Ras el-Hadid, Part 2

So we are now on the second part of the Ras el-Hadid mission (no indication of how many parts there will be). If we considered Part 1 as RtCW on training wheels, here we get to take them off and play the game as it’s supposed to be. While we are still in the city or whatever this is, the vibe of the next level is different from the last one. This is the first screen that we get. I didn’t include the second or third as they are the same as the previous level.

Ras2_obj1

Our first objective, to contact Agent One by radio is something that we were told to do from the beginning. After destroying the radio in the first level, now it seems we’ll get to actually use one. The second objective implies that there are at least two courtyards in this level and there will be some sort of challenge to get to the second one. The last mission tells us that we will be moving up the weapons hierarchy from hand guns and rifles, which is where we currently stand.

The level starts exactly where the previous one finished and we soon reach the top of a flight of stairs. When we descend to the bottom, we encounter a soldier on patrol. After dealing with him, it’s time to look at where we are. See below.

RAS2_courtyard1

What we are looking at here is a large two story structure that sits in the middle of a courtyard. The building is large and it leaves a path, maybe 12 feet wide that stretches almost all the way around it. While the first level seemed to be the living area of the average person, if this is too a living area, this seems to be for a higher status level people. Alternatively, this may be closer to the administrative center. As we join this pathway in the middle of a straight, we have an equal option to go either left or right. As it will turn out, it doesn’t matter which way we go first so I will choose to go left.

Taking the left path doesn’t show too much of interest or Nazi soldiers. On the far side of where we entered the courtyard is a door that is unlocked and should get us into the central building. There is also an entrance that takes us away from the courtyard but it appears to be locked. So, it’s into the building …

The building is not empty; it has one soldier in the smaller room to the left behind what looks like a bar listening to the radio. In the second longer room, that can be reached from the right of the entrance or on its far end that joins the left-hand room is two more soldiers that are eating. Whatever room we start fighting from causes all the other soldiers to come running, so just deal with it. When they are down, we can work out where we are.

Firstly, the music still playing on the radio (assuming you didn’t shoot it in the firefight!) is Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven. More technically it is named Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor but only a classical music fan would use that name. There isn’t an especially strong Nazi association with this piece but any music by a perceived Arian archetype would be popular with a true Nazi believer.

Next is the room that radio is in (see below left). It looks like a bar and that might be how the Germans set it up to be but good Muslim Egyptians would not have an alcoholic drinking house in their town. More than likely, this was a coffee house somewhat like the stock Reuters picture, shown further. Notice the bar in the back of the picture.

Ras2_bar

Ras2_enoch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other room seems setup as a room for cooking and eating. On the wall is the strange Enochian poster (above right) but unlike the other, this one hides nothing behind it. That isn’t to say that this room doesn’t hold a secret because it does. If you compare the sizes of the two rooms, it is fairly easy to see that the eating room end wall seems shorter than it needs to be. That is because it hides a secret panel. It isn’t so obvious how its door opens but there is a red button on the inside of the food counter near the hot meal. It is only the dimness of the room that hides what should be a very obvious button. Inside the compartment are two gold bars so our character Blazkowicz takes on another 55lb (24.8 kg) taking his additional pack weight to 110lb (49.6 kg)! What we don’t see is any way to go to the upper level that we saw from the outside.

Coffee Shop

So it’s outside again and as the path away from the courtyard is still locked, we’ll have to go back the way we came. On the way back, we see the arch pictured below which explains how someone would get to the upper level of the building. Now we are not going to go up there at any point but it’s nice to know that the level designer at least made it theoretically possible. Looking between the arch in the distance is an entrance where we are going to go but if we check out the fourth side of the courtyard, we find a lattice which can be broken to find secret grenades and health. Probably another stash of the locals?

Ras2_arch

As we enter this new room we hear a conversation:

Remote soldier:           Hans, have you heard from Otto? … He’s not checked in.

