Game: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Console: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch (Coming 2018)
Release Date: October 27, 2017
**A Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus review copy was provided by Bethesda’s PR.**
Eleven titles spanning almost four decades — the Wolfenstein franchise has been a staple in gaming from almost the beginning. Countless Nazi’s and their psychopathic leaders have fallen over the years, dying in almost every way imaginable. It would be easy to make the assumption that this storyline and decimating hordes of Nazi soldiers could get old very quickly.
Well, it doesn’t. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus completely steps up everything in the franchise, taking all of the good from The New Order and making it even better.
The New Colossus’s story is set in an alternate timeline during the 1960’s, where Nazi Germany has won World War II, set after an atomic bomb detonated in New York City and America has quietly accepted Nazi rule. Wolfenstein II picks up directly after the events of The New Order which left our hero, William “B.J.” Blazkowicz (a.k.a. Terror-Billy), on the verge of death on a surgeon’s table, eventually landing him in a coma.
After waking up, Blazkowicz finds that his body is broken and failing him even after surgery. But this misfortune actually brought me one of the most fun moments I’ve had in gaming in the last few years. Who would’ve guessed that rolling around a Nazi U-boat in a wheelchair wielding a submachine gun could be so exhilarating?
From the first push of that wheelchair into the hallway, you are instantly attacked by three Nazi soldiers. Those first few kills are so gratifying as you push your wheelchair with one hand and rain hellfire down upon those Nazis with the other, leaving nothing but blood and brain matter in your wake. And in true Wolfenstein fashion, the bloodbath never stops.
The story is a slow burn that turns up the heat continuously throughout the game, and I only became more obsessed with it as it unfolded. Each plot twist drew me in more, and the history that the story is based on is only enhanced by the outlandish sci-fi technology of the Nazi regime. I’m convinced that The New Colossus exceeds every sci-fi fan’s must-have list, with the inclusion of monkey cats, laser cannons, power armor that works its way up the wearer’s body like Iron Man or in Dead Space, to severed heads in jars like in Futurama.
These elements were cool, but the shining star of The New Colossus was the villain, General Frau Irene Engel. Every appearance left you feeling a little more convinced that she actually was the embodiment of evil.
Weapons in The New Colossus feel and sound quite realistic, each handling and performing differently from the rest as they should. Each weapon has three upgrades that can be unlocked by finding upgrade items that are well hidden around the levels. These upgrades add the expected scopes, increases to magazine size, silencers, and most weapons have an ammo variation that can be toggled on and off.
Though the upgrades are very limited and they are enhancements we have seen a hundred times in other video games, they add enough variation to spice up the combat to keep it interesting. Enemies who are unfortunate enough to take the brunt of your assault react to being shot in specific body parts. Being shot in the legs will make them stumble and shots to the arms and shoulders will make them wrench back like they really feel each bullet which is a nice touch.
One aspect of The New Colossus that I found frustrating was when you bring a rifle up to aim down the sites your gun seems to block too much of your view, which left me feeling like I was shooting blind at times. This combined with the very minimal aim assist on console added an unnecessary level of difficulty to an already punishing game.
During the early hours of my playthrough, I was compelled to play as stealthy as possible. Sneaking around corners and desks to silently take down every enemy soon led to continuously reloading saved files, constantly saving my game before I expected to be bombarded by enemy fire and fire-breathing robot dogs, and uncountable deaths.
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Wolfenstein became a much more enjoyable experience when I decided to run in guns blazing, decapitating any Nazi soldier that got too close. Yet even though I decided to change my playstyle, the difficulty of the game was still challenging, even on medium difficulty, I found myself attempting a certain part of a level multiple times. For any gamer who enjoys a punishing challenge this game will give you that and more, I can’t even imagine what it’s like to play on the game’s harder difficulties such as “I am death incarnate” or even “Mein Leben.” (“Mein Leben” is the same difficulty as “I am death incarnate”, with the only difference being that you have one life and there are no checkpoint saves, so if you die you have to start all over from the beginning). God bless anyone willing to take that on!
As a whole, Wolfenstein II is one of the most artistically well-done and beautiful games I’ve played in recent memory. Environments and characters are incredibly detailed and lifelike, making you feel that you are actually there in Blazkowicz’ shoes. The brutality and savagery of each kill are a large part of what makes this game so beautiful. Whether you perform a stealth takedown that completely severs both of an enemy’s legs and then ending his misery with a quick thump to the chest with your hatchet or completely vaporizing an enemy with a laser cannon to watch the embers float to the ground, each death is a true work of art.
The game’s visuals are only outshined by the expertly written and voice-acted cutscenes that bring so much life to the game and its characters. You are given enough background on each character quickly so that early on in the story you feel a real connection to them. Facial expressions and eye movements easily convey deep emotion and clearly communicate what Blazkowicz is feeling even when he is silent and brooding. Flashbacks to Blazkowicz’ childhood and the comedic banter between characters really gives depth to their personalities so that when one cutscene ended I couldn’t wait to see what was in the next.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a single player shooter that thrives in the 2017 climate of mostly multiplayer games. Its story and expert voice acting make this game not only a stand out in the franchise but in modern day gaming. Though plagued by a few shortcomings, such as the game not giving enough direction on where to go and the issue with aiming down your sites, these are completely forgotten when compared to all Wolfenstein 2 does right. For any person that enjoys deep, detailed, and deranged solo gaming experiences you will find no better than The New Colossus. This is an absolute must play for anyone that enjoys the genre.