When Wolfenstein: The New Order originally released, it quickly became one of my favourite current shooters as it mixed over-the-top action into a decent single-player story. With Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, MachineGames has ignored those recent headlines that stated single player games were dying, added in some more explosions, extra Nazi killing, an extremely emotional back-story and has created an experience that topples countless others.
This review will be spoiler-free. Enjoy! Right-click any images you like to see them in full 4K resolution.
Following from the events of The New Order, the Kreisau Circle has managed to find Blazkowicz, shove all of his hanging intestines back into his body and patched him up to the best of their abilities. This intro sets up the rest of the game as Blazkowicz is still in immense pain, even with help from the Da’at Yichud Power Suit, and keeps telling himself that he’ll be dead within a week. After defending the Evas Hammer, a stolen U-boat that has now become your home base, the resistance team work on meeting up with other rebels to start a revolution in the Nazi-controlled United States of America.
The opening cutscene details some backstory with Blazkowicz himself, as he learnt to grow up with an abusive and racist father. You’re forced to sit and watch a few of the events that happened to his younger self, with the game not letting you do anything but slowly turn your head in any direction. With the usual humour that was present throughout The New Order, I was pretty shocked to see such emotional and heart-wrenching scenes at the very beginning of the game. Of course, I’m not saying that these are bad in the slightest, as the team has managed to do a fantastic job at showing you first-hand the type of life Blazkowicz had as a child before he turned into a hardcore Nazi-killing badass.
The first mission alone shows fans and newcomers alike exactly what they’re going to find in the rest of the game and performs perfectly at pulling you in, making you want just five more minutes of gameplay. Which ends up turning into hours. Stuck in a wheelchair, Blazkowicz makes his way around the Evas Hammer, slaughtering any enemy that steps in his way, with one hand holding his weapon whilst the other wheels him along slowly. In no other game will you find this sort of action that shows and tells everybody how crazy and over-the-top it wants to be, yet still also manages to stay serious at every turn. Of course, there are some scenes that are pretty gruesome and could stir some controversy with someone but that’s something that I love about The New Colossus; MachineGames are far from scared of creating the vision that they want, instead of catering to people who will complain. This is the type of story that only a game such as Wolfenstein can pull off and trust me, it does it fantastically.
Although, a Wolfenstein game is nothing without a sense of humour and The New Colossus never fails to deliver in that aspect, either. It’s mainly down to the cast of loveable and charming characters that are all a part of your resistance. Fergus has a bionic arm which has a mind of its own at times, Anya forgets to tune into private frequencies with Blazkowicz, Set has created a weird cat monkey hybrid; every person carries their own weight and pours into the story dramatically, no matter how big or small their casting role is. Even serious scenes are sometimes overwritten by humour, such as when Super Spesh bursts out of the toilet, amazed as he hasn’t used a working one in forever, whilst Anya and Blazkowicz are talking about their future together. However, it’s never done at inappropriate times, nor are scenes like this too overused, simply showing that MachineGames are perfect are creating an in-depth and detailed story, splashing in a tonne of humour but never letting it deter from the fact that things are still pretty serious in the Wolfenstein universe.
Usually, each area is split up into certain sections, with each one including at least one Commander; an enemy that can call in reinforcements if the player has been spotted. There are three ways to deal with these types of situations; simply shoot your way through everything and anything, stealthily pick off the Commander to then blast everything else in the room or try to deal with each enemy without ever being spotted. The latter two options can be rather difficult to pull off fluently, as each area can be quite big and sometimes confusing to navigate. Due to these sizes, Commanders may be placed into not-so-easily accessible areas, pushing you to try and sneak through many different enemies, all at one time. Unless you’re moving extremely slowly and keeping an eye on everything at all times, there will be times that you’ll have to bring out the big guns. Luckily, the transition from stealth to guns-blazing is perfect, since you still have access to every other weapon that you’re carrying at the press of a single button (or weapon wheel).
With a capped health bar at 50 for the first half of the game, the game is going to feel rather difficult to ease yourself into at first. One of the main reasonings for this, I believe, is that there doesn’t seem to be any sort of indication for when Blazkowicz gets shot or hurt. In one of the later levels, as you pursue to take over a Nazi train, a turret gun whizzes up on the adjacent track to begin directly shooting you; something that I didn’t even realise that was happening until I turned around at the very last second. Annoyingly, the stealth flaws that are included in The New Colossus do create some rather frustrating levels at times, that further increase this difficulty spike. For example, there have been multiple occassions where an enemy has spotted me, somehow, from way across on the other side of the room and the Nazi drones lock onto you instantly and it can be tough to escape their gaze unless you shoot at them. Personally, I’d like to see a shorter reaction time in when the Commanders start to call in for backup. If you miss a headshot and simply wound an enemy, it’ll be split seconds until you’ll be bombarded with waves of brand new things to kill, even before the soldier shoots at you or calls out in pain. It’s a shame since even now, the game does contain extremely solid stealth mechanics, with one shot pistol kills to the head, easy aiming for anybody, the ability to hide away in shadows and silent takedowns from behind.