Radio Operator:          I’m not sure. My radio was acting up a few minutes ago. But … I haven’t been able to contact him either. I’ll inform the captain.

At this point, the radio operator leaves his post and walks up the stairs.

Now we have several options. The first was to interrupt the conversation and give the radio operator a knife in the back while he is busy talking. This, in theory would alert the soldier on the other end to us (BJ) though in practice, it makes little difference. The second option is to wait until he stands to leave and finish him before he has a chance to tell the captain. The third option is to let him go and see what happens. It’s a bit disappointing that he doesn’t go through the door at the top of the stairs to actually talk to the captain that is outside but he just hangs around waiting for something to happen. So much for talking to the captain!

Ras2_radio

Whatever we get rid of him, we can now take a look at the radio set. This one looks generally similar to the fir one we saw but has two key differences (picture above). Firstly, there is a red button on this one just asking to be pressed. The second is that this radio is indestructible! Well, at least at the moment. So when the button is pushed, a short animation is played. As usual, the film is below (starting at 2min 4sec) and you’ll want to stop it at 2:21.

Agent One:     Come in BJ, are you there?

Blazkowicz:    I’m here.

Agent One:     The next courtyard has a lot of activity, so be careful. And be mindful of the locals too. They don’t seem too happy to see us either.

Blazkowicz:    Roger that.

So, we’ve had two conversations; what do we now know? Well, the first seems to answer a question we had from the previous level. If we remember back, Otto, for we now know his name, tried to make contact with someone before we could stop him. The question we had was whether his message got through and we are now discovered. Well, the answer is that his message didn’t get through because the radio operator’s radio was “acting up”. Still, there is still some concern as he hasn’t reported in. We can also conclude that there are at least three radio stations operational in this town.

Now onto the second conversation. I guess it’s hard to understand how it took place. Did Blazkowicz and Agent One decide to meet up at this time and place? What are the odds of them just randomly coming across a radio set at exactly the same time? Agent One wasn’t carrying a portable radio set so they both have to find radio equipment. OK, ignoring that, are they talking on an effectively public radio frequency? They may have agreed to switch to a frequency that the Germans don’t use but there would still be a high risk of being intercepted.

Assuming it’s all secure, Agent One is telling us that the next courtyard is loaded with Germans and likely some of the local Egyptians working for them. What’s missing is what Blazkowicz should have said to Agent One. If I was Blazkowicz, I would ask the following:-

  • I thought you were going to the archaeological dig. Why are you still in the village?
  • Since you seem to be further ahead than me, you seem to be on a faster path than me. Can I go your way?
  • Since we seem to be going the same way, why are we traveling separately? Wouldn’t it be safer/faster to travel together?
  • When did I let you start calling me “BJ”? Seems unfair that you not only know my full name but also give me a cutesy nickname while I don’t know any part of your name.

I guess our character isn’t as smart as he looks.

Once the conversation is over, the magical aurora of invincibility leaves the radio set and it can now be destroyed. We only have one remaining place to investigate and that is up the stairs where we assume the captain is.

When we open the door at the top of the stairs, an officer stands motionless by a table on what appears to be a roof top (see below). If the officer was not staring at something on the table, he would have been able to snipe down on us while we were going around the courtyard below. He can be taken out with a Mauser rifle from a distance as he waits and that is probably the best option.

Ras2_platform

At his death, a check is made. If all the Nazi in the building, the one on patrol, the radio operator and the captain are dead and, the call to Agent One has been made, everything is set for a new soldier to emerge from the formally locked gate leading to the next courtyard. If any of these things aren’t done, we have some more killing to do. The new soldier says “I know he’s here!” but we don’t have any idea of how he knows what he knows. He says “he’s” not “they” so he seems to know that there is a lone gunman on the loose. So we are back to the uncertainty of whether they now we are here or not.

