Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
I’ve been spending all my time playing Pokémon Silver on the 3DS, which is still really freakin’ great, and a game I’m not allowed to talk about yet, so I’m going to pull the same trick as last week and talk about an upcoming game I was lucky enough to sample recently. At the same event in which I saw Doom on Switch, I got to play a decent-sized chunk of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This particular demo had me tearing through the streets of a Nazi-infested New Orleans searching for a resistance leader with the deliciously Southern fried name of Horton Boone.
Besides being way tougher than I was expecting (fun fact: I’m absolutely terrible at playing games in these weird context-free demo situations), I was struck by the more open-ended nature of the level and game as a whole. The demo gifted us with three special items that give you more options for how you approach encounters—a gadget that augments BJ’s dash and lets him splatter enemies or bust through weak walls, a steampunk girdle that shrinks the bulky dude down and lets him crawl through vents and pipes, a pair of instantly deployed stilts (described to me as “literally stilts”) to help you pop over cover and reach high ledges. You’ll be much further along in the game by the time you’ve unlocked all three, I was told, but with the full complement in hand, it felt almost like the smallest bit of Deus Ex’s flexibility had crept its way into Wolfenstein, and it was a nifty change.
The mission culminated in one of the most well-orchestrated cutscenes I’ve ever seen, a heated argument between BJ and Boone that’s choreographed to a cacophonous soundtrack of noise rock, diegetic jazz clarinet, and gunfire. It’s surreal and tense and incredibly evocative, and I can’t wait to see what else Machine Games has up its sleeve. [Matt Gerardi]
I’m a long-time admirer of former PC Gamer editor turned game designer Tom Francis, a guy who’s made an art form out of finding the most insane possible solutions to problems that crop up in popular games. (Here’s a recent write-up he did about trying to pull his team members out of a deadly situation in XCOM 2; needless to say, it involves intentionally blowing up his own extraction point with grenades.) The brilliant thing about Francis’ games—specifically his 2013 stealth-building-rewiring game Gunpoint, and Heat Signature, which came out last week—is that they essentially force you to become as crazy as he is, improvising bizarre strategy after bizarre strategy to keep yourself alive.
Heat Signature is especially great at this, thanks to the vast arsenal of tools it drops in the player’s lap. A top-down stealth game about infiltrating guard-filled spaceships, it plays a little bit like Hotline Miami, if Hotline Miami let you teleport through walls, turn sentry guns on their owners, and kick people through forcefields and into the cold embrace of space. It’s a game sold on the strength of the stories it generates, so I’ll cut the chatter and give you one of mine: Desperate and out of resources, I found myself surrounded by 30 guards on a hostile ship with nothing but a grenade launcher, a personal shield, and the unconscious guy I was rescuing at my side. Spotting a window, I fire up the shield, pop off a grenade, grab the kid, and wait to see what’ll happen first: My shield running out, or the grenade going off. I get lucky, and the device detonates, shattering the window and sucking me and my target into space, along with a couple of quickly asphyxiating guards. Remote controlling my ship, I scoop us both up out of the void, drop him off at a safe space station, and promptly retire, my character having officially scored enough excitement for a single lifetime. [William Hughes]