It's weird to think in this day and age we need reminding what evil, cancerous ideologies Nazism and Fascism are. You would’ve thought the most destructive war in human history, a litany of atrocities to their name and the fundamental loathsomeness of their core principles would suffice. Thankfully, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is here to remind us how best to engage with Nazi beliefs.
The New Colossus is picks up right where its predecessor The New Order left off both mechanically and narratively. The game takes place in an alternate future in which the Nazis won the Second World War and follows series protagonist William “BJ” Blazkowicz and his fellow ragtag resistance fighters in their attempt to spark a revolution in the United States as the first step of overthrowing the Nazi regime there. Like its predecessor, TNC strikes an impressive balance between humour, bombast and deadly seriousness. For example, the game starts with a deeply unpleasant flashback of BJ’s childhood yet somehow follows this up seamlessly by having you gunning down Nazis in a wheelchair. This is to say nothing of the smaller, more intimate moments in the resistance HQ and the brilliant cast of characters.
Similarly, TNC’s mechanics have changed little from its predecessor. As with TNO, the game provides you with a large array of weaponry and various ways of approaching objectives. More often than not, its prudent to thin enemy numbers through stealth before going in guns blazing, though the choice is ultimately yours.
There are of course a number of criticisms one could make of The New Colossus, most of which pertain to the difficulty. Compared to its predecessor, the levels in TNC are much larger and open ended, which makes trying to kill the Nazi commanders before they sound the alarm and call in reinforcements much harder. For the first half of the game, BJ’s health is halved for narrative reasons, meaning you’ll often die faster than you can say “All you Fascists are bound to lose”. Still, I didn’t find this to be a deal breaker. The New Order was seldom any easier and I personally didn’t find the difficulty so off-putting as to devalue the overall game.
For all its merits and shortcomings however, TNC’s biggest talking point is its politics. Despite repeated statements that TNC isn’t a deliberate commentary on the current political climate, there is no denying that TNC is still a highly politicised game emerging into a charged political environment. For all the fantastical aspects of TNC’s world, you are still fighting Nazis, who still operate under the same sick principles as they did in reality. Nor in its story of liberating America from Nazism does it seek to absolve America of those elements within it that support Nazism. As a game, Wolfenstein is a deliberate political statement, and it’s about as subtle as a boot to the face, but I admire it all the more for it. It doesn’t seek to skirt around sensitive issues and it wears its distain for Nazism on its sleeve.
But beyond this, TNC as a single player, narrative based FPS represents something we don’t see anywhere nearly enough of these days. And my God they pull it off expertly. Between the incredibly powerful story, brilliant characters and myriad of machines that kill fascists, Wolfenstein II has quickly become one of my favourite games this year.