Thankfully, if things start to go awry with stealth situations, BJ has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal to single or dual wield for his own pleasures. Just like in the previous game, combat feels so great in every situation that you’ll find yourself in throughout the entire game. Whether you’re using the submachine gun, assault rifle or shotgun, they all work perfectly in unison with each other; but certain weapons are definitely better in certain areas. I find that dual wielding the assault rifle is one of the quicker ways to take down the heavier troops, if you don’t have ammo in any of the heavy weapons. With Upgrade Kits, you’re able to upgrade each weapon to your liking, as the main weapons have distinct features to improve/add. With the assault rifle, adding a marksman scope onto it will grant the ability to switch from a full-auto gun to a sniper-like weapon at the click of a single button, which is incredibly handy and I recommend doing this early on. As progression through the game is made, more and more Upgrade Kits will be found to bulk up your weapons that little bit more, creating the feeling of an ever-changing and improving arsenal. With the huge hulking mechs and robots in The New Colossus, it would have been nice to see some more interesting styles of weapons that could be usable, instead of the semi-basic ones that are included. However, your special weapon will change, depending on what campaign you decide to follow. Players who saved Fergus will be given a Laserkraftwerk, whilst those who saved Wyatt have access to the Dieselkraftwerk. This alone is a really nice addition that can actually change multiple playthroughs up entirely. The use of dual wielding allows players to craft and get ready for any type of scenario and it’s incredibly helpful to be wielding an assault rifle in one hand, with the silenced pistol in the other, making sure you have back-up instantly ready incase the stealth fails. I can say, hands down, that this is easily my favourite gunplay/combat system from any game, ever. It’s been crafted with love, attention and precision to detail, making every fight feel unique and awesome.
Around halfway into the main story, things start to pick up all around and gather more momentum. Prior to this, Blazkowicz was a walking wreck, constantly telling himself that he’s going to die and trying to push Anya out of his life. After a while, it did get rather annoying as it constantly seemed like a ‘pity me’ phase; which I can understand, since the poor guy had half of his stomach blown open. However, once the main event happens (which I won’t spoil), BJ is back to his normal, fun and badass self, which made everything so much more entertaining. On top of this, you’ll gain the ability to choose a contraption for Blazkowicz’s body, with the options being a harness that crushes the body to fit into smaller places, a shoulder ram which allows smashing into whatever you see fit and some stilts to gain a height advantage in areas. All three of these have been designed to be completely unique to each other and whichever one you decide to pick, it’ll help in a lot of situations as you progress through the story. Whether you’re ramming into an enemy to obliterate them or crawling through a tiny area for a sneak kill, they’re all some great additions to the combat and exploration. Don’t worry about making a wrong choice, as you can collect the remaining upgrades in side missions.
Throughout the campaign, you should have stumbled across some Enigma Codes; little items that the Commanders drop when killed. These gain a use at the midway point, so make sure you’re collecting as many as you go. Using these codes will allow you to unlock side missions, of your choosing, which will place you back into previously explored areas to assassinate an important target. None of them has felt particularly difficult to complete, nor are they very long but they are a pretty great addition if you want to find more collectables or have some more fun with your weapons before moving further in the main story.
Most of the levels are rather open for exploration and include many little offshoot rooms that you can dive into for some extra goodies. The variety isn’t massive, as you’ll be shooting Nazi’s in quite a few base corridors, but the levels that are on offer are stunning, visually and from a gameplay standpoint. Some of them feel much easier to fight in, but each one is set up like an arena style area. Also, once you reach the point where you receive your contraption, everything feels as if it takes one step further than before, pushing multiple paths and ways through the game to complete your objective. Whether you’re smashing through a door, crawling through some sewer pipes or sneaking in a vent, it all feels extremely natural to the environment and none of these offshoot paths ever seemed out of place. Once you go back to explore, you’ll stumble across all of the extra, hidden ways that would have allowed you to push into the objectives in entirely different scenarios. I do highly recommend quicksaving as often as you can since the checkpoint system isn’t very forgiving at all and busting through one sealed door could, possibly, mean instant death.
With my love for 2014’s The New Order, I was pleasantly surprised that The New Colossus has surpassed any and all of the already high expectations that I had for it. Slicing in some new additions, such as the contraption system and side missions, it’s enough to keep the game fresh from its predecessor, creating an experience that’s familiar but with exciting extra features around every corner. With it’s incredibly polished and in-depth gunplay, every fight will always feel different and satisfying in all possible ways. Pour onto the detailed storyline, characters bursting full of personality and the unique environments and you end up with a single-player, first-person shooter that seems perfect in mostly every department. It’s always a great feeling to vaporize Nazi’s with lasers.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus was reviewed using a Steam key, provided by Bethesda.