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Wolfeinstein 2: The New Colossus Review

 “Was a time I was scared of you. Was a time I would piss myself having a gun pointed at my head. You know what I feel right now? Not a god damned thing.” – BJ Blaskowicz

It wasn’t until the moment that I saw a character break down, almost crying over the prospect over using a flushing toilet for the first time in possibly years that I realised something; Wolfenstein 2 : The New Colossus  had created a world of deep, meaningful characters, all scarred by horrific experience in a manner most triple A studios never bother to explore, even to some degree, it’s own parent company, Bethesda.

Wolfeinstein 2: The New Colossus brings us back, full slam into the life of B.J Blaskowicz, hero of the ongoing Wolfenstein saga. Rebooted many times, victim of many subpar games across many generations, Wolfenstein finally found dignity, as it deserved, in “Wolfenstein : The New Order” in 2014, a game that, by all means, fit the term “far better than it had a right to be”. Taking up the mantle of hero protagonist Blaskowitcz, the player battled through the third reich in a world where the Nazi’s gained the upper hand in World War 2, spreading forth, taking over the world and infecting it with their vile presence. Put simply, Wolfenstein : The New Order is a modern masterpiece. If you own it, you likely love it. If you don’t, you should get it. The follow up add on expansion, “Wolfenstein : The New Blood”, told the prequel tale, remaking the old 1992 game “Return to Castle Wolfenstein 3D” with the new engine, allowing us to experience the old tale in a new time. What a blast it was, what an experience.

Now part 2 comes along, hurtling us across the ocean from Europe to America, where we’ll be sent from the skylines of New York into the deep south where we’ll battle Nazi’s, robots, Ku Klux Klan members and ride giant cyber-dogs all while enjoying the absolutely absurd nature of the game. However while this absurdity flies by, we’ll also experience some of the deepest social commentary gaming has likely every seen.

From racial politics, eugenics, child abuse, spousal abuse, to the absurdity of racial superiority, Wolfenstein charges headlong into controversial topics, punching them out, but also dealing with them with a twisted dignity all the same. Blaskowitcz, American to the core, ironically represents the Aryan ideal to the core, being blonde haired, blue eyed and six foot three. However, a twist in the game later, which I won’t spoil here, will see everything he knows come into question. How close can one come to the enemies ideals, before one starts to resemble the enemy themselves for example? It’s an interesting contrast to the usual gung-ho Bro character we see from Activision, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, Machine Games are to be applauded for bringing Blaskowitcz screaming into the 21st century, celebrating modern ideals, and exploring such controversial ideals.

The graphics themselves are just gorgeous. While The New Order was an attractive game, The New Colossus just revels in being stunning. When you first hit New York, you’ll swear you’re in a FALLOUT game. Infact, I’ll go as far as saying it does Fallout scenery better than Fallout. Twisted bars, smashed concrete, destroyed rooms, dripping water, mist, everything. The streets are filled, the buildings are destroyed, Nazis patrol everywhere and the textures are excellent, but could be better in some areas. This is likely due to the cross console development factor, however there’s no muddy texture issue going on, just a noticeable lack of detail in certain areas, which never actually becomes an issue, it just becomes noticeable if you actually go looking for it.

When you hit the deep south of America, the contrasting visuals are stunning. Bright, garish colours of an almost sadistically pure town, where the KKK have struck deals with the Nazi’s, almost reminiscent of the whitebread, nuclear family filled suburbs pollute the screen in a sickening manner. You’ll see the dull black and greys of the Nazi’s revel in contrast with the primary colours of the townsfolk, the buildings and the trees. Everything is gorgeous, everything is stunning to look at, and aids in representing the horrifically fake lives everyone lives at the expense of those outside their towns, on the coasts, fighting the Nazi’s. Coming back to the same areas later when you hunt down “Ubercommanders” in missions reminiscent of a Hitman game, you’ll see the same locales given a makeover, with areas now filled with grime, boarded up, chainlinked fences everywhere, everything in stark contrast to what you’ve seen before, it’s truly impressive.

