Wolfenstein: The New Order surprised many with its smooth-as-butter gameplay, over-the-top action, and more importantly excellent campaign. Now, a few years later the sequel, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, has arrived. So, is chewing bubble gum and killing Nazi’s just as fun, as it was in the previous game or has the sequel lost the charm of its predecessor?
Wolfenstein: II The New Colossus kicks off where The New Order ended with our hero and all around Nazi killing machine. B.J Blazkowicz is badly wounded and barely alive as he tries to heal aboard the stolen U-boat Eva’s Hammer. However, it doesn’t take long for all hell to break loose. B.J needs to pull himself together, ignore the pain and once again take on the Nazi threat. With the Nazi’s successfully crushing the U.S. in World War 2 and ruling over the once free country with an iron fist, it’s up to our protagonist and his rag-tag bunch of rebels to make the U.S. free once more.
Where The New Order did have a few heart-warming moments in-between all the killing, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus ups the ante by showing us more of our hero and his past. Without spoiling too much, we get to see some flashbacks of B.J’s traumatic childhood, which was quite difficult to watch. You see, while the game does have it’s over the top moments filled with ridiculous action, there are also more serious, tense and brutal moments. It’s in these sometimes quieter sections that we realize that B.J doesn’t see himself as the hero but rather a man willing to fight for what he believes in. It’s these moments of inner monologue that shines a new light on the muscle-bound dual wielding hero we’ve come to know. It’s refreshing to see the side that doubts himself and the side that fears for the ones he loves.
The game also needs to be commended for the way in which it approaches the difficult subject matter. These situations are mostly handled in a humorous way, although there are times when the game touches on more sensitive or controversial topics.
Luckily, B.J won’t have to take on the Nazi threat alone as he is joined by a delightfully zany and sometimes tragic bunch of characters. It’s when we dive a bit deeper into each supporting character and what motivates them that we come to realise just how terrible and emotionally scarring the war was and still is. Although B.J will interact with these charters throughout the campaign, its when strolling through the U-boat and listening to the conversations between them that we learn more about each of their personal tales. While this might seem like a small thing, the well-written characters, along with superb voice acting, make you care enough about each character’s plight, giving you a reason for fighting. As we all know, a hero is only as good as their villain, which in this case is the vaguely deranged and utterly sadistic Frau Engel, who finds a terrifying joy in hunting down B.J and his friends. There is no question that she steals the show with her over-the-top and even frightening presence.
We all know that the main draw of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is depositing loads (and loads) of lead into Nazis of all shapes and sizes. Just when you thought The New Order was the pinnacle of old school shooters with its incredibly smooth gameplay, the new instalment comes along and improves on almost all of the previous game’s mechanics. Combat feels fast-paced and frantic. Firing weapons and finding your mark feels satisfying and dual-wielding is a treat. Killing Nazis still mostly consists of going in guns-blazing or sneaking around and thinning the heard without the pesky alarm going off.
There were a few times when frustration set in as I faced off against what seemed like an overwhelming group of enemy soldiers while stuck in a narrow corridor. These frustrations aside, for the most part, combat is a thoroughly enjoyable affair.
As players start racking up the body count, they’ll find upgrade kits hidden throughout the levels. These allow weapons to be upgraded. For instance, a weapon can be upgraded with a scope or extra ammo capacity, allowing them to be tailored to fit your playstyle. These come in quite handy, considering that B.J can die much quicker than you might expect if you aren’t careful. There are some truly brutal difficulty spikes (although nothing that a pair of big guns and well-placed shots can’t take care of).
Although combat in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes place in various Nazi facilities, it was the non-combat sections, such as exploring a Nazi-occupied town, that left me wanting more. It’s amazing just how much effort and detail Machine Games put into creating these environments. While they are filled with weird and wonderful technologies and characters, they still manage to feel grounded in reality, as if this could happen. It’s quite jarring seeing a member of the Ku Klux Klan conversing with a Nazi soldier in the middle of an American town. I only wish that we got to explore this side of Nazi-occupied America even more, maybe find out more about what everyday life would be like under Nazi rule.
This game is a near perfect throwback to old-school shooters. However, it also manages to innovate, especially when considering the emotional, surprisingly deep and even disturbing narrative. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has shown that an over-the-top first-person shooter can also have a great deal of heart.