Assassin’s Creed, Mario, and Wolfenstein: Juggling gaming’s biggest weekend
On Friday, October 27, three of the biggest games of 2017 released simultaneously. Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Super Mario Odyssey, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus hit store shelves and hard drives, giving gamers a veritable Sophie’s choice (quite literally in Wolfenstein’s case) of what to play this weekend. Fortunately, I was ready and willing to sacrifice my entire weekend to playing all three of these games on three different consoles — swapping among them in lieu of socializing, eating, or showering — to give you detailed impressions on three of the biggest games of the year. It’s a tough job, but someone has to not change out of their Batman pajamas to do it.
I started with Wolfenstein (I played on PS4 Pro), because somehow, fighting Nazis is still relevant in 2017. This sequel picks up directly behind 2014’s The New Order, which revitalized the long-running franchise and brought it screamingly into the present. You once again play as super-soldier B.J. Blazkowicz, but the game gets off to a super-dark start that sees you confined to a wheelchair, but still capable of blasting Nazi scum to bits. But after a thrilling intro, things get decidedly dark when — spoiler warning! — antagonist Irene Engel decapitates one of your allies right in front of you.
It was at that point I decided to switch — snap! — to Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch) to lighten the mood. My colleague Natalie Abrams gave it a glowing review, praising the game’s variety and comparing it to Mario’s all-time greats, and the game is instantly captivating. Using his sentient hat/sidekick, Mario can capture and control virtually any enemy in the game, which introduces unprecedented gameplay possibilities. The game is bright, vibrant, and cheerful, and it continually delights. There’s a seemingly endless number of Power Moons to collect, and every time I powered up Mario’s Odyssey ship to seek out a new world, I couldn’t help but get sucked into yet another adventure.
But I forced myself to stop because there was a third game to check out. I’ve never been the hugest Assassin’s Creed fan; of Ubisoft’s climb-a-tower-and-mark-enemies games, I’ve always been more of a Far Cry guy. But Origins (I played on Xbox One) immediately intrigues thanks to its setting, putting you in control of a character who walks, talks, and assassinates like an Egyptian. While there have certainly been games set in ancient Egypt before, none has offered such a fully realized world as this. From riding camels, to scaling pyramids, to watching hippos murder crocodiles, this Assassin’s Creed feels like a breath of fresh air for the series.
All three games scratch very different itches. Wolfenstein is a story-heavy, mostly linear shooter, so it’s easy to play through several levels, watch some cutscenes, and get a good fix. Mario is open but more bite-sized, with tons of collectibles. And thanks to the Switch’s ability to snap out into handheld mode, I was able to knock out a few levels while watching a couple episodes of Stranger Things (Friday’s other big release). Assassin’s Creed is daunting in its size and scope, but I found myself sucked into it for large stretches of time thanks to the RPG-like leveling system and the sheer volume of things to do.
After spending all weekend playing all three of these games, all I wanted to do was play more of all of them, which is a good testament to how strong each is. 2017 is shaping up to be one of the most competitive video games battles in recent memory, and I look forward to seeing how it all shakes out leading up to EW’s game of the year rankings in our December Best & Worst issue — even if I have to stay in my Batman pajamas until then.