The sound itself is a delight. All the guns sound impressively powerful, this is of course enhanced further as you upgrade your guns to give them that extra ‘oomph’ and the bass kicks in, making you feel every shot, smile as you wield two triple barrel shotguns and unleash six shells at once, and the audio makes you feel every second. The voice acting is top notch, we’re in pure B movie town here. BJ Blaskowicz is pure testosterone on legs, yet he’s no meathead. This man has heart and a soul, the game playing out his PTSD, his tortured self, in a beautiful, almost cathartic manner for the player. The atmospheric sounds are top notch, with ambient music playing at times, sometimes you’ll have crickets chirping in the wild, or you’ll hear rocks crumbling under your feet in an urban environment, maybe you’ll hear two german soldiers having a conversation, all the audio in this game has clearly been lovingly crafted and it shows.

The controls are a revelation, when I played “The New Order”, I was stunned with how going back to a simple control scheme could work so well. Then they threw in the dual wielding of every weapon and they completely had me. Dual wielding shotguns or the heavy machineguns was a pure joy. Slamming enemies down was a total joy. Imagine my delight when Machine Games one-ups themselves again, allowing the play this time to dual wield ANY basic weapon (Not the heavy weapons, sorry!). Want to dual wield a pistol and a tri-barrel shotgun? You can! Love your double heavy machinegun combo? You can! Rocket-launching pistol and mine-launcher? Have at it! Truly, this was a complete step up for Wolfenstein 2, turning Blaskowicz from Rambo, into the tactical angel of death, the bringer of doom. The speed at which he moves, is impressive, with the games speed ratcheting up a bit, feeling like it sits somewhere between The New Order, and the recent DOOM remake. In short, the controls are fantastic, the new options are great and Machine Games has one upped themselves again, well goddamn done.

The value of the game is insane. While some may argue the lack of multiplayer or cooperative ruins Wolfenstein 2’s longevity, I would argue the counter, that it plays into the games strengths. The New Order still remains incredibly replayable still to this day, as does The Old Blood. The New Colossus itself, with its lengthy campaign (approximately 14 hours), its Uber-Commander assassination missions and its ‘6 timelines’ makes for an incredible amount of replay value. When you get the option to have one of two characters from part 1 survive (a choice you get to re-take) and then choose between 1 of 3 pieces of crucial equipment you get to use for the rest of the game, all of which change the way you play immensely, there’s enough to make you come back over and over. There’s also new missions coming with the season pass. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is worth it’s price, it’s quality from head to toe.

The themes in the game are going to be confronting, I’m not kidding. Sometimes they’re hard to watch. From a husband abusing his wife, to a father abusing his son, through to children wrestling with the racial politics of adults and inflicting them upon each other, this game does not shy away from topical content. Machine Games are daring developers, Bethesda should be commended for letting them go to this extent, so consider this a warning, this game is not for kids by any means, if not for the violence, then for the themes, the conversations and everything contained between the missions that builds the absolutely enthralling world of Wolfenstein. You truly won’t believe how heartfelt this game gets, how it will fairly (not unfairly mind you) it will play on tugging at your heartstrings. BJ is truly developed into a fully fleshed out protagonist, his life fully opened up, his background as a child fully explored and his penchant for being a ruthless killer given some reason for being. It’s been a long, long time since I saw a first person shooter go to this sort of effort to develop its character, I honestly cannot recall the last one that did, perhaps you can? But I truly appreciate the effort taken to do so.

So overall, for Wolfenstein : The New Colossus, it only feels fitting that the first was an 8.5 out of 10 for me. This is a drastic improvement, still not perfect. The AI can be stupid at times, a wider range of weapons would have been nicer at times and to be honest, co-op as an option later would’ve ticked that 10/10 mark. But, as it stands in total, I have to give Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus:

Pro’s:

  • Brilliant depth of character
  • Mature themes are enthralling
  • Great gunplay
  • Dual wield ANY weapon (except heavy weapons!)
  • Gameplay is addictive as hell!
  • This is how a goddamn sequel should be done!
  • 12-14 hour campaign, great game.
  • Uber-Commander assassination missions really lengthen the game.
  • Multiple-multiple timelines to play through.

Cons:

  • No co-op mode.
  • Some more weapons?

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