Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review

By Lexley Ford, 12 days ago
1992's Wolfenstein 3D has often been credited with inventing the first-person shooter genre and has spawned a lasting legacy that continues to grow to this day. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the latest in the series that takes place in an alternate history where the Nazis won the war, but does it still have a place in a world where the FPS is so commonplace?

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Wolfenstein II opens immediately after the conclusion of The New Order, with William J Blazkowicz near death from the wounds he received taking down Deathshead. Passing in and out of consciousness, we see scenes of his comrades doing everything in their power to save their friend, while also visiting moments of Blazkowicz's abusive childhood. His injuries resulted in him falling into a five-month coma, requiring some pretty invasive surgery in order to survive and leaving him unable to move unaided. Despite their best efforts to stay hidden, Eva's Hammer, the commandeered U-Boat that the Kreisau Circle is using as their base of operations, has been discovered and is under attack by Nazi forces. Blazkowicz has to take the fight back to them and take the war to the Nazi-occupied United States.

Wolfenstein II starts as it means to go on, delivering a plot that is full of ridiculous twists, turns, fake-outs and moments that will make players scratch their heads and ask themselves if they really just saw that, constantly upping the ante in ways that most would deem implausible, if not completely unbelievable. Despite the ridiculousness, it is also balanced by much darker themes like racism, homophobia, child abuse and levels of cruelty that border on the obscene, but still manage to feel real to some extent. For the most part it is handled very tactfully, addressing the nature of these horrors and the impact of them in a way that is effectual but never feeling tacked on just for the sake of depicting something cruel.

The duality of the laugh-out-loud moments juxtaposed against scenes of horrific cruelty isn't jarring either, thanks to the exceptionally well written and acted characters that inhabit the world. Each one is brought to life with well-rounded back-stories, such as Horton Boone who's a self proclaimed preacher, drunkard, communist and man of the people whose ideals aren't in line with the America we know today, but are certainly better than the Nazi alternative. Each is flawed in their own way, having lived through an occupation lasting over 10 years, and yet they’ve managed to survive and cobble together some sort of resistance. Then there's the wonderfully sadistic General Engel, the game's main antagonist, who steals the show in almost every scene she is in.

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Even side characters in the non-combat areas are engaging to hear. While not as fully fleshed out the main cast, they do have some great incidental dialogue. The crew of the Eva's Hammer speaks out about the loss of loved ones and their homelands, as well as their hopes for the future. On the other hand, listening in on occupying troops discussing their commonalities with members of the Ku Klux Klan during a Nazi parade in Roswell is a chilling, if not thought-provoking encounter. All of this helps to create a much more believable world with which players want to get involved and return liberty.

The journey takes players on a journey through underground Nazi facilities, an irradiated New York that would fit well into the Fallout universe, a walled-off New Orleans ghetto and a couple of locations that make The New Order seem down to earth. Each location is pretty run-down and dreary, as to be expected from a nation forced into submission, but they’re littered with readable bits and pieces that give life to their otherwise lifeless streets and it makes exploration worthwhile.

The action is wonderfully violent, and the gunplay is satisfying. All of the weapons have their own characteristics and each feels powerful in the right situations. The selection of guns tears through enemies like butter, ripping limbs from their sockets. Lasers incinerate bodies leaving nothing in their wake and Flamers leave charred smoking corpses. Take-downs are gruesome, dismembering unsuspecting soldiers, spraying blood and viscera through the air.

Gamescom 2017

Dual wielding, which returns from The New Order, lets players wield any combination of weapons thereby increasing fire-power or adding an extra layer of flexibility at the cost of accuracy. It gives the opportunity to adapt to situations without needing to switch weapons; for example, carrying a silenced pistol in one hand comes in handy for sneaking around an area, but keeping a shotgun in the other gives you some extra fire-power if things don't quite go how you were expecting. Unloading two machine-guns on a fast-approaching Supersoldat feels powerful if a little clumsy at times.

