Considering B.J. Blazkowicz started his video game life as a gurning character portrait at the bottom of your screen, his transformation into a nuanced, relatable character – which continues at full pace in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – is symbolic of much of what made this title one of 2017’s best.
Deftly straggling a line between the serious and absurd, the story and characters in The New Colossus shouldn’t work, but they do. Veering from the desperately tragic to the comically absurd with little warning, developer Machine Games juggle changes in tone that would leave other studios floundering, and manage to do so while developing a cast of characters – in a first-person shooter of all things – that you actually end up caring about.
Now, while B.J has been gifted with more than one dimension to his character, his original defining characteristic – namely his ability to murder lots of Nazis – means that the bombastic, blood drenched combat is also present and correct. In odd ways it does feels like a small step back when compared to The New Order – especially in terms of the stealth – but there’s still plenty to like. Crank down the difficulty, dual-wield the gloriously destructive shotguns, and blast your way through waves of Nazis. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
B.J’s quest to liberate America also serves as a great opportunity for some spectacular world building. From the nuked remains of New York to the spectacle of the National Mall covered in Nazi banners, all the little details of how this superpower fell are fascinating. Throughout the campaign you’ll want to hoover up every last detail about a society collaborating with its occupiers: a return to slavery, a resurgence of the KKK, and Nazis colonising space. Parts feel like pure fantasy, while others, not so much.
Looking back on all the titles released in 2017, it’s clear to see it was a great year for video games. In lots of other ways, though, it’s been thoroughly depressing. The overt rise of extreme right wing views in some parts of the world has been really disheartening to see, and in this climate Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus feels prescient in many of its themes and messages. While this is more through luck than design, the faint echoes in the real world of Wolfenstein’s frequently horrifying one hits home hard, and when you couple this with its frequently shocking story, this is a title that’s more than worthy of a place in Push Square’s top ten games of the year.
Were you drawn in by Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus' dystopian view of a Nazi invaded America? Sip on some strawberry milkshake in the comments section below.