As I sit down to write something for the first time in a month, I am reflecting on the game I most recently completed. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It’s a beast of a game, one that is undoubtedly pushing towards a Red Mist Verdict. It is a great achievement from Machine Games who have crafted a Wolfenstein game where the storytelling and cut-scenes lift what is otherwise a perfectly enjoyable, but by no means outstanding, shooter to great heights.
We all know that punching Nazi’s in the face is fun, but the in-game action feels a bit….dull, compared to the other id Tech 6 powered game of recent times, Doom. id Software’s demon shooter was fast, frantic and invigorating, while The New Colossus feels like it has taken a step back in the shooting stakes compared to 2014s The New Order which brought a stagnant series back to roaring life. Maybe it’s that the core gameplay loop of enter an area, take out the Commanders to stop reinforcements arriving, clear up the rest, feels a touch pedestrian compared to the jumpy goodness of Destiny 2 or Doom‘s ultra-fast paced demon punching action, or maybe the weapons largely feel a tad bland? I’m not sure.
The action isn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. There are some great set piece moments, escaping New Orleans on a Panzerhund is fantastic fun, while BJ’s trip to his old family home ends in a wild sky-high battle. However, it is the moments away from the shooting that I will remember most fondly from The New Colossus.
Following on from the ending of The New Order, an enfeebled BJ finds his home of the Evas Hammer under attack and must protect his friends and family from the confines of a wheelchair before being forced to witness the brutality of Frau Engel, the villain of the piece. BJ spends the game worrying about his own mortality, unsure how to cope with a broken, ruined body, pushing Anya away all the while, despite the glorious news that she is pregnant with twins.
Fighting vast swathes of the game limited to 50hp, you get an insight into BJs mind that was only hinted at in The New Order. Travelling an America that has well and truly fallen under the Nazi’s command, aided by the KKK, you witness a world that has fallen into darkness. The propaganda spouted by the newspaper clippings you find dotted around, the Nazi march in Roswell that is so chilling, the ghettoisation of New Orleans. It’s dark, and BJs trip to his family home shows how elements of American society that bow down to the Nazi’s in 1961 have had their prejudices beaten into them from childhood.
There are wonderful, light moments too. Your ever expanding crew on the Evas Hammer is a constant delight, and a welcome refuge from the horrors of the world around. Max Haas is still Max, your new comrades led by Grace Walker, American resistance fighter and black rights activist and later joined by communist Horton Boone keep you busy. Chatting to them and their brothers and sisters in arms, along with old friends like Fergus (or Wyatt) and Set Roth offers moments of levity. BJs birthday celebrations ranks as one of the most amusing gaming cut-scenes I’ve ever seen. There are so many little stories that you can unpick as you talk to the crew between missions, to march blindly from mission to mission without taking a moment to relax is to do the game an injustice.
I could go into detail and analysis of so many moments in this game, but my writing wouldn’t do them justice. While the action might not be as off the walls as Doom, the story being told is important, and batshit crazy too, but one that has some striking parallels with the current geo-political situation.
Play this game, but take your time. It is worth it.