Gaming

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review — Propulsive pulp classic

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With fascist figures influencing the world, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is as timely as a first-person shooter video game about fighting Nazis can be. How effective is its message conveyed through story and gameplay?

There is an important legacy to the Wolfenstein name. Wolfenstein 3D basically started the 3D first-person shooter genre in 1992. That name, however, had become irrelevant since then, as its World War II setting and white-bread protagonist BJ Blazkowicz were used as a template for a lot of FPS games for years. It wasn’t until Wolfenstein: The New Order came out in 2014 and surprised gamers that Wolfenstein mattered again.

It wasn’t because of innovative gameplay, although The New Order was certainly solid in that department. What wowed fans was its nuanced narrative.

As a direct sequel to The New Order, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was then burdened with the challenge of being as good or even better than its sleeper hit predecessor. Its marketing that capitalized on the political climate in the US only served to raise the stakes.

The New Colossus wields its storytelling and gunplay like dual shotguns to blow away those expectations and then some.

Horrifying alternate history

The New Colossus picks up right where The New Order left off. There’s a short video recap for the events of the previous game for players who missed it. It’s 1961 and the Nazis are at the height of their power. They won World War II and have taken over the United States of America after dropping a nuke on Manhattan, forcing the US government to surrender. Protagonist BJ Blazkowicz is with his ragtag resistance group from Europe. On board a captured high-tech German U-boat, they’re sailing to American soil to start a revolution and liberate the nation from Nazi rule.

Sounds like a hopeful premise to start with, no?

The New Colossus hacks that hope with a hatchet in the most shocking intro to a video game I’ve ever seen. In the first half hour alone, it features extreme graphic violence, domestic abuse, animal cruelty, racial and homophobic slurs, aggressive sexually suggestive behavior, and body shaming.

It’s understandable that some might find all this immediately off-putting and done for cheap shock value. However, considering the atrocities that the Nazi party, the Ku Klux Klan, and other racial supremacist factions committed throughout history, it’s critical for a game that has those groups in power to depict them for what they truly are: evil people who hold beliefs that cannot be reasoned with yet are rooted in very real human frailty.

Brutal combat for brutal difficulty

The game establishes its villains in the beginning so effectively that you can’t help but want to bring them down. Fortunately, you build up a small arsenal to do so in supremely bloody fashion. You get throwable axes, machine guns, explosives, and lasers to maim and murder Nazis. There are upgrade systems to improve your weapons as well as your character’s base abilities like movement speed and health regeneration.

You’ll need to take full advantage of these mechanics to beat these virtual fascists. The New Colossus is unforgiving in its difficulty. Most levels begin with you in stealth, but sneaking around is tough because of how most levels are structured. You’re either going through narrow hallways with just a couple of paths or wide open arenas with very little cover.

Like in The New Order, there are commanders that you’ll have to eliminate to keep them from calling in reinforcements. Unlike in its predecessor, these commanders are almost always hidden away at the very end of the sections you’re traversing. So what usually happens is you get spotted after taking out a couple of guards, the commanders sound the alarm, and waves of heavily armored soldiers swarm in for a gunfight.

Seconds of sustained gunfire will kill you. Making matters worse is there’s little feedback to indicate you’re taking damage. It’s very easy to get gunned down without you expecting it. Recovering health is finicky, too. While you can walk over health packs on the ground to restore your life, most of these items blend in the background and are up on shelves and desks. You have to manually look at these pickups and press a button to use them, and the seconds you take to do so can be enough to eat bullets from all sides.

The answer is to never stop moving and always pull out two firearms. Only through relentless mobility and ferocity can you reliably overcome these encounters. It helps that sprinting and shooting in The New Colossus looks and feels good. You can blitz across rooms while carrying an automatic shotgun in one hand and a grenade launcher in the other. Every blast from your guns explodes in a rhythmic song of righteous fury.

Momentum-driven human drama

This philosophy of constant, confident movement rings resoundingly in the cinematics. The New Colossus rarely lets up on dropping atomic plot bombs. The entire cast crackles with character in every cutscene. The dialogue and delivery pop and snap like a Quentin Tarantino flick, with motion capture rivaling the Uncharted games for expressiveness. The industrial metal soundtrack, courtesy of DOOM (2016) composer Mick Gordon, rips and tears to hype you the hell up.

It’s not just bluster, either. You take commands from the leader of a militant African-American organization and partner with a socialist armed rebel group. Both parties holler at the social injustices that are deeply ingrained in America’s racist and hyper-capitalist culture, long before the Nazis came along. In fact, The New Colossus reveals just how poised pockets of American society are to fully embrace white supremacist authority, which apparently isn’t so different from reality.

What is most impressive though is the game’s deep dive into protagonist BJ Blazkowicz’s psyche and personal history. He cuts the perfect Aryan figure; a white, blonde, blue-eyed, square-jawed, deep-voiced, musclebound manly man. But The New Colossus takes the time to explore his emotional vulnerabilities, his sources of inner strength, and how his core values differentiate him from the insecure, paranoid, and destructive narcissism of Nazi oppressors.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a double threat of ultraviolent action and ballistic fiction. It swings from hilarity to horror with rockstar swagger while maintaining pitch-perfect solemnity in its soliloquies. 25 years since the series debut, Wolfenstein proves that it’s always relevant to resist.

