Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review – Cathartic Nazi slaying

Platforms:
PCNintendo SwitchXbox OnePS4
Released:
October 27, 2017
Publisher:
Bethesda Softworks
Developer:
id Software

Review

The all-American hero, William Joseph Blazkowicz, has returned with more firepower, more scars, and more determination to take down the ruling Nazi force.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a powerhouse of a game that isn’t afraid to stay true to a traditional singleplayer experience. It serves as an amazing sequel to 2014’s The New Order but excels in ways The New Order didn’t. It’s bold, unapologetic, harrowing, and will go down as one of the best singleplayer FPS campaigns I have played since the mid 2000’s.

“Badass rebels ready to take matters into their own hands and rewrite history – one Nazi corpse at a time”

The game is set in an alternative timeline where the Nazi force has won the war and their power is far-reaching. Blazkowicz alongside his fellow group of diverse, passionate and badass rebels are ready to take matters into their own hands and rewrite history – one Nazi corpse at a time.

The game follows on from the narrative laid out in The New Order and what’s immediately apparent is that it was developed to be a direct sequel. It was developed for people who have played the original game and it didn’t shy away from immediately picking up where the last game left off.

Choices you made in the original game are revisited and some pretty dramatic things go down right at the start of your play that would be fairly meaningless to a newcomer. It’s a bold choice to make because people who are new to this particular set of characters and narrative may feel slightly isolated going in to The New Colossus, and certain moments definitely won’t have the same impact without the prior knowledge or character building. But I have a lot of respect for this type of storytelling. The developers weren’t scared of isolating potential consumers and instead focused on making a great game for their fans.

Gunplay is immediately familiar and handles perfectly. You feel the weight of every bullet and have the tools at your disposal to jump in and shoot down waves of Nazis without ever encountering awkward or unresponsive controls. The world design is also fantastic. The game is linear but areas open up just enough to provide multiple paths depending on how you want to tackle things. Stealth is also incorporated into the game in a fairly simple but effective way. When you enter into a new area you receive a display alerting you of nearby commanders. If you make too much noise or are spotted while a commander is alive they will call for reinforcements. This meant that your optimal approach is to be stealthy early on until you’re able to take out the Commanders, and then you are free to go gun crazy. Although you could absolutely ignore all of this and go gun crazy right from the get go.

The gameplay is great but it’s the narrative that really surprised me. Wolfenstein II has some fantastic moments throughout that had me grinning from ear to ear, and some moments that had me genuinely upset. It would have been easy for the developers to turn The New Colossus into yet another power fantasy style game full of cathartic Nazi slaying and heavy rock, but instead they took a risk and it really paid off. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of cathartic Nazi slaying and heavy rock to be had, but it is thoughtfully intertwined around a real story about atrocious acts that seem unthinkably cruel to your average person. Those who haven’t played Wolfenstein II be warned, it isn’t afraid to “go there” when it comes to the unimaginably racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic dialogue and actions of some seriously messed up minds. The game handles it well, I think, but that won’t stop things from being triggering.

The New Colossus interweaves serious and poignant scenes amongst sections of power fantasy and moments of humour. This will be jarring to some players, particularly those who are gearing up for a more serious game, but it totally worked for me.

I can’t help but to draw parallels to the work of Quinton Tarrantino who somehow manages to combine over-the-top action and comedy with narrative topics that you wouldn’t typically want to make light of. I’m not going to suggest that The New Colossus is able to live up to Tarrantino’s standards, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t come shockingly close. In fact, it’s just amazing that it tries at all and doesn’t fail.

I think some people will view the ultra-violent and over-the-top gameplay and Blazkowicz’s perfect American hero trope as things that undercut the more tonally serious parts of the game. And those complaints are probably fair. But for me it all came together so nicely.

After finishing the game I was disappointed. Not because it ended unsatisfyingly but because I really wanted to keep playing. If I was to have a criticism of The New Colossus it would have to be that it left me wanting more. The game could have easily been twice as long and it wouldn’t have overstayed its welcome. It would have also given more time for character development for newly introduced members of the cast which I would have loved to see. I’m not sure if the devs are gearing up for more story DLC or another game in the series, but my thirst hasn’t yet been quenched.

Having said that the game is still absolutely worth playing. There are moments of pure brilliance that ranged from a harrowing opening cinematic that made me flinch in anguish, a return home section of gameplay that is very revealing and amazingly written, an odd but fantastic section of game that sees a cameo of Hitler and his deranged mind, and a closing monologue that made me feel things.

The Bottom Line

Combining cathartic Nazi-slaying violence with genuine poignancy, beautiful writing and moments of great humour. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game you should experience. One that I intend to play through a second time in the very near future and one that will keep me thinking and talking about it at any given opportunity.