|The basic appearances of the Primis and Ultimis versions of Edward Richtofen from Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Black Ops, respectively|
— Edward Richtofen, Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Doctor Edward Richtofen is the central anti-hero character of the Aether storyline told through the Zombies mode of the Call of Duty titles developed by Treyarch.
Like most of the other characters in this storyline, there exist multiple versions of Edward Richtofen. As with the other three main playable characters in the Aether story, "Tank" Dempsey, Takeo Masaki, and Nikolai Belinski, two appearances of Richtofen appear throughout the series as playable characters, dubbed "Ultimis" (older Richtofen) and "Primis" (younger Richtofen). The most prominent versions of Richtofen are as follows:
- Ultimis Richtofen, who appears in the maps Shi no Numa, Der Riese, Kino der Toten, Ascension, Shangri-La, Moon, and Classified. He is also heard in Call of the Dead, and appears as the Demonic Announcer for TranZit, Die Rise, Buried, once the player has completed the Moon easter egg, and from Round 25 onward in Nuketown Zombies. Ultimis Richtofen also makes an appearance in the opening cutscene of The Giant, where he is killed by Primis Richtofen.
- Following the events of Moon, two separate versions of Ultimis Richtofen exist in the map Classified, with one being playable and one appearing solely in the ending cutscene. The latter possesses the memories of TranZit, Die Rise, Buried, Moon, and the Call of Duty Zombies comic series, while the former does not.
- Primis Richtofen, who appears in Origins, The Giant, Der Eisendrache, Zetsubou no Shima, Gorod Krovi, Revelations, and the ending cutscene of Shadows of Evil. This Primis Richtofen completed the cycle that is the Zombies timeline, and reappears at the end of the Blood of the Dead easter egg and in the ending cutscene of Classified.
- A second Primis Richtofen, technically Primis Richtofen from the past, is also playable in Blood of the Dead. This version experienced the events of Origins, The Giant, Der Eisendrache, and Zetsubou no Shima, but is killed during the ending cutscene of Blood of the Dead.
- Eddie, who appears in the ending cutscene of Origins and the opening cutscene of Revelations.
This is Dr. Richtofen, known affectionately as "The Butcher" to his victims as they scream in agony moments before he snuffs out their light. All through his career, Richtofen has been at the forefront of torture and information extraction research. Richtofen is an incurable sociopath and sees no moral distinction between natural death and murder; the victim is the victim, regardless of how their demise manifests itself.
Doctor Richtofen has a collection of stuffed animals, most of them posed in positions of terror at the instant of their death.”
— Character biography, Call of Duty: World at War
Ultimis Richtofen is a member of Group 935, having been personally invited to join the research group by its founder Dr. Ludvig Maxis. Richtofen accepted the offer to study the mysterious Element 115 in order to use his research to assist the efforts of The Illuminati. During his time as a member of Group 935, Richtofen and Maxis worked to create the Matter Transference Device (Teleporter), though this project was officially shelved after Group 935 began being funded by Nazi Germany; Richtofen and his associate Schuster would continue working on the teleporter on their own. After conducting a number of different experiments, and successfully teleporting a walnut between units, Richtofen decided to use himself as a test subject. This led to him being teleported to the moon, where Richtofen became infected by the Dark Aether having discovered an alien monument later dubbed the M.P.D. - the Dark Aether led to him hearing the voices of the Apothicon race that created the monument, as well as the voice of a being known only as "The Shadowman," and would cause him to become obsessed with the idea of reaching the mystical land of Agartha. The M.P.D. would later transport him to a jungle in an unknown location, where he would be worshipped by the natives for three weeks before being teleported back to the research facility Der Riese where his journey began.
Upon returning to Germany, Richtofen denounced his connections to The Illuminati (giving "Teddy was a liar" as the only reason as to how he could betray them) and began working with Schuster and the other Group 935 scientists on plans to create a base on the moon, once again behind Maxis' back. This eventually led to the creation of Griffin Station where research on the M.P.D. would be conducted; Richtofen named Dr. Groph the head of Griffin Station's activities, who would accidentally learn that the M.P.D. could only be powered by having the device collect the souls of those killed near the device (learning this by killing a rat within such vicinity). Richtofen would receive regular reports from Groph, though remained on Earth to continue his facade as Maxis' assistant. During this time, he also used Element 115 to create weapons such as the Wunderwaffe DG-2.
