MachineGames came out swinging in 2014 with Wolfenstein: The New Order, eager to put their stamp on the popular franchise. It received mostly positive reviews and averaged around 8/10. Fast forward a few years and the team at MachineGames are at it again. This time however, more risks have been taken and story content is substantially more edgy.
We begin with a look back at the events of the first game, a video that runs through all the key highlights that refreshes the mind of those coming back but delivers a Wolfenstein 101 for newbies at the same time. A great feature that I wish was used more in games, because after a few years my memories of The New Order were a little vague and it was nice to be brought back up to date with B.J.’s shenanigans.
Blazkowicz has been unconscious for five months after the end of The New Order, his body has been broken and some of his organs have even been removed for his survival. He awakes aboard the Eva’s Hammer, the U-boat of the Kreisau Circle. Unfortunately for him, the ship is under attack by the Nazi’s under the command of Frau Engel who was one of the antagonists from the previous title. The bombshell is also dropped on Billy that his partner is expecting twins, what a way to find out right? Finding out you’re going to be a father when being hunted down.
America has been occupied with the Nazi regime during the time between games. It’s time to show these invaders that the American people will not submit forever, that there is still fight left in them. Your typical good vs. evil scenario inserted with a colourful cast of characters, some of which could certainly be labelled insane.
The foundation is already set for a story of revolution, redemption and revenge. Beginning to end, it’s the journey that makes this game truly special. B.J. is subject to a lot of character development throughout, having some major heartfelt moments along with some that are incredibly badass. Every big moment I met with either a smile on my face or sadness in my heart, something I felt outside the realms of possibility with Wolfenstein. But MachineGames did it, they created a character with multiple layers that you truly care about.
I felt the final fight didn’t quite live up to expectations to the point that I had no idea that was it, believing I had a couple more missions to go. However, the payoff moment at the end was fantastic and left it open for a potential sequel whilst at the same time making it look like the book has been closed on B.J. Blazkowicz’s antics.
It delivers one of my favourite first-person shooter gameplay experiences of all time. Truly a mix between the shooters of old that would see you literally just walk around aiming your weapon, and the Call of Duty franchise of recent years. Not as fast paced as the Call of Duty games but not a slow slog either. It maintains a perfect balance between movement speed, aiming speed and rate of fire that allows this continuous fun cycle of killing enemies.
That isn’t the only way to play, stealth is an option and is often the better approach to take, particularly in the higher difficulty settings. You can afford to run and gun your way through the game on maybe the two lowest settings but after that, stealth is almost a must at certain points. The game is brutal, damage taken by enemies is devastating. You have the options available to play the way you want, I took the stealthy route but on the easier difficulty for my main run. The reward for this comes in the form of, satisfying silent headshots when you have a suppressor on your weapon, gruesome executions, and the alarms don’t get sounded meaning not having to go through more enemies.
A weapon upgrade system has been implemented in which you can add attachments or features onto your assortment of guns by first finding the upgrade parts during your playthrough. Such modifications include suppressors, sights, altered bullets and more, some of which change the game. Suppressors are of course the most notable gameplay impacting mod, allowing you to run stealth at a range is such a strong bonus. Armor-piercing rounds make it easier to reduce the tougher enemies to blood and guts or nuts and bolts.
Contraptions alter how you traverse through various levels and your first contraption is available approximately halfway through. This means there are numerous ways to complete some of the later missions but your restricted to going with the path that matches your contraptions advantage. You can gain a second from doing side missions and even then you are still unable to get the third without starting a new game. This isn’t the only feature that promotes replayability, in fact, a huge choice is presented at the beginning that affects a special gun you receive and certain cutscenes and interactions, but I’d prefer to let you experience that yourself.
So, side missions are a thing and many of these are acquirable by collecting Enigma Codes from commanders you kill along the way. These codes provide intel on the location of Ubercommander’s which then allow you to jump into an assassination mission that throws you into the existing levels but slightly altered. Side missions will still be available after story completion so don’t worry too much about hitting them all before you finish the final mission. Once again, you have freedom of choice.
Dark and gritty is perhaps the best way to describe the visuals, they match the theme of oppression, dictatorship and hate. Most levels lack bright lights and colours, and even when they are in place they’re reserved for either story driven or contrast reasons. The use of bright red I now associate with the Nazi flag in that game. My favourite location isn’t even an action area but a small town you pass through, the classic American style from the 60’s prevalent in its diners, cinemas and stores. There’s a rally taking place, the streets are plastered with colour, putting the message across that the citizens have accepted this new regime. Characters are incredible diverse in design, each with their own unique and trademark looks.
Something a shooter needs is good sound effects and oh boy do the guns sound satisfying. There’s a weight to them which comes across in the sound design, with the fire of each weapon you can tell you are dealing with older weaponry. This is backed up by an immersive soundtrack that bring a lot of moments into memorable status. Voice acting when done right is special, performances that draw you in and make you pay attention and The New Colossus features numerous great performances. Some characters may not be seen on screen long but have a lasting power throughout.
Without multiplayer, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has still made an impact for itself as one of the top shooters of 2017. An immersive story, rewarding gameplay mechanics and satisfying soundtrack come together to create a pretty package with a nice ribbon on it. Perfect for both first-timers and fans alike.
OVERALL: 9.3/10 – EXCELLENCE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)