- Sequel of an acclaimed FPS by MachineGames;
- Set in alternative USA ruled by the Third Reich;
- Gameplay promotes dynamic, aggressive play style;
- A compelling story, enriched with a bunch of amusing and memorable characters;
- Exploration with the exoskeleton and walker robots;
- No significant departures from the formula known from Wolfenstein: The New Order;
- Due October 27th on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
My first session with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which took place in July in London, was marked by frustration. While the title by MachineGames showed some real potential even back then, I mostly remember spending two hours with a bug-ridden game, which constantly crashed and desktoped me. And this is not really the way I like to enjoy videogames, their witty dialogues, and – most of all – stuffing enemies with kilotons of hot led. Two moths later, after another, albeit shorter, session with the game, my skepticism was vanquished by Blazkowicz’s irresistible charm. Because when The New Colossus runs smoothly, there are few things a mortal man can do to have more fun.
And let me clarify: my ultimate issue that I articulated after the London playthrough is still true: there aren’t many novelties in The Colossus. During the three levels I managed to finish I didn’t see a single thing that would be a really fresh addition. Of course, you can find some minor tweaks here and there (and I bet there are some surprising new ideas waiting to be discovered later on in the game), but in general, the sequel to The New Order seems a rather cautious follow-up. But so what, dare I say, if this barely-modified formula simply works like a charm?
It’s Nazi-hunting time!
During its best moments (and there’s quite a few of those), The New Colossus is just a thrill. The battles with the Reich’s soldiers are a great mixture of pure chaos and great intensity with a satisfying finish. It’s most notable when you decide to take the next wave of enemies head-on. When Blazkowicz gets right into the middle of the battlefield, pelting bullets at the enemies with great ferocity, roasting them with a flamethrower or dismembering them with an axe, the only thing you can do is give in to the feeling of the great and destructive power the game offers. Bullets whizzing by, things exploding all over the place, enemies’ battle cries, and right in the middle of this inferno – William Joseph Blazkowicz, known to his enemies as Terror Billy, mowing enemies down by the dozens – that’s the bread and butter of the coming Wolfenstein. I don’t think I’ve had so much fun with any FPS ever since Doom gave up cooperating with my PC.
The satisfaction you get from dismantling the enemies derives mostly from the fact that although Blazkowicz’ skills are amazing, the enemies are not just mindless cannon fodder waiting for their turn to kick the bucket. The New Colossus can be quite challenging, especially when the mechanized troops enter the fray. The fights with hybrid opponents such as the extremely resilient Panzerhunds have really stirred my blood. The enemies are not very intelligent, but they all can absorb a good amount of bullets before perishing. The laserkraftwerk weapon can make things a bit easier – it can deal with most enemies with two or three shots, and since there’s plenty of ammo for that gun, the difficulty sometimes noticeably drops.
The system for upgrading your equipment can give you an additional edge over the Third Reich’s soldiers. During the game, you will earn points, which can be invested in different weapon mods, unique for every type of weapons. Clip extensions, anti-armor rounds, a scope – the possibilities are numerous and each of them may save your skin at some point.
Fortunately, it doesn’t drop below the point where it would become no fun – if you get surrounded, the laserkraftwerk’s low rate of fire doesn’t guarantee you’ll make it out. Of course, you can play around with different combinations of guns – the game allows you to hold two guns at the same time – the two mouse buttons control each of them. This solution, however, takes some getting used to, and I guess many players won’t take advantage of this method – without enough practice, you’ll just be wasting ammo.
An interesting addition to Blazkowicz’ inventory in The New Colossus is the exoskeleton, which you might have already seen in The New Order. Here, the protagonist himself will be able to wear it. The state-of-the-art armor will not only let him fully recover after the events from the previous game; it will also open new exploration possibilities. Back in London, I was able to try out two solutions. The exoskeleton allows Terror Billy to breach doors while sprinting or even break through weakened walls, as well as promptly become taller thanks to mechanical stilts. The latter allows you to reach inaccessible locations or just gain fire superiority via height advantage. Apart from aiding Blazkowicz in battle, the exoskeleton also allowed the developers to have more fun with designing alternative pathways and hiding collectibles.
Besides, the exoskeleton isn’t just a mechanical augmentation the player’s able to use during the stage I mention. The game will also let you mount a reprogrammed panzerhund. Despite that stage of the game being rather short and not very complex, the slow walk through the devastated streets of New Orleans on top of this steel, fire-breathing monster, burning anything that stands in its way, is admittedly pretty cool.
There was a house in New Orleans...
The level I saw in London also assured me that the devs know how to design interesting locations. Strolling through New Orleans – which, according to the setting of The New Colossus, became a huge ghetto for everyone whom the Third Reich excluded from society – is a truly apocalyptic experience. Ruined buildings can be seen at every corner, most of the streets are flooded, fires rampage across districts and ominous enemy patrols roam the streets. Such landscape makes you want to kill Nazis even more, and is a pleasant diversion after the suffocating interiors that most of The New Order took place in.
These positive gameplay impressions are further reinforced by the great scenario. I was impressed with the dialogues, the humor and the overall mood of The New Colossus even after the first show in London – now I’m just more confident about the high quality of the story. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the devs turned out to be regularly breaking and entering Quentin Tarantino’s house, stealing ideas for his new movies. Examples? In New Orleans, the main goal is to find the leader of the rebels, who dresses like a priest and – just like a priest – spreads the gospel of the wrongdoings inflicted upon the working class by the powers that be. The ideological discussion he’s having with Blazkowicz at some point, accompanied by clinking glasses of whisky, roaring Nazi artillery barrage and a shrill jazz record playing in the background is just brilliant.
My impressions of the upcoming Wolfenstein can be summed up with two words: great fun. There are games with dazzling graphics; there are games with refined art style, avant-garde approach to storytelling, or innovative mechanics. And there are games such as this one: not particularly ground-breaking, but playable as hell and incessantly witty. And there’s a lesson to be learned here, too; if shooting Nazis is equally amusing in ’92 and ‘17, then do we really need changes?