“They’re the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin’, mass murderin’ maniac and they need to be dee-stroyed. That’s why any and every son of a bitch we find wearin’ a Nazi uniform, they’re gonna die.”
When it comes to first person shooter franchises, none come more widely recognised than the Wolfenstein series. Beginning in 1981, Wolfenstein has a strong history of sticking it to the Third Reich over 11 heavily successful titles, with the most recent being Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus which released worldwide last Friday for the PS4, PC and Xbox One. Being the sequel to the 2014 fan-favourite Wolfenstein: The New Order, it’s safe to say that The New Colossus has a lot of hype to live up to. As usual I’ll be covering the PlayStation 4 version of the game, going over the reasons why Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is worth your attention and money.
If there’s one type of enemy that I’ve killed more of than any other across all my years in gaming, it would be Nazis hands down. From slicing them up from groin to sternum in BloodRayne to turning their legs into human mince meat with a double-barrelled shotgun in Call of Duty: World at War; you name it, I’ve probably done it to a Nazi at some point or another. Known for its over the top violence and alternate world vision of the Third Reich during WW2, the Wolfenstein series has always been at the forefront of Nazi slaughter and is regarded by many as the godfather of FPS games, being responsible for making the genre as popular as it is today. Although the series has been going since 1981, most will remember 2001’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein as their first foray into the series; the series went quiet after the lacklustre performance of Raven Software’s 2009 Wolfenstein and didn’t regain traction until some years later when Machine Games acquired the rights to the franchise leading up to the release of the 2014 hit Wolfenstein: The New Order.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a direct sequel to Machine Games’ reboot, set in an alternate-vision 1961 America had the Third Reich won the Second World War. The narrative picks up exactly where it left off, moments after the final assault on Deathshead’s compound that left Deathshead dead and everyone’s favourite Nazi-killing jarhead William “B.J.” Blazkowicz in a bad way (grenades tend to have that effect on people). After BJ is rescued by the other members of the Kreisau Circle the game jumps forward several months on board the captured U-boat called Eva’s Hammer (which now acts as the base of operations for the resistance). Their location is soon compromised as the boat comes under attack from the Ausmerzer whose captain is none other than Frau Engel herself (the sadistic Nazi bitch from The New Order). After a short battle, BJ gets eventually gets captured alongside Caroline Becker and either Wyatt or Fergus (you get to make that gut-wrenching choice once again) which culminates in Frau Engel taunting the resistance, before their inevitable escape. All of these events set up the narrative of Wolfenstein II leading BJ and the resistance on a path to recruit the remnants of the American resistance to liberate the United States from the grasps of its Nazi oppressors by sparking the second American revolution by any means necessary.
The Big Apple-Strudel: The good ol’ USA is in a bad way in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus; under oppression from the Third Reich after their subsequent victory in World War Two.
In terms of gameplay, things remains largely unchanged from Wolfenstein: The New Order and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The combat is as polished as it was previously, offering both full on combat and melee based stealth takedowns depending on whatever takes your fancy; while on the subject of stealth kills, BJ now uses a hatchet instead of a knife meaning the takedowns are now even more brutal than they were before (more blood and gore is a bonus in my book) with BJ being rather fond of hacking both arms and legs off if it gets his intended point across (he really does hate Nazis). Overall the stealth system hasn’t changed, and will result in combat changing very quickly should you get spotted; thankfully (and unlike a lot of games out there) it doesn’t feel like you’ve messed up if you do get spotted, as the game absolutely shines when you’re gunning down Nazis in a storm of bullets. The main game consists of around eleven main story missions which will take you somewhere between 10-15 hours to complete if you were to play them and nothing else; if you were to take the stealthy route, hunt for collectibles and complete all of the new Ubercommander assassination missions (which are unlocked by looting enigma codes off of Nazi commander corpses in the main story missions) then you could easily get 30-40 hours out of your first playthrough, that’s also not factoring in the higher difficulty levels which could potentially add even more value for your money.
Taking advantage of the PS4 Pro’s hardware, Wolfenstein II is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to performance, showcasing what is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ of modern FPS titles running at 60fps in ultra sharp 3840x2160p. In contrast however, the game does suffer with some minor graphical issues such as the odd low resolution texture found on some of the games surfaces as well as one or two of the weapons; but when the game performs as well as it does, it isn’t that much of a deal breaker. Another issue I found is that the game is also extremely dark, as I had to adjust the black levels on my 4K TV just to be able to see in some areas; however this may be an issue with the higher 2160p resolution and may not affect the 1080p version of the game at all. Overall the game looks and plays beautiful, offering some of the best set pieces I’ve seen within a FPS in a long time; one area in particular is when you visit the city of Roswell, right in the middle of a Nazi parade through town. The typical look and feel of 1960’s America is present during the Roswell stage, only with a dark twist. The entire area is adorned with Swastikas with Nazi soldiers and members of the KKK patrolling on every other street corner; while it’s meant to represent the fall of America had the Nazi’s won the war, one can’t help but think of the political message that the game represents, especially due to the recent rise in popularity with right wing politics across the globe.
Full Metal Jacket: Obliterating super soldiers with dual-wield automatic shotguns is the most fun one can have in a video game.
The subject of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus‘ political message is another area where Machine Games and Bethesda deserve an honourable mention. To Machine Game’s credit, they made sure that the portrayal of the Third Reich in Wolfenstein II wasn’t one that came across buffoonish or light hearted; these bastards were the epitome of evil, having been responsible for the deaths of over 6 million people, a fact that Machine Games doesn’t want you to forget when you’re gunning the Nazis down. In one of the game’s more provocative scenes shows BJ’s tough childhood as well his father’s reaction once he finds out that BJ has befriended a young black girl; a reaction that doesn’t end well for BJ or his mother. The scene stands as a very strong metaphor that rings very true of the current political climate; right wing politics and racist ideals existed in the United States long before WWII, which is a solid reason as to why the Third Reich were able to assimilate so easily after their victory. The months leading up to the games launch were met by controversy by the Alt-Right, and again to Bethesda’s credit, they didn’t back down from the controversy one bit, even going so far as to base their entire advertising campaign around it, spawning the hash tag #NoMoreNazis. In an interview with Vice, Bethesda PR Vice President Pete Hines was asked if the advertising campaign responsible for spawning slogans such as “Not my America” and “Make America Nazi Free Again” was a dig at Donald Trump and his current administration, Hines responded with the fact that the campaign was aimed at Nazis, he was then told he was kind of “poking the hornet’s nest” to which he responded “Maybe a little bit, but the hornet’s nest is full of Nazis, so fuck those guys.” which is a statement that I stand behind 100%.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is exactly the sequel we wanted and deserved after the 2014 masterpiece that was Wolfenstein: The New Order. Building upon the solid foundations of its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way, Wolf 2 manages to portray a strong anti-racism message while still being an insanely fun Nazi murder simulator to boot. Whether you support the political message of the game or not, this is one game that definitely should not be missed, doubly so if you enjoy killing Nazis by the dozen.