Take a look at most forms of media these days and you’ll notice a lot of familiar material getting the remaster, remake, and reboot treatment. Current media in general seems to be relying on the hits of the past a tad more so than usual, resulting in releases such as the recently chart-annihilating Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy. Wolfenstein, one of the founding fathers of the FPS genre, was another title of old to get the reboot treatment back in 2014, releasing to the tune of much critical acclaim and a shiny 8/10 from us. Unsurprisingly so, publisher Bethesda and developer Machine Games have teamed up again for a sequel to the bonkers reboot promising bigger guns, bolder Nazis, and some folks on acid. We recently went hands on at Bethesda’s offices in London to see for ourselves just what carnage B.J Blazkowitz gets up to this time in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus.
It’s been five months since the events that unfolded in The New Order and Blazkowitz is still a little worse for wear, so much so in fact that you’ll be experiencing the opening level from the cushioned seat of a wheelchair. Trundling along in the mobility device, gunning down unsuspecting Nazis is so representative of the tone outlined in Wolfenstein II: for every gory or horrific moment there’s an equally hilarious one. The balance in tone is great and shows that Machine Games is endeavouring to maintain many of the positives found in the previous iteration. The narrative found in The New Order, however, wasn’t exactly the reboot’s strongest feature but it’s an aspect that seems to have garnered extra attention for the sequel. Detailed cinematics peppered our pre-alpha experience, conveying a clear, enjoyable, and certainly beefier plot that’s delivered with some really memorable voice acting.
The story isn’t the only thing with The New Colossus that’s had somewhat of a revamp with the visuals gaining a sizeable boost from its predecessor. Things like fiery explosions and violent takedowns all look crystal clear with the overall look feeling more than up to scratch with other fidelity heavy-hitters found in the PS4’s expansive library. The improved graphics only go to accentuate the brilliant level of detail found in Wolfenstein II’s environments, from the collectible infographics and propaganda of this dystopian future to the actual urostomy pouch (bag of pee) attached to B.J’s hospital smock, which he dutifully hauls around during the opening level.
While many of you may have seen the aforementioned wheelchair adventures post-E3, we also got the chance to experience another later level that showcases what it’s like to operate within a Nazi controlled USA and answers the age old question of what’s a Nazi’s favourite flavour of milkshake? Nazi command is holed up in Area 52, Roswell, New Mexico – presumably because Area 51 was just too much of an obvious choice – and it’s Blazkowitz’s job to steamroll into the place with a portable nuke disguised as a fire extinguisher and blow the place sky high. Obviously.
This level settles the dystopian feel, with Nazis wandering the streets and interacting with typical hallmarks of American culture, further contributing to that attention to detail and more successful world-building we didn’t get so much of previously. More cinematics and dialogue flesh out the situation, giving you purpose and of course confirming that it is indeed Strawberry milkshakes that are a Nazi’s favourite. The level swiftly settles into the typical senseless Wolfenstein action as you power through the tight corridors of a train armed with dual-wielded automatic shotguns, blasting apart essentially anything that moves. We’re also introduced to a new enemy type that’s been aptly dubbed Nazi Ninjas as they’re fast-moving blighters that prove rather difficult to put down, providing a nice switch up from the typical foot soldier firefight. It’s great to see that Wolfenstein II maintains the intensity that was so well received in its younger sibling, but in this instance it's been gelled neatly together with story bites and other meaningful actions, lending necessary credibility to the incessant adrenaline rush.
If you’re looking for a slight reprieve from the constant rush of disintegrating Nazis, stealth gameplay makes a welcome comeback in The New Colossus, maintaining the all-important Commandant signals for you to hunt down and dispatch before they can raise the alarm. The environment itself feels more accommodating to stealth this time around, with many subtle alternate paths presenting themselves, allowing for a more tailored method of execution to arise. The perks found in Wolfenstein II’s menus only go to heighten this feeling of choice, allowing for additions like silencers or drum magazines to be added to your tools of the job. Stealth is still rather difficult to execute, but overwhelmingly satisfying if managed and while it’s not as effective it does offer a welcome alternate option from simply waltzing in guns blazing all the time.
In short, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is shaping up in a very good way. It seems to have successfully taken the positive ingredients of The New Order while evidently acting on feedback of the more negative kind. The New Colossus, in the handful of hours we had with it, built a feeling of struggle and defiance and introduced us to an array of characters we cared about while coherently combining them in an enjoyable narrative. We want to know what’ll go down in this new Nazi America beyond who we’ll be filling with lead next and that’s a really important step in the right direction. We still get to blast heaps of Nazis and robot ninjas to pieces, but we also get more of a feeling as to why we’re doing it – sign us right up for the rest come 27th October.
Will you be wheeling away with a copy of the new Wolfenstein game come launch day? Are you a fan of Machine Games’ adaptation of this classic franchise? Fire away in the comments sections below.