Machinegames’ Wolfenstein: The New Order was my game of the year back in 2015, capturing me with its absurd storyline, brutal violence, and stylised rendition of the darkest period in human history. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus embraces these elements, continuing on with its Quentin Tarantino-inspired vibe and upping the ante in all departments.
Wolfenstein II takes off directly after The New Order, as series protagonist and ultra-badass BJ Blazkowicz awakens worse for wear from a five-month coma–and to a United States of America that has all but totally submitted to the iron fist of the third Reich. The New Colossus‘s story is an emotional rollercoaster that shouldn’t work due to some of its more ridiculous moments, but somehow triumphantly does so with its stylistic delivery and tone. It’s a plot that deals with grim topics like racism, antisemitism, the fragility of the human spirit, and the inevitability of death, but is also one that features standout scenes of hilarity and even a birthday party thrown in for good measure.
These juxtaposing scenes work thanks in large part to Wolfenstein II‘s incredibly well-acted and -written cast of characters. As unusual as many as BJ’s friends may be, they create genuine bonds with BJ and act as an emotional centre in a game largely about dismembering German soldiers. The most prominent character in this game, however, is the supremely evil and memorable Irene Engal, who steals the screen with her sadistic nature. Never have I wanted to see more interactions with a character I wanted to kill. When combined with the game’s scenes that shed some light on BJ’s origins–which showcased his disturbing father, who sure as hell isn’t winning any Dad of the Year awards–induced in me an utter rage that fueled me through the 12-hour murderous rampage that is The New Colossus‘s outstanding campaign.
These blood-boiling moments really make you want to destroy something, and luckily, Wolfenstein II has plenty of Nazis to satisfyingly butcher. Much like the first rendition by Machinegames, the sequel plays silky smooth and offers up a plethora of methods to terrorize BJ’s enemies. The best way I can describe the bulk of Wolfenstein II’s gameplay is to liken it to a particular scene in the film Inglorious Basterds, where the protagonists of the film run through a prison, quickly shooting any Nazi in their path. It’s an addicting style of fast-paced, run-and-gun gameplay that constantly has you preemptively thinking of your next move, which Nazi to hatchet, and what guns to dual wield.
You’ll find, though, that BJ isn’t as sturdy as he was in the first game, only starting the game with a base 50 HP. This, coupled with the innate difficulty present in the Wolfenstein franchise, makes sure that if you’ll pay with your life if you become too mindlessly bloodthirsty. BJ does, however, later become much stronger due to an event later on in the plot that takes him to a super-soldier level of power that resonates in the gameplay. This is, of course, best played rather than read, so I won’t spoil it for you here.
As in The New Order, Wolfenstein II also encourage small sections of stealth, usually prompting you that an enemy commander is nearby. When startled, these commanders call in waves of reinforcements–so if you want as little bloodshed as possible, you can of course sneak between patrols, opening the throats of Nazi’s until you silently take out the commanding officer. I, myself, am a lot more theatrical, so I usually blew off the head of the first Nazi I saw, but the choice is entirely yours.
The act of mulching Nazis in Wolfenstein II also feels improved from the first. This time around, Nazis seem to have more weight, which makes it ever-so satisfying to empty a large number of bullets into them. There is also a noticeable upgrade to how the enemies’ limbs fly off and heads pop, especially when hit up close with a pair of the games triple-barreled, fully automatic shotguns, which, of course, were a personal favourite of mine.
Of course, there’s incentive for you to try and mix up different ways you kill Nazis, and as seen in the first title, upgrades can be earned by simply completing tasks like headshots on a particular number of enemies, kills with explosives, fire damage, and so on. BJ can discover weapon upgrade kits along his journey of carnage as well, which allow you to boost particular tools with modifications that cater towards more your playstyle. Like sitting back with caution and popping Nazis off from a distance? Get a scope for the assault rifle. Prefer seeing Nazis dismembered legs fling across your screen? Upgrade the explosive power of your grenade. These rare modification kits gift players with the change to blend Wolfenstein II‘s gameplay with their own style, and prompt small yet important decisions for players to think about throughout the campaign.
Players will also be upgrading BJ himself throughout the game, thanks to whacky inventions that allow him to fit between small gaps, smash through grates, walk around on Nazi stilts, and run through Nazis as if he were Marshawn Lynch, turning them into red mush in the process. The gameplay in Wolfenstein II isn’t just all blood and gore, however, as some of its most memorable moments come in the slower sections of the game. One in particular even has you act in front of a certain moustached Fuhrer, but the scene is just too good to spoil, so you’ll just have to play it for yourself.
Though Wolfenstein II takes place nearly entirely in the United States, each level and area feels unique and distinct from one another. You’ll travel to a nuclear wasteland that is a destroyed New York City, a New Orleans that’s been converted into a giant refugee camp, and the bone-shivering, Klu Klux Klan-filled streets of Roswell, New Mexico. In the downtime between missions and slaughter, BJ can wonder and explore Eva’s Hammer, a hijacked Nazi U-boat that acts as the protagonist’s hideout and the HUB world between missions. Here, BJ can read the huge number of collectibles you find out in missions, test skills in a timed shooting gallery, interact with allies, and even accept side missions that grant small bonuses to BJ. Once the main story is said and done, BJ can continue to explore the U-boat and even accept additional missions to take out Nazi Commanders in previously completed mission areas. These aren’t nearly as fulfilling as the story missions, but are there if your Nazi-killing thirst hasn’t been entirely quenched.
For the most part, I had very little issues technically with Wolfenstein II apart, from a hiccup I encountered when rendering in-sky boxes in several levels. Instead of blue sky and clouds, I was sometimes greeted with distorted black and white patterns that tore me out of immersion pretty quickly. I have heard of more issues with the PC port, but I, myself, only encountered this issue.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a blood-soaked triumph of a game. Its cast of quirky and lovable characters, excellent writing, and rage-inducing villains drag you into its strange and disturbing setting. These astounding aspects, coupled with its excellent score, visuals, fast and fun gameplay and an assortment of ways to destroy Nazis, make Wolfenstein II an absolute standout that I can’t way to see continue. Machinegames has again shown that there is still life in the single-player first-person genre yet.