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'Wolfenstein II' review: Great fun if you're into punching Nazis

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
‘Wolfenstein II’ is an entertaining, polished shooter that sometimes hits a little too close to home. Source: Bethesda

Let’s face it: there are few things more satisfying in gaming than beating down Nazis, and it’s here that “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” doesn’t disappoint — even if the oft-trodden theme feels less escapist now than it has in games past.  

Where “Wolfenstein I: The New World Order” depicted an alternate history where the Axis Powers emerge victorious from World War II, its polished and entertaining sequel from MachineGames fast-forwards to a 1960s America under Nazi rule — a scenario that feels slightly less outlandish given the political climate of late. After all, wasn’t it just this August that white supremacists marched down the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia? 

Although development of “Wolfenstein II,” which is available for Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation 4, Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One, PC and coming to the Nintendo (NTDOY) Switch, started long before President Donald Trump’s election, it’s no coincidence MachineGames‘ parent company, Bethesda, released a marketing campaign for the game earlier this month with the slogan, “Make American Nazi-Free Again.”

The obvious riff off Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” helps position “Wolfenstein II” as unintentional political satire that sometimes hits a little too close to home. 

‘Wolfenstein II’s’ violence verges on the graphic and absurd, but what else were you expecting from this shooting game? Source: Bethesda

Fire it up

Look beyond the loose satirical aspects, and you’ll also find “Wolfenstein II” is a terrific shooter of a game that takes you on an incredible, action-packed — and dare I say it, emotional — journey lasting 15-20 hours in its Campaign mode.

Once again, you play B.J. Blazkowicz, super-soldier and franchise mainstay who has been in a coma for several months. Though wheelchair-bound at the start of “Wolfenstein II,” it doesn’t stop Blazkowicz, from well, blasting, his way through a version of 1960s America long overrun by the Nazis, of which there are many. 

One of “Wolfenstein II’s” best aspects is its over-the-top violence, enabled by features like the ability to wield two weapons at once from the reliable pistol to the Laserkraftwerk, which atomizes Nazis with pure energy. Weapons like the Laserkraftwerk can be souped up and customized so that you can do things like build up its energy and unleash a massive laser beam.

It’s that the ways in which you can take down a variety of Nazis (and in some cases, Nazi dogs), as well as the exploration of Blazkowicz’s extensive backstory and psychological frailties along the way that make “Wolfenstein II” seriously satisfying entertainment.

Boss fights, like those against Zitadelle, a massive armored boss who wields two weapons: a rocket launcher in one hand and a flamethrower in another, are challenging, but not to the point where you’ll hurl your controller against a wall. 

Some of ‘Wolfenstein II’s’ most disturbing moments aren’t found in the run-and-gun violence but in slower exchanges between characters. Source: Bethesda

A terrifying mirror

Yet, “Wolfenstein II’s” most compelling moments aren’t necessarily found among its most violent. About halfway through the game, you visit Roswell, New Mexico, most renowned as being the site of an alleged UFO crash in 1940. The buildings in this version of small-town Roswell, however, are draped with Nazi flags and banners, with weaponized drones busily hovering overhead.

As you walk by, a Nazi soldier compliments two KKK members dressed head-to-toe in white robes. In moments like these, the sharp graphics in the PlayStation 4 version of the game I played, made things feel a little too real. 

“I like your style, Americans,” the soldier comments. “You’re part of the Reich now, subjects of the great Führer. I hope for your sake you consider the Reich and all its glorious people your own.”

If that doesn’t send chills down your spine, I’m not sure what will.

Reviewed on the PS4.

What’s hot: Main character’s story is a fine balance of sincerity and dark humor; Dual-wielding weapons and heavy weapon customization aspects; Sharp, smooth graphics

What’s not: Story has an anticlimactic ending

JP Mangalindan is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance covering the intersection of tech and business. Email story tips and musings to jpm@oath.com. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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