Review: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – Bigger, Better, and Meaner

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Pros:
+Absolutely remarkable graphics, animations, and sound quality
+Weapons are bigger, better, and upgradeable
+New rig kits are absolutely amazing and fun to use
+Side missions are a blast to take part in
+Old enemies feel more threatening than ever before

Cons:
-Game crashes do become problematic from time-to-time


How do you talk about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and not mention the fact you’re going to punch Nazis in the face? How do you not mention the fact the game also touches on racism, sexism, facism, and how to be a patriotic scumbag to the Nazi regime? How do you not mention that this game, in ways, feels like it’s part Quentin Tarantino and part Steven Spielberg. It’s a game where an extremely pregnant Anya has ripped off her shirt, grabbed her guns, and lit up a group of Nazis with a well-deserved shower of lead.

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But how do you create a game that can cover such controversial topics including abuse, racism, fascism, genocide, and murder together and make them meaningful? That’s where Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus becomes a masterpiece. It didn’t hold back any of its punches. It delivered them as brutally as it could. Including in the opening seconds where players take on the role of BJ Blazkowics as a kid. We relive his abusive childhood where his father beat him, displayed anti-black ideology towards his closest friend, terrorized him, and even forced him to shoot his dog dead for defending both BJ and his mother. The first mission even reinforces this ideology. BJ is a cripple whom is completely broken in body and mind. To get the show on the road, players are handed two things: a wheelchair and a submachine gun.

Just as you’d expect, he’s battered, he’s broken, and he’s barely the man he was 6 months prior during the events if The New Order. With his broken body, he can’t save his friends, he can’t liberate the world from the Nazi regime, and it’s made all the clearer that he’s helpless when the unthinkable happens in order to stop the murder of one of his closest friends. Because of this, the game is capable of continuing its carefully crafted narrative and storytelling approach. What’s more astonishing is that we actually want to care this time around.

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Character’s aren’t one-dimensional unlike before. They are alive, they are active, and each of them are extremely unique. BJ himself is one such character that proves this. He’s had to come to terms with his traumatizing past, the game shows this through countless cutscenes, small voice-overs, and discussions with other characters. He’s one that has faced the reality that is in front of him: he’s dying and he must fight for a better world for his unborn children. To counteract him, we have characters such as Max Haus, whom is more lively than ever, even though he’s the Groot of the new series.

Max is lively, he’s enigmatic, and he’s carefree. To put it bluntly: he’s a giant kid. He’s one of the games hidden gems as the game gets underway. To offset him though, you have Fergus, an Irish hothead who has little to no room for understanding, caring, or willingness to want to try. He’s unwavering in his anti-Nazi theology. He hates them, he wants them dead, and he doesn’t quite care how he does it. On the other end, you have Sister Grace, a black lady who has nothing, but the want to terrorize and show her own interminably racist side. She displays this as a badge of honor as she terrorizes General Engel’s once-Nazi daughter Sigurn, a defector of the Nazi regime.

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Luckily, this support cast is multifacted, which delivers an approach unlike any other, and shows that the team has worked carefully in this special writing for each of them.  It even shows in BJ himself as he’s talking to the now deceased main character, praising them for what they did, but also for them to give him strength as he tries to make one last push to save the world for his children. But it show seven better with the writing for General Engel, the games antagonist, and the nastiest of the Nazi hierarchy. She’s insane, literally insane, and doesn’t stop from showing this in any way possible.

Whether it’s the scenes of her openly beheading one of the main characters or even the moment when she begins to take the same head and forces her daughter to accept kisses from it.  Frau Angel is a delight, even if she’s disgusting, and everything we despise. IT’s because of how vile she is, that the game needed someone as brutal as her. She’s one that puts all of the FPS genres’ alpha-males to shame and walks away with their “balls of steel” in a plastic box for the world to see.

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Even though the characters have been brought to life, how do you drive home the reality that the world is now a world ruled by the Nazis? How do you make it so that players have to understand the world has changed, and that it’s now void of anything it once was before the Nazis? You do an exceptionally well built-world. A world where the Nazis have taken over and that their ideals have been reinforced on a global scale. While you do get a glimpse at the world around you in bits as well as pieces, there’s one mission that drives home this feeling, and does so well.

That mission is set in Roswell, which we all know quite well thanks to the games pre-launch trailers (due to the sensitive material, we will not be displaying the trailer). During the mission, players get to see BJ disguise himself as a fireman, during his time in Roswell, you begin to walk down the streets of the city, but are quick to take notice of several features: Nazi flags are everywhere, KKK members are openly walking down the streets, and an American woman has been put on a watch list for sucking up to a German soldier and saying the wrong thing. Pretty sad that one wrong word, even in German, can get you almost put in jail, huh?

