So many times in my life I’ve tried to explain how amazing gaming is to my non-gaming friends and family. At the far end of the violence spectrum, we have open world games like GTA 5 where you can outright murder innocent people on a whim and in very graphic ways. It’s near impossible to justify to a non-gamer why I would want to act out these violent delights while maintaining that I’m a well adjusted and productive member of society. New media forms popular with the young have always been demonised by the old (and the ignorant), whether it be Rock & Roll or Rap music. In recent months many Alt-right and Neo-Nazi groups have been making their presence felt in America, emboldened by the sorry excuse for a human being who is currently playing President. Maybe I should be appalled that Machine Games have embraced this new resistance to Nazi groups into their marketing, but I’m not. Given what the Nazis did and what they still believe, if I could press a button that fired each and every one of them into the sun you can bet I would press that button without missing a heartbeat. So if I ever had to point to a game where I could justify violence, it would certainly be one where I am murdering Nazis.
Please note that while this is a spoiler free review for The New Colossus, there are obviously going to be spoilers for the previous game. If you haven’t played Wolfenstein: The New Order I can’t recommend it enough. If you still need convincing you can find my review here.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus continues five months after The New Order finished. As B.J. Blazkowicz lay dying he orders a strike that would certainly spell the end for him and his arch nemesis: General Deathshead. As it turns out, B.J.’s able band of chums managed to retrieve him before being incinerated by nuclear hell-fire and so our hero lives to fight another day. From the opening scenes, it is clear that he has sustained horrific internal injuries and may never walk again. In fact, for the first time in the history of the series, B.J. is broken and his mortality exposed like a raw nerve.
You wake on the Nazi super-sub, stolen in the first game and now an ad hoc home for the resistance. Hearing gunfire B.J. crawls into a wheelchair, grabs a weapon and like some kind of possessed shopping trolley starts doing what he does best - killing Nazis. I have to say I thought the decision to kick the game off in this way was incredibly brave because as you might imagine; tooling around a Submarine in a wheelchair doesn’t scream ‘super slick shooter’. Yet in a way this showcases perfectly B.J.’s sheer will to survive and fight, no matter the odds. Very soon he acquires the means to run around as he once did but for the sake of spoilers I will not discuss the how.
Jelly Cluster Truck
Regardless of where our story takes us or how well these characters are brought to life, relieving Nazis of their sweetmeats is the order of the day and hunting season is open. Despite landing a devastating blow on the Nazis the world (and more specifically America) is still firmly under the rule of the Germans in this alternative reality. Many of the weapons we saw in the first game make a welcome return, as they would, and each does the same sterling job of chopping Nazis into mincemeat. The damage model seems a little more advanced this time around with most body parts eligible to be damaged or blown off. This is demonstrated perfectly by B.J.’s new trusty axe which he uses in hyper graphic take-downs or silent ranged attacks. Weapons can be upgraded by finding special kits hidden around the levels, these add just enough choice in how to set up your metal spewing arsenal. The gunplay on show here is second to none and killing Nazis has never been so much fun.
Another system that comes across from the New Order is the perks. These are action based achievements that upgrade just by playing the game, whether it be headshots, stealth kills or more difficult feats of skill. I love this system as it doesn’t require much pondering, you just get stuck in and the game takes care of the rest. If you do fancy focusing on a specific perk this can be a nice additional layer for those who want it.
I’ll be honest, I actually stumbled across the Enigma system while looking around the Sub. Anna mentions that you can select destinations on the ships navigation map which I assumed was just a fancy mission select. In actual fact, it is a list of assassination missions that open up once you have killed generals and retrieved the Enigma codes. In these missions, you visit places you see in the main campaign but now you must fight/sneak your way through to your target. The main campaign for The New Colossus is a very generous in size, with enough layers to keep most gamers busy for twenty-plus hours. These missions are perfect for those of us who want to complete perks, return for collectables or just want some more action. What is impressive is that all these missions are individually voice acted and feel like part of the bigger picture as opposed to a few extra mission maps. I also started unlocking the contraptions around the time I started doing Enigma missions and these were the perfect playground to try them out.
Feels and Fury
The New Order did something that nobody ever expected from a Wolfenstein game: it gave the player three-dimensional characters to deal with and it also popped the hood on B.J.’s emotional engine. The sadistic choice you had to make at the start of The New Order is represented here and like before, the character who survives is then integrated into your story. I personally chose Fergus to survive and apart from having his right arm hacked off is alive and able to serve for the New Colossus. I have to mention Fergus’s new mechanical arm: it’s hilarious and a good example of the humorous beats this game manages to weave into the grim narrative. The relationship between Anna and B.J is now under strain and her being heavily pregnant with his twins is making his death sentence even more unbearable for him. We even get some harrowing glimpses into B.J.’s troubled childhood which gives us some clues as to what shaped him into the man he is now. The bottom line is that Machine Games have done a truly excellent job of bringing these characters to life and making us care about their fate.
