We’re going to be doing on thing and one thing only…
The grandfather of the first person shooter, Wolfenstein 3D became available by mail order on May 5th 1992, with the whole game on two floppy discs, totaling 2.88MB max, and was available for your computer of choice running MS-DOS. If you have no idea what any of these things are, it’s fine, you are just a little baby. I learned DOS promts when I was five, so if you were born after 1992 I’ve been playing games than longer than you’ve been alive. Anyway, onto more recent things, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a direct sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, developed by Machine Games and published by Bethesda Softworks. The game features an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II and America now lives under the oppressive regime of the Third Reich. The game takes the Michael Bay approach to design and features many, many, many explosions. It got over shadowed by several other games that came out the same week, but is it worth checking out?
[Reviewed on PC]
This game took one look at my graphics card and laughed. As I cried and lowered the quality preset to low, disabled v-sync, and ran it in 720p, I finally got to a very solid and stable experience. Still, all that said, the visuals in this game are stellar. There’ a lot of great design with clearly defined setpieces. The Nazi armor is really imposing, a force to be reckoned with every time you encounter a group of enemies. Past all of that, the game has a lot of cutscenes that have found the perfect balance between realism and artistry. Coherent and consistent design runs across the entire game, as all the buildings, tech, and gear match up gloriously and never seem out of place nor unrefined.
You know, I really don’t skip cutscenes in games on my first playthrough, but this game sorely tested my patience. In stark contrast to it’s cousin, DOOM (2016), Wolf 2 is filled to the brim with cutscenes. Long ones. The kind that teeter on the brink of being a Hideo Kojima game, without all the awkward grunting that usually ensues. The biggest problem was how the game goes at great lengths to show you just how bad the Nazis are by taking every chance it gets to further hammer just how ridiculously evil they are. At sometimes, it’s an absolute delight on an “Inglourious Basterds” level of suspense and shock value. Just when you think the game doesn’t have any more evil things for the Nazis to do, they just constantly up the ante. Which is fine, but again, the non-interactive cutscenes can get pretty long and get in the way of your enjoyment of the game.
As I returned to the base mission after mission, I found myself ignoring everyone and just sprinting straight for the door that will lead you to the next level, as I had very little interest in the characters. They didn’t leave a lasting impression on me in the first game, and in this sequel I actually felt sort of lost in trying to keep track of the litany of characters being showcased throughout the game. There are definitely times where the game gets “over the top” levels of awesome in some places, but these are equal to parts that are little more than just exposition dumps and people arguing with each other. On top of this, the game needlessly felt like it had to add more depth to protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz buy throwing in a new backstory. One about how his father was a Nazi who makes you shoot your own dog, beats his wife, and yells out you for hanging out with a black girl. The game was laying on that quite thick, and once I got to the level where you visit your old house, I found myself eager to skip each cutscene, as the game tries to further and further cement just how bad the Nazis and BJ’s dad are. We get it. They are Nazis. They are bad people. Really bad people. I believe you. I’ll take your word for it. Can we just get back to shooting them in the face now?
Now THIS is how you make a stand out original soundtrack. When you mix rock and roll with orchestral arrangements and the occasional breakout of outright metal, you will always feel it when you’re kicking some serious ass as the battle music blasts. The music is timed very well with the game and definitely is made with lots of attention to the scene playing out. The ‘get ready’ music plays softly as the characters talk about things and then ramps it up to 11 as you start executing some unbelievable feats you and your resistance pals get up to. And the sound of the guns? Absolutely satisfactory. Through the sound, you can really feel the raw power of the weapons through the booming power of the sound effects alone. The shotgun hammers away, the SMG has a solid buzzing sound, and the lazers screech as you burn through enemies and some of the metal surroundings. Sounds like this empower the player and really engage at all the right moments.
Wolfenstein’s pedigree is on full display in this title. This is a no holds barred shooter that lets you dual wield shotguns. SHOTGUNS. Two at once! Or two SMGS. Or a pistol and assault rifle to mix things up. Or a giant laser canon. You get a solid run and gun experience with a big emphasis on the running as your sprint speed is about the same as wearing rocket powered rollerblades. This game supports many different shooting approaches, so long as all of them are aggressive. Each weapon is simple and direct, there aren’t any weapons that are odd or out of place. You will also find yourself running about trying to find health pack and armor, as this game isn’t too keen on letting you hid behind cover and waiting for your health to come back. Nay, you will face the Nazi head-on, guns a-blazing with a smile on your face. All that said, there are some nitpicks that need to be addressed in the next category.
The game is not without it’s faults. For one thing, the difficulty slider could use some adjustment. And no, I’m not referring to the game ridiculing you for playing it on easy. If that offends you, too bad so sad, this is a shooter. Get good or accept the fact that you’re not good and just play the game on easy if its really that challenging. That’s what multiple difficulty sliders are for. Some games don’t give you that option, this one does. The actual problem comes from the scaling of the difficulties. The default game difficulty “Bring Em On!” is definitely a hard setting to open on, mainly because it takes a while to get into the rhythm of the game. Your instincts want you to to run for cover but sooner or later you’re going to realize that head-on is the best approach. But even then, the default setting is considerably challenging for a “normal” mode, while the next difficulty below that one doesn’t feel that much different. Then you go to the easiest setting “Can I Play, Daddy?” and the game goes from extremely challenging to a bit too easy. There’s no sweet spot.
Also, there a bit of a problem with other play styles. The game has stealth elements available, but you don’t really get much of a reward for trying to be sneaky. It is far too easy for enemies to spot you and you will also frequently find yourself trying to sneak up on one of the officers so the alarm doesn’t get raised. Only the moment you’re seen, the game goes from 0-60 at breakneck pace and every enemy in the area knows exactly where you are at all times until you dash around enough to find the officer(s) broadcasting the alarm. You can try stealth, but you will frequently find yourself giving up on it as it rarely pays off.
Besides all of these, some poorly placed checkpoints can lead you to get stuck in situations where you continually die after respawning. And there are several moments where one of the guns glitch out and just become a big jagged, uncontrolled mass that completely hinders your view and can turn enemy NPCs into walking blobs. The only way to fix it seems to be quitting the game entirely and re-launching it, which is a huge pain.
If you are a shooter fan, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus would be right up your alley. Kickass combat and badass music and sound abound will keep you at the edge of your seat. The experience is only marred by a handful of issues, such as the bugs discussed above and some overly long cutscenes about characters you may not care about. They hold the game back from being the best it can be, but it is still a rock solid shooter nonetheless.