The good side of Battlefield V dropping season passes is that everyone gets free maps. The trade-off is that, being a World War 2 game, any cosmetic gubbins they sell, including ‘elite’ character skins, is going to include Nazis and Nazi memorabilia, even if the swastikas are painted over. That’s bad enough, but earlier today, Vice published a piece pointing out that premium Nazi Wilhelm Franke shares a name with a famous WW2 resistance fighter who fell foul of the Gestapo. EA have since contacted Vice saying that Wilhelm will be renamed. Also that he’s not a Nazi. Oh. Oh dear.
Being a World War 2 shooter, and featuring the German army, means that Nazis are going to be involved. Unless they’re apparently just proudly apolitical German soldiers dressed in red-trimmed black leather trenchcoats, emblazoned with iron crosses. EA’s argument is, to quote: “Wilhelm Franke, whose name we’re changing is not a Nazi, but a German solider similar to ones we already have in the game. In Battlefield V, we’re not making any political statements in relation to the real life events of WW2 and there are no swastikas in the game”. Oh, well, that makes sense.
Maybe I’m just a cynic, but this feels about as convincing an argument to me as Ubisoft insisting they make apolitical games while developing one set in a dystopian post-Brexit London. I can appreciate EA’s predicament, in that in place of season passes, they’re selling these fancy alternate character models, so have to make them appealing, even if they’re the bad guys. If they’d just apologised, fixed the name and left it at that, we’d at least be back on neutral footing. But no, they had to insist that this man, who ticks every box on the ‘overly dramatic big Nazi villain’ checklist, isn’t one because there’s no swastikas. Sometimes, I despair.
As awful as this slow-motion PR train wreck is, at least Battlefield V is getting some nice looking free maps soon. No word on what Wilhelm Franke will be renamed to, or when the change will come into effect, either.