Before jumping down (or taking the stairs down if you are not the dynamic type), it’s worth checking the note that the captain was intently staring at. The two pages are shown below.

Ras2_mess1_1

Ras2_mess1_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, maybe it wasn’t that important after all! I suppose all we really gain is that the reason they know about us is that the locals are acting as the eyes and the ears of the Germans. Possibly, someone saw us from one of those upstairs rooms and passed on the intelligence to their pay masters. Well it wasn’t like we trusted anyone else anyway.

Once the new soldier is taken care of we can get through the now unlocked gate getting the second of our objectives met. Before we get to the second courtyard, we hear a voice which should give use warning. As soon as we enter this courtyard, a soldier is already shooting at us with what appears to be an automatic weapon. Once we defeat him, we can get his MP40 which completes our third and final objective.

The MP40 (MP stands for Machinepistole in German which should be obvious what it means) was a sub machine gun generally issued to a more elite soldier. This elitism was simply because there were never enough to go around. Popular culture seemed to imply that almost every soldier had access to one but even at the end of the war when there were more of them about, standard issue was a Karabiner 98k rifle. So either we are at the MP40 stage to inject more fighting action with popular culture or, we are entering an area where more senior soldiers are located. As it turns out, probably both are true as we will see a little later.

Ras2_courtyard2

The picture above is of the second courtyard as we first enter it.  It is also close to the picture in the background of the mission screen. Our general direction will be up the steps on the far right and through a series of buildings, across the back and then we can optionally re-emerge in the courtyard by the door partially shown on our left. It is likely though that we will be so disoriented that we won’t know that it is the same courtyard!

Before making that journey, there are some more things to check and more bodies to take down. The first is a sniper in a window just visible in the picture above (partially visible on the back wall on the right side of the central building). This sniper is our first Egyptian adversary but as the game engine removes dead characters after a period of time, it is likely that by the time you get up to that room, his body is already gone. If you don’t shoot him now, you’ll get to face him up close when you are in an upstairs room.

You’ll also get some more action from between one and three more MP40 wielding soldiers now depending on if they get disturbed from their posts. Next, there is a new notice on the wall, as shown below.

Ras2_mess2

This message from the major states that the buildings are closed but he uses the work “premises” to describe them. That choice of word implies that these buildings are a place of business or some sort of government building; this matches what we suspected earlier. Finally, I’ve puzzled over what that structure in the middle of the courtyard is (beyond it being a good place to hide/shoot around!). If this was the Far East, it could be some sort of temple or shrine but that doesn’t fit into the Muslim culture. Perhaps it’s just a place to take refuse from the heat of the sun.

Going up to the right, there is a corridor that leads to a billet. This houses multiple beds in double bunks, so this would be sleeping quarters for the grunt soldiers. This room gives us a top up for health and armor but also contains a secret compartment which has additional ammo. It isn’t particularly clear why the ammo is hidden away.

Returning back to the main passageway, we turn to the left and enter an area as shown below left. I included this one just because it is one of the nicer scenes on this level. The sweeping stairway takes up to the room where the sniper was stationed. There is also a soldier with an MP40 pointing it toward you. He isn’t too difficult to take out – it’s just that he is waiting for you. Once past him, there are a few more rooms and turns and you will reach a hole in the ground as shown below right. This picture makes it look like a no return drop but there is a ladder that can get you back up if you want.

Ras2_scene

Ras2_hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once down, it’s worth just standing and listening to a conversation in progress somewhere near.

Soldier #1:        Haven’t you heard … Helga! … is here … now! … she just flew in.

Soldier #2:       Ja. I’m sure the Major is overjoyed to hear that.

Soldier #1:       Nein. (laughing) He’s been hiding in his office all day.

Soldier #2:       I would be too. I am glad we are not stationed in the tombs today.

