Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review: Killing Nazis never felt so good

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus released in a very unusually bright spotlight. Already regarded as a highly-anticipated holiday title, Bethesda’s game posed a scary resemblance to real-life developments happening in America. The emergence of “Alt-Right” believers and Ku Klux Klan followers brought the crazy “what-if” scenario of if the Nazis had won World War II in the world of Wolfenstein to the forefront. The idea of fighting against such atrocities and exterminating Nazis in The New Colossus already seemed like a wonderful idea, but now there’s a heightened sense of satisfaction in killing Nazis.

The New Colossus continues the story of protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz following the events of the first game, The New Order. Don’t worry if you haven’t played the first entry, because New Colossus presents an informative video at the beginning to get you caught up. Wolfenstein’s campaign runs for about ten hours depending on which difficulty you select. There are five different difficulty selections, and while it might seem there isn’t much difference between them based on their descriptions, think again. I learned the hard way that there is a considerable spike in difficulty even between the two easiest ones.

Once you’ve figured out which difficulty suits you best, the actual game is fantastic. The gameplay reminded me a bit like DOOM (not surprising, as DOOM is a Bethesda product as well) with a nice variety of weaponry and fast-paced movement. The different types of weaponry range from simple pistol-type guns to full blown lasers. Most of the weapons can be upgraded through kits found throughout the game that can provide enhancements such as silent gunfire, faster reload, or larger magazine clips. While most of the action is heavily fast-paced, certain areas tend to be easier by taking a stealthier approach. Wolfenstein 2 has perk lists that keep track of the different types of kills you perform: stealth, explosive, environmental, heavy, and dual-wield. Each perk presents a permanent bonus for Blazkowicz that helps him take down Nazis.

It’s hard to give criticism toward a “what-if” situation, but certain technological advances in a bizarro 1961 are a bit too far-fetched to believe sometimes. Flying drones, laser guns, and giant robotic fire-breathing dogs are just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe the Nazis prioritized different scientific areas when they won the war to further their grip on the free world? Who knows? From a video game standpoint, it makes for a kickass experience. From a historical perspective, however, I’m sure there would be an endless list of questions to answer.

Blazkowicz might not be the most engaging of characters, but his team of Nazi-killers more than make up for it. Whether it be his wife Anya Oliwa, former Black Revolutionary Front member Grace Walker, or Nazi-turned-freedom fighter Sigrun Engel, each supporting character deservedly feels needed in aiding the fight against the Nazis. In between missions, Blazkowicz can interact with other people and explore the submarine headquarters that they are stationed in. Standing by and listening to them talk to each other was an unexpected joy. New Colossus does a decent job developing characters during the normal progression of the game, but the more meaningful and deep connections can only be discovered through a player’s own exploration in the base.

Although much of Wolfenstein 2’s secrets are discovered through thorough exploration in the game’s submarine hub world, I long for more linear games. As I mentioned earlier about being similar to DOOM, I would’ve enjoyed if Bethesda created Wolfenstein more in that aspect as something that pushed you forward and didn’t have much options of side activities. The endgame content is a nice treat for more hardcore players and fans, but having to spend time running around (a much larger than originally thought) submarine to encounter new experiences is tedious. It might be the fact that so many games released nowadays contain some sort of sandbox-element to them that for once I’d like a more linear experience.

Even without the craziness of reality, Bethesda’s Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is another gem among the treasure trove of what 2017 has had to offer. Yes, the frighteningly close similarities between alternate 1961 and real life 2017 are striking, but there’s an underlying joy in it all. Channeling your frustrations of the world into slaughtering virtual Nazis and white supremacists might be the best remedy. From a gaming angle, the gun-play is one of the fastest FPS I’ve played which creates many hectic situations. The variety of weaponry and different ways to kill people add a funny, creative way to dispose your enemy. Wolfenstein’s characters, Blazkowicz to a certain extent, push the story forward in a compelling way; if only there was more in your face development and not hidden among side conversations. Finding concept art throughout the levels and seeing how the Bethesda team designed them was also very interesting to look at, and I wish more developers would follow suit. Regardless of if you’re a Wolfenstein fan or a newbie like I was, New Colossus is a wild ride that should absolutely be ridden.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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Super Mario Odyssey Review: Another gem for Nintendo and fans

Nintendo’s iconic plumber has not only been a staple in the company’s illustrious history, but in video game lore as a whole. The adventures of Mario battling the King Koopa Bowser in trying to save his beloved Princess Peach has spanned over three decades and numerous gaming platforms. Mario’s latest quest has him sailing the open skies upon the airship Odyssey, hoping to rescue Peach before being forced to wed Bowser.

