Good news for fans of the recent Wolfenstein games, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is continuing the trend in quality it’s more of the same (for better or worse), but leaning harder into it’s goofy, alt-history story.
I recently was able to sit down in a quiet room in an undisclosed location within Sydney, Australia and really sink my teeth into The New Colossus. The first mission put me right at the start of the game, protagonist BJ Blazkowicz has miraculously survived the events of the New Order, but not without injury. The entire mission puts players in control of BJ, while seated in a wheelchair. It plays a little bit slower than the second mission, which let me refamiliarize myself with the controls and mechanics again before really getting into things. Shooting, sneaking and even some player triggered environmental hazards lent a sense of “play your own way” style that games like Prey did well earlier this year, albeit in a much more reduced capacity. This first mission does a good job at setting the tone for what to expect: light-hearted, dark comedy paired with ultra-serious action movie camp– exactly what I am looking for in a modern Nazi story.
The combat is what you’d expect: run and gun mechanics, with that classic shooter feel. Just like the previous entries of the game, health and armor is regained through pickups, there are plenty of weapons to choose from and things start to move fast once the action kicks off. The biggest weakness of New Colossus might be that it is resting too much on what made the previous versions great, and not iterating enough. The weapons are all different varieties of your known time period rifles and pistols, with a few exceptions being some lasers. The shooting and movement feels exactly like what I remembered from The New Order which is a little disappointing after playing the re-invented DOOM of 2016.
My favorite parts of the preview event were the opening moments of the second mission, which takes place in Roswell, New Mexico. This is the first real glimpse of the Nazi occupied US, with a variety of set pieces to enjoy on the walk to the mission start. I came across a couple of members of the Ku Klux Klan practicing their German with a Nazi policeman, a parade of marching soldiers rhythmically stomp down a city street, and the mission really starts when a high ranking Nazi officer orders a milkshake next to you. These bizarre encounters within an alternative post-WW2 history is something that I have always been interested in, and I hope that the final version of New Colossus is filled with more “what if the Nazis won” moments. While the storytelling and world building shines, the combat leaves a lot to be desired.
During most of my two hours with New Colossus the enemies felt very flat. They would often run around the corner and stand directly where their teammate had just died, and wait for me to shoot them. The challenge of the game rises by sheer numbers, and I found myself scavenging for ammunition. To work around this I approached every area with a stealth mindset, as the melee attack is an instant kill for most enemies it saved on ammunition and would let me work down the numbers before being detected. This is a pretty standard approach for modern shooters, and New Colossus transitions between stealth and action well, I just wish the action bits were a little less hide behind cover, shoot & wait and more DOOM dynamic, in your face, never stop running action. The whole thing culminated in a large robot fight, which felt little more than an uninspired bullet sponge. I hope we get to see more enemy combat variety, and the AI is tweaked to be more interesting before release.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is out on PS4, XB1 and PC, October 27, 2017.