Blood, gore and shooting Nazis until your fingers are sore. Its Wolfenstein 2!
The Quentin Tarantino/Inglourious Basterds-inspired video game is back with a sequel and a proper good one at that. Whelp – that does it for the review, thank you for reading…
No, of course we must analyse and pick apart all the elements. Perhaps give it an arbitrary score out of 10, out of 100, percentages, decimal points, star ratings, thumbs up or thumbs down, maybe even a little smiley face or frowny face to help affirm your opinion or even convince you to try the game yourself. We all know how this works, so let’s jump into it.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Wolfenstein franchise, just a brief history lesson for you:
The original game was titled Castle Wolfenstein (1981). It had the simple premise of being set in World War II Nazi Germany with an American protagonist. The early games were products of the time being top-down side scrolling games, with a follow up sequel entitled Beyond Castle Wolfenstein (1984). However the games didn’t reach mainstream success until Wolfenstein 3D (1992). This game is often heralded as the “Grandfather of 3D shooters” featuring very early 3-dimensional gameplay, it certainly built the foundations for the fast paced action First-Person Shooters are known for. The game was developed for the first time by id Software and they haven’t touched development since. The Wolfenstein franchise has been picked up by a number of development teams with reboots and sequel games receiving marginal success at best, while id Software went on to develop FPS classics like Doom and Quake. The subsequent games did however use id Software’s game engines, so there was still some involvement.
Fast forward to May 2014, a critically acclaimed and financially successful Wolfenstein: The New Order was released. Developed by MachineGames, this iteration went in the direction of hypotheticals. ‘Cause remember, imagination is more interesting than real life. You play as the badass protagonist and U.S special forces operative Captain William ‘B.J’ Blazkowicz. After a failed attempt to infiltrate a fortress run by main antagonist and creepy scientist General Wilhelm “Deathshead” Strasse, it leaves you in a comatose state and placed in a mental asylum in Poland. You remain in a vegetative state for 14 years and wake up in 1960, set in a world where the Nazis won. They won, that’s it. World War II is over, an atom bomb was dropped on the U.S and they surrendered in 1948. The world has bluntly gone to shit and Blazkowicz must lead a resistance against an insurmountable enemy that controls the entire world.
Bleak premise but an interesting one. This is something that surprisingly hadn’t been explored prior to this in games despite plenty of them set in World War II. It was definitely a reboot for the series and injected some much needed life into a franchise that was largely forgotten about.
The game also explores technology the Nazis have developed and put into practice which is very imaginative, although I’m not entirely sure if any aspect of the weaponry or technology is based off real conceptual designs by the Nazis. I’m sure the giant robotic, fire breathing dog came from a child’s crayon drawing as opposed to Nazi masterminds.
The New Colossus continues on directly after the events of The New Order although it’s difficult to explain the plot without spoiling the ending of the last game. I highly recommend checking out The New Order before playing this game and as with anything, it just provides a nice cohesive story to follow. It’s also a lovely appetizer to The New Colossus because you can pick the game up for $20 at most retailers so it won’t be a guilty investment if you don’t end up liking the game. Saves you paying $100 for The New Colossus and then regretting wasting your money if you hate it. Low risk is the way to go, yeah?
Disclaimer: If you don’t want to know some early plot details scroll down to Gameplay. You’ve been warned.
Blazkowicz is in a coma, again. This time it’s only for 5 months, so we don’t have to watch a long time lapse of the world passing him by. He’s been recovered from “Deathshead’s” fortress in a critical condition after it was destroyed from the nuclear cannon. He awakes from the coma but his organs are failing him and his body has limited time left. Despite this he must lead the resistance against the Nazis once again but this time led by Frau Engel (yes, she’s not dead) – a sadistic Nazi commander who resents Blazkowicz for disfiguring her and killing her lover, Bubi, in the events of the previous game. And that’s pretty much all you need to know to catch you up to speed.
