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5th Column Controversy

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Badge time.png This article contains information that no longer applies to the current version of City of Heroes Freedom. It is provided for historical purposes.


The Issue 3 war between the 5th Column and the Council is a source of much controversy. Some believe the 5th were replaced by the Council to enable sales of the game in Europe; others say the timing of their removal was mere coincidence. Both sides of the issue have evidence to support them.

As of Issue 11, the 5th Column have been slowly worked back into the game in a manner that closely resembles much of their previous set up, but with all new story content. In Issue 16, the 5th Column returned in force, with Council agents in places like Steel Canyon being attacked and defeated by 5th Columnists. For more information about both factions involved, please see the respective factions' background sections.

'European Law' Argument

  • Issue 3 was put out right around when the game was released in Europe.
  • The 5th Column enemy group was not simply replaced by the Council, they were utterly expunged from the game's history. Plaques and dialogue were changed to read as if the 5th never existed.
  • All alternate universe scenarios that involved the 5th Column or Nazis in general were altered to be the Council Empire. Most cases of this involved a world where Germany won World War 2 and conquered the world. After the change, the Council won World War 2 and conquered the world. The special faction found on these missions were unique to the game and the tie in with the 5th was through their similar origins from World War 2.
  • After much protests, the Developers promised that the 5th column would return, but as Italian fascists, not German.

'Mere Coincidence' Argument

  • There are plenty of other video games featuring Nazis that have been released in Europe.
  • German law only prohibits Nazi symbolism when portrayed in a positive light; that is, symbolism used as propaganda for the actual Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.
  • The 5th Column emblem looks nothing like conventional Nazi imagery.
  • The developers have explicitly denied that the 5th were removed because of European laws.
  • A 5th Column Gladiator was an award for having both the First and Second anniversary badges.
  • The 5th Column appear in a number of missions introduced in Issue 11 and Issue 12.
  • The 5th Column appear in the Task Force and Strike Force from Issue 15 - in the present, not the "past" (Cimerora).
  • Issue 16 released with Council and 5th Column members fighting each other on the streets.
  • All 5th Column re-appearances have been the original 5th Column, not Italian fascists.
  • The two countries with the strictest laws are also non-English speaking ones, so the game would be translated anyway and the new versions wouldn't have had to have any references without altering the American and British copies of the game.

Lore AMA Answer

In the Lore AMA, Positron gave the following response to a question about the change:

Balloon.png Lore AMA:
Q)Can you elaborate on the original discussion/decisions around replacing the Fifth with the Council? I spoke with Rick Dakan (the original lead designer, original primary writer of the story bible, and, from everything I've read, the creator of the Fifth Column) in 2006, and he told me that the Council takeover was not "planned all along" (which I realize is a relative statement). We know that you created a story around the change (and there were some weird retcons that were backed out like Ubelmann the Unknown being about the American Civil War instead of WWII), but are there any details that you can give us now about why the story was created? (Liquid)

A) CYA for release in Germany. Yes we didn’t NEED to go to the extremes that we did, but it made for a great story. (Matt)