Developed by Machine Games
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Available on PC (reviewed), PS4, and Xbox One
Rated M for Mature
You know what shouldn’t be controversial? Killing Nazis. More so than any other group, Nazis are the placeholder badguy for when you need to murder without consequence. Deranged terrorists, tyrannical communists, South American cartel hitmen, Russians, none of them can hold a candle to the guilt free-catharsis of Nazi murdering. If real Nazis are unavailable, just make space-Nazis (Helghast), underground-Nazis (Locusts), or Tiberium-Nazis (Brotherhood of Nod). They are like zombies with free will that shoot back. Combine the two and you have the superfood of good gory shooter fun.
Somehow, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has found itself smack in the center of a new series of arguments between Pro and Anti-Social Justice Warriors. Oh goody, apparently killing Nazis is now controversial. Before I get accused of not getting the arguments, I do understand that most people’s issue is with the clearly pandering cast of social misfits sticking it to the man with the power of minority representation. They’ve got a strong independent black mother, a strong South African man with accent, a Jewish scientist with access to magic future technology, a pregnant Polish lady that can do anything a man can do, an obese German lady, a communist preacher and moonshine distiller, a conspiracy theorist that thinks it’s all aliens, a crippled lesbian, and a mentally disabled man with half a brain. If this was minority bingo, I’m pretty sure New Colossus has all the boxes filled.
I will admit that it does feel forced, considering that all the actual heavy lifting goes to B.J. “White Dude with a Square Jaw” Blazkowicz. It would all be fine if they were each contributing in their own special way, but one of the dudes on the war council is Max Hass, who is missing half his brain and can only say the words “Max Hass.” What a tactical genius. Now in the first game, Wolfenstein: The New Order, the diverse cast served as the emotional core for what life was like under a regime that wants them dead. It was serious, dark, and the moments of levity served to humanize the oppressive and grim world. In The New Colossus, the diversity only serves to have different ways to deliver witty one-liners about killing Nazis. One liners like, “MAX HAAAAAASS!”
Now this might sound like an insult, but it isn’t. None of this matters, because unlike The New Order, The New Colossus is not a serious game. It’s a grindhouse movie. If you go into this expecting the serious, gritty story of the first, you are going to be in for a big surprise. The game starts with a flashback of B.J.’s dad beating his mother for allowing his son to hang out with a “n-word girl” (hint hint, he didn’t actually say “n-word” in the game), and then forcing him to shoot his dog in the face. The first playable level has you shooting Nazis in a submarine while rolling around in your wheelchair. If this doesn’t sound ridiculous enough, then *SPOILER ALERT* you get your head cut off before infiltrating Hitler’s space station on Venus. If you think I just had a stroke and am typing random words, you’d be wrong.
When you stop taking it seriously (which happened for me somewhere between the dad forcing BJ to shoot his dog and the cackling villain decapitating your crippled friend), the wild ride becomes far more enjoyable. It makes sense for a game where you chop Nazi legs off with a hatchet and blow up evil robotic dogs with dual-wielded machine guns. If you’re going to be fighting super-Nazis, you might as well go whole hog.
Overall, the game is fun. Similar to The New Order, The New Colossus plops you into semi-open maps and lets you go about murdering all the Nazis in the manner you see fit. You can sneak around Dishonored style and try to take them all out before they see you, or you can just whip out both of your shotguns and do it like a real American. There are plenty of alternate paths to plan your attacks and look for collectibles, but it never feels so open that I didn’t know where to go. This is still a single player, linear shooter, just with more freedom in how you plan your attack.
Unfortunately, it isn’t a significant improvement over The New Order. Mechanically, it’s basically the same game. There are only six permanent guns this time around (there are four heavy weapons you can carry for some time before having to drop), none of which are very interesting. You’ve got the assault rifle, SMG, pistol, shotgun, grenade launcher, and fire-gun-thing. It’s effective, and the guns all look and feel good, but nothing special.
There are a ton of collectibles and a series of optional side missions to pad the otherwise short runtime. If you’re just blasting through the main campaign, you can probably be done in 5-6 hours. The side missions are just altered versions of the main campaign maps, giving you a chance to collect the items you missed and approach new challenges from a different angle. It’s fun as a distraction, but doesn’t add anything substantial to the main campaign.
Mind you, none of this makes the game bad. Running, sliding, and blowing up Nazis is still as fun as ever. It’s not as bombastic as Doom, but it shouldn’t be. It does a great job of balancing your feeling of power with the fact that you’re still just a guy. A guy that murders thousands of Nazis.
Where the game loses major points for me is in the plot. General Engel (whose jaw you half blew off in the first game) just isn’t as compelling as Deathshead. Deathshead was an aloof, deeply disturbed, brilliantly capable madman. His advanced creations were the stuff of nightmares, and his ingenuity is what won the Nazis the war. He’s cold, calculating, and completely insane. General Engel is just… mean. She’s really, really mean. That’s her character. She’s super special extra mean.
There are also times where the story isn’t really sure what it wants to be. To recap, The New Colossus is a grindhouse movie. But at certain points, B.J. gets all teary eyed about his inevitable mortality and the frailty of human life. He seriously has an internal monologue about how tragic it is for a life to be snuffed out in an instant right after slicing the heads off of at least 30 dudes. It would be funny if it weren’t so confusing. Still, the way they flesh out B.J. works. I liked learning more about his past, and his emotional journey was a good one. I just wish it was wrapped in a more serious package.
Overall, The New Colossus is a fun middle child in what is clear to be a new Wolfenstein trilogy (which is weird, since technically The New Order was a sequel to 2009’s Wolfenstein, meaning this should be “Wolfenstein III,” but whatever). Engel is decent enough of a bad guy to push the plot along, but not evil enough to overshadow whomever comes in the third game. Which will probably be Hitler. It’s distinct in tone, while still being definitively “Wolfenstein.” For me, it just doesn’t evolve mechanically enough to really be memorable. I preferred the grittier tone of the first, and the goofiness really got in the way of how much I cared about the characters. You’ll surely have fun with it, but don’t expect the groundbreaking relaunch that was The New Order.
*End Note for PC Players!* Do not play this game on PC. The review copy I received was on PC, and it was a horrible mess. The game would crash every time someone messaged me on Steam, and whenever else it felt like it. I had to watch the same cutscene 4 times before I got the game to chug through it with the right graphics settings. I don’t run a powerhouse, but I was able to run Doom on high settings without any problems. I ended up having to run it on 1200×800 windowed mode, at which point everything was visually fine. I haven’t had to jump through hoops to play a game on the PC this hard since Dishonored 2. Uh oh… I’m detecting a pattern…
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus just doesn’t evolve mechanically enough to really be memorable. I preferred the grittier tone of the first, and the goofiness really got in the way of how much I cared about the characters. You’ll surely have fun with it, but don’t expect the groundbreaking relaunch that was The New Order.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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