Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (released in 2017 by Machine Games and published by Bethesda Softworks) is the direct sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order. The two games are part of the reboot of the crazily old but fondly remembered Wolfenstein series of many gamer's formative gaming years.
For those who haven't had the pleasure of experiencing a Wolfenstein game, it is a gory First-Person Shooter with some completely over the top plot lines set in a completely messed-up alternate universe where Nazi Germany managed to win the Second World War aided by some ancient secret advanced technology (yes, it is over the top...). It is unambiguously brash and most definitely confronting in the way it depicts violence in game and in cut-scenes, and so it is really not for the squeamish or faint of heart! Probably also not a good game to give your young kids either!
The game is set in the immediate aftermath of the first reboot game, The New Order, where the player character (William Blazkowicz) is rescued from the Deathhead's fortress (the big bad of the first game) just before it is nuked with a nuclear cannon. Yep... nothing is ever small about this game series!
Although he is physically rescued, William Blazkowicz is in critical shape, and the setting of the story is developed as he lapses into and out of consciousness onboard a Resistance submarine that is fleeing Europe for the United States. It turns out the coma lasts for the better part of half a year and during this time, the United States falls to the might of the highly technologically superior Nazi forces.
As part of the tutorial section (post coma prologue), William Blazkowicz joins an assault upon the ship of Frau Engel (the big bad for this game) after the Resistance submarine is discovered and boarded. During this attack, Caroline (the Resistance commander) is killed and the wife of William Blazkowicz temporarily takes over as the leader of the Resistance. This is the beginning of the liberation of the United States!
The Resistance submarine is the hub for missions, with a VTOL plane making the ground team drop-offs into various parts of the United States to fight off the invading forces. Many of the old team (and many new team members) are on board with their room and living areas kitted out in their particular style, as they have tried to make their home in the cramped undersea conditions.
As before, you are helped by the ancient weapons that are safeguarded by the German-Jewish scientist Set Roth who belongs to an ancient and mystic order who have been long protecting these lines of advanced technology. Much of what they know was ransacked by the Nazis and used in their war machine, hence the alternate time line for World War 2.
... and speaking of alternate universes. The United States of the alternate timeline is one where there are familiar pre-war settings and issues that have taken a vastly different outcome due to the effects of the invasion. Of course, if you look back at the history of the time, it was a bit touch and go as to what sort of ideals and ideology would have prevailed in the inter-war eras, and it was never guaranteed that the ideals of liberal democracy and racial equality were the ones that would have prevailed. It does make for an interesting peek into a possible outcome...
.... however, the treatment of the childhood and marital abuse at the hands of Blazkowicz's father is a bit heavy handed. Perhaps it is the clash between the completely over-the-top universe backdrop and gameplay against the serious issues in some of the storyline that is just too jarring. Perhaps if the rest of the game were a bit more serious, then the issues would have come across quite differently and less hackneyed.
It is a Wolfenstein game... you run... and then you gun! However, there has been an introduction to some cover mechanics, and the stealth mechanics from the previous game also is present in this iteration as well. Still, it is stealth... then run, gun, cover, gun... it isn't by any means an intelligent sort of game.. but as a sort of adrenaline heavy, light on the thinking sort of fluff... it does the job!
There is a pretty light RPG component based not on XP or leveling up, but via the awarding of perks (passive and active) as you perform different actions in one of the three larger skill "trees" (Stealth, Mayhem and Tactical). In the end, there isn't any real benefit to these skill perks unless you are playing on really high difficulties where the difference between a little extra damage given or taken can really mean the difference between life and death. I stopped trying to achieve the perks, as it really meant that I was playing abnormally against my preferred style of play.
Scattered around the levels are various collectibles... and this is done in the worst way possible. Collectibles are tied to a sort of completion score and have no real extra narrative bonus (the newspapers are the exception, but they aren't tied to the completion score!). It is just immersion breaking to run and gun through a swathe of enemies, only to just poke around looking for pictures, toys and cards in the aftermath.
Likewise, there is a sort of Nazi assassination side quest which helps flesh out your perks... this is where you replay various maps with the aim of defeating a special Nazi boss in the level. I gave it a go, but there is no real fun in replaying a level... for the slight contribution towards a perk bonus.
Visuals, Audio and Performance
On the review hardware that I was playing on (see below), the game was smooth... which is definitely what you need in a first person shooter! Even in the midst of a multi enemy battle, with shots flying everywhere and paced paced relocation and movement... there was no problem at all. That isn't too surprising as it is a 3 year game now (2017 release) and the game has managed to be ported to the Switch as well.
However, everything looked and felt beautiful, so there were no real compromises in that department. Likewise, audio was fine... nothing amazing, but sounds sounded as they should and nothing more. There was no real standout flair in that department.
Sometimes, you are just looking for a bit of light, no thinking entertainment. In books and films, we have those cravings for a cheap and easy piece of time wasting that is light on the high philosophy. Likewise, we all have those cravings in the computer gaming world as well.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus manages to do this with a terrifically schlock B grade universe and storyline combined with some satisfying running and gunning that has some light tactical thinking but is more about just moving fast and blasting away. However, at times it tries to take a serious tone and touch on issues that are definitely important to bring up... but the jarring effect between the comical and serious is just too much, and the serious scenes feel bolted on and insincere.
Loved the game, but wouldn't play it a second time!
Played at 1080p (144Hz) on:
Intel BX80662I76700 Core i7-6700 Prozessor (3,4GHz)
6GB EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 SC GAMING
Ballistix Sport LT 16GB DDR4
Samsung 960 EVO M.2 512GB
S4 Mini Case (NFC Systems)
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