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

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Features

What does the GPU Turbo do to your phone?

Is it more than just a marketing gimmick?

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It’s been two months since Huawei rolled out the GPU Turbo update to its smartphones. Promised with a 60 percent increase in performance and reducing 30 percent on power consumption, a lot of fans and users were excited after the announcement.

Back then, everyone (including me) was hyped about lag-free games and longer battery life while playing. However, upon receiving the update, I began to wonder: Has GPU Turbo delivered what it promised?

What’s inside the update?

GPU Turbo was originally marketed as an improved gameplay experience, available only to PUBG and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.

The Game Suite app, which comes with the update, offers an uninterrupted gaming feature, hiding all notifications when enabled (except for calls, alarms, and low-battery alerts).

Mistouch prevention is another feature to avert users from clicking the back and home button while playing — perfect for when you want to focus on your game.

Screenshots by Miguel Pineda, Huawei Mate 10 user

To some older smartphones like the Huawei Mate 10, the Game Suite App offers three performance modes: Gaming mode, which improves game performance but increases power consumption; Smart mode, which balances performance and power consumption; and Power saving mode, which saves power but reduces game performance.

For the newer Huawei P20 Pro (which I’ve been using) and Honor Play, it only has a gaming acceleration mode to toggle on or off.

Thoughts on the reduced power consumption

Because I used the Mate 10 before and recently transitioned to the P20 Pro, I’ve experienced the GPU Turbo update in both phones and I can guarantee that they’ve delivered on lowered power consumption.

With Game Suite, I can put my phone on power saving mode to further save battery. For instance, I was only able to drain the Mate 10 down to 15 percent during a 12-hour road trip despite switching between the games I play and other apps, such as Messenger, Netflix, Spotify, and taking photos and videos every once in a while. The same goes for the P20 Pro.

As a power user, I already get a lot of things done with these highly efficient smartphones and GPU Turbo; these allowed me to do more on a single charge. However, it’s a different case for gaming.

Improved gaming experience, but there’s a catch…

When I started playing games on gaming mode (or game acceleration mode on the P20 Pro), I could run Mobile Legends: Bang Bang on a high frame rate with the highest graphics setting available. Compared to how the game stuttered and lagged during 5v5 clashes, with GPU Turbo, it now runs smoothly, as if I have a smartphone made for gaming.

System notice when enabling the high frame rate on Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and the effects it may have on your gameplay

As shown above, most mobile games will notify their users about the possible repercussions of higher frame rates and using the best settings available. To prove that a smartphone with GPU Turbo can handle this, I sought out to confirm my suspicions.

After asking fellow Huawei users, I found out that after installing GPU Turbo, energy consumption is a lot faster than before. Their smartphones also heat up more easily, especially when playing games with the game acceleration mode on. This isn’t part of what was promised, and it’s pretty disappointing.

It’s not yet perfect

In my experience, GPU Turbo tries to boost performance above a smartphone’s limit hoping that users can experience better gameplay.

GPU Turbo can’t choose when to perform its best. It’s an update that is constantly running in our smartphones without any way to switch it off. We can only hope that Huawei will address these issues for the next batch of updates.

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Gaming

ASUS ROG Phone receives US pricing

Last piece of the puzzle

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ASUS is certainly taking its time with the release of its one and only gaming phone. First announced at Computex 2018, the ROG Phone finally has an official price to go with its US release.

For the model with 128GB of storage, you’d have to shell out US$ 899. For the larger 512GB storage variant, the cost goes up to US$ 1,099. Both come with a high-end Snapdragon 845 processor and 8GB of memory.

Of course, there are accessories to go with it. First is the ROG Mobile Desktop Dock, which costs US$ 229; the ROG Phone Case retails for US$ 59; the ROG Professional Dock is valued at US$ 119; you can buy the ROG TwinView Dock for US$ 399; the ROG Gamevice Controller is at US$ 89; and lastly, the ROG WiGig Dock goes for US$ 329.

Those are a lot of accessories for one phone, but that’s what makes the ROG Phone a truly gamer-centric device.

As stated last week, the ROG Phone will hit US shores starting October 18, with other regions to follow soon after.

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Gaming

PlayStation’s PSN Online ID change coming soon

Full rollout coming early 2019!

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You’ll soon be able to retire your DarkWarrior1214 PlayStation ID. In a blog post, Sony PlayStation said they will soon begin testing the PSN Online ID change feature as part of their preview program.

Beta testers part of the preview program will be able to change their PSN ID as much as they want. However, once the feature rolls out to everyone, only the first name change will be free. Succeeding name changes will cost US$ 9.99 for regular users.

PS Plus users will be charged a smaller fee of US$ 4.99. The online ID can be changed through the profile page on your PS4 or at the Settings menu. There’s also an option to display your old PSN ID alongside your new one so your friends can recognize you right away.

Not for all games

The feature isn’t available for all games, though. Only PS4 games published after April 1, 2018 along with other most-played titles that were published before that date will have the feature. PlayStation also warns that changing the ID might cause some issues with some games that can be fixed by reverting to the old ID. Here’s to hoping PlayStation finds a way to address those issues some time down the line.

The planned full rollout of the feature is in early 2019. What will be your new PSN Online ID?

SEE ALSO: Sony unveils PlayStation Classic, comes pre-loaded with 20 games

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