The High Score: ‘Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ Game ReviewJeremiah WilhelmNovember 7, 2017
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Price: $59.99 (Deluxe Edition available for $79.99; Collector’s Edition for $99.99)
Summary: Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is the third installment in the the Wolfenstein reboot by MachineGames and Bethesda Software. This cinematic first-person shooter feels like a mashup of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards and the newest version of Doom. The gratuitous violence and bloody combat animations emphasize the relentless rage of your character (and main protagonist), B.J. Blazkowicz, as he wields all manner of modifiable firearms in service of the Kreisau Circle (and the forthcoming revolution of the subjugated United States.)
Lend Me Your Wings
For those of you just entering the series, The New Colossus follows the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order (and the stand-alone prequel, Wolfenstein: Old Blood). B.J. Blazkowicz, who presumably died at the end of the The New Order, awakens to his friends and comrades airlifting him from Deathshead’s compound shortly before the facility is nuked. B.J.’s body is badly damaged, but with a little help from his friends and some ancient technology, he manages to rejoin the ranks of the resistance.
The New Colossus abducts B.J.’s successes from the previous game and questions their overall effectiveness against The Reich, Frau Engel (our antagonist), and the massive Nazi war-machine that managed to cripple the United States in 1948 after dropping an atomic bomb on Manhattan. The New Colossus leads Blazkowicz through the objectively disgusting Nazi-tinted settings of Roswell, the irradiated streets of Manhattan, the walled off ghetto of New Orleans, and further to rekindle the fire of the resistance and the sheepish America people. These settings are beautifully rendered and meticulously enriched with small, telling details that give this horrid, alternate past an eerie air of possibility.
Overall, The New Colossus continues to reanimate and advance the Wolfenstein series with masterful craftsmanship. The facial animations, voice acting, story development, graphical presentation, and adrenaline fueled gameplay make this game a must for Wolfenstein faithfuls and single-player FPS fanatics. That being said, I wish the game was just a little longer. While the crescendo of Wolfenstein 2 led to a rewarding narrative conclusion, the bigger curiosities and questions brought up regarding war-ending technologies and the lore surrounding them remained unanswered. This made the game feel like an interlude that stitched the torso of The New Order to the legs of The New Colossus, which was then put back on ice.
Gameplay and Level Design
Level design is vivid and, for the most part, full of life. The design did seem to lose some of its visual flair after the initial missions, becoming a series of elaborate hallways that led into other hallways. The mini map and my endless search of collectibles encouraged me to explore and re-explore sections of the game I had played through, though the pleasure turned into drudgery at some point.
The hatchet-throwing mechanics are responsive and feel powerful, like the bladed boomerang in RAGE. I would have loved to see an upgrade for the hatchet, but this didn’t detract from the joy of tomahawking Nazis from the shadows. I’ve never been much for hobbies, but I think my new hobby is throwing hatchets. Also, the fluid dual-wielding mechanic elevates B.J. from standard revolutionary to Rambo-like angel of death. Silenced pistols, submachine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers can all be dual-wielded with devastating and hilarious effects. I can imagine this mechanic would have made or broke multiplayer in glorious fashion.
There are tons of collectibles that offer a glimpse into the secret communications of characters throughout the “American Territories” as well as concept art, characters models, and more. Areas can be revisited through unique assassination contracts discovered post-credits, which lengthens the replay value of the game just a touch while hardcore players wait for the DLC.
Story and Character Development
This is a well-crafted single-player FPS that doesn’t need multiplayer ranking or gimmicks to keep the player’s attention. Seeing a big budget studio devote time to storytelling and thoughtful presentation should please gamers of all genres.
Both dialogue and voice acting are superb, and the story is carried by these performances and the writing that supports them. The tone created by Blazkowicz’ internal monologue magnifies the appalling reality that confronts him as he survives the unbearable loss of his comrades and the cruelty of his foes. His macabre quotations and painful awareness of war’s brutal cost are contrasted by the awesome ass-kicking he perpetrates against his enemies.
Humor and sadness are difficult to balance in any narrative, but especially so when Nazis and the implications of Nazism are central to that narrative. This game and its characters are written in such brilliant and vivacious fashion that their laugh-out-loud weirdness eclipses the bloodstains and cruelty of the setting just long enough to amplify and re-amplify the player’s call-to-action.
First, the game’s length felt short. I know FPS’s run about 15 hours in play-time these days, but I managed to finish the game with 48% completion and 24/50 achievements in just over 11 hours. I guess this gripe comes simply from my desire for more immersive Nazi ass-kicking.
Second, there is no multiplayer. This isn’t a big deal for me, but I know it’s a deal-breaker for some. In a quote from MachineGames’ Tommy Tordsson Björk said, “The only way we can create these super immersive narrative experiences is if we can solely focus on the single-player.”
While this game is great, it is not completely flawless. There was some texture pop-in and a few minor glitches, but nothing that crashed the game or detracted heavily from the overall experience. I can understand some flaws in a game with the scope of Fallout or Skyrim, but not in a short-form shoot ’em up like this.
Buy this game if you enjoyed The New Order (or Doom) and are a fan of fast-paced first person shooters. If you’re looking for multiplayer FPS action, look elsewhere.
After the credits, the player can choose to undertake assassination missions and minor tasks that help the crew. Allowing the character to revisit settings squeezes a bit more juice from the game, but doesn’t contribute much to the overall story of Blazkowicz or the subjugated United States. This is an opportunity to gather collectibles and crush some achievements, but what I am waiting for is the DLC that drops on November 7th. Entitled The Freedom Chronicles, these standalone missions place players in the shoes of three different freedom fighters:
- The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe: As former professional quarterback Joseph Stallion, smash through Nazi hordes from the ruins of Chicago to the vastness of space.
- The Diaries of Agent Silent Death: As ex-OSS agent and assassin Jessica Valiant, infiltrate Nazi bunkers in California and discover the secrets of Operation San Andreas.
- The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins: As the US Army’s renowned hero Captain Gerald Wilkins, embark on a mission to Nazi-controlled Alaska to dismantle Operation Black Sun.
Stay tuned for another round of The High Score and Wolfenstein 2: Freedom Chronicles.