Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus PC, PS4, Xbox One
BJ Blazkowicz returns to his homeland, and is in for a Nazi surprise
The New Colossus takes its name from the sonnet engraved at the base of the Statue Of Liberty. But now that the Nazis have occupied America, the line about the huddled masses yearning to breathe free has taken on a dark new meaning. It’s a bitter homecoming for BJ Blazkowicz, whose beloved country is now draped in swastikas and patrolled by jackbooted stormtroopers. Undeterred, he joins a ragtag resistance group and embarks upon a series of guerrilla missions to bring down the Nazi war machine, beginning in the desert town of Roswell, New Mexico.
Swedish developer Machine Games winningly describes The New Colossus’ vibrant aesthetic as ‘Germericana’ – a romantic vision of ’60s America perverted by the Nazis. As we walk through the town on our way to meet a fellow resistance member, the extent of the occupation becomes clear. A parade is taking place, and thousands of Nazi soldiers are goose-stepping through the sunny, idyllic streets. The marriage of dreamy Americana and Nazi propaganda is striking, like a fascist reimagining of Disney’s Main Street, USA.
Wolfenstein II is a lavish production, and there’s a remarkable amount of hand-crafted detail squeezed into environments that we’re free to explore at our leisure. Our journey through Roswell ends in a diner, where Blazkowicz has a tense run-in with a milkshake-slurping Nazi who seems to recognise him – probably because of the enormous wanted posters pasted up all over town. But he’s called away by his superiors seconds before our cover is blown, a close call that will be familiar to anyone who played The
New Order. The diner’s owner, who happens to be our resistance contact, whisks us away to safety before we can get in any more trouble.
Blazkowicz is making his way to Area 52, an underground weapons facility which in happier times was operated by the Americans, with a nuclear bomb strapped to his back. He’s going to blow it up, naturally, but first has to make his way through a horde of stormtroopers, hulking Nazi mechs, and vicious German Shepherds first. The level will be familiar territory for Wolfenstein vets, an industrial maze of catwalks, crawlspaces and corridors that gives you the option to sneak past some enemies. But it’s when the guns come out that Wolfenstein is at its best. Gunplay is weighty and refined, with dramatic weaponry and a chaotic, breakneck pace. But you could say the same for The New
Order. Setting and artistic direction aside, this sequel isn’t a dramatic reinvention, but rather a refinement of the game we played in 2014. There’s a distinct tinge of familiarity as we dual-wield and sprint-slide our way around Area 52. The level ends with Blazkowicz successfully planting the bomb and escaping by train. The narrow carriages, stuffed as they are with stormtroopers and Terminator-like Nazi robots, make this level a gruesomely satisfying meat grinder, with stacks of bodies and spent bullets piling up in our hero’s wake.
As a result of injuries sustained in the previous game, Blazkowicz’s health never goes above 50 in this level. You can briefly overcharge it, but it’ll always trickle back down. To make up for this he’s equipped with a high-tech exosuit that lets him sprint at an incredible speeds – which comes in handy in a game where running out of ammunition is a regular occurrence. We spend much of our demo breaking away from gunfights to scoop up ammo, although Bethesda assures us that the build we play is still being balanced.
The imaginative, exaggerated alternate history established in The New Order is even more outlandish in the sequel, and it’s arguably the most exciting thing about the game. MachineGames’ knack for grotesque characters, overblown action, novelty setpieces and engaging storytelling should hopefully make up for the feeling that
Wolfenstein II is, in some respects, retreading old ground. The 2014 reboot was a bold turn for a series most people had forgotten about; perhaps inevitably, its sequel comes stripped of that sense of freshness, and the new setting can only do so much to remedy that. Yet while it may not surprise us like its predecessor, The
New Colossus is all but guaranteed to delight.
Wheels of steel
The opening level of
The New Colossus sees Blazkowicz – who is still recovering from the events of The New
Order – rolling around in a wheelchair. One arm is used to push himself along, while the other cradles a machine pistol. It’s ludicrous, certainly, but dispatching hordes of Nazis as you trundle through the claustrophobic submarine is hugely entertaining. The level is littered with energy fields, similar to Dishonored’s walls of light, that cause anyone who passes through them to horribly explode. And you can use these to your advantage, switching them on and off, and luring enemies into them. It’s a preposterous introduction, but sets the tone perfectly and illustrates the superhuman resilience of our square-jawed hero.
Bringing Blazkowicz to a warped, Nazi-ruled United States is an inspired idea
In Area 52 you’ll fight hordes of Nazi soldiers and swastika-stamped robots with glaring red eyes. It’s a difficult game, and charging blindly into a firefight will result in little more than a quick death