Super Mario Odyssey kicks off with Mario already battling Bowser on his pirate airship. The King Koopa gets the upper hand on Mario, as the plumber is thrown off the ship and lands in the Cap Kingdom. Mario comes across sentient hats, and one of them named Cappy offers his assistance in stopping Bowser. We learn that Bowser has not only taken Peach as prisoner, but also Cappy’s sister, Tiara.

Cappy’s abilities in assisting Mario are quite interesting. Other than using the hat to smash objects or jump on for an added boost, Mario is able to temporarily take control of most living things by way of Cappy. By throwing the hat onto other things, such as Goombas, Bullet Bills, or even frogs, Mario’s “soul” gets sucked into them and he takes control. Certain puzzles are only solvable if Mario uses this ability, so be sure to properly assess your surroundings in a kingdom.

Speaking of puzzles, the main objective in Odyssey is finding Power Moons. These moons are scattered throughout the 14 initial kingdoms. Starting from the Cap Kingdom, Mario must amass a certain amount of Power Moons in order to fuel the Odyssey to make the voyage to the next kingdom. The minimum number of moons needed to successfully complete Odyssey’s campaign is 120, but there’s a grand total of 999 moons to collect. By that count, Odyssey’s campaign only accounts to roughly 12 percent of what the whole game has to offer, meaning there’s a whole lot of endgame content.

Each kingdom that Mario and Cappy land on has an unique monetary system besides the standard gold coins. This other system comes in the form of varying purple coins that take a region-specific shape depending on the kingdom. Collecting these purple coins allow you to purchase cosmetic outfits for Mario (that are also region-specific) and other statues or stickers of the kingdom to decorate the inside of the Odyssey. There are exactly 100 purple coins sprinkled throughout each kingdom.

The beauty of Super Mario Odyssey resides in the little things. I never thought I would have so much fun collecting the cosmetic outfits for Mario, and expressing pure joy seeing him perform his own little fashion show. Other than the various clothing options, Odyssey adds certain things that you’d need a keen eye to notice. For instance, when you don’t move the controller Mario decides it’s the perfect time to relax and take a nap. A bird will land on his nose, but it will always be a different bird depending on the kingdom you’re in. Also, whenever Mario finds a Power Moon, he changes his hand gesture that’s reminiscent of past 3D Mario games like Sunshine, Mario 64, and Galaxy. The following tweet thread goes more in-depth with the many small details Nintendo put into Odyssey.

Knowing how important the history of Mario is to Nintendo and players alike, Odyssey takes a giant leap into the nostalgia territory, and crushes it. There are certain puzzles throughout the game that has Mario “deforming” from his normal 3D-self into his old 8-bit appearance. Seeing how flawless the transition is between the two is absolutely impressive to behold. It amazes me every time I go into a green tube and emerge flat against the wall, running through that small portion like the early SNES days.

The most interesting kingdom, and I’m sure many already assumed it would be from trailers, is the Metro Kingdom, better known as New Donk City. This entire kingdom is nothing Mario has ever experienced, seeing real-life, normal-sized human beings! It begs to wonder if Mario is simply a short person or something entirely different. Anyway, New Donk City is a tremendous kingdom for Mario to explore and the end of that kingdom in the campaign presents a very special moment for hardcore Mario fans.