This gives us some valuable intel. We have confirmation that this Helga character is actually here and we also can assume that she is in the archaeological dig rather than in the compound. Since Agent One should have gone there, he should have her captured by now. We also learn something of her reputation. She seems to be feared by everyone, including the Major it would seem. Why, we do not know.

The two soldiers talking are each on separate sides of a hatch. Again not too hard to take them out though it can be a bit confusing if you don’t understand where the second one is. This place is also set up a barracks but with individual bedroom, this is not the grunt soldiers. In the first room, we find a letter on the nightstand.

Ras2_mess3_1

Ras2_mess3_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s from Helga von Bulow but this time we see here full title: Oberst Helga von Bulow, SS Paranormal Division. An oberst is the German equivalent of a colonel which places her above a major. Her arrival makes her the senior officer. The letter is to Professor Werner Schmidt and we must assume that this is his room. He seems to be leading the efforts to find some tablets that are buried somewhere in the archaeological dig site. She also threatens to come to Egypt to ensure the tablets are found. She seems to have carried out that threat. So we now know why they are here but now we don’t know why the Germans, or more specifically the Paranormal Division of the SS, want the tablets.

The walls are decorated with more of the Enochian posters which should tell us these are not ordinary soldiers. If we were still in any doubt, each of the rooms has a bookshelf loaded with books but rather than them being only for show, the bookshelf in the last room has a secret when a certain book is pressed. The picture below shows a hidden compartment. This one has a flak jacket and some ammo. Perhaps the archaeologists were not issued with them and this person just wants to be safe. Anyway it’s ours now.

Ras2_bookcase

We now have two ways to go. One is the optional return to the second courtyard and the second takes us to the end. While optional, it’s worth going back to the courtyard. Assuming we didn’t get to see the sniping Egyptian, this will be the first time we see the Egyptian mercenaries. A couple of them are hidden behind the overturned cart and they are armed with Mauser rifles. What is interesting is that there is an additional one hiding on a balcony above. We only get to find this out when Agent One shouts out “Look out”, he shoots the guy and he (the Egyptian) falls to the ground. So, after claiming to have split up, Agent One is with us here somewhere in the shadows. What happened to him going to the dig site? It’s good that he found that guy above but, come on, help me out here!

That’s all there is here but if you are disoriented and don’t realize where you are, you’ll be off on another lap of the courtyard! Assuming you don’t (or after you do), there is one other exit. This leads to some different but unoccupied passages such as the one below. Once through this one, we are soon at the exit of the level.

Ras2_end

Coming Next

Since we are still going good, we’ll finish off the first part of Mission zero. After that, I’ll probably write about Nazi treasure as we are starting to accumulate some now. Then continue with Mission Zero.

 

Categories: Mission 0 | Leave a comment

Ras el-Hadid, Part 1

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.

Ras1_obj1

Ras1_obj2

Ras1_obj3

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.

Ras1_start

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?

Ras1_rifle

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.

Ras1_vil1

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.

Ras1_mess1

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.

Ras1_bike Ras1_vil2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ras1_mess2

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!

Ras1_wineLatour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ras1_radioTornister Empfanger B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ras1_mess3_1Ras1_mess3_2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Hauptkadettenanstalt

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.

Ras1_posterMDTR-079

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

Gold_bullion

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.

Ras1_chalice

From here, we just need to go back down and below where we just were and we get to complete our first RtCW level!

 Coming Next

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.

Categories: Mission 0 | Leave a comment

The PS2 and the Ras el-Hadid Introduction

I had originally planned to only work through the PC version levels of RtCW as it was the original and didn’t really advance the plot but with the existence of a decent PS2 emulator for the PC, I was at least curious to try the Ras el-Hadid (or Mission 0) levels. While the mission is fairly simple and doesn’t cover anything new, it does have a certain charm and does create a beginning to the whole story. We have to ask why the PC story didn’t have this mission and the easy answer was that there wasn’t time (or money to create it). While that could be true for many games, the real reason in this particular game was that tradition states that the game begins when already captured and the first order of business is escape from Castle Wolfenstein. With a more expanded story line though, there were probably nagging doubts of how our hero got there in the first place and two years later when the console versions were created, this “hole” was fixed.

