Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review
You’ve caused quite some damage, “Terror-Billy”. Despite Strasse’s best, sadistic, efforts, you got the upper hand and eradicated his compound. You’ve even survived the blast of his final grenade. You’re one tough sonuva(censored), but the fight is only just beginning. You can’t die now.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is the latest installment to MachineGames (developers) and Bethesda’s (publishers) Action-Adventure FPS, which has been released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBox One on 27 October 2017, and will be getting a Nintendo Switch release somewhere in 2018. This game is, quite amazingly, the eighth main entry into the Wolfenstein franchise, and is the sequel to “The New Order” which was released in 2014. I had no idea up until this game that Wolfenstein had such a long story, wherein the story is set in an alternate universe 1961, where the Nazis have won World War II. In this title we get to explore some more iconic American locations and events during the 1960s, such as diners and conspiracies regarding the UFO crash landing site of Roswell. We even get to explore more into the person of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, and his inner struggles and personality, all while mowing down armies of Nazi soldiers.
Wach Auf, Kapitän
The game starts off literally seconds after the previous game, where the Resistance group, along with your soon-to-be fiancé, Anya, storms into the room where your final battle with “Deathshead” occurred. They drag William’s mangled-yet-alive body off into their helicopter, narrowly escaping the Nuclear Missile launched at Strasse’s compound. Blazkowicz falls into a five month long coma after Set conducts emergency surgery on his body. Blazkowicz finds out during his coma that Anya is pregnant with twins, which boosts William’s will to fight throughout the game. He conveniently wakes up at the same time as when their U-Boat falls under attack by Frau Engel, who has become this game’s main antagonist. Blazkowicz, still recovering from the coma, now handicapped, shoots his way through the corridors of the U-Boat in a wheelchair and a bathrobe… Man, what a badass! In an attempt to save his friends from Frau Engel’s airship, which has suspended their U-Boat above the water, he devises a plan to get himself captured. It is here where you meet a new ally, Sigrun, Frau Engel’s abused and overweight daughter, who aids in your escape from Frau Engel’s clutches. Blazkowicz then uses Caroline’s battle armor to regain his ability to walk and fight. From here on out, your health points are capped at 50, but with a compensation in an additional 100 armor points, capped at 200. You fight your way through the Ausmerzer to get to the controls and free the U-Boat.
During the events of the prologue, you have to relive your choice that you made in “The New Order”, by choosing which of your squadmates will be killed by Strasse. This will influence the story in minor ways, but doesn’t do anything to affect the ending. After the events of the Prologue, you set on to carry out the next step in Caroline’s plans to put a hurting on the Nazis, and liberate the US to free the rest of the world. The group sets out to rescue and bring in another resistance group who is hiding in the remains of the Empire State Building, led by Grace and her “husband” Norman. This group plays an integral role for the entirety of the game, bringing in a great new dynamic into the story-telling fold. The story-telling of the game does a brilliant job at painting the Nazis as some of the most despicable video game villians you have ever encountered. Grace retells a horrific event that took place just after the nuclear missile landed, about a little girl and her mother fighting to survive, but unable to do so, as a result of the harsh radiation in the city. Many other occurrences add fuel to the flaming determination of giving the Nazis what they deserve. During missions, William have mentally speak to himself, admitting that his body is giving in, but doing his best to give the Resistance a chance of winning. You also get to experience flashbacks of Williams past as a child, and even get to give him closure later on when he visits his old home in Mesquite after a mission to the Oberkommando in Roswell.
Max! Max Hass!
As you can see, this installment focuses a bit more on the story; allowing players to see more into the character of William, allowing us to sympathise with him and the people around him. It’s an improvement on the previous games, where “running and gunning” was more the focus. Characterisation of William started in “The New Order” and has been improved upon in this game. Not only is William more relatable and likeable, but so are other characters, with returning favourites, such as Max Hass, and Set Roth. The dynamic between all the characters is entertaining. I loved Set’s character and unintentional humour, and I really enjoyed Sigrun’s role in the game, and cheered her on when she had her moment of glory against the unfair treatment some of the crew members gave her, mainly because of her racial connection. Another thing I wasn’t quite certain about was why this game was called “The New Colossus”, to which I found an answer; It references and is a way of saying that the game is a direct continuation from “The New Order”, where at the end of that game, Blazkowicz mentally recites a Petrarchan sonnet written by the American poet Emma Lazarus called “The New Colossus”. I suppose it’s also meant to be a metaphor, as the poem is also a reference to the Statue of Liberty among other things, meaning that the game will be focusing on the liberation of America from the hands of the Nazis. I never thought a game would have such hidden meaning in the title. Moving on from that, if anybody can remember the easter egg in the previous game, where you were able to play the first level of the 1992 Wolfenstein 3D game, your U-Boat now has an Arcade in the Club Kreisau, which serves as a club area, where you can play through 6 Chapters of a twisted version of Wolfenstein 3D. This one is called Wolfstone 3D, and instead of hunting Nazis, you’re fighting members of the Kreisau “terrorist” group, as the game puts it, and rather than portraits of the führer on the walls, Blazkowicz’s face is found all around the base.
