Played on Windows
Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is the 2017’s follow up to Wolfenstein: The New Order. It’s a fresh new look at the alternate history that the New Order started us on with a version of post World War II where the Nazis won. Players want to know about further adventures of BJ Blaskowiski and the many Nazi’s he was intending to kill.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus definitely has taken a step up in the graphical department. It’s hard to put an exact reason for it, but it seems that everything in the sequel has gained a lot more definition and style. Whether it just be the gun models or just the levels, there’s a noticeable quality difference when the games are placed side by side.
It’s strange because Wolfenstein 2 looks as good as people remember the original New Order, but the fact is, in the original game, many of the scenes are visually weaker. Now New Colossus has the graphics to live up to the experience, the gun models are better, levels have a little more detail, and the entire experience feels more realistic.
To create the illusion though, something had to give, as The New Order and the New Colossus run on relatively the same hardware, and for this improvement, it appears the levels of New Colossus have a little less detail. Rather than more immersive environments, Wolfenstein 2 is focused a little more on the gore and carnage of war.
The game can look amazing at times. Though most of the enemies will become commonplace by the end of the game.
Another place that The New Colossus takes a step back is in the graphical diversity. While Wolfenstein 2 looks better, it’s using a muted color pallet that heavily focuses on the greys, browns and (muddy) greens. You’ll find yourself in cold sterile environments, u-boats, a burned-out version of Manhattan that has been nuked. While there are a few moments of brightness, most notably the piece of gameplay shown off at E3 featuring Joe’s Diner, this is a single area, and quickly has the player dive underground to once again pick up the drab color palette again.
That’s not to say the game is ruined due to the color scheme. In fact New Colossus does quite a bit with the visuals even with the single tone in most stages, it’s just that while the game has a higher visual bar, it’s taken a step back in other, perhaps less important areas, to make the game look just that much better and stand out a bit more.
While the enemies are all pretty much stock Nazi characters, there are a few changes over the game, but overall you’re stuck fighting similar enemies for the entire game, and while that works, I would have loved to face different groups.
There were a few points before the game shipped that made it sound that BJ Blaskowiski would also face the Ku Klux Klan, and while there’s a couple of them that make a major appearance, they are mostly a non-entity in the grand scheme. You may see a couple as you’re mowing down various enemies, but they don’t have a major place in the story. Speaking of that story…
I’ve thought that Wolfenstein The New Order did a good job with its story, in fact, it’s one of the strongest experiences I’ve had with a shooter that wasn’t completely driven by a narrative in a long time. I was expecting a lot from Wolfenstein 2 The New Colossus, and fan and reviewers reactions were heavily positive for this entry’s story, so I had a feeling I was going to have an enjoyable romp through another Nazi-themed slaughtering ground.
Well, the Nazis were there, but I think ultimately Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus really isn’t as good as I’ve heard. In fact, I would say that Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ story is actually downright bad, and one of the pieces that caused me to struggle with Wolfenstein 2 for at least half of the game’s story.
Wolfenstein spends much of its time attempting to tell a big bombastic story filled with exciting moments and loud action. This would be fine if you were telling a story about a hero or a warrior conquering the enemy. Doom does this extremely well even only spending a few seconds on the story before the game dives back into more heart pulsing actions, in fact, Wolfenstein: The New Order also did this well.
The problem is that Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus doesn’t tell the type of big bombastic story that the game is trying to push, the story where Nazis are evil and trying to kill everyone. Instead, we get a more introspective story that focuses heavily on BJ Blastkowiski’s past and history, as well as trying to deal with his eventual death.
The game will sometimes flat out say it. BJ’s going to die.
We should start at the beginning, at the end of Wolfenstein: The New Order, or rather the beginning of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, BJ is bleeding out after killing Deathhead from the original game. Bombs are about to rain down to erase everything back to square one, and BJ’s friends from the Kreisau Circle rescue him at the last minute, however, he’s in bad shape.
The BJ we find has been cut to shreds and patched together, the entire first mission has BJ riding around in a wheelchair since he’s actually unable to walk, at the end of the mission he gets magical power armor that allows him to run around and murder Nazis the same as the first game, though with less health.
The problem is the story themes keep focusing towards a much deeper and more subtle story. The game wants to wax philosophically about the nature of death, about having children you realize you won’t be around for, a man who is fighting a war because it’s the only thing he knows or the nature of what makes us the way we are. It wants to tell inspiring stories of war-torn people who persevere in the face of an evil that knows no end. It even wants to talk about the idea of the sins of the father.
