces and are pictured below right. Of the three, Pauillac was first produced in1973 so this bottle could only be Les Forts de Latour or the top rated Grand Vin. The bottle on the right is the game bottle but the label, while similar isn’t any of them. Possibly, the RtCW didn’t get the rights to use the Latour bottle images. Given that Blazkowicz guzzles the wine down, I can understand why they might have wanted nothing to do with the game!
So why is there a bottle of it in Egypt? Well, we don’t really know. Since this is the training level, the designers may have wanted to have everything in the level and so had to add a bottle somewhere to explain to you what to do with these bottles. It may also be another of the references to the Nazi treasure theft that we’ll cover in a minute.
Now finally moving out of the house via the upstairs balcony, the action finally heats up with three mobile soldiers with Lugers and a stationary sniper with a Mauser rifle. After dispatching all of them, the street is quiet and we can go and explore the buildings. The first that we must visit is the building on the left end of the street. This building holds the areas radio transmitter and destroying it checks off one of our objectives.
Before entering the actual radio room, we hear a voice from within:
Gerhard(?), are you there? There’s been a shooting in the courtyard. Hello?
I’ve put a question mark against the first word. The closest match I can make is “Gerhard” which is the first name of the Major in command. While possible, it seems unlikely that a subordinate would be using the Major’s first name in a semi-public place but I can’t hear an alternative, unless it is a German word being said.
While not explicitly stated in the mission’s objectives (unlike other later levels), Agent One said in the introductory film, “Alerting the guards to our presence may jeopardize this mission.” So, have we jeopardized the mission? Well, we don’t really know. The radio’s last “Hello” would indicate he didn’t establish contact but we don’t know if anyone heard him on from the other side. In fact, his wording doesn’t describe what actually happened. It could have been an accident or an Egyptian could have been shot or something else. The message, if received might direct more troops to enter this part of the city but doesn’t indicate an emergency yet.
The picture above left shows the transmitter/receiver set and the body of the dead radio operator. I suspect that the front panels for the radios are false because I’d think that the pairs of meters indicate a stereo signal and stereo didn’t exist in WWII. All radios of the time would have a single meter measuring an input voltage and/or signal strength. If I had to guess the function of each of the boxes, I would guess, from left to right, a receiver box, an audio transmitter and a Morse code transmitter. The Morse code transmitter would be for sending messages to Germany while the voice transmitter would for more local transmissions around the village. The box on the top is an amplifier/speaker. A more likely piece of equipment would be a Tornister-Empfänger b which was the standard ground station receiver of the 1930’s and early 1940’s (pictured above right) which transmits in the lower shortwave band. The audio transmission would more likely be a field telephone.
Perhaps more interesting is a note that we find on a supply box shown in its two parts below. The note is from Major Wechsler, who seems to be in charge of this operation and is sent to a General Von Stauff. That name should mean nothing to us but it is a person that we will come back to much later. This note tends to imply that the General is the commanding officer of the Major which again might be interesting much later. The letter seems to imply that the Major is not too happy with his current assignment and feels that he might be better deployed in the battlefield. The note implies that he does have reasonably accurate intelligence of the current state of the African campaign but doesn’t know too much about what he is doing here. We, like him, now know that he is “babysitting a bunch of archaeologists” but not why archaeologists need to be here at this time.
The letter makes reference to Lichterfelde which turns out to be a real military academy in southern Berlin named the Hauptkadettenanstalt. This Prussian academy was where many of the noble families sent their children for officer training. This might imply that the Major is of a rich or noble family or just that he was that good a candidate that he could go to the best military school. Either way might imply that he could have more sway with the general than his rank would suggest.
The other question we have to ask, is why this letter is sitting here in a radio room? It is unlikely that the Major is this person lying dead on the floor so either the letter was stolen or this radio operator was charged with sending the letter’s content to Germany via the long range Morse code equipment. This last option seems most likely, so let’s go with that.
Moving back into the street, the next place we come across is the quartermaster’s store. We know this before even entering the rooms if we listen outside as he slowly goes crazy:
Monday count the crates … Tuesday count the crates … Wednesday count the crates. Arrg! I’m not a soldier, I’m a shop keeper!
Inside we find some supplies but we also find this unusual poster on the wall. Originally I thought it came from the fake Oera Linda but it wasn’t. I had to wrack my brain to find out where it was from and after some searching, I was able to identify it as a picture of the center of the Holy table as depicted in Meric Casaubon’s A True & Faithful Relation of What passed for many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits. These nine characters are “angelic letters” and the Enochian language is supposed to help you converse with the angels and God. Now what would this be doing in Egypt or in possession of a German soldier? That, we’ll have to wait and see.
John Dee was also a noted alchemist and it turns out that if you destroy the poster (kick, stab or shoot it); behind it you will find two bars of gold. This is the treasure collecting that was part of the original Wolfenstein games and we get to do it again. For each of these treasures I will try to speculate whom might have hid it, where they might have got it from and for the gold bars, I’ll give a running total of how much additional weight or character Blazkowicz is taking on. These gold bars are certainly what would rightly be called bullion. It only comes in certain sizes and this is likely to be the 400 troy-ounce size bar. A troy-ounce is slightly bigger than a regular ounce so a bar would weigh almost 27.5lb or 12.4 kg. As we have two, Blazkowicz’s load has increased by 55lb (24.8 kg).
We can probably assume that the quartermaster was hiding these bars but where did he get them from? Given that these are standard size, they would have come from Germany so perhaps they were some sort of bribe money that was diverted from the main stash? The quartermaster, as the probable handler of all items for this group would be in an ideal position to slim off some of the gold for him.
Now back out of the supply building, we are probably getting snipped at by a soldier on the upper level. It isn’t too hard to take him out and it is worth the time to check him out. Firstly, he was carrying a Mauser riffle and it is well worth picking up. The second place to look while up there is a crate. Inside the crate is a chalice pictured below – this is our final treasure. Now we can guess again that this is made of gold but it is hard to tell from the picture. Now we could use the rule that the “owner” is the one nearest the treasure, which would mean the sniper hid it but in these case as it was in a crate and likely to be sent back home, it isn’t clear if it was his. It is more likely that the chalice was found locally. It could have been stolen by someone that lived locally or it could have something to do with this archaeological expedition that’s happening. Either way, it’s now ours so let’s not worry any more about this one.
From here, we just need to go back down and below where we just were and we get to complete our first RtCW level!
While it seems I need to do an article on all this Nazi gold and treasure, I’ll do at least one more level as the next one does seem to follow on from this one fairly well.