Spoilers about Wolfenstein: The New Order and some minor character spoilers for Wolfenstein II
Ah it feels good to play a game and enjoy it enough to complete it. And what a game it was!
Wolfenstein: The New Order which preceded this game and relaunched the Wolfenstein series was really fun. It was an corny action film with Tarantino levels of gore. It was all about enjoying the ever living fuck out of killing nazis. Wolfenstein II builds on this and somehow delivers a crazier, more ridiculous, blood thirsty ride while also showing off some storytelling chops.
The New Colossus (which by the way is a poem that you should look up) picks up from where the last game left off; Blazkowicz finished his job of killing Deathshead but took a grenade to the chest while at it.
As such, this game begins with him constantly at half health because he is knocking at death’s door and is held together by a special armour that they found in The New Order. The chapters that follow deliver a series of sombre monologues from Blazkowicz as he kills nazis while lamenting his own impending death.
This in a nutshell is the tone of the game. Yes, you can dual-wield any combination of guns and shoot nazis to your heart’s content, but undercutting this action packed first person shooter with its really satisfying gun animations and sounds, is a wild but well thought out story. The wild part comes from the crazy things the game puts Blazkowicz through and the things he can get away with. I don’t want to spoil any of these brilliant moments but imagine an ‘Ingloriuous Basterds’ but with crazy nazi sci-fi.
The well thought out part of the story lies in how it tackles conversations around inequality and discrimination and how it depicts its female and black characters. The game during its long cinematic cutscenes does not shy away from talking about the flaws of western society. It does not pretend that America during WWII was a racially harmonious place where people of color and different sexualities were treated equally. The game also adds more depth to the Nazis, acknowledging that there were german citizens who were stuck in the machine but not complicit. Don’t worry, the game does not excuse being a nazi, in fact it demands that one be actively pro-equality to be worth a mention. These themes are discussed in a myriad of ways, from goofy to the dramatic and they’re fun throughout.
The game experience is also really focused. It does not try to be an open world or force unnecessary roleplay elements. Similar to iD Software’s recent games such as ‘Doom’, and ‘Doom Eternal’, ‘The New Colossus’ is a thoroughbred shooter with good map verticality and some great albeit gory animations.
While the game never became too challenging on the ‘Bring em on!’ difficulty, and is fairly short (with my main quest run being some 13hrs) neither were issues for me. I’m sure on higher difficulties it would have been tougher for me, but this struck a good balance and felt just challenging enough to be fun. It was also refreshing for once to play through a game that did not cheat the player so as to justify stretching the plot out. That said, there are sidequests for those who would like to keep playing the game. These are not compulsory which is a relief. This is in turn the other enjoyable aspect about the game, the few times it does not have you shooting guns, it has you investing in other characters. This is almost necessary in a game like this because it is very much about the people, even though Blazkowicz is the axe that cleaves a path for them.
In terms of performance, the game ran smoothly on my pc though a few times it did fail to show some assets. It was never game-breaking but it was noticeable, especially when it refused to show my gun. These issues only occurred a few times and did not affect my overall experience of the game.
All in all, Wolfenstein has the facade of a pulp action flick but behind this mask it’s hiding some really fun characters and plotting that make for a rewarding time.