Of course, every hero requires a villain and here we see the vengeful and psychotic Frau Engel pursue B.J. from the first game. Not content with killing her lover and boss, B.J. also did very bad things to her cake-hole. Engel is a fantastic malefactor, this woman relishes inflicting pain on her enemies, namely you and those you care about. This is another fantastic motivator for the player to keep pushing onward and make Engel pay for her crimes. I can actually see plenty of influences from modern films here, the General in the Roswell diner for example really reminded me of Col. Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds (played by the amazing Christoph Waltz).
One of my favourite elements to the New Colossus isn’t the amazing gameplay or the deep characters: it’s actually Eva’s Hammer, the colossal U-Boat you steal in the first game. Every single corner of this submerged city has been lavished with intricate detail and grounding. By grounding I’m referring to the astounding design that shows people live here: personal notes/trinkets, little modifications and signs that these people have tried to make the cold metal interior into a home. In particular, I love poking around the personal quarters of your fellow resistance members to discover something about their history. Like with New Order, there are also plenty of interactions you can have. When walking into the bar I noticed two crew members playing pool, they soon sauntered off to do other things, all with beautiful animation I might add. In the corner was an old arcade game which (you guessed it) lets you play the original Wolfenstein game while still listening to the conversations at the bar. There are some interesting exchanges to be had with people, secrets to find and even a shooting range in the armoury. If you leap from mission to mission you could miss this, so I urge you to take your time and nosey around.
The Alabama Shuffle
The New Order and The New Colossus are both set within 1960’s America, it’s a great era to base a game with diners, Cadillac‘s and duke boxes all showing off a slice of American pie. Then we have the advanced technology and weapons being spliced into the mix, with impossibly agile robots, mechanically enhanced soldiers and a whole manner of other futuristic techs. As we learned in the last game, the source of this knowledge was a secret network of vaults that the Nazis have managed to plunder which gave them an unbeatable advantage in the war. Very early on in the game, there was a scene which gave me a clue as to where this story might go and I was right. However, the way it was orchestrated and the result of this event blew me away. This all happens around halfway through the game and in addition to a few problems being solved, you now have a choice of three new ‘contraptions’ to aid you in your fight.
The Battle Walkers are effectively stilts that allow you to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. They also give you more options when trying to sneak up on unsuspecting guards. The Ram Shackles turn you into an almost unstoppable force when running, letting you smash weak walls down as well as break any Nazis in your path. The last contraption is the Constrictor Harness which lets B.J. compress his body into impossibly tight spaces like drain pipes and the thin space under obstacles: I’ve never felt like Tombs from the X-files in a game before. Like the perks, the contraptions can each be upgraded once you have fulfilled the challenge that comes with them. You get to choose one of these items but all three can be acquired if you so wish (and I highly recommend you do). I love these additional gameplay systems and think they show how flexible the developers are willing to be with this IP.
Is it PC?
The New Colossus is a very good looking game and this is matched by how well it runs. I have a GTX 980 and still managed to run it on ultra settings with decent frame rates. All the visual options you could want are present and correct. Key re-binding and controls are also spot on, so no problems there. As I have mentioned, the environments are overall fantastic and during the campaign, you visit some quite iconic places including Roswell New Mexico and a ruined New York City. Most of the large open areas where you fight look great but it’s when you find yourself in a commander's office or secret lab there is even more exquisite detail to see. Like the U-boat, I have spent a good deal of time admiring the world that Machine Games have so expertly crafted.
One problem I have to mention is one which seems to have followed us from the last game. Often B.J. will utterly fail to hop over something like a railing or desk and it’s ended up with me reloading more than a few times. In addition, you can get caught on the environment in some very silly ways which are a minor complaint but one worth noting. Another slight niggle was the pathfinding towards objectives sometimes doesn’t seem to work very well. Also, it may be my imagination but B.J. seems to take a tad more damage this time around but this could be the fact your health is usually falling due to radiation or his internal injuries.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus comes together as an almost perfect sequel to an already fantastic title. While the first game surprised me with its deep emotional elements this game takes these characters and really doubles down the energy that coursed through the first game. We are living in a time when many publishers are falling over themselves to monetise their games and seem to be straying away from single player experiences. The New Colossus shows us what can be accomplished when a talented studio knows its own product: explosive gunplay, brilliant story and a game I cannot recommend enough.
Thank you for reading my review for Wolfenstein 2: the New Colossus on PC. If you like my work please add my site to your favourites, follow me on Twitter @riggedforepic and most of all come back soon.