Under normal circumstances a game about killing literal Nazis would be relatively uncontroversial – some may baulk at the mega-violence, but not at who that violence is aimed towards – but the creators of Wolfenstein 2 have released their alternate-history shooter under anything but normal circumstances.
In one of the more absurd signs of the times, parts of the resurgent far-right in America have taken offense at the game’s marketing trailers, which reassert the widely held belief that not only is punching a fascist in the jaw a perfectly alright thing to do, but that it’s the American way.
In Wolfenstein, history has diverted from its normal course, the Nazis won the Second World War and now occupy the United States. You’re the all-American soldier turned freedom fighter BJ Blazkowicz, pandering to liberal leftard snowflake cucks by heroically fighting off the Nazi oppressors.
Far from schlocky, the rebooted Wolfenstein series is steeped in film noir grit, with a fully realised dystopian world that carries surprising emotional heft.
This latest sequel is a frequently harrowing game about resistance in the face of unrelenting oppression. It is both a commentary and criticism of current reluctance to stamp out ideologies of injustice.
Set later in the timeline than the series has yet explored, Wolfenstein’s bleak realisation of a Nazi-ruled USA is also a distorted vision of 1960s America. Emboldened by their occupiers, the KKK patrol the streets.
The American people themselves are downtrodden and have succumbed to the regime, too, fawning at the boots of the SS soldiers in the streets in an aim to appease them. It’s a disturbing world, and one that’s depicted excellently by developer MachineGames in a variety of locations across the US.
As a shooter, Wolfenstein 2 is pleasingly retro in its design. You collect health and armour packs, and can dual-wield practically every weapon in your arsenal. It makes for a bloody, relentlessly paced first-person shooter that revels in the thrill of a gunfight against dozens of robotically enhanced super-Nazis.
The game’s issues are minor. There’s an abrupt (though well directed) finale, and an overall sense of claustrophobia that stems from its gunfights occurring almost exclusively indoors. Considering the richness of the world and the brilliance of some of its best set piece moments – like a Nazi parade in the heart of Galveston, Texas – The New Colossus would have benefitted from a few more moments like this being woven into its campaign.
For the most part however, what would appear to a be a straightforward game about shooting history’s most unequivocally bad guys is instead a heartfelt, sincere and mature expression of Nazi-killing art.
That it seems to have become stuck in a few racist craws along the way is a nice bonus.