Let’s start off by saying if you aren’t a fan of First Person Shooters, this game would be 50/50 for you. I’m not stating that you flat out wouldn’t enjoy it, because there are other elements of the game that could redeem the experience. Reason for this is, this game executes the FPS style superbly. It manages to be a throwback to faced-paced shooters and 90s classics like Doom, Quake or obviously Wolfenstein 3D, as well as delivering something that separates from the conventional Battlefield or Call of Duty style of FPS. Those kind of shooters tend to stick to a formula, a proven successful formula of course but when you release a game every year for the last decade, a refreshing brevity in the form of Wolfenstein can perhaps turn some sceptics around on FPS’.
The game encourages two play styles and gifts you the weapons to do so seamlessly. You’re given an axe as a melee weapon which is your primary stealth weapon. Often missions involve clearing areas with SS soldiers in order to progress, so if you wanna go stealth for a room the best strategy is crouching and taking out enemies from behind or picking up weapon upgrades where you can attach a silencer on certain guns. There are a few satisfying kill animations when you take out an enemy with an axe. Blazkowicz apparently has the skillset to use an axe like a small knife, so that’s cool.
The main component to a stealth play style is the Commanders in each area. If you’re spotted or heard, Commanders have the ability to sound the alarm and call in reinforcements until they’re taken out. Eventually, they run out of reinforcements but you don’t really want to waste time taking out countless soldiers for the sake of it. Once in an area, a radar pops up at the top of a screen showing how far away the Commander is. For larger locations there can sometimes be 2 Commanders to take out.
The maps also provide plenty of flanking routes and cover options to avoid or sneak past enemies. Some can be vents in the walls or ceiling, while others can be grates in the floor so you can sneak underneath.
Now on the other side of the spectrum, run and gun, loud and proud, shoot ’em don’t lose ’em, big explosions and terrain implosions, an American Polish Jew shoots the guts out of you…alright that’s enough. This is the play style this latest series is known for. In The New Order it felt like it was perfected. In The New Colossus it basically just added more ideas into the mix.
For example: Dual-wielding weapons in the last game was a fun feature. This time around they added a mix and match option. So in one hand you can hold an assault rifle and in the other, a silenced handgun. The controls to switch to this is a bit confusing at first, as it switches the controls you’re normally used to in the last game but it’s easy enough to get accustomed to. However, I didn’t use this feature much at all. Perhaps the idea of alternating triggers is a bit cumbersome. To be fair, there is the added benefit of being ready to go with an assault rifle in your other hand if you’ve been spotted, as opposed to pulling up the wheel menu again to switch to a loud weapon. It’s nice to have options anyway.
As per the last game, the weapons are a blast to use once again. All the guns at your disposal have the ability to be used with both play styles as opposed to pigeon-holing you into one option. Recoil can vary on different guns, obviously the higher the fire rate the more inaccurate it is. But that doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it just means it’s more suited for close quarters. Every gun also has the option for upgrades. This is a new feature to the game, allowing up to 3 attachments onto a weapon (even grenades). Weapon upgrades can be found around the map if you look hard enough, which bring us to our next point: pickups.
There is so much to gather and pick up in this game. Ammo, armour, weapon upgrades, collectible items such as; gold, starcards, Max’s toys and records as well as various newspaper articles or letters scattered around the maps which provide some exposition or character development. Personally, I didn’t read all the world building material placed around the maps. The level of detail is of course appreciated and should be commended but if you’re intrigued, you could probably read a good synopsis on the subreddit anyway.
The New Colossus has 6 unlocked difficulty settings with a 7th one locked.
- Can I play, Daddy?
- Don’t hurt me.
- Bring ‘em on!
- Do or Die!
- Call me Terror-Billy!
- I am death incarnate!
