Wolfenstein, the classic gaming series from 1992, is once again on the minds of fans everywhere after making a comeback with 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order. Luckily, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus brings back everything good from its predecessor. And it adds new and exciting ideas to keep things fresh.
Of course, that in no way means Wolfenstein II is perfect. Nor is it something every gamer must play at least once in their lives. That isn’t a bad thing, though. In fact, it essentially works in the game’s favor. Wolfenstein II is very aware of what it is and what kind of player it is meant for. This allows it to indulge in a few factors that make it stand out from the average shooter, particularly in the story department.
The New Order greeted fans of B.J. Blazkowicz’s war on Nazism with a good story. It featured over-the-top action, poignant moments, and finely-crafted, characters you could really care about. Fortunately, these qualities transfer to Wolfenstein II quite well.
This time, however, Blazkowicz is a bit more fragile in a few regards. He has lost a great deal and stands to lose far more. He must be the best soldier he can be, but this isn’t exactly easy. The protagonist is a broken man, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
The story deconstructs the character piece by piece, showing the immense stress that Blazkowicz is under. The game looks back into his childhood for some shocking revelations about how he became the man he is today. None of it is pretty or hopeful. But it does paint this classic character in a light that would have seemed ridiculous years ago.
While Blazkowicz takes the majority of the spotlight, the supporting cast also carries their share of the weight. The young soldier Wyatt, right-hand man Fergus, and the ever-capable nurse Anya all have moments to shine. This also goes for new characters such as Grace Walker, the intriguing leader of an American Resistance cell; Sigrun Engel, the troubled daughter of a truly unsettling Nazi; and Rip Blazkowicz, the heinous father of our protagonist.
While the writing for these characters is more or less on point, the story does have a few issues. The plot is straightforward enough, simple yet effective. The characters have a common goal, one that the player will understand and identify with, and more than enough ability to make progress towards their next victory.
This is a game about robo-Nazis and heavily features advanced ancient technology, so a bit of silliness is to be expected. However, at around the midpoint, a twist occurs that is too outlandish for the general tone that the game gives off. And after the twist, things get wilder and weirder from there.
The tonal shifts aren’t exactly enough to keep me from enjoying the story. But staying a little closer to the ground in future installments would benefit the series.
The best way to complement a fantastic story is to couple it with great gameplay, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus pulls this off in various ways. It features fun and fast gun play, kept interesting with the help of a variety of weapons at your disposal. You also get gameplay elements in the areas of stealth, mild environmental puzzles, and exploration. All of which are handled nicely and rarely hold the game back, if at all.
Much like The New Order, Wolfenstein II caters to the way that you play. If you enjoy dual-wielding shotguns and charging into the fight, then B.J. will get upgrades relevant to that style of gameplay. If you prefer to sneak through crowded levels, quietly dealing with enemies before they even know that you’re there, then you will receive upgrades that make it easier for you to remain stealthy. There are more gameplay routes, of course, but the important thing about them is that they are all seemingly well-balanced. So, feel free to play however you enjoy playing.
That isn’t to say Wolfenstein II is easy, though. In fact, the game boasts a pretty staunch level of challenge. This is particularly true on higher difficulties where enemies can decimate your health and armor in mere seconds. Luckily, there are plenty of difficulty options to be found, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding that perfect amount of challenge for yourself.
It can still be a frustrating experience, as the game is unforgiving in many ways. But there are always ways to deal with any situation, provided you try enough experimentation. This is due in large part to the high quality level design, which grants you various options to tackle any difficult fight.
This is especially important in certain sections that leave Blazkowicz feeling as durable as wet paper. But once the plot grants you the right tools to become a proper powerhouse of pain, you really do feel as if you’ve been granted a massive upgrade to your abilities.
All in all, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a solid entry into the Wolfenstein series, while also serving as a positive sign of what things may lie ahead for future games. The story is still interesting enough to become invested in, despite a few odd choices that can possibly shock you out of the immersion a bit.
Meanwhile, the gameplay is exciting, challenging, and expansive enough to welcome experimentation. Therefore, fans of the series, as well as fans of shooters in general, should take a close look at this title at least once.