The return of the Wolfenstein series was one of Bethesda’s success stories, rescuing an ancient relic from back in time and thrusting it full-force into the hands of gaming consumers worldwide. The alternate timeline of Wolfenstein: The New Order showed us a possible world in which the Nazis won World War II. Okay, it is a bit out there with its robot dogs and mechs, but it was ultimately a compelling and brutal glimpse into a Nazi-occupied United States. So how does its direct sequel fare against its superb predecessor? It had a lot to live up to, but Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which is again a purely single-player experience, follows up on its controversially uncensored tones to deliver a worthy successor.
After the events of The New Order (I wont spoil it if you haven’t played it), William ‘BJ’ Blazkowicz is a broken man. Starting off with his guts being ripped out, there’s no mistaking that your journey (if BJ survives) is going to be another bizarre one. After a long recovery period, BJ and his new crew of misfits find their home on a stolen U-boat called the Eva’s Hammer. The New Colossus is just as much about BJ’s life growing up in an old-fashioned world, living by old-fashioned rules than the war against an oppressive fascist Nazi government. These flashbacks show BJ raised by a racist and abusive father and a sappy mother. These sections are engrossing and disturbing, even going as far as showing BJ’s dad murdering the family pet before cursing BJ for playing with his black friend. It’s hard-hitting but compelling, even making players visit his home in Mesquite, which shows us a series of memories that gives us a deeper look into BJ’s tough upbringing. The Nazis are just as brutal. The sadistic Frau Engel is a brilliant baddie. Her lack of empathy and, well, any feelings whatsoever make her an intimidating and unpredictable presence, and her hate for BJ is shown during her numerous encounters in spectacular fashion. She’s insane and rules with an iron fist. The New Colossus also tackles a lot of controversial issues, such as interracial relations, the existence of extraterrestrials, and it’s all the better for it, a fantastic story.
The only issue lies here: The narrative tone switches at such a quick pace, it feels disjointed. One minute we’re seeing a young BJ getting his ear chewed off for hanging around with a black girl, then the next we are laughing at Fergus and his uncontrollable metal prosthesis. It’s fine to have comic relief, I welcome it, but space it out a little more.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a smart first-person shooter, one that forces you to adapt your approach to your objectives. Missions are typically separated by areas patrolled by Commanders that, if BJ’s presence is detected, will raise the alarm and call for reinforcements. The stealth approach is a tough but rewarding one, sneaking around performing harsh but satisfying takedowns using your hatchet. Be spotted though (a dead cert unless you’re an expert), and the game takes a huge turn. On medium difficulty, the Nazi enemies are relentless. Grunts pummel you with machine gun fire as the big hulk types try to fry you with their laser weapons. The cover system is reminiscent of Battlefield. Taking cover next to an edge or behind a low wall will allow you to peek out when the aim button is depressed so you can smartly zip in and out of cover. Your health doesn’t replenish like in Call of Duty, you need to find health packs and armor which are scattered everywhere in The New Colossus and are fun to scavenge for, along with other collectibles that can be found in levels, such as maps, star cards, discs, concept art and enigma codes that unlock assassination missions.
Performing a set number of actions such as headshots, stealth takedowns or combat takedowns automatically earns you perks, such as improved crouch walking speed, which are great little achievements to work towards with handy rewards. Upgrade kits can be found too, which are used to install upgrades on your weapons, such as a scope on the machine gun or a second firing mode for certain weapons.
Firefights are excitingly fast paced. As you race from cover to cover attempting to flank the fodder that opposes you, even from the opening mission that makes you control a wheelchair-bound Blazkowicz, it feels exhilarating and tense. A short burst of enemy fire could easily put you down on harder difficulties, and the numerous times you encounter huge, slow moving mechs and fire-breathing robo-dogs that take a hefty amount of your ammunition certainly keeps the blood pressure high.
A notable section of the game that switches things up a little is a short part which hands you the reigns of one of those aforementioned robot doggies. Vehicle sections are something of a staple in modern shooters, and Wolfenstein II is no different. This fire-breathing pooch is a rolling force of destruction that you’re able to mount and dismount at your will. The only problem with this part is that it’s over too quickly, but the game places enough explosives in your path to give you a damn great time while it lasts.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a thrilling single-player adventure with a hard hitting narrative and adaptable core mechanics that cater to both the sneaky and the Rambo types, and it’s worth every bit of your time, whether you’re a fan of shooters or not.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
Release Date: 27 October 2017