The Console Versions

With the success of id Software games, several companies had gained expertise in porting id’s games to the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PS2; Nerve Software ported to the X-Box while Raster Productions did the PS2 port. Of the two, the X-Box version seems the most advanced which is probably due to the better spec of the hardware and the advantage to both it and PCs using Intel processors. Both versions also made better use of the result of treasure finds. The PC version of RtCW included the treasure because it was fun to search for and because it was a required trope of Wolfenstein franchise. The problem was that when you found it, it didn’t give the player any advantage. The console versions gave the options to strengthen the player at the end of the level as a reward for finding treasure.

Playing the Xbox Versionxbox

Currently the only way to play the X-Box version is to find a copy of RtCW for the Xbox (named Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War) and play it in an original Xbox or probably an Xbox 360 in emulation mode. There is no other way to play Xbox games.

Playing the PS2 Version

Ironically, the PS2, which has vastly different hardware from a typical PC, has several emulators available for it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get a hold of a copy of RtCW for the PS2 (named Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection) but there are other options. Playing PS2 games on a PC require three ps2things: an emulator program; a copy of the PS2 ROM and a copy of the PS2 game. It seems that the most stable and popular emulator is a free program named PCSX2, so that was the one that I used. Copy write law prohibits the distribution of the PS2 operating system ROM but there are again two options. The legal one is to download the ROM from an existing PS2 machine and again software is out there on the internet to help with that process. The less than legal approach is to search the internet for a copy of the ROM and it isn’t too difficult to find one. If you really have to go that way, be careful that you don’t get a virus or worse! Finally you need a copy of the game itself. Using the CDROM, you can create an ISO copy file and run that in PCSX2 but there are probably copies of the PS2 version of RtCW out there if you have to go looking.

From there, you add the files in the way the instructions say and start it up. Once up and running, it is probably a good idea to configure your keyboard to match the PS2 controller though using a PS2-like controller for the PC may be a better option. There are also some sites and YouTube videos of specific sound and video options that can be adjusted if you are finding the play choppy.

The Ras el-Hadid Introduction Film

Like all missions, Mission 0 starts with a film. Stop the video at 2:04 as this video link has all RtCW films.

 

Also, here’s the text:

Scene: Libya March 12, 1943

Night time in an army tent in the desert. A Major (probably American) stands over a desk deep in thought. A second military man stands to the side studying a map on the wall. A third military man comes to the tent entrance.

Blazkowicz:    You wanted to see me Major?

Major:              Captain Blazkowicz, come in.

Captain Blazkowicz enters and walks up to the desk.

Major:              You’ve been re-assigned. The OSA has a top secret mission and they think you’re the right man.

The Major passes Blazkowicz a file which he reads at least some of.

Blazkowicz:    Allied Intelligence?

Major:              Yes. I’d like you to meet Agent One.

The military man studying the map turns to the others.

Major:              He’ll brief you on your mission and new orders.

Agent One:     Welcome aboard captain. We don’t have much time for introductions right now; we have transport waiting to take us into northern Egypt.

Blazkowicz:    Northern Egypt? Rommel’s not in Egypt.

Agent One:     We’re not after Rommel. The head of Hitler’s SS, Heinrich Himmler, has sent a team into the area and we’re off to find out why. I’ll explain on the way. Grab your gear and report to the motor pool immediately.

The camera pans to the map Agent One was studying. Animated red markers plot a journey from Tripoli, Libya to an unlabeled location in the North West part of Egypt.

Scene: Ras el-Hadid, Egypt March 14, 1943

Day time in a covered alleyway. An armed German soldier patrols on the other side of an iron gate while Blazkowicz and Agent One, hidden, watch.

