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August 2021

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: MachineGames
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 27, 2017 @ 1:45 a.m. PDT

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus sends you to Nazi-controlled America, where you must free the world from the evil empire's stranglehold.

Buy Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

The Wolfenstein franchise has always been about killing Nazis. Wolfenstein: The New Order and its sequel Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus are all about Nazis being evil monsters who need to be obliterated. Wolfenstein II doesn't drastically change the formula or gameplay; it just gives you a new horde of Nazis to kill.

Wolfenstein II picks up roughly where the original game left off, with America losing World War II and Nazis ruling the planet. William "BJ" Blazkowicz, AKA Terror-Billy, had dealt a terrifying blow to the Nazi regime and crushed one of its greatest scientists — seemingly by sacrificing his own life. The New Colossus reveals that BJ survived, though at a terrible cost. He's broken, crippled and barely alive. To make matters worse, the Nazis have found his ally's last base, and he must don an experimental mechanical suit to function. BJ sets out on yet another adventure to kill Nazis, and … well, really that's the beginning and end of his mission statement.

The plot isn't quite entirely sure what it wants to be. It handles some extremely serious subject matter and does so grimly. Racism and the horrors of Nazism are front and center, and the game has some depressing moments. It also has some drastically out-of-place comedy and ridiculous plot points that make it clear that the game doesn't shy away from its pulpy origins. You basically have to go with the flow, but it's an extremely strange game nonetheless. I had fun with it, but I'm not sure one can call it a fun experience. The absurd over-the-top moments are tempered by some extremely grim stuff, and it's easy to see how one can sour a player on the other.

Gameplay-wise, Wolfenstein II is pretty much an evolution of the first game. It's a fast-paced first-person shooter that exists somewhere between Doom 2016 and Call of Duty. It has a lot of old-school elements. You have a health bar and armor bar, and you have to depend on pick-ups and power-ups to keep yourself going. BJ is a bit of a glass cannon, so he can't take a lot of damage, but he can sure dish it out. You can carry a huge selection of weapons and can swap between them at will. Most weapons are upgradeable with special power-up packs that can be found throughout the game. You can even dual-wield weapons, though you sacrifice accuracy for firepower.

Terror-Billy is quite good at sneaking around, and the game supports that as well. You can sneak through vents and hide behind enemies to take them down with a hatchet, and you can throw the hatchet for long-distance stealth kills. Later upgrades can even muffle your footsteps. The stealth gameplay isn't particularly remarkable, but the strong level design makes it fun. It's incredibly satisfying to figure out how to sneak through an area and clear it of Nazis without being noticed.

One of the things that makes Wolfenstein II fun is that you have options in combat. Most arenas offer opportunities for stealth, going all-out with weaponry, or something in between. You can seamlessly transition from one to the other, so it's important to figure out how you want to approach any given situation. Playing stealthily allows you to take out enemy commanders without getting noticed, which can stem the tide of reinforcements. Alternately, you can buzzsaw through foes, but neither approach is easier. Stealth is valuable, but if you're noticed, you don't feel unfairly disadvantaged.

Generally, the combat feels great. The only serious complaint I have is that the game is a little poor in its feedback. Terror Billy might be an armor-clad behemoth, but he's pretty squishy compared to Doom Guy. If you happen to miss a Nazi or get flanked, you can lose 75% of your health before you're able to locate the shooter. The game seems to realize this is an issue and tosses health packs and armor at you like it's going out of style, but a clearer indication of damage direction and better sound design would've been worth 100 health packs. Much lot of this depends on the difficult level. If you play on the lower levels, you can practically walk through the bullets. On higher levels, you'll die in moments if you get overconfident.

To be fair, this plays into the perk system, which was introduced in the prior game. Players gain passive achievement-like perks, like enhanced abilities for different actions. Focus on stealth kills, and you gain abilities that enhance your stealthiness. Focus on explosions, and the explosions get bigger. The perks also carry through on deaths, so if you get stuck in an area, you'll gradually power up through sheer attrition. It's not a new system, but it works surprisingly well. However, some of the perks feel cheap or take too long. Getting improved down-the-sights damage via headshots is a breeze, but trying to power up certain environmental or weapon-based perks relies on the level design throwing the correct tools at you.

Wolfenstein II is fairly good about progression. There aren't skill trees, but you continue to get more powerful. I won't go into too much detail or spoil anything, but the game has a good sense of how to make you feel stronger. You begin with BJ in a wheelchair, and once you get his mecha suit, the ability to move around feels like a revelation. From there, the title slowly introduces new gameplay mechanics, including special items that let you smash through walls or move silently. It doesn't change the entire game, but small boosts make you feel better and stronger.

Wolfenstein II is a straightforward game, and you'll see most of the content in a single playthrough. It's standard for a modern shooter, but the lack of multiplayer may be frustrating. As in the previous title, there's a branching storyline of two different timelines, but the differences are largely cosmetic and confined to a few cut scenes and minor plot points. It's encouragement to replay the game, but it's not really a second campaign. There are ways to revisit earlier levels with new objectives, and a few side-quests and hidden areas help to flesh out the campaign. It'll probably take about eight hours to finish the game, though the bonus content extends that a bit.

This is an amazing-looking game. The graphics are top-notch, it's a delight to play, and it runs very smoothly on the PS4. The environmental design and cut scenes are expertly crafted. Even when you're not playing, it's a fun game to just watch. The best-looking areas are backloaded, and you spend too much time early on in boring ship environments that don't show off the visuals. The voice acting and soundtrack are excellent at conveying the tone and narrative, and BJ's voice actor really sells the world-weary soldier. The aforementioned lack of good feedback for weapon direction can make some fights unnecessarily tedious.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus delivers on its promises. It's more of the same, but there are more weapons, more tools, and more Nazis to kill. In some ways, it's slightly disappointing in that the mechanics aren't more creative to go with the excesses in the plot, but a safe sequel isn't a bad thing. If you enjoyed The New Order or its spin-off The Old Blood, you'll enjoy Wolfenstein II. It hits all the right marks of the original, and any flaws are minor and don't detract from the all-important task of blowing up Nazis. Sometimes, that's all a game needs to be.

Score: 8.5/10

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