Game: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus
Consoles: Xbox One, PS4, PC (Reviewed)
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
(Review copy supplied by Bethesda)
I f%@#ing love Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.
In a year full of fantastic games, it’s rather surprising that a title which features ‘Giant Robot Nazi Dog’s is among the best. Yet, it’s this wacky and brutal design that allows Wolfenstein 2 to sink its teeth into the player. Acting as the direct sequel to the wildly praised Wolfenstein: The New Order, Colossus once again has players stepping into the shoes of Nazi killer extraordinaire, B.J. Blazkowicz. The game is set in an alternate timeline where the Nazis won World War II and assumed control of the world. This obviously doesn’t sit well with Blazkowics so it’s up to him and his band of rebels to kickstart the revolution.
If this sounds like an excuse to kill retro-futuristic Nazis with an arsenal of absurd weapons than you’d be correct. While that certainly makes the gameplay fun, where Wolfenstein 2 truly succeeds is in its storytelling and the characters that inhabit the world. Instead of allowing B.J. to fade into the backdrop, developer MachineGames uses their world to enrich and deepen nearly every person inhabiting it.
B.J. gets the majority of focus, with Wolfenstein 2 honing in on both present and past conflicts he has suffered through. We get to dive deep into the psyche of this character and learn about his troubled upbringing. This is more than just giving B.J. a tragic backstory, as these critical childhood moments have clearly defined who he is during the events of the game. It helps lend weight to all of his actions and interactions, fleshing out the character in a way that allows us to emotionally connect with him. A lot of this is thanks to the terrific voice work from Brian Bloom who fills Blazkowicz with both sympathy and pure rage.
The rest of your freedom fighters span the gambit of different character archetypes. However, MachineGames has tweaked these characters just enough to save them from becoming cliches. Undoubtedly the best of your rebels is Grace, a no-nonsense African American woman who harkens back to 1970s grindhouse cinema. She’s set up to be a classic femme fatal, yet Wolfenstein 2 constantly subverts our expectations of what her character should be doing. This is a game that’s not content with simply having their characters presented at face-value and it shows.
However, the real star of this game is undoubtedly the main antagonist Irene Engel. Returning from the first game, Engel quickly establishes herself as a formidable foe that should not be underestimated. Her methods are brutal and uncompromising to the point where the player may end up legitimately hating her. Engel also has a fascinating need to always be in the spotlight that drives her to make every appearance a spectacle. She’s also involved in the majority of the game’s big twists, which are all executed with near perfection. They aren’t quite Bioshock levels of gut-punching shock, but they are supremely effective regardless.
Yet, if you want to actually see these great story moments you are going to have to kill some Nazis – a lot of them. Wolfenstein 2 brings the same great gameplay from The New Order, but in a more refined and polished package. Most levels of comprised of multi-stage areas that can be tackled in any way the user chooses. Both stealth and all-out aggression are viable options, but most of the time I found myself performing a hybrid of the two.
The stealth mechanics are largely rudimentary, with most of your time spent sneaking up behind guards for an instant kill. You can also throw a hatchet at them, but this will only work against less armored foes. Players are also able to upgrade specific weapons with silencers so you can pick troublesome foes off from afar. While this can be fun and rewarding, the overall stealth feels a little too basic in its design. B.J. cannot hide bodies or use devices (outside of a mobility one you gain later on) to acquire some semblance of an advantage. It also doesn’t help that the Nazis are superbly eagle-eyed, with some guards spotting me even when I was completely immersed behind cover. This isn’t enough to ruin any of the engagements, but it’s a shame that you are limited to a small pool of options.
When things go loud the player will have far more tools at their disposal for slaying Nazis. Every primary weapon can be dual wielded to increase your damage, but at the cost of accuracy. There are also four heavy weapons that can obliterate any foes standing before you. B.J. also has grenades and a powerful stomp move he can use on enemies or the environment. Every main weapon has three sections which can be upgraded that will drastically change how that weapon performs or handles. This helps add a nice variety into Wolfenstein 2’s arsenal and encourages experimentation in combat.
Players will also acquire special passive skills by simply performing actions in the world like killing Nazi Officers or landing headshots. The game rewards the player for progressing through an environment their way and the passive buffs do make a difference in the later game. This is especially important since Wolfenstein 2 does not shy away from being difficult, with many encounters stacking the odds against you in almost comical ways. While this can produce a few frustrating moments, especially later on, the gameplay never truly felt unfair. There was always something I could have done better, but if you’re looking for an easy ride this is not the game for you.
Where Wolfenstein 2 stumbles is in the level design, especially in the first half of the game. Even though there are some awesome locations in the last few chapters, you’ll have to slog through a ton of identical Nazi bases. These areas rarely offer any distinguishing factors outside of perhaps one gimmick like a giant elevator. It’s a bit boring, which is a shame given how creative some later stages end up being. Blasting your way through drab, gray corridors does get a bit old after awhile.
Thankfully, all of these environments look absolutely stunning and are packed with lore based items you can examine. When playing on the PC I only suffered one instance of my framerate dropping dramatically and no in-game bugs. However, I did suffer from several hard crashes where the game simply froze and then just closed itself. It wasn’t frequent enough to truly sour my experience (largely thanks to a generous checkpoint system), but it did pull me out of the experience.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is the best FPS game released this year. Offering some truly satisfying gameplay and a rewarding progression system, Wolfenstein 2 is engaging from start to finish. Even if the stealth is a bit too rudimentary, stabbing Nazis in the back never gets old. Complimenting this is a wonderful story with complex and nuanced characters that break their traditional, cliche molds. Even with a few technical issues and one too many Nazi bases, Wolfenstein 2 is an absolute treat. This is a game that should not be missed and will certainly leave an impact long after the credits roll. Now get out there and fetch me some Nazi scalps.
- Fantastic story and characters
- Great gunplay
- Satisfying progression system
- Terrific voice acting.
- Hauntingly beautiful visuals
- Stealth is a little too basic
- Some technical issues
- Early environments are a little dull.
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