Agent One:     Himmler’s new SS paranormal division was first spotted here about a week ago. Helga von Bulow will be arriving today to oversee the operation. Now our job is to grab Helga and find out what’s got Himmler’s attention out here.

Blazkowicz:    So what’s your plan?

The camera moves to a map of the area placed on a shipping container between them.

Agent One:     The Nazi’s are concentrated around the command post in the center of town, here … and the ruins on the outskirts, here. Helga has to be in one of those locations. We’ll cover more ground if we split up.

Blazkowicz:    Agreed. I’ll take the command post and leave the archeology to you.

Agent One:     Remember, our primary objective is to locate and capture von Bulow. Alerting the guards to our presence may jeopardize this mission. Right, let’s move out.

Agent One moves off to the right while Blazkowicz has to pass through the gate where the German guard just passed by.

So What Do We Learn?

Since this is our first film, there is a lot here. First off, we get a general location (Libya) and an exact date (12th March 1943). If we remember from the introduction film, 1943 was the same year that the sigil was rediscovered. One thing to note is that the ground around where the sigil was discovered was very dry and if we make the presumption that it is somewhere near Castle Wolfenstein, I would assume that it happened is Summer rather than March or earlier. This could be spun that the sigil finding scene is going to happen later in the year but the reality is that when Mission 0 begins, the sigil has been discovered. This indicates that there was an intention to set the game into summer rather than spring. Why move it? First we have to discount the most obvious which that the African Campaign was essentially over by summer 1943. While that would be a really good reason to move the date, the Mission 0 levels were added later and were essentially stuck with a mid-March timescale. A more likely reason was that some of the escape levels, such as the atmospheric Cable Car level simply look better with snow covered peaks rather than what might be nondescript rock and grass.

OK, so accepting that March 1943 is the start date, let’s now look at the real state of the war at this point.

Quick Summary of WWII up to 1943

Nazi aggression originally spread in two directions: toward the areas west of Germany and toward areas east of Germany. The westward direction overran France and Western Europe and was held at bay by the English Channel and German failure with the Battle of Britain over British skies. The eastern direction didn’t have such geographical barriers and the German armies were able to push into Russia though strategically failed to take either Stalingrad or Moscow.

While these campaigns were active, the colonial powers in North Africa started raiding each other’s positions and this soon led to sustained battle and what became known as the third front. Specifically, Italy controlled Libya and Tunisia and Britain controlled Egypt. There was much backward and forward across the desert and I will attempt to show some of the highlights below but if you want a more visual guide, take a look at this nifty animation by the BBC here.

After some successful raids on both sides, the British (with Commonwealth

Erwin Rommel

Erwin Rommel

countries) pushed back the Italians. To avoid this total defeat, Hitler authorized
General Rommel to lead German soldiers (named the Afrika Korps) into the battle. This seemed to help the Axis powers and they were able to push the British back into Egypt and nearly back as far as Alexandria. The British had a change of leadership with Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery (Monty)

Bernard Montgomery

Bernard Montgomery

taking command of the Eighth Army. This seemed to swing the tide of the war and after a decisive win in the second Battle of El Alamein, they were able to push the Axis powers out of Egypt, through Libya and into Tunisia between October 1942 to March 1943. We’ll stop at that point in the battle as the game starts up in March 1943.

So returning to the setting of Libya, March 12th, 1943, the major battle lines are west of Libya and the predominant army in occupation is British. So, when the film starts out with the Major and Blazkowicz, both American, it doesn’t make much sense. At this time, the American army had landed in Algeria and had slowly headed east through the French colonies. By March – and certainly April – Rommel was being squeezed from both sides but there was no real reason of any American troops to be “hanging out” in Libya. The only way that possibly saves it is to make Blazkowicz an Army Ranger which allows him to have a freer role in where he might be. Anyway, let’s move on.

