Machine Games / ID Software (studio)
27 October 2017 (released)
03 November 2017
It’s finally here! Machine Games are continuing their reboot of the legendary Wolfenstein series after the fantastic New Order and the Old Blood. We’ve got another chance to kill more Nazi scum in the most brutal ways possible! But dare I ask if the New Colossus will go beyond its highly praised predecessors and prevail to greater success?
The New Colossus takes place 5 months after the events of The New Order, with the hunky BJ Blazkowicz (aka Terror Billy) in bad shape after the attack at Deathhead’s compound. The victory is short lived as our heroes are on the run and fighting for their lives against the ruthless gen-eral Frau Engel. The narrative takes Blazkowicz (voiced by the excellent Brian Bloom) through great trauma as he battles legions of Nazis at sea, in a post nuclear Manhattan and even back into space on the planet Venus. He’ll even encounter some ghosts from his past as he returns home to the US.
As you may expect Machine Games have created an immersive world filled with compelling plot threads and characters we can truly love and hate. It’s wonderful to see the return of Fergus, Max and Anya and to see them develop further as driving forces to the story. While the voice acting all round is excellent and certain new characters are very likable, other new additions like Grace feel a little overwhelming and more annoying than quirky. I do admire the quieter moments from these new characters such as Grace delivering a chilling monologue about the atomic bomb hitting Manhattan. But for the remainder of the game just ends up as a bizarre, exploitation style cartoon character.
The New Colossus’ main story also feels inconsistent in tone. It’s very simple in what the journey has to offer structurally as we fight Nazis, build the gathering of freedom fighters with new allies and learn of a means to defeat the big bad at the end. There are some neat twists and we learn more about BJ himself through some very dark moments in his life. The first ten minutes of the game features some disturbing flashbacks of child abuse from BJ’s father who could be considered an honorary Nazi himself. There’s a sense that the develop-ers are reminding us that violence is a two-way street, cemented into our minds with a sce-ne featuring BJ’s pet dog.
But the New Colossus is unable to focus on this tone as goes in all manner of directions. There are moments of pure gravitas; emotional connections build through compelling dia-logues and key scenes for many of them to be washed away with bizarre moments of a sur-real nature. The goofiest segments just make no sense, such as a scene where Anya strips off naked and blasts away multiple Nazis while being covered in blood. Now I love over the top violence and boobs, but this moment just had no rhyme or reason. Along with several other scenes which delivered poorly timed humour or simply did not work. It’s a shame as there are some wonderful moments of raw emotion that brought a tear to my eye.
In terms of gameplay there has been an expansion on the scale of gameplay mechanics and various elements to make the experience richer and more gripping. Simple things such as duel wielding two different weapons allows for a mix up of tactical styles while in the heat of combat. You can run and gun with a shotgun in one hand and keep aside a grenade pistol for the tougher enemies you may encounter. This encourages a great deal of experimenta-tion during firefights or simply allows players to keep their options open if a stealth section goes wrong. Shooting is highly enjoyable as all weapons feel effective, handle well and the immense gore system gives you a visual reward for blasting away at your enemies. The New Colossus’ shooting is highly refined and enjoyable, with the intensity and brutality of what we loved before. However, the game approaches the “keep moving” tactic of play which we’ve seen in games like Doom (2016). It’s fine until you see the various limitations as BJ can't climb most objects in the world and even a waist high fence can prove too difficult for him.
But the intensity during shootouts is excelled thanks to the amazing soundtrack from Mick Gordon. His thrash metal tracks are just full of flare and grit that you can’t not be in the mood when his songs start playing. This guy’s soundtrack is freaking awesome.
The New Colossus introduces some great additions to the core gameplay including side mis-sions allowing you to kill “Uber commandos” within areas you’ve visited before. These can be thrilling moments of pure carnage as you can battle your way through Nazis and collect various secrets you might’ve missed before. On a side note, Secrets feel less important this time as there’s a lack of them that require lateral skills or deduction and exploration. Most of them are just scattered on the ground and can be found without looking too hard.
Stealth is still bare bones with no means of measuring detection or even to allow proper evasion but doing something as simple as moving bodies. Stealth this time round feels a lot harder as areas are more complex in design but sadly the lack of improvements for stealth just means more frustration through repeating segments in a trial and error format. Stealth seems pointless overall as Commanders now just drop enigma codes regardless to how you kill them. Unless you want to avoid all-out war as being spotted will provide you with a re-lentless barrage of enemies. Not a bad thing at all as the shooting is very entertaining in comparison.
But the one issue I had were the difficulty spikes being extreme in many cases. There will be moments when The New Colossus will push you to the brink of rage quitting due to over-whelming you with vast enemies and having your health for 40% of the game being halved. I get the idea that BJ is on death’s door but he’s wearing the armour suit we saw Caroline wear in The New Order. Armour is increased for this part of the game, but health still goes down regarding if you have o% armour or 200%. It was more apparent during a couple of hoard style segments that will really tested your patience as you’d have no time to prepare and most likely no armour and little health.
While Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus shows various flaws, it is still immensely enjoyable with some enriching elements in terms of narrative. But in comparison to the previous games, it doesn’t reach that same level of brilliance. There are some neat concepts to enhance the depth of gameplay and narrative, but it feels confused on its pacing and tone. This is still worth checking out regardless but doesn’t hold much weight overall to what a great start this reboot gave us.
++ Excellent action gameplay
++ Immersive world and aesthetics
++ Mick Gordon's soundtrack
+ Great characters and emotional depth
- Narrative tone shifts in bizarre directions at times
- Secrets and collectables feel underwhelming
- Stealth is still bare bones
An Xbox One copy of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review