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But that’s what makes this world so realistic. It’s one where we find ourselves realistically thrust into it, and not halfway there. It’s realistic because they’ve taken what we know, what we love, and completely turned it upside down. To be quite frank, it’s the first game that has had me wanting to explore this world in an open-world manner. It’s the first game since Bioshock Infinite that kept me saying, “I want more”. This even goes for the radiation zones where towns such as Manhattan were leveled by the Nazis due to a nuclear bomb, and the radiation is off the charts. The same goes for New Orleans where the sea wall has fallen, and the city is now flooded. It’s a place that serves as a military standoff for the rebels as they gun down any Nazis in their path.

While the city itself is under siege, I wanted to explore it. I wanted to run through the broken and drowning buildings in order to see their mysterious secrets. I wanted to bust down the door to the local jazz bar in order to see what lie within. I even wanted to visit Dallas, TX. I wanted to see what the Nazis have done to one of my most beloved cities. I wanted to help the people rise up, I wanted to help them fight back. Most of all, I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to show my love for my country and fight against the overwhelming opposition for all that is right.

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Bust most of all, I wanted to explore the smaller areas. I wanted to head to the local hideouts and pick up some journalist whom has been spreading anti-Nazi slander. I wanted to bring him home to safety. I wanted to see the leading film in the box office that would depict the atrocities of ‘Terror Billy’, just to slam the film in secret. Whether I want to appraise the games elegance or not, we have to take a step back and look at the game from an operational standpoint.

I can’t lie that I was faced with some troubling issues. One of the biggest was a game-breaking crashing sequence where I would undertake a hunt for an Übercommander and my game would crash upon loading. Luckily, I had a save file backed up on PlayStation Network to sneak past this problem. Unfortunately, I still had to trek back through an hour of gameplay, unlock the Enigma code, and once more begin my hunt. But this wasn’t a one time affair. It happened quite a few times early in, which lead to a deleting of the game itself, and reinstalling it. As a digital copy, I was disgruntled by this, mostly due to the fact the game is a solid 50+GB download.

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But that was it. That was my only bug outside of sound hitching issues that would correct themselves with the re-installed version. But how does a game become so well crafted with such a bad bug? Who knows, but I’ve heard worse from my PC friends whom have said they’ve been running into some frequented trouble with AMD hardware (we will visit a PC version later on for a review with the PC hardware).

But how do you go through a review and not talk about gameplay? Sure I’ve appraised the games elegance, but I’ve not talked about its gameplay what-so-ever, even almost 1,500 words in. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has undoubtedly taken some notes from id Software’s smash-hit DOOM (2016), which was appraised for its graphics, its gameplay, and its artistic appeal. Unlike DOOM however, Wolfenstein II stumbles a bit.

It’s a game that seems to have an identity crisis to some extent. On one side of the coin, the game wants you to embrace its dual-wielding, bullet flying, and gore-filled combat scheme. On the other side you have the stealth side of things. A side where you can wield silenced pistols or SMGs for a quieter approach. You even get rigs that will offer you chances to move quieter, take time to not be spotted by eliminating the threat before it happens, and moving on without a problem.

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Even then, guards are quick to notice you, they are quick to sound the alarms, and their forces are even quicker to overwhelm you and take your health down to lethal numbers. The games pacing struggles here, so-much-so that it’s almost unforgiving in many ways. I’ve put a solid 23:12:19 into the game on a single playthrough on “I Am Death Incarnate”. I won’t lie, it’s not meant to be easy, but the oddness comes from the fact I didn’t struggle this bad in the previous title, nor did I struggle with the “Nightmare” difficulty in DOOM.

In this one, I found myself struggling with the titles quick enemy responses, high-damage, and large level designs that supported both corridor shoot-outs and arena style rooms. The downside? There’s fewer arenas than there was corridors, but this doesn’t mean the level design suffered in any way. They all were unique, they all had different approaches to them, and they all allowed you to find your own choke points if you could make it to them.

This fortunately also meant, at times, you could quickly save, giving yourself a spot you are comfortable with to start from. But it doesn’t help that even when I played on “Can I Play, Daddy?” that I didn’t feel that pick-ups were far and few between. I never found exploration this time around to be as rewarding as I’d hoped. It wasn’t the risk versus reward approach that I’d come to love in The Evil Within 2. But as I said, this doesn’t make the game bad, this isn’t even really a con to the game. Instead, it’s a minor irritation I’ve found, and it’s something I can’t go slamming a game over.

