Shooting Nazis is fun – they are the bad guys. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a game about shooting Nazis. By deductive reasoning, Wolfenstein II is fun.
No proof required.
Since its debut back in 1981, countless studios have tried their hand at the Nazi-slaying series, with varying degrees of success. But it was 1991’s Wolfenstein 3D that cemented its identity. BJ Blazkowicz was a square jawed American, mowing down the Third Reich with an arsenal of weaponry, all in a first-person view. It was visceral, and it was cathartic.
Machine Games’ Wolfenstein: The New Order was unexpected. After a slew of mediocre releases, most had written the franchise off. The reveal was met with scepticism. “This, again?”
Thankfully, the game was great. It blended action and stealth, without placing one over the other. Amidst the viscera and explosions, it had a surprisingly human cast, with moments of quiet that let you explore their backstories and motivations. It was out of left-field, but it worked.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus builds on a lot of the same foundation. Its core systems remain largely the same. Encounters will begin with you silently picking off Nazis until you manage to take out their command structure, or until you get caught. From there the game switches from slow and methodical to loud and brash. There’s an assortment of weapons to choose from, like the triple-barrelled Schockhammer shotgun, which turns whatever you’re pointing it at into a fine red mist.
It also plays with the dual universe setup of the first game. You’ll have different characters at your side, but also different weapons. In my preview I chose the Fergus timeline, which gave access to the Laserkraftwerk – a particularly brutal energy weapon, which vaporised opponents and dealt to armoured foes handily. I’m interested in seeing If the game differentiates these timelines in more meaningful ways – outside of just story and guns.
Weapon upgrades have seen a bit of a change. Instead of picking up weapon-specific mods in the environment, upgrade kits are now used. These can be applied to any weapon, with a skill-tree type structure. Apply enough, and you’ll eventually be able to fundamentally change how your weapon operates – often between one of two choices. Upgrading my Schockhammer to the max allowed its bullets to ricochet off surfaces, making it doubly effective in tight corridors. It’s unclear if there will be any way to remove upgrade kits from a weapon once they’ve been committed.
Completely new to the game are abilities that cater to specific playstyles. In my short time with the preview build, I had access to the Battle Walker – think a pair mechanised stilts. At any moment, I could push them out and stand over my foes, and just dump all my bullets on them. It leaves you slower and more vulnerable, but it does add a verticality to fights that conventional jumps just don’t deliver. Other kits will let you rush foes down, or manoeuvre the environment in unique ways.
The goofiness of the stilts extends to the overall presentation – and it’s one of my favourite things about Wolfenstein II so far. From the jerky Dutch angles, to its dripping psychedelic colour palette and blaring acid jazz, Wolfenstein II is loud and confusing. Cutscene pacing is Lynchian, with characters talking over each other in non-conventional rhythms, in bizarre scenarios – like a drinking match in the middle of a firefight, while talking about America’s jingoistic roots, as a man plays a clarinet.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus builds on The New Order’s foundations, while introducing systems that expand the elements people loved. But more than that, it seems like Machine Games aren’t afraid to get weird with it.
We’ll know when the game releases October 27 if it sticks the landing.
Keith travelled to a press event in Sydney, courtesy of Bethesda.