After Maxis was transferred to the Kino facility, Richtofen was left to be the guardian of his daughter Samantha. Together with Samantha, Richtofen would travel to Group 935's Siberian outpost to conduct experiments on live specimens, to further Group 935's ultimate goal of using Element 115 to create an army of reanimated corpses for the Nazis to use in battle. These "live specimens" were three prisoners of war the Nazis had captured: Takeo Masaki, Nikolai Belinski, and Pablo Marinus; he would also later admit to conducting experiments on Samantha as well. After the death of Marinus, the Nazis captured an American known only by the name "Tank" Dempsey for Richtofen to continue his research. He infused the three with Element 115, causing them to lose parts of their memories and degrade their minds to cause them to essentially become living stereotypes of their cultures.
Eventually, Richtofen and Maxis returned to the Der Riese facility to officially continue work on the teleporter project. Richtofen and several other Group 935 scientists, including Groph and Schuster, would use this as an opportunity to overthrow Maxis in a plot dubbed Operation Shield; his three test subjects would be cryogenically frozen for later experiments. After several teleportation attempts, each ending in failure, Maxis and Richtofen would use Samantha's pet dog Fluffy as a test subject. Fluffy returned as a zombified beast later dubbed a Hellhound, though her return spurred both Maxis and Samantha to run into the teleporter, the former chasing the latter who was glad to see Fluffy apparently unharmed. Richtofen used this opportunity to teleport the three away, though their presence overloaded the teleporter with grave repurcussions. Fluffy, who was pregnant, gave birth to a large number of Hellhounds that had the ability to teleport. Dr. Maxis was sent to an otherworldly realm known as The Crazy Place, and the overloaded teleporter technology granted him the ability to merge with electrical equipment. Lastly, Samantha was corrupted by the Dark Aether and trapped within the M.P.D. and gained the power to control hoards of the undead, fulfilling the goal Group 935 had been trying to accomplish. Upon learning of this, Richtofen has Maxis teleported to Griffin Station in an attempt to coax Samantha out of the pyramid, though he instead instructed her to "kill them all" (referring to the Group 935 scientists that betrayed him) and merged with the station's equipment.
Richtofen later returned to Der Riese and awoke his three test subjects, who appeared to have lost many of their memories and could not recall who they were or who Richtofen was. Richtofen and his three test subjects, who would come to be known as Ultimis, travelled to the Rising Sun facility run by Group 935 in collaboration with the Japanese Division 9 to recover Richtofen's diary so that he could formulate a plan to stop Samantha's rampage. Upon recovering his diary, the three returned to Der Riese. Using the power of the Wunderwaffe DG-2, the four overloaded the teleporter and managed to travel through space and time, ending up in the Kino facility 18 years in the future; unfortunately Richtofen drops his diary in the process of teleportation. Once at the Kino facility, Richtofen learns that his diary had been obtained by the Soviets, and the four fix up a lunar lander to travel to the Ascension Facility where it was kept.
Upon travelling to the Ascension Facility, Richtofen and his three associates are contacted by Gersh, the leader of the Ascension Group, who is trapped within a device known as the Casimir Mechanism. He requests the four visitors to save him from Yuri Zavoyski, one of his scientists, who has been corrupted by Samantha Maxis. The group save Gersh from the Casimir Mechanism, but unknowingly also assist Samantha by activating a Gersh Device, which creates a rift that destroys Gersh's corporeal body and sends Samantha and Yuri through time and space. Gersh uses the abilities granted by his new spiritual form to send Richtofen, now with his diary, and his three test subjects to the Siberian outpost, where the Vril Device needed for Richtofen's scheme was located.
Unfortunately for Ultimis, Gersh's power transported them into a locked room forty-eight years in the future, from which they could not escape. Thus they needed to rely on the assistance of four actors, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, and Michael Rooker, who had been working in the area on a film directed by George Romero before zombies attacked them. After the four actors acquire the Vril Device, Ultimis uses the teleporter they appeared from to travel to a location familiar to Richtofen: the exotic jungle he had found himself teleported to many years earlier (though the teleporter also sent them back in time a number of years, so Richtofen had technically last been here sixteen years prior). This was their final stop before Richtofen's Grand Scheme could commence, as he needed a Focusing Stone to complete it.
It is in this exotic jungle that Richtofen and his three associates encounter two famous explorers named Brock and Gary, who had been trapped in a time loop due to the effects of Element 115 from a meteor crashing into the planet during an eclipse. Brock and Gary assist Richtofen by helping him locate the Focusing Stone, and in return Ultimis free Brock and Gary from their temporal prison.
While Richtofen intends to teleport directly from this jungle, dubbed Shangri-La, to Griffin Station on the moon, "Tank" Dempsey accidentally overloads the mystical teleporter using the power of the 31-79 JGb215 shrink ray. This instead transport the group to the Pentagon in the United States of America, and from there they connect the American's own teleportation system to that of Group 935 in order to travel to Groom Lake. From there, they travel to the moon.