Admittedly, I hadn’t played any of the previous Wolfenstein games, so I needed to educate myself a bit to appreciate the game as it should be appreciated. I’ve found that even though it’s nice to know what happened in the previous games, I didn’t feel like I missed out too much and was able to play this with no confusion. The game gives you all you need to know in quick explanations. Don’t know who Caroline is? Well, she gets introduced as this badass wearing an awesome bulletproof battle armor who, you can surmise, was leading the Kreisau Resistance in the effort to undermine and destroy the Nazis. Don’t feel bad that you didn’t get to experience her character in the previous game, because you get enough of an introduction in this one, and you get a good introduction and rehashing on all the other characters too. As a fan of survival horror, it may be odd to hear me say this, but I’m glad they did away with all the supernatural creatures from the previous games. It seems to have helped the game’s ratings, and I can testify that there wasn’t a single moment I thought, “I could sure go for shooting a scary zombie creature from another dimension”. Oddly enough, it’s like the game has tried to forget it was ever done in the first place. William doesn’t make mention of it whatsoever, and you’d think somewhere along the line he’d make mention about the time he had to fight a 40-foot tall Zombie that indiscriminately killed the people who summoned it as well, trying to get over the fact that “he’s seen things”. Or maybe his coping mechanism of beheading and dismembering Nazis helps him forget.
Bring Them On!
None of this undermines the “running and gunning” gameplay that is an integral part of taking down the Nazis. There are many ways to dispatch your foe, such as sneaking. You can go up behind an unsuspecting Nazi soldier, and quickly, yet brutally, eliminate him with your trusty hatchet, or stand at a distance and throw your trusty hatchet at him, and even if it lands in his left butt-cheek, it somehow encourages him to accept death’s grip. The silenced weapons have a better chance at killing opponents now, and doesn’t alert the entire army to your location if you miss, unless you fire off a barrage of silenced shots into the same spot. Instead now, if you miss, the soldiers will investigate the spot that the bullet hit, as the impact of the bullet makes a sound. This becomes quite a good way of sneaking past groups of enemy soldiers if you aren’t in the mood to fight. I enjoyed the stealth approach, though I found sometimes the soldiers have a major disinterest in investigating a bullet hole. I once shot at a wall, to which a soldier looked at the spot for only a second before turning back, seeing me crouch-walk up the stairs, our eyes meeting for an exchange of “Well… This is awkward”, before he yells to his buddies that Blazkowicz is very much present. To which my response had to be dual-wielding upgraded Stürmwapens and annihilating many soldiers and robots. The violence is unrelentingly brutal, if you aren’t hatcheting your foes to death, well-placed shots can even dismember soldiers. I once absent-mindedly shot an enemy soldier’s leg too many times in a desperate struggle, leading to his lower limb being half the leg it used to be. I was highly amused at this soldier now hopping around on a single leg, and then falling down from shock.
The perk system from the previous game is back as well! Naturally, all of my Stealth Perks were leveled up to max very early in the game already. It’s very beneficial to level up these perks as much as possible, especially the health regen and crouch speed perks. Later on you will unlock an advanced perk when the game introduces the usage of Contraptions. These items bring in new mechanics that assist in combat, such as Leg Stilts. At first you can only choose one of the Contraptions, so choose wisely in relation to your playstyle. I am very much a Stealth player, so I chose the Constrictor Harness. I won’t tell you the details of what it physically does, but it improves stealth greatly. The Ram Shackles sound like a lot of fun too, and is a big upgrade for the “Run and Gun” Combat players. In terms of the weaponry, of all the choices of weapons, I basically only used 3 most of the time, until I added a supressor to my Machienpistool. The Stürmwapen and Machienpistool were my favourites to use, and in desperate situations I made use of the Dieselkraftwerk. Every gun you find in the game can be upgraded with Upgrade Kits that you find in the game. Turning my Machienpistool into a railgun was so satisfying, especially with the supressor attached. I didn’t make use of many of the other guns, but I suppose that’s because of my playstyle. You can combine different guns while dual-wielding. Want to have a shotgun in one hand, and a semi-automatic in the other? Go for it! It can actually be quite beneficial combining weapons like this, using one gun to shoot off the armor and the other gun to finish off the huge scary soldier. Along with Upgrade Kits that are collectable, you can find many other story related collectables in the game, such as Readable Documents, Concept Art, or Toy’s for dear old Max. It’s not essential to collect, but completionists will enjoy exploring every nook and cranny in the game to find these items. Don’t be afraid to break glass windows in your search!
Did You Know?
It is speculated that William Blazkowicz’s son is the “Doomguy” Marine from the Doom series of games. This means that one of the twins could possibly be a young Sergeant Stan Blazkowicz, who will be responsible for destroying the legions of hell in the future. Makes sense, in my opinion, seeing as Terror-Billy lived up to his name, solo killing countless masses of Nazi soldiers on his own. The other son, Arthur, will be the father of Commander Keen. Go check it out!
I did not expect to enjoy Wolfenstein 2 as much as I did. The story in-between all the shooting and violence was just as gripping as the fighting. You really feel a connection with the characters, but those who are only in it for the gun-fun won’t be hindered at all. The graphics aren’t all too different from what we found in The Old Blood, but the character models have been improved upon. The music fits the chaos and heroics that take place in the levels, and often made you feel like nothing could stop you, especially during a certain courtroom level. What’s even better is that fact that you can still continue playing after finishing the Epilogue chapter, finishing side-quests and giving you the chance to find more collectables that you might have missed before! At the time of this review, a new feature was also added to the game, called the SAS Machine, allowing you to play “Simulations” and replay missions in an Arcade style, selecting a difficulty for just that level, and scoring points, like in the old games. Quite a lot can be done in this game, and this new feature adds replayability. You can get your own copy, at the time of this review, from BTGames for R645.00 on PC, and R825.00 on PlayStation 4 and XBox One.