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

Overwatch Puppy Rumble: Cutest game of Capture the Flag!

All the puppies were adoptable!

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This is one tournament of Capture the Flag you don’t want to miss. It may sound pretty silly but it’s ridiculously the good kind of silly. To celebrate the Year of the Dog, Blizzard put together an event called the Overwatch Puppy Rumble and it’s too adorable to miss out on.

The Overwatch Puppy Rumble not only had some intense capture the flag action, but it also had cute adoptable puppies dressed up in little Overwatch outfits. The whole rumble is a must-watch. And, if you’ve already seen it, it’s worth rewatching.

The event was in partnership with Wags and Walks, a dog adoption center in Los Angeles. All of the dogs featured in the Puppy Rumble were available for adoption. If this doesn’t convince you to watch it, I honestly don’t know what will.

SEE ALSO: This game teaches you to become a master of fake news

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Gaming

This game teaches you to become a master of fake news

So you can look out for them in the real world

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We live in a time rife with questionable (if not, outright fake) news. With a lot of discourse happening online, it’s getting trickier to separate the fact from the lie. A trending game hopes to help you discern fake news by doing the most counterintuitive thing — teaching you to write fake news.

The game, called Bad News, tags itself as a “vaccine” for fake news by injecting you with humorous doses of lies.

Bad News launches directly from your browser (no installation needed). In the game, you’re a fledgling writer hoping to establish a globally recognized, cringe-worthy fake news blog in the future. Through a series of text prompts and questions, the game’s narrator guides you through the journey of creating fake news.

Image source: Bad News

The game asks you tap into either your virtual reader’s anger or fear. Through your choices, the narrator will tell you if a headline is too fake or too right-wing. By guiding you, its goal is to optimize your headlines for gaining the most followers while maintaining a decent amount of credibility. The game also teaches how to spin the most positive of news into the most outrageous conspiracy theory. And yes, it also lets you use Twitter bots to boost your followers by thousands.

You win the game by building an empire of fake news, breaking down rational discourse into conspiracy chaos. You lose by becoming too rational or too outlandish. Throughout the game, you earn “badges” which correspond to the tools that fake news writers leverage on — impersonation, polarization, conspiracy, among others.

All fun aside, the game’s ultimate goal is to teach players how to spot fake news in the real world. While the news articles you write in the game are completely fictional, the methods it uses are completely credible. Also, the game shows the massive implications that a fake news Twitter army can cause.

The game was created by the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab and Drog, a media literacy organization. Besides a tool for change, the game hopes to power research efforts on the effect of fake news.

SEE ALSO: YouTubers give tips on how to spot fake news

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Apps

Digimon ReArise: A new Digimon mobile game!

It comes with an exclusive Digimon!

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Bandai Namco Entertainment just posted a teaser video for its new and upcoming Digimon ReArise mobile game. The text in the video reads, “Here is the story where your Digimon becomes a reality.”

The teaser doesn’t say much but Digimon ReArise will be a free-to-play mobile game where you’ll be working closely with a Digimon to battle against “Spiral,” — a mysterious and unexplained power. The development team describes the game as both “the adventure story of tamers and their Digimon” and “a game for looking after and training Digimon at any time.”

On top of all that, Bandai Namco finally revealed the exclusive starter Digimon you meet in the game. Created by Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, the new Digimon is named Erismon (エリスモン). He’ll be the main focus and will be your main companion in the game. Erismon is apparently an electric hedgehog whose attacks shoot out static needles from his back.

Digimon ReArise will be out this year in Japan. While this game is in the works, you can give Digimon Links a try. Digimon Links was launched in Japan in March 2016 and in English last October.

SEE ALSO: Sky: A new jaw-dropping mobile game coming out soon!

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