Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review
Xbox One (Review), PS4, PC
Bethesda and Xbox
Back in 2016, Bethesda’s E3 conference was one that had been long building excitement amongst gamers. Not only was it just the second ever E3 that saw Bethesda hold their own conference, but after some huge announcements just a year earlier, many were hoping to see something equally as big this time around. It’s fair to say that they pretty much delivered with the announcement of DOOM. Those with a keen eye though would have spotted something special on the pre-briefing DOS prompt that appeared on screen for a few moments – New_Colossus.
Now though things are very different than just simple cryptic messages, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is here to continue the fight against the Nazi regime. Does it continue with the same high standards set by its predecessor? I jumped into the shoes of the returning B.J. Blazkowicz to find out.
This may be Bethesda’s third outing in the series, however Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is actually the second main game and continues on from the original outing found in Wolfenstein: The New Order. Players once more step into the role of Commander William B.J. Blazkowicz, albeit a heavily battered and battle-worn version, with the game taking place immediately after gaining the severe injuries occurred at the end of The New Order.
After five months in a coma, B.J. wakes aboard the world’s largest U-boat, the commandeered Nazi ship, Eva’s Hammer. But despite undergoing heavy surgery and having organs removed due to the after effects of General Deathshead’s grenade, it doesn’t take long for his true bad-ass status to shine through once more. In true hero fashion, it’s less than five minutes before we are shown just how dangerous the man known as ‘Terror Billy’ really is, despite the limited movement his wheelchair brings in the opening section of the game.
With the Wolfenstein games providing one of the last purely single-player experiences in the FPS genre, it’s fair to say that Bethesda will be hoping it can prove the relevance of the single player shooter in an ever-changing genre. MachineGames needed to bring out their best with The New Colossus to make that happen though, and whilst calling it the best game in the series may be a bit of a longshot, especially given the near perfection of the first game, it’s definitely accurate to say they’ve created another fine masterpiece. If you’re after an exhilarating spectacle of action, shooting and Nazi killing, with an engaging story to get lost in along the way, then Wolfenstein II is a fantastic choice.
This time round things aren’t tied to the usual Nazi locale of Germany either. Instead players will eventually make their way over to the now Nazi controlled America in a bid to liberate the United States, whilst sparking the American revolution.
To tell you that’s all there is to the story would be an incredible mis-truth, and in actual fact that on offer has it all with plenty of action, set-pieces, plot twists, revenge and heart wrenching moments throughout. Given the single player nature of the game, I don’t want to reveal anything more in the way of the story as to avoid spoiling it.
One thing that’s for sure is Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is yet another epic adventure and this time we are seeing the darkest one yet, with B.J. feeling the true weight of his experiences, all of which show us a man who is slowly breaking down from the inside out.
Whilst I could sit and talk about how great the linear adventure is all day, the true fact as to why it’s so good comes down to the perfect execution of the gameplay mechanics. B.J. is still suffering from the events of the previous game, however an early point in the story finds players adopting a type of futuristic/sci-fi style armour – armour that allows a man of B.J.’s condition the fine movement of a near super soldier. Unlike many other games we’ve seen in the FPS genre in recent years, this suit doesn’t make you invincible, no matter what difficulty you choose to play the game on, and there are times in which players will find themselves knocked on their backside from an explosion or from an enemy attack due to the sheer force of combat. For me that was one of the first things I paid real attention to other than the story. That’s not to say any of the other mechanics aren’t well worked as they all complement each other wonderfully, but with many other futuristic/sci-fi style titles released in recent years taking the human feel away, it’s nice to see the battered nature of our worn and suffering war hero still in there despite the overpowering armour available to him.
Something else that I have found rather impressive is how MachineGames have managed to bring new and unique weapons into the game, whilst managing to retain a realistic feel. This is especially true when coupled with the new upgrade system that’s in place, allowing the addition of vital attachments to weapons in exchange for collected Upgrade Kits. There are several new weapons that can be found, with my favourite allowing you to melt away specific surfaces due to the sensational heat of a laser. But despite the heavy sci-fi look to each, all of them feel like a perfect fit for the alternative history timeline that is in motion.
The new story is obviously the main lure in Wolfenstein, but there is indeed another mode now available that offers players something extra if they fancy a break away from the thrilling adventure. Although it wasn’t something that was available on launch day, the countdown period found within the main menu has revealed a new option known as the SAS Machine. Here players can choose to take part in either the Freedom Chronicles missions that will appear later as part of the Season Pass content or the Combat Simulation challenges.
At present there are four different Combat Situations in place, with each one offering a specific mini-section of the main game to play through in a mode similar to an arcade experience. The narrative is swapped for a score based approach that challenges players to get the highest scores possible by pulling off different styled kills on the enemy, all whilst playing on the exceptionally challenging ‘I am death incarnate!’ difficulty level. Higher scores then translate into a better medal at the end of the challenge, however it’s well worth noting that even as someone who blasts through every Call of Duty release on Veteran, the difficulty found within Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is certainly no joke and will rip you to shreds if you aren’t well prepared.
Other than the SAS Machine options and the weapon upgrading, the only other real noticeable feature that is much different to the previous title is the fact that players now have the freedom to move around between each mission in the ‘safe’ area. For a large part of the game this proves to be the U-boat that you awake on at the start of the game, and it is here which brings further collectibles, the chance to talk to members of the resistance and even the opportunity to participate in a well-crafted shooting range similar to that of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Titanfall 2.
The new features aren’t exactly ground-breaking in terms of what they bring to the overall experience, but it’s hard to see what else could be added to an already brilliant experience. Alongside all this and the classic mechanics seen previously are all still in place, such as the extensive Perk system that awards players with faster, better and more powerful abilities from within the Stealth, Mayhem and Tactical trees.
Finally, for those that like to explore in their games, Wolfenstein II brings with it a vast collection of collectibles for players to scour each location for, ranging from Star Cards and Deathcards to Records and Concepts. There are also hard to find Max’s Toys and Gold pieces that can be collected. All of these count towards the 200+ major collectibles which are present, however there are also other things that can be found such as newspapers and letters that help fill the gaps in the story, and Upgrade Kits for your weapons.
Once more Bethesda and MachineGames have delivered again. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is another example of how to do a FPS game right, and even though the single player format may not be as popular as it once was, Wolfenstein II delivers much of what many of us would love to see more of in the future. There is no doubt that it is a great game that any fan of the genre should jump into right away.
+ Fantastic story
+ Plenty of emotion
+ Visuals provide the usual glamour
+ Lots of collectibles
+ Realistic feel to futuristic weaponry
+ The damage growing on the protagonist
+ Fluid and polished gameplay
- Could do with more variety on weapon upgrades
- Feels like the series is drawing to a close