2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order was MachineGames’ triumphant reboot of the long lived Wolfenstein series and a belter of a game in its own right. Creative director Jens Matthies (who we chatted with recently) managed to craft a pitch-perfect game that kept the first person shooting for which the franchise is famous but added a rich, exciting and surprisingly emotional story that packed a lot of punch and ended on an all-time great note. The idea of a sequel seemed… redundant. After all, how much more narrative can be wrung out of an alternative history storyline about killing Nazis? The answer, happily, is “a shitload” because Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is here and it’s bloody spectacular.
The last time we saw jarhead protagonist William “BJ” Blazkowicz he was in all sorts of strife. His body was broken, his mission incomplete and as The New Order came to an end it was strongly implied he’d carked it, sacrificing his life for the greater good. Happily it seems you can’t keep a good BJ down, and William’s back – although he’s in bad shape. One of the first missions of the game has BJ hacking and blasting Nazis from a wheelchair and it suitably sets the visceral meets farcical tone, which often feels like a mashup between RoboCop (1987) and Inglourious Basterds (2009). Throughout the game’s campaign you’ll travel through the irradiated wasteland of Manhattan, the walled up interior of New Orleans and even leave the boundaries of Earth in the game’s most gleefully insane sequence, involving a certain Nazi demagogue whose name rhymes with “Badolf Bitler”, who has taken up work as a film director in his later years. On these trips you’ll kill yourself some Nazis. A whole bunch of them. You’ll sever their arms with a hatchet and watch them bleed out, you’ll cut throats, twist necks, split skulls and pour hot leaden death into their twitching, screaming nazi bodies in creatively violent ways that will have even the most hardened of gore hounds chuckling in disbelief. It’s profoundly cathartic stuff, particularly after some of the game’s more confronting sequences of Nazi evil.
There’s more than just gore to The New Colossus, however, as the surviving characters from The New Order return and strong new cast members are added to the roster. In fact some of the game’s best moments come from wandering around your submarine base between missions, finding collectibles, chatting with characters and getting a sense of the painstaking world-building. Like the aforementioned Inglourious Basterds, The New Colossus excels at the quiet, tension-building moments between the splattery displays. A tense walk through Nazi-occupied Roswell – where Ku Klux Klan members are being chastised for their poor German language abilities by armoured Nazis – or an acting audition where failure will prove fatal are just a couple of the game’s strongly cinematic set pieces. It’s unusual to care so deeply about characters in any game, much less a gory First Person Shooter, and yet The New Colossus makes it look easy.
On the downside the game’s conclusion isn’t quite as spectacular as The New Order, with a definite sense that this is probably the second part of a trilogy and occasionally the game communicates where you’re taking damage from poorly. Neither of these factors are deal breakers, but they’re worth noting. Also the game itself will probably take you between 10-15 hours to complete, which is long compared to the likes of Call of Duty, but without a multiplayer component some may take issue with the value for money factor, but that’s a conversation for you and your bank account.
Ultimately Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is bloody, spectacular, funny and moving. It’s at turns a black comedy, a rousing adventure and a gore-slicked action shooter – excelling at every genre pivot – and well worth your time and money. Plus, and this can’t be overstated, it’s so very much fun to kill Nazis. They’re so pretty when they die.