- Mein Leben
The game is surprisingly challenging. Opting to choose the default ‘Bring ‘em on!’ difficulty, some stages were a struggle to survive hordes of enemies. One particular frustration was the courtroom stage, where you enter with very low health and a pistol as a starting weapon. The area is littered with health, armour and weapon pickups but you are swarmed pretty quickly by waves of enemies – and not all of them are the standard SS soldier. After about a dozen deaths I bumped the difficulty down a notch and was able to complete it, but still quite narrowly. The game being challenging can also be down to an unlucky respawn as well from the last quick save or checkpoint. If you’re in bad position health or ammo-wise prior to the save, you may be caught off guard with enemies and would have to take a couple deaths until you figure out where the pickups are.
In the first half of the game your HP is maxed out at 100 with armour at 50. This is often where some of the frustrations lie with the difficulty of the game. There are moments where it feels like enemies are unbalanced and can take away your armour in just a couple shots. Also HP is maxed to 100 but decreases gradually to 50. This was a function in the previous game as well where HP would diminish if you picked up more health packs than the default limit. However, due to storyline implications in The New Colossus, HP gets upgraded to 200 and armour to 100 which gives the player a lot more leeway when overwhelmed by enemies.
The New Colossus isn’t an overly complex story. It’s easily accessible and if you have a general interest in World War II as well as wacky concepts, you’ll enjoy the imagination of the plot. The cut scenes throughout the game draw a lot of inspiration from a Quentin Tarantino film. Dialogue is very explicit with a mix of humour and punchy one liners suited to the characters. Not to say it’s a carbon copy of his filmography, but it definitely tries to replicate some of the aspects Tarantino is known for. For example: conversations between characters often have those one-take sweeping shots of round table dialogue. Each character contributes to the discussion with a line each, while drummed up music plays in the background. Also, the gory and violent nature of the cut scenes seems more stylised compared to other explicit games.
What really invests you in the story however is the characters themselves. Blazkowicz is the baby faced killer that you can’t help but get behind. As far as protagonists go, he is probably one of the most likeable in modern gaming. He’s very sympathetic, as you often see him in insurmountable situations or watch his troubled past play out through various cut scenes throughout the game. His inner monologue you hear during gameplay is also very endearing and gives you some perspective on his motivations for leading the resistance. The voice acting is also top notch, his voice is this soft spoken and kind of raspy Carolina accent adding so much to the endearing character.
The main antagonist is presented as the most despicable character with no redeeming qualities but the story does take the time to extend implications from the previous game and provide motivation for the antagonist. With the main plot point of a witch hunt to kill Blazkowicz and destroy any resistance that’s left.
The narrative also concludes to set up a 3rd game in the series. Hopefully sales hit the mark for The New Colossus so it comes to fruition.
It’s difficult to find a disparaging difference in the graphical detail compared to other modern games. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus uses id Software’s id Tech 6. Throughout the gameplay, there was no instance of graphical glitches or screen tearing. Everything ran quite smoothly for the most part. The game was played on a standard 1Tb PS4 and it did struggle a little to handle the gameplay especially when a lot of AI or explosions were happening on screen. Frame rate was steady but the PS4 heated up pretty quickly and the internal fan got quite loud to negate that. That’s more of a PS4 issue though and if this was played on a PS4 pro this probably wouldn’t be a issue.
Overall, the game graphically is on par with other games on the market. All there is to say is that it looks pretty. Personally, I’m not someone who prioritises graphics over gameplay, not knocking anyone who does of course. But it’s always nice to look at beautiful textures and characters that look realistic.
It’s fun a shooter. That’s the simplest selling point of this game. If you’re a fan of single player only games that put as much effort and detail into making an enjoyable experience, you will have fun playing this. In length the game is about 10-12 hours. That can possibly go up if you use stealth more often or complete all of the side missions as opposed to just the main story. The writing is smart, funny and quirky. With the story you have to kind of suspend your disbelief like you would watching a Vin Diesel movie. Things happen that throw realism out the window but the game embraces that tone and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The developers MachineGames produced one hell of a sequel and continue a franchise that grows more and more popular with each iteration. In a world where Neo Nazis have resurfaced in the mainstream, it’s always nice to play something where they’re put back in their place.
We need a score don’t we? The game gets 9 exploding organs from a shotgun shell out of 10. Go buy it, you decent human being.