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I think in part, it’s because I’ve had my hand held by DOOM and its ‘Glory Kill’ system or perhaps The Evil Within 2’s carefully created crafting system that held my hand in some ways. However, what the game does do to offset these minor annoyances: perks. Just like before, Perks have returned, and this time around, they don’t require you to sit down and dig through a menu to find out what you need to do. They tell you what to do as you just play the game. Some of them include throwing a hatchet and killing an enemy. Doing so allows you to play in a stealth-like manner. Another one includes getting headshots or even dual-wielding as much as needed.

Another includes silent take-downs without being caught in order to increase my movement speed while crouched. The more riskier combat takedown allowed for me to have increased health regeneration. Luckily, these perks upgrade themselves, and ultimately makes the game a lot easier to play. Another way Machine Games has helped turn the tides in your favor is through weapon upgrades. These come in limited numbers across the world. If you pick up the parts, you can upgrade your weapons in one of three areas.

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For my preferences I upgraded the Handgranate (grenade) with the diesel upgrade in order to create choke points and set my enemies ablaze. Because I prefer using the Maschinenpistole (SMG) I upgraded it for it to use all three of its upgrades, allowing for suppressed fire, increased bullet damage (at the cost of bullet velocity), and even a drum magazine for a larger clip. Not your style? If you decide to go fast and loud, you can always upgrade the Schockhammer (shotgun) to be as powerful as it sounds. You can give it a rotor upgrade, allowing it to fire all three of its barrels rapidly, while also extending its magazine, and even giving the pellets a ricochet upgrade so that they bounce around.

While weapons and perks are nice, you also get those rigs I mentioned earlier. You can pick one of three initially, the other two can be found by undergoing the games side missions. These contraptions do several things. The constrictor is your stealth rig, it allows you to move silently, quickly, and through narrow spaces. It even causes enemies to freeze when they spot you, giving you a split second to stop them from raising the alarms. On the other hand you have the Ram Shackles,  a brutal approach to combat, which allows you do what it sounds like. You can slam through walls, run enemies down in order to kill them, you throw hatches and grenades at extreme velocities, and even regenerate your own armor.

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Then you have the Battle Walker, which reminds me of the walkers from Dishonored. This contraption allows you to cross over high walls by double tapping the jump button, but you also gt nice things such as quick draw, adrenaline and stamina. Adrenaline allows you to heal up by killing an enemy, and the others do just as they suggest. Luckily, even if the gunplay in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus does get boring, there’s ways for you to shy away from that issue. Combat isn’t what you would expect, and there are quite a few different approaches to take.

Even if it does wear on you, Wolfenstein II does offer some side activities if you decide to venture around your home base. In the bar, you can play Wolfstone 2 a in-game spin-off of Wolfenstein 3D where BJ Blazkowicz is the main antagonist and you are playing as a German soldier seeking to take him down. It’s classic gameplay translates well into the modern era. It allows you to enjoy a new look on a classic game and explore it in its entirety (all the episodes are there too).

Even as repetitive as the game may get for some Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus never loses it’s fire. It’s a game that stands as a testament to the fact FPS don’t need to be online to be a good game, they don’t need a multiplayer element in order to offer an enjoyable experience. It’s a game that even goes to show what an artistic masterpiece looks like. It’s a game that mixes the best of both cinema and interactive medias. It’s a game that should be proud of what it is. Every inch of it is so well designed that it’s hard not to believe that these locations aren’t real or the enemies themselves aren’t real. This even applies to the games audio itself.

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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Developer:
Machine Games
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Now Available
Cost: $59.99

Whether on TV, speakers, or headset, the game sounds amazing. It’s one of the best out there, it’s one that even comes to life with the small crackles of fire as bullets echo off a nearby wall as rebels take on Nazi forces in New Orleans, or harsh roar of jet engines as they take off over Roswell. This even goes for the voice acting. It’s all well done, it’s all so carefully crafted, and believable. Whether it’s from the maniacal musings of Fran Engel or a Nazi trooper, or BJ himself reaching out to someone he’s lost or losing, the acting is superb. But even more-so it shows that not every game out there needs a loot box, that not every game, as I said, needs to compromise itself upon paid options.

Sure, there is a season pass, and surely I’ll step up, buy it, and review the content that comes with it, but this is simply a testament to what an award winning game should be. It breaks the current trend in the gaming industry and the team at Machine Games should be proud it does so without hesitation. Just like DOOMWolfenstein: The New Order/Old Blood, and The Evil Within franchise; Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game that should be placed upon any fan of the FPS genres shelves.


Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 9.75 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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