SEE ALSO: Doki Doki Literature Club: It’s all fun and games until it’s not

Gaming

God of War’s New Game Plus mode is here

It’s time for another play through, boy!

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A New Game Plus (NG+) mode for PlayStation 4’s God of War is here. This means whatever weapons, items, and armor you amassed during your first go round, you can take with you if you wish to go on another adventure with Kratos and Atreus.

The NG+ mode also lets you pick a different difficulty setting from the one you first played with. So whether you feel like taking on a tougher challenge or just breezing through the story mode, you can do so. The choice is yours.

Other new content include a new shield skin when you start a NG+ as well as new types of armor you can forge for the father and son duo. The additions also include new challenges like Realm Tears while on a time limit and a variety of new attack patterns for draugrs, witches, and other foes you’ll meet along the way.

Updates not just for God of War NG+ mode

If you’re still in the middle of your first run, don’t worry, the creators of God of War didn’t forget about us. There’s now a button that easily lets you transfer enchantments making it easier to go from one armor to another. There are also some bug fixes and quality-of-life improvements like keeping Kratos safe at all times during parry attacks and improved consistency with how enemy attacks can be parried.

If you’ve completed the game at least once, the update also lets you skip cinematic scenes whether you’re on NG+ or not.

God of War for the PS4 first came out in April 2018 and received glowing reviews from various media outlets. Many of whom even said it’s an early candidate for Game of the Year. It takes the franchise’s main character Kratos into Norse mythology years after he tore through the Greek gods.

SEE MORE: God of War: A must-play for 2018

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Computers

NVIDIA launches the new RTX 2000 series

Promises movie-like quality for games

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Throughout the years, video games have slowly edged closer to movie-like picture quality. As of late, cinematic video games — like The Last of Us — have begun their long renaissance. Now, NVIDIA has unveiled a new series of graphics cards that pushes that boundary even further.

The newly launched GeForce RTX 2000 series leaps miles apart from NVIDIA’s long-reigning GTX 1080 video card. Specifically, the series comes in three variants — the RTX 2070, RTX 2080, and RTX 2080 Ti.

Powered by the Turing architecture, the new series attempts to solve the industry’s problems. Most importantly, the RTX 2000 series highlights ray tracing, a feature missing from video cards before now.

Traditionally, video games have trouble rendering lighting. Usually, games fall into two categories: terribly drawn lighting which clashes haphazardly with stunning textures, or power-hungry graphics that tank your frames-per-second rate to single digits.

Ray tracing vastly improves how light interacts with surfaces. With the feature, the series brings professional-level graphics to a mass market. In terms of performance, the RTX 2000 cards promise six times the capabilities of the previous GTX 1080.

For starters, the RTX 2070 comes with 2304 CUDA cores and 8GB GDDR6 RAM. The midrange RTX 2080 offers 2944 CUDA cores and the same amount of RAM. Finally, the flagship RTX 2080 Ti boasts 4352 CUDA cores and 11GB GDDR6 RAM.

Already, the series promises support for upcoming games: Battlefield V, Metro Redux, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Upon launch, the RTX 2070 retails for US$ 499. The midrange RTX 2080 sells for US$ 699. Finally, the RTX 2080 Ti sells for US$ 999. All three cards will also come with Founders Edition variants selling for US$ 599, US$ 799, and US$ 1,199, respectively. The series will officially launch on September 20.

SEE ALSO: NVIDIA Titan V breaks benchmarks and banks

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is the slimmest gaming laptop available today

But doesn’t compromise performance

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Alongside the 17-inch ROG Scar II, ASUS has announced a new ROG device that they claim to be world’s slimmest gaming laptop. The ROG Zephyrus from last year was already thin by gaming laptop standards, but the new ROG Zephyrus S is 12 percent thinner with updated specs.

The ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) still has the look and feel of the original Zephyrus but it’s now only 14.95 to 15.75mm thick. Those numbers might not sound as sexy as other super-slim notebooks, but the Zephyrus S has desktop-grade gaming performance with either an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q or GTX 1060 GPU inside its chassis.

Powering the Zephyrus S is a six-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor with up to 16GB of DDR4 memory and storage option of up to a 512GB NVMe SSD.

The laptop’s display is a 15.6-inch 1080p panel with a 144Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 100 percent sRGB coverage. It’s definitely not the sharpest laptop display, but it’s one of the fastest for smooth gameplay. The display has a thin-bezel design as well, so the footprint of the laptop is just a bit bigger than your typical 14-inch notebook.

ASUS uses their Active Aerodynamic System (same as with other Zephyrus laptops) which opens a vent at the bottom of the laptop when the lid is lifted, and the vent stretches across the entire back of the body. This improves airflow by 22 percent over a conventional design as per ASUS.

Another distinct trait of the Zephyrus S is the keyboard. It’s still on the front of the device, which helps with cooling, but it might not be everybody’s cup of tea. The keys have 1.2mm of travel, N-key rollover, and RGB lighting via Aura Sync over four zones.

As for I/O, it has two USB-C ports (Gen1 and Gen2), two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, HDMI 2.0 at the back, and a headphone jack.

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX531) will become available starting September in the US and in October for the UK and Asia. Pricing starts at US$ 2,099 for the GTX 1060 model, while the higher-end GTX 1070 is priced at US$ 2,199.

SEE ALSO: ASUS’ new ROG Strix Scar II is world’s most compact 17-inch gaming laptop

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