Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Hands-On

Posted on July 29, 2017

Thanks to Bethesda we were able to get our hands on a demo of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The demo consisted of two levels, the opening level of the game and one set further through the story. The introductory level is set on a stolen Nazi submarine where a newly awakened B.J. Blazkowicz (William) is confined to a wheelchair due to the injuries he sustained at the end of Wolfenstein: The New Order. The next playable level had us in the streets of Roswell, New Mexico.

In the first area Blazkowicz is confined to a wheelchair. Manoeuvring around the level is difficult yet strangely fun with restrictions set in place as to how the character can move – much like the beginning of Metal Gear 6, but better. William may be injured but he is not out in this sequel. After a coma of 5 months he is called into action when awoken to the General raining down hell on their ship. With a heavily pregnant wife and bound to a wheelchair he surrenders himself to the Nazi general who has brought her rather large daughter along just to humiliate her (who has a good heart despite her mother’s crass).

The interesting movement mechanic of the wheelchair makes you change how you think about moving around a Nazi base, using the giant machinery inside the engine to get around. The gimmick isn’t spoiled by being over-used either as it is confined to purely the first level.

It is worth mentioning that there is a huge distinction in difficulties separating the two levels playable during the preview, with the beginning level not much of a challenge and the other one seeming entirely unfair. The playability of the game itself is brought to question when balance is an issue. This may be subject to change before release and I hope they do tweak the difficulty as it was frustratingly challenging for everyone who took part that I spoke with. The respawn times are infuriatingly long as well, becoming longer with each death, but once again this may be altered before launch. The difficulty really ramps up and so does the intensity of the game.

One of the ways around the difficulty was by utilising the ease of melee kills. Melee kills are quick and have varied animations, but you are not immune to damage during those 2-4 seconds of animation. However, enemies don’t seem to attack if there is another enemy between you and them, so if lined up in a hallway it’s a quick way to get some kills and save a bit of ammo.

“The fantastic character work, storytelling and world building are a vast improvement over its predecessor…”

The game also looks great.  Running in the new frostbite engine, used in 2016’s DOOM, the lighting and character models are able to match the tone perfectly. The fantastic character work, storytelling and world building are a vast improvement over its predecessor, with a bigger focus on fun and lightheartedness than The New Order. In terms of the storytelling there are some diverging timelines which feature some different characters, giving reason for multiple playthroughs.

The world painted in Wolfenstein is hilariously terrifying. Like a more intense Fallout with an emphasis on German assimilation of America by Nazis, and with a few KKK members sprinkled in. There is an immense amount of character built into these levels, with lives and stories playing out in real time all around you. The fear and oppression is evident in the face of every citizen. The forced teachings and harsh testings on the street, along with robots taking identification checks on the corners paints a scary picture of a life under the heel of the Fuehrer himself in Central “Amerika”, something that was only spoken of but not shown previously.

William is ready to stand for the resistance once again. With a boat full of nukes and a target location in New Mexico, Blazkowicz is ready to take down a Nazi experiment base focused on alien technology and anti gravity technology. Armed with a portable nuke, it’s time to infiltrate.

The game is an intense play and seems to be a great iteration of the series. If you are looking for a challenge and some fantastic storytelling and world-building then Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus seems like a safe bet.

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC on October 27.