Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – Xbox One Review
Wilkommen To Amerika
With the eighth game in a cannon that goes all the way back to 1981, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has you trying to defeat the Nazis as usual, but in much more enjoyable, spectacular and action packed way than ever before. The Wolfenstein franchise was given a reboot in 1984, when The New Order eschewed the traditional supernatural and occult angle of the previous games and gave us a world of Nazi supremacy with the aid if twisted technology, like some kind of evil steampunk army. The New Colossus follows on directly from the story of The New Order, but don’t worry if you didn’t play the previous game, as you’re given a superb synopsis of the story so far. This kind of highlights reel is interspersed with flashbacks of our hero’s troubled childhood, dealing with his drunken racist father. That said hero is again William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an all action hero built like a brick outhouse, but at the start of this sage is a broken man, certainly physically and quite possibly mentally too. As with the first game, the story follows an alternate reality where the Nazi’s have won World War II and conquered America, with your character part of the resistance movement try to to liberate your country from the evil regime. With far more depth to the characterisation and story than you’d expect form an all out first-person action shooter, BJ hasn’t recovered from the near fatal injuries he sustained at the end of the first game, and indeed the first level of the game ha you fighting your way out of a submarine from the unusual perspective of being in a wheelchair. After that initial level and the gruesome execution of one of your comrades, BJ has to don a power suit, that turns his broken body into a retro kind of Robocop, giving him super strength, a consequence of this being the melee attacks are particularly gruesome. Why just stick a fire axe in a Nazi’s back when you can sneak up on him and chop his legs off with a single swipe before finishing him off?
From the first level, the action rarely lets up, in all its over the top outrageous fashion, like a B movie given a multi-million pound makeover, and as ridiculous as the story may get, its all great fun. It does have some kind of ebb and flow, slowing down slightly to give you a cut scene to further the plot, but then its back into the explosive action for the next level. A Wolfenstein game is all about the combat, and the latest offering gives you that in spades, while keeping it simple. There is no need for hundreds of different types of similar weapons, its kept nice and simple, with easy to pick up ammo and armour, and with the ability to dual wield a lot of the guns, it ups the ante in terms of fire power. About mid-way through the game you can customising BJ’s power armour, affecting power and speed, or adding gadgets that let you access previously unreachable parts of the environment.
Those environments are extremely well portrayed, with a claustrophobic industrial look to many of the levels that give you a sense of foreboding and puts you on edge before anyone has even squeezed the trigger. The enemies have been designed to have no redeeming features, making the killing of them guilt free and satisfying, knowing you’re wiping out the bad guys. The Nazi’s naturally have a strong militaristic look, with the regular troops on the whole wearing armour and masks, portraying them rightly as an army of inhuman monsters that you’d want to destroy. When caught in a fire fight you need to look out for the enemy commanders and take them out as they are constantly calling up reinforcements to the area so take them out early and you should clear the area o=f enemies that much quicker. The arch-enemy of the series so far, Frau Engel is a particularly sadistic piece of work. Imagine a Bond-villain with all the redeeming features removed and the sociopathic evil tendencies turned up to ten, and you have something close to the character of Frau Engel. Put up against the heroic character of BJ it works well as a classic good versus evil struggle, with of course all the odds stacked in the favour of the bad guys.
The plot of the game although often outrageous does mirror certain aspects of modern times with the rise of the far right but whether this is coincidence or a deliberate attempt to be thought provoking is only something the developers could answer. I suspect the latter however, as there seems to be too many moments when the story seems to be satirizing recent American politics. The voice acting is top notch giving the characters a well rounded persona, of course a lot of that being also down to a good script. Some of the cut-scenes are stunning with the odd twist and blood spattered goriness that takes you by surprise, leaving you eager to get stuck into the next stage of the action. The gameplay is very intuitive and movement flows well. The kick back on the guns means its difficult to be really accurate with some of the weapons, but I didn’t mind that as it just encouraged me to spray the enemies with a hail of bullets until they fell, which was probably more fun that popping off a single shot. As long as you loot the dead bodies for their ammo, running out of bullets isn’t really a problem. As great as the action is, there are a couple of minor flaws, such a bit of a clunky mechanic when trying to change weapons in the heat of battle. Also there is the hint feature which is supposed to give you a clue as to which direction to head in when lost, but was of very limited use to me as it sometimes took a few attempts to give a result that was helpful.
The New Colossus is a game that can be played by all abilities, as it has a good scope of difficulty settings for you to pick for a play through. Those of you that like to go for the 1000 Gamerscore need to be warned that this game might be the biggest challenged to be faced by a completionist. One of the achievements is called “Mein Lieben”, where you have to complete the story on the the hardest difficulty without dying once. Oh, and you have to complete it in one sitting. Good luck with that!
The main campaign will take about 15 hours on the first play through but there are also side missions and other modes to discover, such as the resistance base, Enigma machine, assassination missions and the Wolfenstein 3D arcade. There is also a season pass available at extra cost so DLC content will be dropping at regular intervals. There is no multiplayer game in The New Colossus, but I see that as a positive aspect in this case, as often it can take the emphasis on the campaign mode by the developers, and to dilute this down would be a travesty on this title. All the effort has been focused on making a rip roaring action packed game that you’ll enjoy enough to go back and replay in the future.
Many Thanks to Bethesda and XCN for the review copy.