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August 2018

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


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus'

by Adam Pavlacka on Aug. 18, 2017 @ 12:01 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.

Pre-order Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Who could have predicted that a game about fighting Nazis would be relevant in 2017? Sure, shooting bad guys is always fun, but recent events have made Bethesda's Wolfenstein franchise surprisingly timely, even if it is set in an alternative past.

A direct follow-up to Wolfenstein: The New Order, The New Colossus kicks off aboard a stolen Nazi submarine as a heavily injured B.J. "Terror Billy" Blazkowicz wakes to an alarm. The Nazis have found you, and they're attacking the ship. In what may be an FPS first, the opening level has you fighting the good fight while confined to a wheelchair. It's an interesting mechanic, as it increases the tension without forcing some crazy circumstance (insomuch as Nazis with high-tech, possibly alien-powered, gear isn't crazy).

While confined to the wheelchair, your movement is slower and more limited than it would normally be on foot. This requires a more deliberate play style, especially in the narrow confines of the sub.

Combat is once again a core component of Wolfenstein's gameplay, though it is on par with the puzzles, at least in the early level that I played through. Navigating the environment felt like real exploration, as opposed to simply being led down a predetermined path. There is a defined way to go; it's just that Machine Games does a good job of hiding that in the early part of The New Colossus.

After finishing the first section of the demo, it was time to move on to another level, which is set in Roswell. By this point, B.J. is out of the wheelchair and at full strength, thanks to a power suit. A quick intro movie sets up the story, and then you're on your way to nuke some Nazis. Your first goal in the level is to carry a portable nuke into a resistance base hidden inside a diner. Exploration in Roswell is limited to taking in the environment. There didn't seem to be any alternate paths here or ways to deviate from your goal. There also aren't any real enemies for the first section of the level, so the action doesn't start until you reach the super-secret, underground Nazi base.

Looking like something out of a classic James Bond film, the Nazi base is where I got my first taste of The New Colossus' real enemies. The Nazis on the sub were one thing, but here, the challenge was real.

Staying alive required a combination of careful, targeted shooting, and making smart use of upgrades. If you're the type of gamer who likes to run-and-gun all the time, you're not going to do well in The New Colossus unless you're playing on the easy difficulty level. The AI opponents are relentless in how they attack, and they have no qualms about swarming you if given the opportunity.

Weapon upgrades include things like silencers, larger magazines, and stun grenades. One of the more useful grenades sets off an EMP-type burst that temporarily disables mechanical enemies. It's a must-have when battling the Terminator-style Nazi robots.

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the combat is that fighting everything is futile. The New Colossus is all about fighting intelligently and skipping fights if you can. Managing your ammo and health and only engaging in a fight when absolutely necessary seems like the ideal way to approach the game.

Jumping between two different levels in the game meant I didn't get the full scope of the story, though details were provided by way of optional pick-ups. As you fight your way through each level, there are various logs, newspaper clippings, and the like that provide glimpses into the alternate world of Wolfenstein. They do a good job of setting the stage and adding color to the world.

Visually, The New Colossus is already looking good, with plenty of creative environmental design on display in Roswell. Machine Games didn't go for a bland retro style. There are plenty of little details embedded throughout that encourage you to take some time to enjoy the look and feel of the world. Characters are likewise designed with care, with each of the resistance members looking, and sounding, distinct. The Nazis may seem like carbon copies after a while, but that doesn't apply to your team.

It can be easy to get hyped up when taking an early look at a game because developers often polish a very specific vertical slice for critics to write about. Here, I was given two distinct levels to play, and I let loose to go at them however I wanted. There were moments of frustration (mostly due to lack of map awareness on my first run-through), but the underlying gameplay of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus already feels solid, and it shouldn't disappoint.

The only real question is in how well the story delivers its message in the final product. Assuming the story holds up and is presented well, The New Colossus will shine. If the story crumbles, the game will likely still please fans of the franchise, but the overall package won't feel as polished.

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