Review: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a serious game of the year contender
An impeccable shooter with a spectacular story.
Platform: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (2018)
In 2014, MachineGames revitalized a series that gave birth to one of the biggest genres in gaming in the form of Wolfenstein: The New Order. The game threw players into an alternate history where Nazis won World War II and created a hellish world that no one wanted to live in. As B.J. Blazkowicz, players embarked on a journey to rise up against the Nazi-occupied landscapes of Germany and bring back order to the world.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus picks up just seconds after the ending of The New Order which means B.J. isn’t in a good state. He's been knocked around quite a bit, has a number of internal injuries and is bound to a wheelchair - it is made fully apparent that even he believes he might not live much longer. The events of what brings B.J. back into battle in The New Colossus begins when the U-Boat that he and the members of the resistance are on is under attack.
Despite his weakened condition, B.J. jumps, or rather rolls into action via a wheelchair, and gets right back into the fight with his catheter still attached to him. The Nazis are still winning this war but against all odds, B.J. and the resistance are determined to take back their land from the grasp of the wretched Nazi army.
We find B.J. at an all-time low, he’s convinced that death is right at his doorstep and that he won’t be able to witness his pregnant lover, Anya, give birth. As he rebuilds himself physically and mentally, he travels to America to build an army. Even though the once democratic country is now under a Nazi dictatorship, he’s convinced that maybe there are some that are willing to rebel.
An intimate, character-driven narrative filled with creativity, emotion, and heart:
The story of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is one that’s deeply intimate, despite its conflict being on such a grand scale. It’s about the characters and their survival in a desperate time and it’s incredibly moving. The game will sweep you through laughs and reduce you to tears over the all of the death and destruction that war brings. The emotion in The New Colossus is built by characters that B.J. is surrounded by and there’s a lot of them.
Each character feels very distinct and well-written which is important because this game is very character driven despite having all sorts of major spectacles and set pieces. You have characters like Max, a mentally challenged brute who draws all over the U-Boat with bright colors, Set, a frantic scientist trying to study all of the cutting edge technology that the Nazis hold, and many others who all have their own ticks and personal traits. In between missions, you can bond with the characters on the ship, you can listen to their extensive conversations or simply watch them play chess - something that is more than it seems. You are given the opportunity build a connection with all of these characters, making it feel more like a proper family instead of an awkwardly forced-down-your-throat family. It flows naturally and allows you to choose how much you see and hear from them.
Wolfenstein II’s story also strives from its immense creativity, bringing players across a number of environments. You can find yourself in an irradiated wasteland of a once great American city, riding on the back of a giant metal dog that spits fire, or posing as a fireman to infiltrate a secret underground Nazi base so you can plant a handheld nuclear bomb inside of it. You will always be entertained by the task at hand, it’s never just walking down corridors to get to the next cutscene, there’s always something that keeps the story engaging and makes you want to keep playing.
The New Colossus takes risks, does shocking things and forces you to endure it. There’s a brutal death at the start of the game, which sets the pace for what you will be encountering throughout the game.The event helps give you the motivation you need to obliterate the evil Nazi scum. There were moments during the game where I found myself thinking “Holy crap, are they actually doing this?!” and then they do it. The game is filled with surprises from beginning to end and they keep getting better and better to the point where you just start wondering “Where else can they even go with this story?”
MachineGames has a special kind of pizzazz that no other developer can offer:
Wolfenstein II also manages to have a style and tone that could be jarring if this was in the hands of just about any other developer. It handles very serious subjects and goes to some really dark places, but also manages to have a great sense of humor. There are moments that had me laughing so hard that I had tears coming out of my eyes, sometimes it’s very straightforward comical bits and sometimes it’s very subtle, dry humor such as a scene where a Nazi approaches B.J. at a diner and asks to see his identification papers because he believes he recognizes B.J. from somewhere. The scene is intended to be tense, but right behind the soldier are two wanted papers and a TV with B.J.’s face plastered all over them.
The humor is just one element of what makes this sequel feel so refreshing and unique, there’s so much style to be found here. The Tarantino-esque camera movements and editing help give the already well-written cutscenes extra depth, it’s created with such elegance and care that you can almost see the passion of the developers dripping off of the screen. Most games might go for traditional shot-reverse shot techniques in cutscenes but MachineGames wanted to create a cinematic experience for their epic war story.
The world in Wolfenstein II is fully fleshed out and detailed. There are notes spread throughout the game to and from different characters, newspaper articles detailing current events, TV shows, movies and more. You could spend hours digging through every single readable item and still be blown away by the lore that is being built within this universe.
It’s these gorgeous little touches that help cement the fact that Wolfenstein II may be one of the best games of 2017.
Wolfenstein II delivers unrivaled gameplay with extreme violence and satisfying gunplay:
Wolfenstein II: The New Order is one of my favorite games of this generation so far simply because it has some of the best gameplay in a shooter that I've encountered thus far. The fast-paced gameplay from the first game is back without significant changes to it (just slight variations), which shows they perfected it the first time around. There are some new additions fans will appreciate like the ability to dual-wield two different guns at once so if you want a shotgun in your left hand and a machine gun in the right, you can do that!
There’s nothing like being able to dual-wield machine guns while sprinting down a tight hallway filled with enemies. It’s thrilling watching all of the limbs fly off, seeing blood gush out of their heads like an erupting geyser, hearing the thunderous sound of your gun unloading on the vicious murders who have caused pain and suffering to millions of people. If you're one for getting up close and personal, you could also use the all-new fire hatchet which quite literally rips your foes apart. There’s a feeling that I get from Wolfenstein’s gameplay that can’t be replicated in Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, Overwatch, or any other shooter. The chaotic, human freight train filled by lead known as B.J. Blazkowicz is the ultimate vessel for a great shooter and I have no doubt in my mind that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus will be known as one of the best shooters this generation has to offer.
While there are no major changes in Wolfenstein II, there are some new toys to tinker with. You can now upgrade your weapons with attachments like sights, extended magazines, different ammo, and more You can craft the items you want and you have the choice to switch between some weapons being single-fire and automatic with a single press of the D-Pad.
It’s pretty basic stuff, but it allows you to build your weapons to your play style and also switch on the fly in case you need to change your attack plan during battle.
A few minor issues that could cause some annoyance:
There were a few times that the smooth gameplay was interrupted with a clunky feel to the game. If you’re trying to lean and move your aim just a bit, the game will start freaking out and won’t be able to recognize if you’re trying to hide behind cover or if you’re trying to lean out from cover. There were also a few instances where picking up items didn’t work in the heat of the moment which ultimately led to death. It didn’t happen often enough for me to rage quit or anything but it caused temporary frustration.
One of the downsides of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is that the game is faced with some minor technical issues. There’s audio missing in some places (there’s a punching bag that makes no noise when you hit it), there are noticeable texture issues and pop-in, and objects seemingly faze in and out of existence in the distance. It’s rare enough to where it isn’t atrocious, but it can be a bit annoying considering the game runs really well on PlayStation 4 and is visually stunning.
Despite some small issues that can be patched up pretty easily, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a breathtaking game that combines Oscar worthy storytelling with game of the year quality gameplay. Even with the highest expectations, MachineGames manages to keep players engaged at every turn with jaw-dropping set pieces, gameplay, and a high-quality story filled with unexpected surprises.
Even when the credits rolled after the 20-hour story, I was ready for more. It’s going to be a long wait for the inevitable conclusion to this trilogy, but if it’s as good as Wolfenstein II it will be worth the wait.