The premiere Nazi-killing simulator returned in 2017 with the continuation of an outlandish resistance story featuring compelling characters.
Initial release date: Oct. 27, 2017
Platforms: Windows PC [played], PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is an alternate-history first-person shooter. Players control William Blazkowicz, a member of a resistance group fighting to retake America and the world after the Nazis won World War II with the help of advanced technology. The game takes place a couple of decades after the Nazis have risen to power and most of the world has moved on and adjusted to life under their rule.
The game begins with the resistance group being attacked on their U-boat by an airship commanded by General Irene Engel. At the same time, Blazkowicz wakes up from a coma paralyzed from the waist down. However, nothing can keep Blazkowicz down and he fights the Nazis off. After fending off the attack, the resistance continues toward their goal of liberating the world, but to do that, the group must first retake America and connect with other resistance groups.
Retaking America requires a lot of firepower and Nazi-killing however. Thankfully, there are a decent handful of weapons to acquire and upgrade. Each upgrade feels meaningful and has a real impact on gameplay. Even just unlocking a suppressor for the pistol to silently take out soldiers makes a difference. Upgrading the shotgun to have ricochet rounds or fire all three barrels at once are just a couple other tantalizing examples. Perks can also be upgraded by completing challenges such as killing commanders before they raise an alarm or getting kills while dual-wielding. Completing the latter will reward the player with increased ammo reserves.
I mentioned stealth briefly, and while it is encouraged, it’s by no means required. Killing a Nazi commander before he can raise an alarm and call reinforcements is advisable, but if the player is caught, they have more than enough options to deal with anything that’s thrown at them. In case stealthily sneaking up on Nazis and slashing them with an ax sounds more appealing, there is always that option. Players can also throw axes to kill Nazi soldiers silently or unlock a suppressor upgrade for the pistol or the submachine gun.
Combat usually began with me trying to be sneaky and quickly devolved into chaos after being caught. However, I was more than happy to deal with any reinforcements because of Blazkowicz’s ability to dual-wield any two weapons. Dual triple-barreled shotguns? Sign me up. Of course there are also a few heavy weapons scattered throughout levels such as a laser cannon and flamethrower.
There are plenty of collectibles to find scattered around too. There are newspapers which provide background story details about the game’s version of World War II, gold sculptures that unlock concept art and even music records from bands in the game’s version of the world. The newspapers provide the grimmest and disturbing story details in Wolfenstein II. Reading about America’s hopeful outlook at the start of the war, then the public growing weary and questioning why they were even fighting and eventually the dismantlement of the essence of democracy, free speech under Nazi rule is disturbing to say the least.
While killing a copious amount of Nazis is fun, what kept me playing Wolfenstein II were the wacky story beats and to see the next cutscene. Without spoiling anything, when I say the story goes some places, it really goes some places. The really wild stuff is back-loaded in the latter half of the game, but once it gets going it really doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Of course, then the player is faced with an absolutely appalling metal cover of “We’re not gonna take it” by Twisted Sister that’s twice as long as the original song.
Unlike the end credits music, the characters are all great and lots of fun to watch during cutscenes. Norman “Super Spesh” Caldwell, a conspiracy theorist who rants about reptilian aliens infiltrating society and mind control rays, is my absolute favorite. I also love how Set Roth, a German Jewish scientist, sometimes rambles quietly to himself after trailing off during conversations. Every character is amazing, including Max Hass’ pet pig.
If you’re worried about missing out on what happened in the previous game, Wolfenstein: The New Order, it’s not required since the games have two somewhat separate narratives. Although, I would recommend playing it first since it explains who the characters are without throwing you into the thick of it. It’s a decent first-person shooter in its own right too. However, if you beat Wolfenstein II and want more, don’t bother with the sequel, Wolfenstein: Youngblood.
The only issue I ran into with Wolfenstein II is that the game would crash after I followed the prompt to look at a collectible I had found. It didn’t matter what type of collectible it was either, it would crash all the same. The easy workaround is to just wait for the prompt to disappear and then open the menu and look at the collectible there, but it’s still annoying to have to scroll through several menus and then try to figure out which collectible is new.
Bottom line: Wolfenstein II is worth your time and money for the story alone. It can be comfortably beaten in less than 20 hours, so if you’re wary about the time to cost ratio, wait until it’s on sale, which happens fairly frequently.