Quick Thoughts on Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus doesn't just shove its double-barreled politics down your throat; it repeatedly pulls the trigger and is hell-bent on blasting your grey matter back to the Stone age. Everything about The New Colossus - from the fast-paced but challenging FPS action to the many surprisingly humorous and snappily edited cutscenes - is completely over-the-top, but Wolfenstein's ideological convictions are always unapologetically sincere - and the game is all the better for it.

Taking a stand against fascism might not be particularly controversial in and of itself, but The New Colossus - like its excellent but much less explicit predecessor The New Order - goes to great lengths to affirm and promote everything that the extreme right is opposed to; multiculturalism, socialism, queerness, feminism, anti-ableism (or whatever the proper word might be) and most other forms of progressive ideals and dispositions are all memorably represented and embodied in Blazkowicz's diverse group of rag-tag revolutionaries. When the assault on universal values is as all-encompassing as Adolf Hitler's totalitarianism, developer MachineGames seems to argue, the response must be equally wide-ranging and absolute.

The most audacious of Wolfenstein's many story-based ambitions is how the game draws parallells between long-standing structural inequalities in US society on the one hand and Nazi white supremacy on the other. As far as political commentary in a video game goes, this is more controversial than just about anything that's been previously attempted in a major AAA release like this. Even BioShock Infinite's vivid imagery of Christian nationalism was neutered by a cowardly "violence on both sides" stance that would've made the current occupant of the White House happy, and it's crazy to think that Wolfenstein's thoroughly American story of racism and resistance comes from a studio based in Sweden.

As much as I applaud the storytelling of The New Colossus, the frenetic shooter action is unfortunately not as good as it could have been. Superficially there are similarities to id Software's reimagined DOOM from last year, but the surprising difficulty of many encoturns TNC's combat into a protracted war of attrition that completely kills the flow of the combat encounters. Sometimes everything works just perfectly - like in the New Orleans mission featured in this video - but when it doesn't the game can quickly devolve into a tedious grind.

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