Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus – Review
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 10/27/2017
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game that lives and dies on bombast. Taking on the role of William “B.J.” Blaskowicz, the player is thrown into an alternate reality in which the allies were pushed out of Europe, the Nazis nuked the United States, and what remains of the American people live under the iron fist of the Third Reich. Wolfenstein II commits to this vision and it pulls it off in outstanding fashion, only occasionally being marred by tonal problems in the story and gameplay.
Why We Fight
Wolfenstein II‘s story picks up literal moments after the first game’s conclusion. Reeling from injuries sustained in his fight with Deathshead, Blaskowicz is left mauled and infirmed from his injuries. Before being able to recover, Eva’s Hammer (the resistance’s base and the player’s hub world) comes under attack, introducing our main antagonist and thrusting us into the war against the Nazis once again.
Wolfenstein II does a good job of balancing the natural absurdity of its conceit with its responsibility to deliver on a powerful experience. One moment you’ll be using an axe to “de-limb-ify” enemies and the next you’ll be witnessing genuine heartbreak. A good deal of credit for pulling that off has to go to some seriously outstanding voice work. The cast is rounded out by memorable, charming characters that may not be totally fleshed out, but carry such immense charisma that they’re extremely enjoyable to watch on-screen.
B.J. on the other hand is a little bit harder to get around. We now have a character that is deeply flawed, haunted by injuries both physical and emotional, and the way the game sometimes decides to characterize him stands in stark contrast with Wolfenstein II’s natural bombast. Brian Bloom does a wonderful job voicing B.J., but ultimately it is the material instead of the performance that can sometimes drag the game down.
B.J. as a tool for the character, though, is still an immense amount of fun. The game has introduced some slight changes, particularly in how health and speed are handled, that fundamentally change how you fight. Gun fights are reminiscent of the latest Doom. Both were published by Bethesda and it makes sense that the developers would carry over a few of the lessons learned.
With that being said, the gameplay suffers from some of the dissonance that plagues the storyline. It sometimes feels like it desperately wants to have compelling stealth sequences, or at least have the versatility seen in immersive sims, but it never fully commits. It gives you more tools to make stealth viable, but level design is very clearly focused on gun fights.
The Art of Violence
The levels themselves are beautifully done, if not a little drab. Everything is gray or brown, and very rarely are you presented with bright, vibrant environments. That, obviously, is a design choice, which is fine. It absolutely fits the aesthetic, general design and ethos of the game world. It’s only a problem when it becomes difficult to differentiate between the environment and the enemies you’re tasked to kill.
Where the graphics truly shine are in the character models. Everyone is beautifully rendered with interesting, unique design choices for the enemies and allies you’ll come in contact with. Even the hub world (which I’d say is a fully realized character in itself) has a lived-in quality that lets you know that true work was put into it.
Ultimately, Wolfenstein II is the kind of rare follow up that meets the quality of the first. Publisher Bethesda Softworks delivered on a believable, refreshing world. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an extremely memorable experience for those who immerse themselves in its world.