GameSpot's Best Games of 2017 has finally kicked off, so join us as we unveil what we thought were the 10 best games released this year. At the #7 spot is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Read on to see why we chose it as one of the best for 2017.
Nothing captures the spirit of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus like its Roswell mission. Roswell is sunny and idyllic; you arrive during an exuberant Fourth of July parade, though the holiday has been co-opted by the occupying Nazis. The first three people you see are a Nazi officer and two fully dressed Klansmen, but as you continue down the street, you start to see the ways even the most everyday interactions have been twisted: a young girl telling an officer "I love you" in German, busybody types looking at propaganda in shop windows, a man flying a Nazi-made drone for fun. Our hero BJ Blazkowicz, armed with nothing but a firefighter disguise and a nuke hidden in an extinguisher, can only walk and look at everything in all its unnerving mundanity.
Then, in a tense, Inglourious Basterds-style scene punctuated by a single gunshot, the facade is broken. One dead commandant and a comedic alien conspiracy theory later, Blazkowicz is launched into combat with swarms of Nazi machine-men and on a train to Area 52. If you approach the mission stealthily, you can overhear two soldiers complaining that the resistance's violence is not the correct response to their "different" point of view. If you trip an alarm, you're in for an especially punishing fight. By the end of the mission, you don't feel powerful--the quick tonal shifts and brutal difficulty are disorienting, and you end up feeling like you barely scraped by.
It's a testament to the game's narrative direction that the abrupt changes in tone work at all. The New Colossus is set in a version of 1960s America where the Nazis won WWII, picking up five months after 2014's The New Order. The resistance consists of varied and distinct characters, none entirely relegated to comic relief or too-serious roles; they're relatable even at their most extreme because they're treated with care and nuance. Everything in the New Colossus has been affected by the Nazi takeover, most in more obviously horrific ways than in Roswell. From the irradiated remains of Manhattan to the fiery ruins of New Orleans, the game never lets you forget the evil you're fighting against, even as you're chopping off enemies' legs and blowing half-mechanical heads off in a shower of blood and sparks.
It's a testament to the game's narrative direction that the abrupt changes in tone work.
Of course, you do get stronger as the game goes on, and there's an element of perverse satisfaction in that. Successfully performing a certain number of stealth takedowns will unlock a perk that improves your sneaking ability, and you can collect upgrade parts to add silencers and other attachments to make your weapons more effective. You'll learn how to best read a room and decide how to tackle it. But it's an arduous climb that avoids feeling like a power fantasy, a tenuous balancing act that stands out as one of the game's greatest achievements.
Challenging combat combined with a carefully balanced narrative makes for a powerful story of resistance. The New Colossus never questions whether violence is the correct solution to oppression, giving you the tools to fight back without robbing your success of its meaning. And by staying grounded in present-day political roots, The New Colossus rounds out its most off-the-wall, fantastical elements for an experience that's both memorable and impactful.