By: Lucas Henkel | Arts & Entertainment Editor
November 17, 2017
If you take a couple steps back, you have to marvel at how far the Wolfenstein series has come. Starting out with the original classic by id Software, Wolfenstein 3D. Not only was it the true granddaddy of first-person shooters, but it also pioneered 3D graphics in the gaming world. Then nearly ten years later, they came back along with other developers to release the now beloved Return to Castle Wolfenstein, a successful melting pot of old and new gameplay. Some years later, back in 2009, another game was made in the franchise, simply titled as Wolfenstein, which was interesting, to say the least with its focus on the paranormal and slower pacing. Five years later, in 2014, came Wolfenstein: The New Order. Developed by MachineGames, The New Order introduced fresh concepts to the series’ story and gameplay, while still retaining its classic old-school shooting as its primary focus. There was also a prequel released—titled The Old Blood—that brought the focus back from future technology to the paranormal. Anyways, three years later MachineGames is back at it again with a hot new sequel titled Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. However, will this new sequel be able to live up to the hype? Well, let’s find out mes amis.
Before I start the review, I should probably mention the elephant in the room. If you are new to the Wolfenstein series, do not start with this game. Believe me, when I say this, you’re going to be very lost if you try starting on this entry; The game is titled Wolfenstein II for a reason. The game does try to get you up to speed with a sort of “Previously on…” cut-scene, but it doesn’t do the game justice. Do yourself a favor, start out with The Old Blood and The New Order. Once you’ve finished those, then you can jump into this game. Both entries will give you several hours of fun gun-play, as well as keeping you up-to-date on the story-line.
However for those of you who are simply too lazy to play through either game, then listen closely. Wolfenstein II follows an alternate timeline where instead of America winning World War II, Germany was victorious. As you can already imagine, one thing led to another, and by the 1960s, the entire world is being governed by the Nazi regime: How bleak. You are playing as B.J. Blazkowicz, a merciless American rebel who will stop at nothing to put an end to the Nazis reign of terror.
Now then, I suppose that’s enough retrospective for now; Let’s get psyched!
The New Colossus picks up right after the ending of The New Order. I won’t spoil what exactly happens, but I will reveal that you basically took a frag grenade to the chest, leaving you in a coma for five months. Upon your awakening, you discover that you’re aboard a commandeered Nazi U-boat (which was explained in the previous game) and that the place is being swarmed with Nazi soldiers with the intent of holding everyone on-board as prisoners. Even more bad news, you’re lame. No, no, no, I don’t mean a boring kind of lame, I mean the crippled kind of lame–obviously. For the first mission of the game, you’re literally restricted to your wheelchair, armed with a submachine gun, shooting up rushing Nazis soldiers. Now if that doesn’t sound absurdly cool, then I don’t know what will.
Eventually you do get captured by the soldiers, leading up to the reveal of the game’s main antagonist: Frau Engel. Engel’s a female Nazi commander who was one of the side-antagonists from The New Order. Since it’s not a real spoiler, you can go check out your first cutscene with her: here. Anyways, long story short, she has a lot of beef with Blazkowicz since their last encounter and has set out a mass search party for you since.
I’m just going to fast-forward a bit since I don’t want to spoil everything, but eventually, you and the remaining members of the resistance manage to free the U-boat again. From there, your group proceeds to set out to the United States to rile up the locals, undermine the Nazis’ grip, and bring back liberty and justice to the country. Okay, I admit, that last line sounded a bit hoakey, but that’s pretty much what the game is about. In fact, if I say so myself, if it wasn’t so violent, people would probably condone the game for its sheer patriotism.
On that note, I guess I should address the gameplay itself.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus feels a lot like an optimized version of The New Order if I say so myself. In fact, that kind of sums up how the game felt for me, The New Colossus feels and plays like a smoother version of its predecessor. Everything The New Order got right, The New Colossus got it down to a fine art, whether it’d be the cut-scenes or the gun-play. Oh yeah, the gun-play, where do I even begin with that.
As stated above, if you’ve played its predecessor, you’ll be amazed at how much better the shooting feels in this game. The combat feels more intense, the weapons are chunkier, and the melee take-downs are more streamlined than ever before. On top of all that, remember how you were able to dual-wield most weapons in The New Order? Well, they made it better. Now you can dual wield separate weapons, meaning, you can now hold an assault rifle in one hand, and an automatic shotgun in the other. How awesome is that?
The game also now gives you the choice of modifying your guns, similar to that in Fallout 4. I like this feature since it allows you to tailor your armory to your play-style. It’s a neat little touch that allows you to play more freely than most other shooters. Many of the modifications you’ll receive throughout the game will be useful in one way or another, and it’s nice that we get a say in all of that.
For those of you who thought The New Order was too restrained with its brutality, this game has got you covered. Not only are most of the environments interactive and destructible, but the game has an excessive amount of bloodshed. You can tell, MachineGames went to the extremes with The New Colossus. You’re going to be painting the walls red with the game’s arsenal. How do you like your Nazis? Dismembered, gibbed, decapitated, eviscerated, vaporized, cremated? You name it, you got it. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that Wolfenstein II: The New Order may be more violent than the 2016 reboot of Doom. Yeah, you know, the game that’s been personified by its overtly gory gameplay. Either way, I’m sure you catch my drift.
This game absolutely relishes bloodshed, and you can tell if the developers decided to replace your daggers from the last game, with a freaking hatchet! It really does all come together: Mass mayhem synced together with heavy industrial music. Yes, Mick Gordon is back again! Having composed the music for the last Wolfenstein game (as well as the new Doom and Prey), Gordon provides a groovy backdrop of guitars and synthesizers once again to set the dark and ominous tones. The soundtrack is a perfect compliment to the hardcore gameplay, as well as a great mood setter for those calmer segments.
