The Wolfenstein franchise has been around since the early 80s, long before my 90s debut. As such, my introduction to the series was Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001); and I felt it was mediocre at best. I know, I know, blasphemy! What can I say, I was a DOOM and Quake guy. Truth be told, I was not even aware of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (2003) until its spin-off, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, won my heart over and made me once again revisit this franchise.
This leads me to Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014), which I only heard about a few days after its announcement. Leading up to its release, I felt nothing for the game. It released, and life went on. Then I finally had the chance to play the game… and gosh did it blow me away. Not only did it deliver pure and unadulterated action, it also hit me square in the face with one of the best narrative experiences of 2014 (Save, perhaps, for Alien: Isolation). Needless to say, I loved it and the experience made me crave more.
With all of that said, I must stress that Wolfenstein II is, above all else, a Nazi murder simulator. It takes everything that made Wolfenstein: The new Order an outstanding single-player first-person shooter, and doubles down on it. Surely that means that this sequel can only be better, right?
Is this it? Is this the end? [Story]
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus picks up the story right after the ending of The New Order. You start the game the very second after the huge, exploding conclusion of The New Order. One that left B.J. Blazkowics in a seemingly unrepairable state. In fact, his insides are literally not where they should be: outside his body. The crew of the Kreisau Circle and Blazkowics’ memorable party members have all come together to help put him back together. This is where the actual gameplay begins again.
Blazkowics wakes up to an invasion. General Engel has tracked them down and is boarding the U-Boat, Eva’s Hammer, with her Nazi storm troopers. This is where the Nazi killing commences once more. Besides what I said above, I will not go into any further detail about the story. However, trust me when I say that it is so good that I want everyone I may persuade to buy it, to experience it for themselves.
With that said, I must state that players coming from The New Order will know exactly what they are in for. Throughout the game, the important and vital narrative is delivered to the player through internal monologues. This serves two purposes: one – it does not take away from the ongoing Nazi murder fest, and two – it allows the writers to insert an exceptional story into what would otherwise be a generic first-person shooter. The story delivered by the internal monologues are enhanced even more when the story spills into the action on-screen. This is done in ways that feel believable, and in such a way that it does not take away from the immersion.
Cutscenes are beautifully rendered and convey emotions I did not think were possible for a game like this, while the cast helps to solidify it all. The result is a story that you would expect from the likes of The Witcher, but in a title with gameplay roots built from franchises like DOOM, Unreal Tournament, Quake, and yes, Castle Wolfenstein.
Same car, new engine [Gameplay]
Gameplay is pretty much what you would expect from any Wolfenstein game released post-2014. While the first mission sets the tone for the rest of the game, it also serves as a tutorial. This is where you learn how to lean around corners to lessen the chances of getting shot in the face; use the environment to get around, and even to stealthily kill Nazis… all while bound in a wheelchair.
You see, B.J. Blazkowics is a badass. The player is put directly in his shoes, and this makes the player feel like they are also a badass. While this is by no means an original thing, the way Machine Games have managed to make Blazkowics both his own character, as well as the player character whom the player becomes one with, is an incredible feat. As Blazkowics, players can dual-wield multitudes of weapons, regardless of their ridiculous sizes. Similarly, players can crouch unbelievably low, and withstand unbelievable amounts of bullets; to an extent (more on that below).
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus improves on basically everything that was featured in The New Order. Dual wielding, is one such aspect. In the previous title, players could dual wield pairs of guns. These weapons included Blazkowics wielding sets of shotguns, assault rifles, SMGs, and even pistols. In The New Colossus, however, this mechanic is changed so the player can wield any weapon, barring heavy weapons, in any hand (hello possible Wolfenstein III mechanic). This means that you can wield a silenced pistol in the left hand while shooting bad guys dead with a rotating shotgun in the other.
On the topic of rotating shotguns, Machine Games also implemented a new upgrade mechanic. Whilst playing the game, players can find upgrade kits littered throughout the levels. These upgrade kits can then be used to upgrade just about every weapon Blazkowics can hold. An early tip I can give is to upgrade the Dieselkraftwerk as soon as you are able to. This thing is a lifesaver! In the Reid timeline, the weapon is replaced by the Laserkraftwerk, which I am sure is just as capable.
Pretty early on in the game, Blazkowics also gets to wear the Da’at Yichud armour given to Caroline in the previous game. This opens new avenues for the player. Where traversing a level only consisted of going through vents and down staircases or obvious platforms, the armour allows players to stomp through trap doors. It also gives players an armour or health boost. I have not played twice through the game yet, but I believe this depends on the timeline you choose at the start of this game (one influenced by The New Order). Blazkowics also gets an axe this time around, which can be used to hack Nazi limbs or open conspicuously placed crawlspaces.