Once he manages to travel to Griffin Station, Richtofen begins his Grand Scheme: to overthrow Samantha, trap himself in the M.P.D., and take control of the zombie hoards. By using the power of the Vril Device and the Focusing Stone, Richtofen swaps bodies with Samantha and sends the zombies after his former allies the girl possessing his physical body; this grants him full control over the zombie army present on Earth. Maxis, still within Griffin Station's systems, attempts to stop Richtofen by blowing up the Earth using a barrage of missiles, aiming to kill all of the zombies with this single attack. His three test subjects would eventually manage to teleport back in time, and back to Earth, alongside his comatose body; Samantha's soul would be plucked from it by the future Dr. Maxis, having been assisted by Victis.
Over the next ten years, Richtofen would attempt to communicate with the survivors that remained on the shattered Earth with the intent on using them to repair the rift in space-time and grant him complete control over the Aether. This proves difficult for Richtofen however, as he soon learns that he can only communicate with those who have consumed zombie meat, and thus must rely on members of a group named The Flesh to achieve his goals. The Flesh and those that Maxis has communicated with battle for some time, until Richtofen manages to contact a man named Samuel J. Stuhlinger, a former member of The Flesh. He and three other survivors are also contacted by Maxis at the same time, and must choose between aiding Maxis or Richtofen. After this group, who come to be known as Victis, decide to assist Maxis, Richtofen sends the group to China, demanding they assist him instead of Maxis and gives them a second chance. Once again, Victis assists Maxis, and Richtofen stops speaking to Stuhlinger for a short time.
Victis travels from China to a mining facility in Angola, and it is here where Richtofen and Maxis speak to them again. The final polarization device, which Richtofen and Maxis have had Victis activate, is once again activated in Maxis' favour. Using the power that Victis has granted him, Maxis condemns Richtofen to walk the Earth in the body of a blue-eyed zombie. Maxis plucks Samantha from Richtofen's body on the moon and brings her to live alongside him in Agartha. Due to the actions of his Primis self, the zombified Richtofen is travelled through Dimension 63 and chases after Victis. He eventually is sent back to Groom Lake, where his comatose body and the other three members of Ultimis have been detained since returning from the moon. Upon touching his body, Richtofen's soul is transferred from the zombie into his original body, and the former is reduced to a pile of ashes.
Richtofen and the rest of Ultimis are later approached by their Primis selves, who recruit them to fight against the omnipotent Dr. Monty.
— Edward Richtofen
Edward Richtofen appears as an unlockable playable character in Jake's Super Smash Bros. While he is the only playable representative of the Call of Duty series, the Panzersoldat also appears in the game as an Assist Trophy summon. Richtofen's special moves make use of various Wonder Weapons from the maps he appears in, including the Ray Gun, Ragnarok DG-4, and Reema'ahm la Ahmahm. While his Primis design is primarily used in this game, Richtofen's Ultimis design appears as one of his alternate costumes. The robes he wears in the ending cutscene of Revelations also appears as an alternate costume.
- Richtofen's name was misspelled as "Richtofan" in Call of Duty: Black Ops subtitles.
- As revealed by Dr. Monty in Revelations, Primis Richtofen feels the need to be appreciated by others and sleeps with a teddy bear. Dr. Monty also reveals that Richtofen dislikes spicy food and his favourite song is "My Way" by Frank Sinatra.
- Richtofen's quotes from throughout the series also reveal some personal details about him. He claims to like potato salad, and apparently loves dogs as he expresses remorse for killing the Hellhounds.
- In Der Eisendrache, Richtofen also reveals that he once tried to climb into the Pack-a-Punch machine in order to enhance himself. As one would believe, this ended in failure.
- Shi no Numa, Call of Duty: World at War - Map Pack 2 (2009)
- Der Riese, Call of Duty: World at War - Map Pack 3 (2009)
- Kino der Toten, Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
- Ascension, Call of Duty: Black Ops - First Strike Map Pack (2011)
- Call of the Dead, Call of Duty: Black Ops - Escalation Map Pack (2011)
- Shangri-La, Call of Duty: Black Ops - Annihilation Map Pack (2011)
- Classified, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 - Standalone DLC (2018)
- Nuketown Zombies, Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Standalone DLC (2012)
- Moon, Call of Duty: Black Ops - Rezurrection Map Pack (2011)
- TranZit, Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
- Die Rise, Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Revolution Map Pack (2013)
- Buried, Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Vengeance Map Pack (2013)
- Call of Duty: Zombies (2016-2017) - Written by Justin Jordan, Jason Blundell, and Craig Houston