Graphically, this game looks absolutely gorgeous. Your jaw will probably drop at how beautifully crafted each of the environments are, whether it’d be a massive outdoor area or a small room. Not only that but each environment actually looks realistic. A lot of the places you’ll be wandering through actually look believable, and you can tell that the developers took their time to conceptualize these areas. From the nuclear ruins of Manhattan city to the overruled streets of Roswell, New Mexico. It’s absolutely amazing how pretty a video game can be.
Not only do the environments feel believable, but the characters do as well. Thanks to some spot-on voice acting (in both American and German), as well as some realistic animations, you begin to fall for everyone–both good and bad. The characters become alive in The New Colossus, a trait that I thought was interesting to see back when The New Order came out. I never expected to see a Wolfenstein game with characters that you’d actually care about. You sense the raw emotions, the anger, the fear, and the anxiety of the resistance members. On top of that, you can even feel the same way for many of the Nazi characters surprisingly. Sure, they may be sadistic and follow a horrible ideology, but they’re people too, and you can really tell. For the record, I do not condone Nazis in any way, they are sick people, so don’t even try an misconstrue my last sentence.
But my main point is, when all the pieces fit together, The New Colossus becomes an interesting mix of cinematic cut-scenes and action-packed gameplay that blend together seamlessly. However, that is not always the case, for not all that glitter is gold. I have well more than a small handful of problems when it comes to The New Colossus.
For starters, I think I should address the sheer number of cut-scenes in the game. Although I tolerated them for the most part in The New Order, there were so many of them in The New Colossus that it actually began to become a little taxing at times. Don’t get me wrong, I love the effort put into them, but I’m not a huge fan of cut-scenes in general. However, I’m sure some of you couldn’t care less, or even love to watch cut-scenes in video games. As for me, I’d rather just have more running and gunning. I mean, to the developers’ credit, you can just simply skip most of these scenes, but it still ruins quite a bit of the pacing, as well as leaving you a tad lost story-wise since the game may jump suddenly between cities without you even realizing it.
This kind of segways into another small problem I have with Wolfenstein II. The game feels like it consists more of stealth segments than before. I have no problem with good stealth segments in games, but being given a little taste of how amazing the gun-play can be in The New Colossus, it’s a little hard to stick to stealth. Now keep in mind, it is possible to just go in guns ablazing most of the time, but you can tell that the game tries to focus more on stealth.
Halfway through the game, The New Colossus tries to shake things up by introducing you to three different power-ups. One allows you to hide in really small spaces, another allows you to access higher-grounds, and there’s also one that allows you to basically charge through certain barriers like a man-rhino. As interesting as this all is, it’s really just a gimmicky touch to help increase replayability. I’m not complaining that it’s a bad concept, but the execution is a little shaky. The main issue I have with this is that it simply isn’t implemented as well as it should’ve been. Think of it like the laser-cutting from The New Order: It’s there, but it feels a little forced in at times.
There’s also a few more minor problems, such as the ham-fisted daddy issues that were added in. Yeah, you read that right, daddy issues. For some reason, The New Colossus has an odd focus on Blazkowicz’s childhood and his abusive father. I’m fine with these sort of side-plots in movies and games (I mean, after all, it worked in Star Wars), but in a Wolfenstein game, it just doesn’t work as well. Imagine trying to play through Doom, only to discover that your father was an imp or something like that. It just doesn’t work!
Another thing that didn’t work was one of the new main characters. At some point in the game, you meet an African-American woman named Grace Walker, and my lord, where do I begin with her. For the most part, she works fine as a character: She has a motivation and a purpose to the campaign. However, her personality and dialog are so overt, that I can’t even believe that it’s supposed to be taken remotely seriously at times. Picture a female version of Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) from Pulp Fiction, and then have his personality go up to the umpteenth level. It’s that overt.
Normally I would say that she doesn’t really even fit the tone of the game, but that’s kind of the thing. Wolfenstein II has a really weird indecisiveness when it comes to its tone at times. In one moment, the game is really dark and serious, while in the other, it’s more like a black comedy. I don’t mind having some humor to offset some of the darker plot elements, but The New Colossus is almost too comedic at times, bordering on bad taste in some scenarios. I mean heck, at one point the game, you end up meeting a sick and elderly Adolf Hitler, with the scene’s punchlines being either him shooting some poor sob, or shamelessly urinating into an ice bucket in front of people. Frankly, I wouldn’t consider this a huge problem, but it’s just so jarring when compared to The New Order, which was practically void of humor.
Other than that, I don’t have any real major problems with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. I’ve heard that it has a certain tendency to crash rather frequently on some computers, but I haven’t really encountered any of that on my end surprisingly enough other than the typical Day One bugs and glitches that come with every Bethesda release.
Looking over everything I’ve said about the game, I think it’s pretty clear that this is a decent game worth checking out for most first-person shooter fans. Sure, it has its fair share of flaws, but nothing really deal-breaking in my opinion. Right now Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is sitting with a hefty price tag of $60, so admittedly I would recommend waiting a fair bit until the price goes down a little, but that’s just me.
It’s also just been announced that the game will be receiving DLC over the course of time, so I’ll be quite curious to see what’s to come out of it. Hopefully, something similar to that of The Old Blood will come out of this period, because I would love to be given another chance at gunning down more Nazis without as many interruptions.