Less often these days than I think the gaming world needs, we get games like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This game plays out like the best Nazi killing, action exploding splatter fest you didn’t know you needed. Well, maybe we did, but I didn’t necessarily expect it to come from Wolfenstein. This is a series that has managed to retain most of what made it a popular shooter to begin with. Fast, frantic gunplay, Nazi brutality and running as fast as you can to find the one health pack or shield you hope is hidden in some corner of the level. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has all of this in glorious spades and flavors while managing to deliver a story that I truthfully wasn’t expecting to enjoy as thoroughly as I did.
Gunfights are the meat of this game. It’s a 24/7 affair of Nazis that require your able hand of death to show them the error of their ways. This is interlaced with small bits of hitting switches, crawling through vents and going through doors, but other than that most of your time will be spent in the midst of the run and gun. There are only a few weapon types available to you, and these can be upgraded throughout the game with cogs found in the game world. These add silencers, magazines, and scopes depending on your play style. It is possible to play this game at a slower pace, using the cover and lean function to your advantage. Most of the time, however, the game is encouraging the up close and personal style. There are a few sections that will force the player to move along faster due to environmental hazards, as well as health packs and shields being tucked around the level.
This is also a difficult game. There are 6 difficulties total and even the middle tier ones can be frustrating, as it takes very little damage to put an end to Terror Billy and send you back to a checkpoint. Speaking of checkpoints, they ranged from well timed to instances where it would spawn you back in the middle of a group of enemies with no way to run away in time, forcing you to reload an earlier save. Hopefully you have one. The level designs are almost all enclosed spaces with little breathing room for the player, as you attempt to control your running speed and not get hung up on tiny objects on the floor you can’t see, which you will. There are occasional larger areas later on that give you space to roam at high speeds, sliding around and melting Nazi faces, but not as many as I would’ve liked.
Towards late game, you do get the option to change up your style a bit by choosing between three body mods that give you a few abilities each. One lets you shrink between surfaces for stealth, the next gives you stilts that will propel you to new cover and new places, while the third lets you gain armor to barrel down doors and explode Nazi scum on impact. The third was the most fun of these options, so much so that it was a little disappointing to get it so late in the game’s story. Although the reason you get an upgrade at all is one of the best video game moments I enjoyed in years, you’ll know what I mean if you play it.
The game also employs a perk upgrade system that allows you to decide what you need next by tackling the requirements at any point. For example, getting 50 melee kills increases your health regeneration, and completing it again until it’s mastered will grant a better bonus. This was a fun and rewarding system that lets the player decide what’s important to them and when. The heart of the firefights are in letting you dual-wield any combination of weapons at any point. Upgrading shotguns to their full potential and dual wielding them while running around at full speed, throwing any caution to the wind was a blast. This game is much of what made DOOM last year so great. It focuses on what it does well and allows the player a pretty good amount of freedom on how they want to approach that.
Rendering Nazi limbs and Robot Tigers
There isn’t a whole lot to praise the graphical system for, other than looking great when shit gets real. When you laser an enemy and watch their existence flash into bone and dust, the particle effects look great. Bloody deaths shine with bright red fountains and fire-breathing tiger droids look fantastic enough to sell their presence. Lighting is well done and character models range from decent, to pretty good, to ugly as hell. The cutscenes are wonderfully done though. Not necessarily on the same level as maybe Naughty Dog, but the animations are very good at complimenting what’s happening for the characters on screen. The frame rate was also very pleasing running on PS4 Pro with no noticeable dips, even when there are multiple giant Nazi mechs on screen trying to pummel you into mush.
The Action Movie Of The Year
The story follows the familiar face of William Blazcowicz picking up where the last game left off. The beginning is a bit of last time on DragonBall Z, detailing where the characters are and leading right into the game’s first big battle with the Nazi General Engel. Engel is one of my favorite video game villains of recent titles. She manages to not only be a brutal and disgusting character, but also one who devoutly carries out her beliefs. Truly a villain you can’t wait to kill, maim and take sweet revenge on.
It’s hard to talk about what makes the story great without spoiling it, and normally I would go ahead and do so, but it really was a treat from start to finish and I was happy I didn’t have any idea what to expect throughout. One of the best parts are the flashbacks of Blazcowicz’s childhood. His ugly upbringing doesn’t distract from what is happening currently in the story, but rather helps add to it at the exact right times, leading into great character arcs that divulge exactly how you want them to by the end of the game.
One of my favorite scenes in the game includes a run in with Hitler himself, and there are a couple different ways it can play out. This scene offers everything the game does so well. It’s funny, it’s scary and brutal, it’s sad at times and satisfying as hell if you go one particular direction with it.
I really expected the story to be a by the numbers affair, and ultimately it is. Resistance against Nazis who find more resistance to help kill more Nazis. What really stands out are the characters. I laughed out loud multiple times in the story and was always interested in what any character on screen had to say. Even more cliché stereotypes were so fun, they didn’t feel that way at all. They’re a believable group of people, thrown together despite their differences because of their common hate for Nazi trash. There are multiple atom bombs, courtroom slaughters, drunken party nights that lead to hilarious consequences and even one scene with a topless pregnant woman covered in blood firing two machine guns. That’s seriously in the game! Its gratuitous at times, stupidly funny at others, and oddly satisfying in its emotional moments.
In conversation with friends, it’s hard not to say what everyone else is saying. Playing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is like watching the best action movie you’ll see all year. It’s so accurate I feel redundant saying it, but it’s true. This has been a big year for games. Small games, big games, and games filled with enough micro-transactions to make your head spin. I wanted a game like this, I needed it. An old school, tough as shit, run for your life shooter with buckets of gore and bullets. I was lucky enough to get a story that was so great, it compelled me to finish something that I would’ve enjoyed without it, but added a ton to the overall experience.
Sometimes it feels like video games are missing the fun. Keywords rattle across boxes like open-world, hundreds of hours, season pass and endless loot. That’s all good and fine, but it feels like every damn game is hitting all those points these days. It was nice to just sit back, enjoy the ride and murder every goddamn Nazi I could find.