At the time, no one was expecting much out of MachineGames’ Wolfenstein: The New Order. The series was a rather long in the tooth, and what the series had done previously was usurped in quality by numerous competitors. To the outside observer, it seemed like a game that might only skate by on name recognition alone. Its release proved all of the naysayers wrong, of course, delivering a stellar experience that layered on the heavy fire power, ample amounts of pathos (both self referential and via its depressing story moments), all while not taking itself too danged seriously. It was one of those experiences that sticks with the player years after completion. Of course, The Old Blood followed up, acting as a prequel to the hero’s 1960’s era shenanigans. While that one had the humor and the gunplay, it wasn’t quite as strong in the story department. With what I have played of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, they are back on their game, with this new entry starting stronger and darker than before.
After the events capping off The New Order, it seemed BJ Blaskowicz succumbed to the wounds he suffered. At least he got to go out knowing that Deathshead was, well, dead. The thing is, Blaskowicz is a bit more stout than the average tank, and just needed to lie down for awhile. Or for five months. Either way. He awakens in a hospital bed to find that the state of the world hasn’t improved as dramatically as he hoped, what with all the Nazis shooting guns outside of his room and all. Knowing that he won’t be able to get a good night’s rest until he gets them to stop all that damn racket, he climbs into a wheelchair, takes a gun provided by a friendly resistance member, and proceeds about his grizzly business.
Once players take direct control, the action ramps up rather quickly. Nazis see Blaskowicz rolling, they be hatin’. Viewing the state of the hospital and the lack of staff to maintain constant hygiene of the coma patients, it’s certain that Blaskowicz is riding dirty. The game starts off with more of a first person roller style, as the hero must push and steer his wheel chair with one hand and gun down Alt-Right prototypes with the other. His weakened state also means that his maximum health is lower than it would normally be. It should be noted that these limitations are story based only; the player will not be wheelchair bound the entire way through the title.
With his handicaps, Blaskowicz does need a bit of help to make his way through the hospital in one piece. Fortunately, the building has quite a few microwave traps in place all over, with switches to turn them on and off easily accessible. The unmitigated glee to be found in the process of luring Nazis over,and popping them like a balloon is something that isn’t easily conveyed. It’s just too much fun. Not that shooting them in the head doesn’t work either. While I only got to play with one submachine gun, it handled with the same weighty brutality that one would expect after playing previous title in the series.
The story is what really grabbed me. All joking aside, Blaskowicz seems shocked to still be alive, but quickly puts this aside to get down to business. During the introductory sequence, players are treated to quite a few returning friendly faces and a special surprise that might make some people happy and others not so much were they in his position. The most effective sequences comes at the end of the demo, when the villain Frau Engel makes her return. I kind of forgot how absolutely awful a creature she was before, but she wasted no time to remind me as she is shown endlessly berating her daughter, breaking promises of mercy, and torturing her daughter some more. (She knows what she likes.)
The demo ended with Blaskowicz and two other comrades captured and under the Nazi gun. It appears that this was a prelude to a choice similar to one that was made in The New Order. However, not only was it a bit too obvious, it also felt like there were hints of things going down in a completely different manner, one that I wouldn’t have seen coming had I not had ample time to dwell on it between when I played the demo and now.
That is neither here nor there. What can be said for certain is that Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is hewing close to what made the first one so outstanding, tweaking and beefing things up, but making sure not to ruin what worked so well before. The mixture of drama and humor is back and stronger than before, and Frau Engel is a much more loathsome villain. All of these things put together indicates that The New Colossus will probably be this year’s high water mark for first person shooters when it releases October 27.