And it very much has a language that it should be able to use to tell these story pieces, the problem though is that language doesn’t amount to much when it’s shouted at the top of its lungs. The themes of the game are a subtle mess of emotions that need a gentle hand and a careful execution but sadly the style of the game seems to find it awkward whenever it is forced to show a scene that isn’t exploding with the extreme. It needs to be the most outlandish, the most exciting, the most revealing story, and it does this by trying to keep everything pegged at a 10 the entire ride.
Once again I can return to the beginning of the game before the player even gains control, there is a long line of cutscenes from the first game, followed by BJ’s rescue and being saved by his team. Though as this is happening he often fades in and out of consciousness and is treated to memories of his parents, what he calls “hell”. We meet his mother, who seems like a nice woman, and then eventually his father, who the game just wants to make into a villain.
All the subtlety of a brick through the head.
Eventually in this tour of BJ’s hell, his father decides to use the n-word when talking about a girl that BJ likes, so obviously, he’s a racist. But this isn’t a subtle story remember. Instead, he uses it again, then starts ranting about how the Jews are holding him down, so he’s really racist. Then he continues onwards to beat his wife, and then choke his child all in the span of about a minute.
This is already more than enough to peg the father as the chief villain in the piece, but if the player somehow hasn’t decided that the father is a problem, there’s still one more scene where the father gives BJ a loaded gun, forcing his hand to point the gun at his dog who is chained up, whimpering and clearly in terror. And now control is given back to the player.
This is absolutely terrible, but it’s still not over, I sat at this screen for close to five minutes in silence shocked that this is how Wolfenstein decided to open or the over the top manner it decided to subject the player to. I’m a dog lover, so I’d do anything possible to avoid shooting at a dog. Unfortunately, that’s not an option here. Though, if the player aims at the small corner of the area that wouldn’t hit the dog, he’s able to miss the dog, which annoys the father who knocks BJ over, takes the double-barrel shotgun you were holding and fires the second barrel into the area the dog was in, with a yelp, a small blood spurt and a fade to black.
This is how Wolfenstein 2 opens, and I feel this also perfectly summarizes everything wrong with how it tries to tell its story. It trying to tell a subtle narrative but is done as loud and garish as it possibly can. It also doesn’t help that the game is telling the backstory of a character that isn’t in this game. The backstory shown is the backstory of BJ Blaskowiski from the first game, players have already spent an entire game with BJ and these story elements don’t really change much from the Nazi hating warrior we already know.
There’s so much more I can say, but I think those two segments of the game make the point of the entire problem with what Wolfenstein is trying to do and how it does it. It uses caricatures of people, rather than believable forms to try to make its points with large brush strokes. The father actually isn’t the grand villain, in fact, he’s a minor villain in the grand scheme of things, but more on that when we talk about the gameplay.
I hate that I have to share this but yeah, this is how the game opens. Terrible.
There’s more, BJ’s heavily pregnant wife is often in the middle of battle, sometimes going into war when there are at least four people standing around doing nothing, not to mention the ludicrous nature of her last scene. Wolfenstein 2 constantly bringing up a dead character without the player making a strong connection before that point. Then there’s a black male character, whose name eludes me because his whole purpose in the story is a singular sexual joke, rather than a developed character. I want to dive into many more troublesome points of the story, especially those which are more spoilers, but ultimately they all circle the same fact of trying to tell a “Surprising” or “Edgy” story but doing it with the wrong subject matter.
The fact is Wolfenstein has a pedigree better than this. The game clearly wants to spend time with the story, which is why most of the scenes in the game are extremely long, but it’s hard to keep the intense exciting momentum of the entire game at the same level as you’re trying to tell longer tales over cutscenes or one that needs smaller more subtle motions, and it’s also where Machinegames completely loses me.
It’s really simple to just say Wolfenstein 2’s gameplay is killing Nazis. But it’s also most of the story with Wolfenstein 2. This is a First-Person Shooter where the player grabs guns, shoots enemies, mostly Nazis and moves through levels leaving everyone behind dead.
There are a few twists to the formula but most of them do nothing to change what is the core philosophy of the Wolfenstein games, not that there’s anything wrong with that gameplay synopsis. Nazis are one of the few groups of people who remove some of the moral ambiguity of war. While this might be problematic if looked at philosophically, we’re not really here to discuss that. Nazis are bad, and Bj’s whole outlook on life is based on removing as many of them from the Earth as he can.
The game does add a few twists to the game, by lowering the cap for the max health points of BJ Blaskowiski to 50 points of life, where he was able to gain 100 points in the original game. BJ can gain more health than the cap, but that health will quickly drain back to the capped value.
The twin gunplay from The New Order returns, as well as the ability to switch one of his guns out at will to any of the seven different guns he’ll find over the course of the game and add to his arsenal.