Switching between weapons while dual wielding isn't very intuitive either. There’s a single button to bring up the weapon wheel and you have to select the left-hand option before you can assign a weapon to that hand. The action isn't paused or slowed down while switching weapons either, so fumbling around with getting the set-up you need in the heat of battle can leave you vulnerable and dead more often than not.

Stealth is an option with most locations offering a few different ways to approach a situation, so you’re encouraged to sneak into each encounter to work out troop numbers and patrol routes, thinning out their numbers by silently taking down troops. More important, though, is locating and dealing with officers who will raise the alarm and call in reinforcements that can quickly overwhelm the player. Unfortunately, playing stealthily can be very tricky to get right, enemies seem quite jumpy and will often open fire on you if all they can see is the top of your head or your foot sticking out from behind a box, alerting the rest of the enemies in the area to your position and giving the officers the go-ahead to call in reinforcements.

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The perk system, which returns also from The New Order, awards upgrades just for playing the game in different ways. Head-shots improve your damage while aiming down the sights, Silent Take-downs increase your movement speed while crouched, while thrown Hatchet and Grenade kills increase the amount of each of those items you can carry. It also challenges you to mix up your play-style from time to time in order to unlock the perks you may not unlock in the normal course of play.

Wolfenstein II gives you the opportunity to revisit previously visited areas in assassination missions that can be unlocked by gathering Enigma codes from dead Nazi officers. These allow you to unlock some additional upgrades that were tied to choices made during the campaign, as well as locating any missed collectables (and the ones that only become available once you go back). Speaking of collectables, the world of Wolfenstein is absolutely littered with them. Alongside 150 readable items that help to flesh out the world, there are 200 other collectables: Nazi Gold, Concept Art, Records, Star Cards and Toys for Max Hass.

Unfortunately, a few sound issues did occur. On a few occasions the sound either became dulled or would go silent apart from the sound of Blazkowicz's breathing. Most of the time this could be fixed by loading a previous save, but when fighting through hordes of Nazis, the last thing you want to do is break the action to save and load. There were also a few instances of flickering textures and light sources creating odd shadows. These were most noticeable at longer distances and didn't greatly affect gameplay or immersion.

Gamescom 2017

There are 50 achievements up for grabs in Wolfenstein II that encompass every aspect of the game. Alongside the usual story and difficulty related achievements, there are a handful for completing side quests like achieving the highest score in the shooting range or finishing a district mission without setting off an alarm. There is also a selection of combat-related achievements for things like performing specific take-downs, performing 10 stealth kills in a row, and killing an enemy from over 30m with a thrown hatchet. With so many collectables available in the world, it's no surprise that there are achievements linked to completing collections, although it seems that some people are having issues with the Starting a Collection not unlocking correctly. The hardest achievement of the lot is likely to be Mein Leben, which require players to complete the unlockable extra hard difficulty of the same name. As it currently stands, no tracked gamers have unlocked this achievement.

Summary

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an outstanding single-player shooter with a plot that is full of twists and turns and a cast of well written and believable characters, each with their own flaws and motivations. The action is wonderfully violent and the gunplay is about as satisfying as you can get from a shooter. There are a few sound issues and small instances of flickering textures, but overall Wolfenstein II delivers a first-class experience full of pulse-pounding action and unforgettable story moments that should not be missed.
4.5 / 5
Positives
  • Well written and believable characters
  • A plot that keeps you on your toes
  • Satisfying gunplay and intense action sequences
Negatives
  • A few sound issues
  • Some flickering textures
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 28 hours playing through the game's campaign, hacking Nazis to pieces and searching every corner for hidden collectables. He earned 23 of the game's 50 available achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Lexley Ford
Written by Lexley Ford
Lex has been gaming for nearly three decades and has been a Newshound for TrueAchievements since 2011. When he’s not writing news he can normally be found immersing himself in a good story, both written and in-game, or just blowing stuff up (only in games).