Back to the Film

So next, who is the OSA? Well we don’t find out in this mission but the made up organization is named the Office of Secret Actions. It’s all vague at this point but we do know it has something to do with Allied Intelligence. Why was Blazkowicz chosen? That we never know. So again moving on to the next important point, we are introduced to Agent One. The name Agent One is is forced on us because the PC version introduced the second agent with Blazkowicz as Agent One. Little is known about him – we know he is British and he smokes and he seems to be the one in charge of this mission but otherwise he is all business.

We finally know where we are going which is northern Egypt. Blazkowicz states the obvious, that Rommel, and hence the Axis army are not in Egypt any more. What’s interesting is that on March 9th, Hitler fired Rommel from the post of commander-in-chief of the Afrika Korps so Rommel at this point might not have been anywhere in Africa on March 12th. It would be unlikely that the Allies would have known that at this point though.

Agent One then states what their mission is, which is to snoop on a team of Germans sent in by Heinrich Himmler. Given that the Axis army had been pushed back very rapidly between October ’42 and March ’43, these people would have to be very brave, very desperate or very stupid to have snuck behind enemy lines at this point. The assumption would be that other than supply lines, there would be very little troops in northern Egypt at this point. One other thing worth mentioning is that much of the war took place close to the Mediterranean sea as supply lines were coming through sea ports. The place they are heading to might be too far inland to attract troops from either side.

We next get to see a nice animated map of northeastern Africa and we learn that we specifically are in or around Tripoli and the “X” is our current location. I’ve tried to work out where we are going by trying to combine the game map (left) with Google map (right) and produce a composite of them both (middle). The “X” appears to be somewhere in the desert.

 

RtCW Map

RtCW Map

Google Map

Google Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

Composite Map

Composite Map

 

The name Ras el-Hadid is also made up though there is a place named Dhar Ras el Hadid on the coast of Algeria. Don’t know if this is a coincidence and I haven’t found a translation of the words. But, even if this place doesn’t exist, we can speculate what the place might look like. The only reason why there are towns and villages in the Egyptian desert is because there are oases and settlement can be sustained around the water supply. An example of an oasis town near our “X” would be Siwa. They support their own rather nifty website here. The town even supports ancient ruins and had contact with Nile Egyptians and many others over the years. Further into this mission, it’s going to get a whole lot more confusing where we are but for now, a place like Siwa looks good.

Siwa Oasis

Siwa Oasis

In the second part of the film, they have reached Ras el-Hadid. It is dated as March 14th so, if we assume that the first scene took place on the night of March 12th, the journey around 36 hours over land.

Agent One now gives Blazkowicz the details of what this mission is all about. We learn that Himmler has a Paranormal Division and it is new. Himmler, famed for his leadership of the SS seems an odd choice to run such a thing but if we remember Himmler’s obsession with Heinrich the Fowler earlier, maybe that choice isn’t so bad. We also get the name of a character named Helga von Bulow who seems to be in charge at some level. Some German’s have been here for a week or more but Helga has only just arrived.

Clearly, Agent One is in command and he produces a map showing that there are two concentrations of Nazis: one in a command post and a second in archaeological ruins on the edge of town. I’ve taken a snapshot of the map below but it still isn’t very good. We can just about make out two red “X” marks that represent the Command Post and the ruins. Since we have ruins, it again looks like Siwa or something close. The plan is to split up with Blazkowicz (us) taking the command post and Agent One checking out the ruin. And with that, we finally begin to play.

Ras el-Hadid Map

Ras el-Hadid Map

Further Reading

There is so much reading out there about the African Campaign of WWII that I hardly need links for it. One site that I did find particularly helpful was WorldWar-2.net which has a number of useful timelines.

Coming Next

Yes, we can’t avoid it any more – next post will be the first level of Mission Zero! It’s really a training level but still, there are plenty of intriguing things to check out if you know where to look.

Categories: Mission 0 | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.