These are all quite similar to the first game, the biggest changes to the formula though are both the perks and upgrade system. The perk system rewards the player for doing specific actions over and over. It’s a great way to incentivize players to use specific attacks, like melee attacks, or to kill enemies while “overcharged” with more health than the max. But many of its bonuses try to make Wolfenstein 2 into a game that’s more focused on its stats and percentage-based gains.
As much as I hate the story, Frau Engel was always magic on the screen, it’s just rare for her to make an appearance.
Each weapon also has three upgrades, the player will find upgrade kits as they explore the world and levels, they find various collectibles. The Upgrade kits are valuable but I found the upgrades to be of mixed usefulness. A couple of the upgrades radically change guns, including changing the fire rates and damage potential of your guns, at least the latter is what I assume from the change.
There are a couple of these upgrades that are able to be turned on by toggling but unlike some games where I feel a huge desire to scavenge for each upgrade kit to continue gaining these upgrades, Wolfensteins felt like marginal improvements. Doubling the size of an ammo magazine or giving certain guns the ability to quickly reload by taping two magazines together felt like a relatively minor upgrade.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus also changes the entire game up by offering the player chances to be stealthy and creep up on unsuspecting enemies to execute them silently. It’s a nice change of pace, and the fact is that it’s an option rather than mandatory sections of the game. While this doesn’t really fit with the history of the series, I will admit that I enjoyed taking out enemies stealthily when I could, even throwing hatchets into enemies at a distance to avoid alerting other guards was fun.
Wolfenstein 2 doesn’t require this as stated, but it’s a beneficial way of playing some levels, as a number of areas have officers. If an officer is alerted (really if any guard sees you they instantly alert the officer) the officer will start summoning reinforcements at a near infinite amount. Admittedly this will often be the most frustrating part, as the enemies will be able to chip away at BJ’s health over time, and there seems to be a good number of reinforcements that hold up.
Stealth kills are a major part of the game, sneak up behind the enemy and then attack.
Earlier levels are more straightforward requiring the player to find the commandants in a large room with multiple enemies, but in the later levels the officers tend to hide in the back rooms, which the player will eventually fight their way through but the difficulty of this requires the player to use more stealth or quickly rush the officers in a way that doesn’t really fit in with much of the game.
The other big issue with Wolfenstein is that the difficulty of Wolfenstein 2 just seems a little random at times. Part of this can be due to where checkpoints are made, and the positions where they leave the enemies, at other times it just seems that the game overwhelms the player on purpose and it causes the player to have a harder time.
There are probably some very subtle changes to the game as well. Damage indicators only appear when the player reaches a low life bar, but without recharging life, this is too late. In addition, there were quite a few times that I would go from 20 points of health to 0 because an enemy flanked me without my noticing. I think the player takes a decent amount of damage suddenly at times and doesn’t give the player a chance to really notice the flaws of his plans without almost instantly killing him.
I like the weapon upgrade system, but not enough of these changes made a large impact
Still, Wolfenstein does well with its combat and slaughtering Nazis and maybe a couple of Ku Klux Klan members leaves the player feeling pretty good. Unfortunately the majority of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ gameplay is a mix between going through a level to kill Nazis, fighting against siege situations and blowing up everything you can.
There are two boss moments, but really both of the major villains in this game are taken out what amounts to quick-time events leaving the player feeling unsatisfied in either death. There’s not a challenge to reach these enemies so their villainous demeanor is downplayed by the gameplay itself.
At the same time there are a couple of major shifts in the gameplay, but none that stay around for that long. Ultimately Wolfenstein sticks with the tried and true manner of letting the player kill Nazis, and admittedly it works for the majority of the game, there just feels like there could have been a few bigger moments in the grand scheme of things.
How is Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus? I’ve been thinking a lot about that. And while I really dislike the story as it falls so short of where even the original story was, and how that game developed all of its characters and enemies, to where this game just lacks any part of what made the original game unique for the FPS genre, I also admit I had fun.
Levels are enjoyable and even the more frustrating levels are more challenging than impossible. But I have to admit where I thought the original game was near perfect in many ways, Wolfenstein 2 is significantly worse. The cutscenes definitely hurt it, but there’s not really a point in Wolfenstein 2 that rivals the original game’s final boss, or really any of the villains in the first game, and it leaves me with a problem.
How can I give Wolfenstein 2 a high score, if I would have rather just played Wolfenstein: The New Order a second time? That’s what I walk away from Wolfenstein 2 thinking, I kind of just wish I replayed the original game.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus gets a
Final thoughts: A far weaker entry than the original game in the franchise. The story really drags the game backward, which is a shame because this is a series I am rooting for. Who doesn’t like killing Nazis?
Stats: 18.2 hours played 22/80 achievements earned.