*Reviewed on Xbox One*
This Is Our Land!
To say Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is weird is an understatement. Crazy, on the other hand, is more justifiable. A sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order; The New Colossus takes what worked with its predecessor and turned it to 11.
Starting almost immediately after the events of The New Order, you play as William “B.J.” Blazkowicz – a.k.a Terror-Billy – who’s end-goal is to stop the Nazi uprising. There’s only one problem the Reich’s already settled down and taken over America or as the Nazi’s dub it: “Amerika.” Wolfenstein’s “what if?” attitude towards the Nazi party is one of the many fascinating things found in the game. The idea of the Nazi party winning is an interesting story-piece that can be compelling if done right. In many ways, developer Machine Games pulls it off.
B.J. and his story I found to be Wolfenstein’s greatest strength. As a character B.J. comes across as very likable and noble. Mostly because of his fight against hatred, oppression and racism are reflected personally in the story. This, along with a strong cast of characters – some new, some old – add to a complete story that you can’t help but be invested in. There’s also the villain: Frau Engel, who players might remember from the first game. As a villain, she really gets under your skin. Every run-in with her makes the thought of sweet revenge that much more enticing. Despite her not being in the game as much as I thought; she was still felt by the passive dialogue surrounding supporting characters and henchmen.
The story goes places, and by places, I mean crazy places. It’s hard to talk about certain moments in this game because they have to be seen to be believed. The story takes unconventional departures from the “norm” of storytelling, making it that much more engrossing. In fact, I was so invested in this unique alternate history take, that I had an urge to seek out key collectibles found throughout the game. Journal entries, readable’s, types of vinyl, cards, toys, concept-art, as well as gold items make up the bulk of these collectibles. They don’t add anything to the game except filler for places, characters, and events that may have been skimmed over in the main story.
When the main story’s over there’s still plenty to do. Back on Eva’s Hammer – your main hub/base of operations throughout the game – you can partake in district clearing. Collecting Enigma codes – by killing Übercommander’s – Each district consists of repurposed environments from the main story, but this time the required task for each one is to eliminate the head commander. There’s not much variety to these districts except to hunt for collectibles and farm kills for your perks. The New Colossus also has side-missions acquired on Eva’s Hammer, some of these missions are relatively straight-forward and easy to accomplish providing a distraction from the main story.
If you have played The New Order, then you will find The New Colossus to be slightly refined in terms of gameplay. Depending on the type of player you are, The New Colossus’ combat can either be slow or frantic. Playing slow is an option, but one that may be troublesome due to the a.i.’s detection. The environment’s semi-open, linear environments harbor tunnels and walkways in which to sneak past large chunks of a level. Even with a silenced pistol and hatchets – that can be thrown to take out enemies far-away -, the stealth doesn’t feel polished. There is, however, a perk that B.J. receives later in the game that allows time to slow for a split-second if an enemy detects you; giving an opportunity to take down the enemy and remain incognito. Remaining out of sight’s important as Übercommanders can call for reinforcements if not dealt with quick enough. Making things more complicated than necessary.
There’s always the second option of guns-blazing. Consisting of single, or dual-wielded weapons, The New Colossus functions relatively the same as it’s predecessor. For the most part, shooting is fun – if sometimes clunky. Your arsenal consists of different guns ranging from pistols and submachine guns to shotguns and assault rifles. There’s also the occasional heavy weapon used to get out of a tight spot. Juggernaut-type enemies also have heavy weapons that can be used against them once dealt with.
You’re almost guaranteed to go through ammo as fast as a cheetah hunts its prey (I know bad analogy). I found that weapon and ammo pickups were somewhat frustrating. On one hand, I was able to walk over weapons and ammunition with ease allowing it to fill my inventory. Other times I had to manually pick these items up; the same goes for armor. It’s a system that doesn’t really work. I found myself continually walking back-and-forth over items in order to recover my health and armor.
Another small gripe is weapon selection. Wolfenstein features a radial wheel used to select your weapon of choice. Holding down a button brings up this wheel reveling all your acquired weapons. You can even have some pretty unorthodox weapon combinations if you so choose, such as a silenced pistol in your right hand, while your left holds an assault rifle. There’s even a button that automatically equips two of the same selected weapon with ease. The problem comes when choosing these weapons in battle.
Last years Doom had a similar radial wheel, but even with all the chaos weapon switching was much easier. This is due to a slowing of time when choosing your weapon. The chaos is at a standstill, giving you some leeway in choosing your next move. With Wolfenstein that isn’t the case. Once battles start, there’s no stopping them, and even on higher difficulties (which are brutal), the battles are relentless. Making things more complicated than they should be.
With a strong story, compelling characters, and style from start to finish, The New Colossus stands out as one of 2017’s best and most unique games of the year.