Make no mistake, I may be going on about machismo and how much of a gore-fest the game seems to be, but most levels can be approached in a tactical way! Stealth is a very capable part of the game and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. You can upgrade the pistol with a silencer and hack away at Nazi soldiers throughout entire levels. Hardcore stealth enthusiasts will also be pleased to know that although the mechanic in this game may be basic, it is by no means forgiving. Being stealthy is difficult! In fact, the game is generally quite challenging. I had a tough time, and I played the game on the normal setting. Enemies seemed to spot me almost instantly, and my reflexes on the Xbox One were just too slow to deal with it. This is alleviated later in the game thanks to a choice you have to make.
Perks make a return in The New Colossus too, but at a smaller scale. Successfully executing a amount of stealth takedowns, or killing a certain amount of Nazis with their own grenades, will unblock perks that will help you do that again, just better.
Who knew Nazis can clean up nicely [Visuals]
I will come right out and say it, this game is visually stunning! While it is nowhere near as colourful as The New Order, I found myself staring in awe at the environments the game threw me into. Many of the environments in The New Colossus show how brutal the Nazi regime can be. It showcases how America has been shaped and twisted by the bombs that dropped in the past and how the current regime just does not give a damn about any of it.
Besides the twisted remains of cityscapes, grown over farm buildings and industrial U-boats and underground passages, the game also has beautiful cities where people actually live. At least, that is how it feels. In one particular mission, Blazkowics infiltrates a living, breathing city. Here, you have to go down into the main Nazi base and kill a bunch of soldiers. Before you do, however, you are treated to American citizens celebrating a parade. You meet a shop-owner, and fellow rebel, who serves ice cream to a small boy and his mother. There are even patrolling Nazis. It is a very Fallout-esque aesthetic, except very much alive.
At one point during the game, you get to go back to Blazkowics’ home; the place where he grew up. This is one of the more beautiful bits of storytelling entwined with cinematic moments that the game has to offer. It is here that we learn a lot of what drives him forward, and how he became the person he is today. We learn about a very particular past love, more about his family, and it all ends with a very climactic encounter with one of the biggest figures of his past.
Given A New Order, it comes as no surprise that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a visually stunning game. My only gripe, and this is a nitpick, is that the UI seems to scale poorly at higher resolutions. I constantly had to squint to read the hundreds of lore and backstory bits scattered around the levels. With that said, I did find it easy to understand the majority of the user interface. The health and armour boxes are easy to see, and the weapon wheel was very easy to understand.
Better than an Uberkommando [Performance]
Just like the game before it, I have never played a better performing single-player first-person shooter in my life. I experienced zero dropped frames throughout the entirety of the campaign. Similarly, loading times seemed to go by faster than anticipated. I think this is thanks in large part to the new “section” designs of the levels. As soon as a level is loaded, it just unpacks the sections that are relative to the player, leaving the rest to unpack as you get closer to where they become relevant.
In other parts, I do think that the menu system needs some work. While it is easy to use and very easy to understand, I feel like there are many parts of it that could have been more accessible. The moment you press the menu button, you are met with the stock-standard player-menu design. This is fine and works great. By tapping the bumper buttons you can switch categories. It is mostly fine, and it works nicely and smoothly. The problem is that the animation makes it feel longer than it really is. While this by no means impacts the game’s score negatively, it is just a tiny thing that I noticed while playing.
“Is this it? Is this the end?” [Conclusion]
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus does nothing new when compared to The New Order. However, it does take an exceptional game and makes it even better. The story is excellent and well written. In fact, it is written in such a way that makes the unbelievable science-fiction Nazi overworld truly believable.
The New Colossus is a stunning piece of art as well. Not only do the story and narrative lend to the incredible visuals, but it also helps that the graphics are incredible in the first place. On its own, the visuals alone would sell this game to many fans out there who like pretty games.
To top it all off, the game also performs exceptionally well. It is really an extraordinary feat to have a game not crash once, load as fast or as consistently as it does, and not have a single dropped frame all throughout. I played it on the original Xbox One no less (while Hans enjoyed the enhanced Xbox One X visuals – making the game even better)!
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is easily one of 2017’s best games. A first-person shooter with outstanding visuals, a captivating story and brutally fun gameplay. Other developers should take note. It is without a doubt worth every single cent!
|Time Played||13 Hours|
|Acquisition||Copy Courtesy from Megarom Interactive|