Nintendo continues to have an unprecedented year. The success of the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild earlier in the year would’ve been remarkable for any company, but sandwiching Super Mario Odyssey at the end of 2017 is the absolute cheery on top. The immense joy I felt playing Odyssey is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. While the main campaign was shockingly short, the endgame content is where this game takes off. The plot of saving Peach before she marries Bowser was a bit too whimsical for me, but it did feel nice to play through a lighthearted game. This is the prettiest game on the Switch thus far, the music of each kingdom is memorable, and the nostalgia feels hit home hard. Super Mario Odyssey is a game that fans will keep coming back to, if not for the desire to collect all the Power Moons, but to simply experience the happiness that Mario continues to bring us.

Final Score: 9.75/10

Thor Ragnarok Review: God of Thunder’s third adventure hammers home

Chris Helmsworth’s portrayal of Marvel’s God of Thunder has changed dramatically since his debut in 2011. Thor Odinson was slightly self-absorbed, not really caring about the problems of the other realms. Following his feud with his brother Loki and his subsequent romance with Jane Foster, Thor began his transformation from being an all-powerful god into an intelligent individual who sought to protect those that needed protection. Yes, his godlike powers and Mjolnir made him an ideal Avenger, but Thor’s development into being much more than that was interesting to witness.

When we last saw Thor, he told Tony Stark that he was going to seek answers regarding the Infinity Stones after seeing various visions in his sleep. While he doesn’t necessarily uncover information regarding their importance in what’s to come, the first end credit scene does a good job setting up the next Avengers movie.

Marvel’s cinematic universe has been the pinnacle of superhero movies for the past decade, but the films have always had a recurring problem: its villains. Luckily, Ragnarok does not fall into that category, as Hela the Goddess of Death is more than a worthy adversary for the Asgardian. Her wraith and deadly personality were enough to make even my skin crawl, while she wrecked havoc upon the realm. Her inclusion in the film also presented eye-opening backstory regarding Odin and the kingdom of Asgard. In the comics, Thanos’ true love was Hela so it remains to be seen whether her demise will pose any future consequences for Thor.

As we move toward the ultimate superhero mashup of Infinity War, more and more Marvel movies are presenting smaller superhero collaborations. We saw Spider-Man swinging through New York with Iron Man and the Falcon testing the limits of Ant-Man. In Ragnarok, we finally get what everyone was wishing for: a Thor and Hulk team-up. Last we saw of Bruce Banner, he was flying away in a Quinjet amid the destruction of Sokovia in Age of Ultron. Many have pegged Ragnarok as a pseudo-Planet Hulk film, because we learn that the green giant has found refuge on the war-torn world of Sakaar. The evolution, and subsequent de-evolution, of the Hulk remains one of my favorite ongoing Marvel story lines. Watching Thor try to find the man beneath the monster is a bit poetic, as Thor had to find himself beneath the god.

Aside from the brilliance of Mark Ruffalo, the rest of the supporting cast was phenomenal. Marvel should make the executive decision of somehow including Loki in every movie, because Tom Hiddleston continues to be one of my all-time favorite actors in the MCU. Cate Blanchett turns in a devastatingly perfect performance of the Goddess of Death, Tessa Thompson played a hard, slightly drunken, warrior in Valkyrie, and Jeff Goldblum is always an absolute treasure to see onscreen. But the person (or alien?) that absolutely stole the show whenever he (it?) was onscreen was none other than the director himself Taika Waititi as Korg. This sentient rock being was somehow the best comic relief in an already hilarious film. Every word spoken broke a smile and laugh from me. I was hoping the end of the film would say “Korg will return in Avengers Infinity War”, but alas only Thor. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for more of the Kronan warrior.

Thor Ragnarok sits as one of the best Marvel movies to date. The humor of it never overtook the severity of the situation, on the contrary, it was the perfect balance. Helmsworth had arguably his best performance as the God of Thunder, and continues to show that he can be as beloved as Stark or Steve Rogers. And while we may never see a solo Hulk film, finally taking the time to dive into Banner’s internal struggles with the monster was sorely needed. As we inch closer to the reckoning of Infinity War and possibly the demise of some of these characters, Ragnarok at least gave us one (last?) adventure that any Thor fan will be proud of.

Final Score: 8.75/10