The remarkably Timely New colossus is far from bloodless in its thorough depiction of nazi machinations
I can recall how demanding Wolfenstein: The New Order was. Spread across 4 discs on my old Xbox 360 and a mandatory 8 GB install on my 20 GB hard drive, with the technical demands came characters that were just as large. Both the heavy technical and character demands make a return to Wolfenstein with The New Colossus, along with the same gameplay weaknesses that pervade it from becoming an all-time great, but its grand emotional depth helps illustrate a memorable world that puts it above any AAA video game story in recent memory.
The most wild aspect about Wolfenstein II is how it markets itself as a mindless shooter but then actually digs into what it would mean for characters to inhabit this world. What kind of upbringing would a boy from Texas have if he is so good at killing people in an alternate 1961 America where Nazis have won the war? The game manages to make this question relevant to the story. And it’s a game with a story! And a well told one at that with good characters. William Joseph Blazkowicz, is an important choice for the player’s point of view by Swedish developer Machine Games. On the surface he is a hulking Aryan-looking man who is a literal killing machine. Underneath however, following the literally explosive events of the first game he is a broken man who must overcome his vulnerabilities and put on a suit of armor to go play hero. The game goes so far as to confine you to a wheelchair for the first portion of the game and has your allies comment on your diminished resolve, and they aren’t far off themselves. The heroes of Wolfenstein are all desperate people fighting from various backgrounds, and the game does a good job expanding the character roster while never losing sight of the America these people are fighting tooth and nail for. In a point in the game that serves as one of the most memorable gaming moments of 2017 is when you head down to Roswell, the all-american city and encounter a Nazi parade and some Americans who are far too comfortable in its presence. It’s a horrifying sight that partly serves as this featured image, and has been written in greater depth here. The game doesn’t take these images lightly and then you realize you’re thrown into a world with actual stakes.
You fight alongside various groups of resistance members; the scientific, the faithful, the oppressed minorities, and some foreign to those altogether. The game isn’t afraid to complicate these points of view either and make them fight with one another. The image of an obese turncoat German lady strangling an African-american woman is viewed as a character comeuppance brought about by dismissive hatred and is startling rather than horrifying because the real scares come from a world that’s become complicit rather than fight for change. It’s heavy weaponry even when the medium of video games has matured this far.
Speaking of heavy weaponry, oddly it’s arguably the weakest component of The New Colossus. You pick up a lot of health and armor and lose it instantly. The weaponry is light and weightless which feels arcadey and appropriate to the series roots, allowing you to when have fun impossibly dual wielding a shotgun and machine guns. It can also be numbing, outside of the use of melee and two-handed weapons, even after upgrading the rest of your weapons they still feel indistinct from one another. One wishes the artful weight of weaponry was borrowed from German developer Guerilla Games who do a lot of the same and better in their Killzone series.
Like Guerilla, another appealing aspect of their games is their visually fidelity, this time packed onto my Xbox One in a 50GB Blu-ray file size on a 500 GB console. It perhaps explains the company’s PC roots on why so much of the graphics are spent in-game on dynamic volumetric lighting rather than surface level textures. I’d rather the option for the latter since I’m not playing online. The running around could use more of a Doom style of gameplay another game released by publisher Bethesda last year with more of a fun shooter kick. Notwithstanding, The New Colossus is able to build up so much steam the most disappointing thing is like how other Bethesda gem Rage, it so suddenly ends. Oh well, engaging as it is throughout, ‘Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’ hits its most important targets with precision via heavy tech, a daring and powerfully well told story.