Title: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review
Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch (2018)
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Official Site: https://wolfenstein.bethesda.net
Release Date: October 27, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam, Playstation Store, Xbox Marketplace
After a long history of killing Nazis as the fearless and, for the most part, emotionless hero BJ Blazkowicz, MachineGames managed to refined the series with Wolfenstein: The New Order by giving him more than just dual-wielded shotguns; They gave him a personality and feelings that fleshed him out as a character and actually made the player empathize with him as he spoke through an inward monologue of what and who were going through his head. In the newest iteration, they take this to the next level.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the latest addition to the long-lasting franchise, now developed by MachineGames. After a climactic ending– sorry for the spoilers, Blazkowicz was blown out of Deathshead’s base in critical condition, expecting to die. After extensive surgery, he managed to live but was bound to a wheelchair. Did this stop him from killing a Nazis trying to invade his party’s stolen U-Boat? Not a chance! The rolling BJ still tore through enemy lines, only to find himself in front of the game’s new main antagonist, Frau Engel, returning from The New Order.
Unlike the methodical and scientific General Deathshead, Engel is a cruel and sadistic leader whose primary goal is to take down the terrorists who are attempting to overthrow the Nazi regime and make them suffer along the way. Her cruelty acts as an immediate grounding mechanism for the game, making everything feel far more real and terrifying than the first game. Each time you feel like you are making progress, she shows up to remind you that she’s one step ahead the whole time. Combining this with the continuing over Blazkowicz’s inner monologue and the newly added flashbacks to his past, and MachineGames has already done more to craft an excellent story than anyone else has ever tried with the series.
The flashback sequences to BJ’s past in Wolfenstein II truly make his character feel like he has a reason to exist in this world. Instead of the original human version of “the Doom-guy”, BJ has emotions, wants, desires, a past, and an image of the future. He doesn’t think he’s invincible; in fact, he spends most of the game saying otherwise. All of this makes his interactions with the other characters feel far more genuine and realistic.
The setting of Wolfenstein II is also excellent, as it moves from random locations within Berlin and Germany into commonly recognized sections of the United States, only each place has a unique twist. The area of Manhattan now lies as a wasteland after nuclear warfare; Roswell, New Mexico welcomes the openly accepted Klu Klux Klan to walk side by side with Nazis down a street covered in propaganda; even New Orleans has been made into a ghetto. Each area feels unique and off-putting in their own unique ways.
The combat in the game is still as ridiculous and brutal as always. You’re free to hatchet your way through waves of Nazis, or if you’d prefer to dual-wield shotguns or using a giant laser cannon, those are of course options too. Each combat encounter feels challenging and fluid from start to finish. While you may be the Nazi-killing machine BJ Blazkowicz, it only takes one fervent enemy to pin you down if you aren’t careful. This ridiculous combat mixes well with a story that teeters back and forth between feeling realistic and also sci-fi, as there seems to be some sort of evidence to back up the claims of everything existing, even fuel powered rocket guns.
There’s honestly not a whole lot to complain about in this game. The art direction in New Order was a bit drab, but this one changes the scenery up between dark gritty subway tunnels and brightly lit and Nazi decorated streets. The sound design feels like an excellent continuation on the first, and the upgrade system, though simplified this time around, still feels like you’re earning rewards for continuing your style of play.
The only portion of the game that sticks out and is worth noting is that at most combat encounters within the game, you seem to be expected to act stealthily or face the immense difficulty of the Nazi reinforcements that will be called if you are caught. The problem is that the stealth mechanics of the game feel far inferior to the rest of the combat mechanics, as if you’re more than likely intended to be caught. While I have no problem with running through a room blasting through my enemies, it did feel like this portion of the game was lacking in comparison to everything else, especially when it is so often suggested as the correct course of action.
Verdict: Just as I loved the first game, I find myself all in on Wolfenstein II. Almost every aspect of this game feels like an improvement upon the first. Characters feel more real and fleshed out, the world feels far better designed, and Blazkowicz himself feels like he got a story improvement that gives him motivation. While stealth mechanics seem lacking, the combat itself more than makes up for this. I strongly recommend playing this game.
- Fleshed out characters, especially BJ
- Terrifyingly cool world of Nazi America
- General improvements on almost all systems
- Stealth mechanics leave much to be desired, especially for their frequency of use