Make no mistake, the month of October was chock-full of noteworthy games. From franchise reinventions like Assassin’s Creed Origins, to hotly anticipated sequels like South Park: The Fractured but Whole and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, to the sublime platforming of Super Mario Odyssey, selecting one game out of the overflowing bounty was a challenge. Ultimately, however, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, with its rich depiction of an occupied United States following Nazi victory in World War 2, emerged as our pick of the litter.
Wolfenstein II constantly walks the line between absurdist action-hero gameplay and sincere conversations about the nature of humanity. Rather than dismiss the game’s insanity as a joke for the player to laugh along with, Machine Games is sincere in its delivery, making even the most outlandish scenario feel grounded in a consistent reality. Sure, the Nazi’s have a moon base, but they’re also people with thoughts, opinions, even families. Every character in the game is treated like a real person, from the heroes with more flaws than can be counted, to the villains who may not have sympathetic ambitions, but at least arrive at their conclusions through inescapably human pathways.
There is, of course, the bit of “controversy” surrounding this game’s clear anti-Nazi message. Who knew that in 2017, after 35 years of killing Nazis, there would be a controversy surrounding what was at one point the most prominent video game villain? Wolfenstein II has plenty to say on the legacy of this ideological system, from the nature of sacrifice to the complexity of forgiveness. Yet its message goes beyond simple anti-Nazism, reveling instead in the details of how such a belief system comes to exist and why humans become drawn to it. Machine Games drives home the point that, while the game’s characters and events are fictional, the ideologies on display are very real. And very dangerous.
Wolfenstein II deserves praise for many reasons. The narrative aims for soberness more often than mania. It’s a solely single-player game in a genre dominated by multiplayer extravaganzas. A seamless gameplay flow alternates expertly between nervous tension and dramatic release, consistently surprising with novel scenarios inside and outside of traditional combat. Most importantly, however, it brings to the forefront topics and conversations rarely seen in video games, providing fertile ground for the kind of discussions games need to be taking part in to grow as a medium. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a brave game, and it is this quality that earns it our title of October Game of the Month.
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