I thought it’d be impossible to improve on Wolfenstein: The New Order – MachineGames’ reboot of id Software’s classic shooter franchise but I’m happy to have been proven wrong. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus ups the ante on everything by delivering a game that hits harder than the first thanks to some intense moments, better characters and a drive to keep the momentum barreling forward no matter what happens.
The story takes place right after the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order with BJ Blazkowicz escaping his final encounter in pretty bad shape. So bad he is in fact out of it for five months until an attack on the resistance’s submarine base brings him back into action. Once again this is a single player game so if you’re looking for deathmatches you’re plum out of luck. Im happy to see that a focus on a campaign only has paid off because the storyline is a strength of the game with plenty of great characters and some plain crazy moments. It also works well as a self contained tale and avoids going to far with sequel baiting the player at the end. You know there’s going to be more to come but you can walk away feeling satisfied you’ve got the whole story as intended.
It also continues to build a genuine character in BJ Blazkowicz in ways that are totally unexpected. I won’t give anything away here but there are a couple of downright disturbing scenes that are used to justify why he is the Nazi killing machine we all know. That MachineGames turned a 1992 PC game character, who was mostly just an animated head on a UI, into a someone with much more interesting motivations is a credit to the writers.
I do appreciate the speed in which the game gets to the meat of the story faster. Perhaps it’s because it goes through events of the last game quickly through flashbacks but it does its job brilliantly. Better yet during the course of the game there are so many moments where I can’t help but marvel at the sheer audacity of what they put in front of you. Sometimes it is key to the storyline and in others it is just background noise but it’ll still make you stop to think “I can’t believe they did that!”. It’s worth mentioning that this is not a game to be playing with your kids as there’s some content in there that is at times pretty messed up. In the wild world of Wolfenstein it’s all fine and dandy but for your little ones it’s likely to be way too much and I’d recommend you keep it out of their sights until they get a little older.
Gameplay doesn’t differ too much from The New Order or The Old Blood though there is the option now to mix up your dual wield weapons which can be useful in firefights against mixed enemy types. Stealth is encouraged early in the game so you do feel more incentivized to use it as an option as often as you can as taking down Nazi commanders silently can dramatically reduce the amount of enemies you face. A couple of weapons can even be upgraded with suppressors to help you pursue that course.
Still… eventually you’ll want to go in all guns blazing and the game feels great in that regard with a nice dose of challenge in there for players at higher difficulty levels. It can be easy to forget though that your opponents can cause you just as much damage in return. The indicators for low health might can be a bit too subtle for me to notice in the midst of battle and I do find myself repeating areas often because of my over enthusiasm to blast away.
As in the previous games, completing certain objectives such as silent kills or headshots will also reward you with ability bonuses that can help improve the edge you have over your enemies. What I like about it is that it will encourage you to try out all the weapons you have at your disposal which is bound to help expand your options and might even convince you to be more creative with your arsenal during a gunfight.
To stretch out the game further, a neat mode opens up that allows you to revisit some areas for “assassination missions” that offer additional bonuses. Collecting Enigma cards for downed commanders helps you access it but it’s not essential to completing the game however it may give players an edge as they play more of the campaign. You’ll get an extra couple of hours out the game through this too which makes me really happy.
The visual design for the game carries on from the previous games but I think The New Colossus sets a new high mark that very few games of this type are going to be able to achieve. There are a crazy amount of environments to explore, including your own base, that are built with a great attention to detail. The game doesn’t shy away from cutscenes either with an impressive amount of these that might make you think you’ve landed in the middle of a WW2 spin on a Metal Gear title. Early on when I was playing the game on the just launched Xbox One X there were a couple of graphical issues but it appears those have been mostly sorted out with patched though once in a while you still find enemy bodies clipping through walls and floors. However, none of that impacts the game.
Audio is amazing with great use of voice over actors and a huge amount of supplementary work on environment sounds. The team even went so far as to create German themed music tracks which you can find hidden in the game. Mick Gordon (of DOOM, Killer Instinct, and the previous Wolfenstein games) and Martin Stig Andersen have put together an impressive soundscape that backs up the action and story beats perfectly. There’s also a lot of incidental dialogue or audio throughout that you might just miss and I really admire the effort put in to include these, as well as the numerous other collectables, as they can help to drag the more fastidious players even more deeply into the world.
It seems that every year we hear stories that single player games are on the way out. Thankfully that’s just talk and Bethesda is looking after us with a steady stream of quality single player titles over the last twelve months. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a hugely entertaining thrill ride of a game that is going to keep you satisfied throughout its tale of Nazi smashing revenge.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Reviewed on Xbox One.