You can’t talk about Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus without talking about Nazis and/or Nazi sympathizers, considering they’re the ones who basically marketed the game for publisher Bethesda. How we got to the point of unironic Nazi lovers in the current year is a conversation for another website, but they’re there, and they take issue with the fact that a franchise that has always been about killing Nazis since Castle Wolfenstein in 1981 portrays Nazis as the bad guys.
While some say the game was being too political, having played it I’d say it’s more a case of life imitating art – which again is a crazy thought to have about a Wolfenstein game. This really only goes as far as the marketing though, apart from a couple of subtle references and a small part of dialogue in the game. Otherwise the game picks up nicely where Wolfenstein: The New Order left off.
After New York is nuked, America surrenders to the Nazis, who proceed to colonise the United States. There are those who fall in line behind the technologically superior Nazi regime, and those like the returning hero Billy “BJ” Blazkowicz who resist, and together end up trying to forge a revolutionary force out of a rag tag group of anarchists, misfits, and other such “undesirables”.
The game does a good job at making the story actually interesting through the use of memorable characters. In contrast to the nameless faceless waves of Nazis that you mow through, everyone on your crew has very defined personalities. While some feel a bit like tropes, the character dynamics are often explored through cutscenes in a way that really makes the game stand out from your typical poo-brown rubble covered first person shooter. We even get to see a lot more about Billy’s backstory and upbringing in a series of cutscenes that manage to fit a traumatic childhood and daddy issues into a mere few minutes, and I was surprised to have a blockbuster first person shooter that evoked an emotional response from me rather than motion blur sickness (once I turned that off).
The most important part of any single player first person shooter is obviously the shooting, and I was delighted by the smooth gunplay in the game. Everything just feels so satisfying to use, especially when you’re using it to melt an armoured Nazi’s face off with heavy laser weapons, or chewing through a packed hallway with a shotgun. These gratuitous moments of excessive violence along with grand set pieces worked into the levels go a long way in making you feel like the testosterone fueled lovechild of Action Man and John McClane worthy of the nick name “terror Billy”, as the Nazis call you.
The thing I enjoyed the most about the gunplay is how the game is accommodating to the “run and gun” approach instead of forcing players to sit behind chest high walls waiting for their turn to shoot. This is true to the spirit of the earlier games like Wolfenstein 3D, and makes the gameplay that much more dynamic, allowing for more strategy and fast paced action moments.
There definitely are some pacing issues with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, and while I do appreciate them taking time to flesh out the characters and backstory a bit, childhood flashbacks and brooding over your fear of dying after sprinting through Nazi hideouts massacring everything in sight is a bit of a jarring transition at times in terms of tone. The game has a habit of establishing a fast paced momentum only for it to come to a crashing stop so that terror Billy can sulk about his dad for a bit.
As far as single player first person shooters go I thoroughly enjoyed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus as its characters and smooth gunplay drew me in, however it was incredibly short lived, as the main story can be completed in about 9 or 10 hours, which is really not a lot by today’s standards. While I can’t recommend that for a full price game, it’s definitely something worth playing if you get the chance – if for no other reason than to spite the unironic Nazis in this timeline.
Also published on Medium.