Game Reviews

‘Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’ Review

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Quick Take: The first few hours of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus reminded me why I loved the first title so much. Machine Games has crafted an intricate, if not linear, first person shooter that loves itself for how violent and over the top it really is.

The first few hours of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus reminded me why I loved the first title so much. Machine Games has crafted an intricate, if not linear, first person shooter that loves itself for how violent and over the top it really is.

Considering how over the top this re-telling of the aftermath of World War II is, it’s pretty amazing how well the story works. Wolfenstein II picks up where the original Wolfenstein leaves off. Protagonist BJ Blazkowicz is suffering from some pretty serious wounds when the story picks up. The Nazis have won World War II, and have taken over the rest of the world. With two kids on the way, it’s up to BJ (aka Terror Billy) to free the world from the grasp of the Nazi regime and give hope to the resistance.

The strongest thing that Wolfenstein II has going for it is the incredible cast of characters. Rebel leader Grace says whatever is on her mind with some extremely colorful language; Wyatt, the acid tripping war buddy of Terror Billy, who tries to find his place in the world during his trips. The strong cast is backed up by an incredible script that left me laughing one second, and instantly threw me into back into BJ’s shoes during his “weight of the world” mission. Every character in Wolfenstein II has a purpose for driving the story, and nobody felt like an addition thrown into the world just to have another character.

Composer Mick Gordon also has a lot to be proud of with his work on Wolfenstein II, as Blazkowicz meets new characters, the tone changes, and the score appropriately reflects whats going on around him. Grace has some mo-town grooves thrown into the score, while particularly heavy action sequences have head banging metal. The score is incredible, and is one of the best musical compositions I’ve ever heard in a video game.

I could go on and on about the score and the characters, because all of it deserves way more credit than what I’ve already said. However, the real meat of the game other than the story lies at the intricately designed linear stages that BJ finds himself navigating on his journey. The first half of the game plays very differently than the second half. The first half plays like most other first person shooters. There are lots of Nazis to blast, but the nice thing about Wolfenstein is that it lets you kill how you want to.

Players can choose to either go in guns blazing, or play in stealth. Some areas require the louder option, but Wolfenstein generally gives players the tools needed to traverse areas quietly. This isn’t always a bad idea because Wolfenstein isn’t an easy game. Maybe I’ve just gotten worse at first person shooters, but I don’t remember being this bad at the previous title. A hatchet allows BJ to kill Nazis from afar, but the AI is pretty good, because enemies I didn’t even see were noticing me while I was performing executions. There’s no minimap on the HUD, so staying alert is tantamount to survival.

As I mentioned before, about halfway through Wolfenstein II there is a turning point where things get more interesting. I’m not going to spoil one of the best parts of the story, but players must make a choice to a new piece of hardware for Terror Billy to help him terrorize. A constricted harness allows him to squeeze down into tiny areas for unseen stealth attacks, the ramshackle harness allows him to stay upright during enemy charges and when explosions discharge near BJ, and walker legs allow him to reach new areas through the use of battle stilts. Ridiculous? A little. Tons of fun? Definitely.

At first, players only have access to one, but after a certain point in the story, side missions allow him to access all three. Each area is designed so the entire section can be performed in stealth at this point. Tiny vents near the floor can spit players out behind enemy captains, and the walker legs can give BJ access to vents too high to reach normally. I initially chose the ramshackle harness thinking it might give me a little more durability each life, but as I was exploring I found myself wishing I had chosen one of the other options at first. I was excited to learn I could earn the other two, because my playstyle had proven to not cater to what I chose.

There are a handful of different standard guns players can use to kill nazis. The base guns are of the generic fair, shotguns, assault rifles, SMG’s. If you’ve played a first person shooter, you know what to expect. The real fun is scouring each area for weapon upgrades. Each weapon, including grenades, have three upgrades players can use these kits for. The SMGs for example, upon upgrading fire a little slower, but heat up the bullets before coming through the barrel, dealing more damage to BJ’s enemies. The shotguns can be upgraded to fire more bullets per shot, and the grenades can be upgraded to launch shrapnel upon exploding. The weapon upgrades are fun to play around with, and a few of them saved my life more than once.

Every standard weapon can be dual wielded too, providing BJ with tons of firepower at his disposal. Players can mix and match all of the different weapons to blast through enemies too, and even with all of the firepower, I never felt like it was enough at times. Returning from the first Wolfenstein is the perk system. As players perform various actions, like thrown hatchet kills, performing headshots, or killing commanders quickly, they unlock various tiers of perks. Some give BJ faster crouching movement, while others allow him to carry more grenades and hatchets. All of them are useful for different situations, and are worthwhile to go out of the way for players to earn.

Wolfenstein II isn’t the prettiest looking game, however. I played on Xbox One, and textures seemed a little muddied. Characters were well animated, and it generally ran a fairly constant framerate. A few framerate drops during particularly action heavy sequences were readily apparent though, but for the most part, Wolfenstein II ran really smoothly.

After the 10-12 hour campaign is finished, there is still plenty to do as well. Killing Nazi commanders makes them drop enigma codes which can be used to decipher the location of stronger Nazi commanders. I’ve collected all of the enigma codes available to me until the end of the campaign and I still don’t have enough to find all of them. These commanders are treated as BJ’s Nazi hitlist, and allow players to travel back to previous locations to find some of the many collectibles in Wolfenstein II and kill commanders for their deathcards. Theres plenty of content after the credits roll, but I’ll head back into this fictional 1961 setting when the Xbox One X comes out. On that note, my Xbox One X will be arriving on Tuesday, and Wolfenstein II is getting the upgrade treatment for Microsoft’s new console. I’ll be updating this review once I get my hands on the One X and put Wolfenstein II through it’s paces again.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is available now for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, and will be launching sometime next year for the Nintendo Switch. This review is based on an Xbox One copy provided by the publisher.

SCORE: 4.8 out of 5

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