A Staggering (and Staggered) Achievement
HIGH The best writing in the triple-A space by a Mesquite mile.
LOW Playing on Switch is suboptimal in a few important ways.
WTF Look, Giant Bomb created an entire award category to talk about all the bonkers moments in this game.
The most powerful weapon in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’ substantial arsenal is its subtlety.
Let’s be clear — this is a game where Adolf Hitler makes a brief appearance to rant, shoot, puke and piss. This is a game where Nazis are not only punched, but reduced to tomato soup. This is a game where a character is executed on live TV via katana to the neck.
And yet, this is also a game that makes space for protagonist and resident Nazi exterminator B.J. Blazkowicz to return to his childhood home to reckon with the violence that he and his Jewish mother suffered at the hands of his racist father.
“If you do no wrong, you’ll have nothing to fear from monsters,” Rip Blazkowicz tells his son, and the dark inner workings that drive his abuse and Nazi sympathy are suddenly revealed in the flash of a single, brilliant line.
None of this is lessened by the muddy textures, shortened draw distance and blurry character models that show up in the port to Switch (especially noticeable in handheld’s 720p). The New Colossus is a stubbornly story-driven FPS, and that narrative shows up fully intact on Nintendo’s less powerful hardware.
However, these technical limitations do impact the way Colossus feels in some minor ways. The jerky nubs that serve as the Joycons’ thumbsticks prove frustratingly imprecise at times during the frequently-hectic shooting sequences. Playing on “Don’t Hurt Me,” the game’s second lowest (and default) difficulty setting, this wasn’t much of a problem. For players that want to experience a steeper challenge, I would recommend investing in a Pro Controller or a PS4, Xbox One or PC copy.
However, much of The New Colossus’ entertainment value isn’t found on the battlefield, but in the tight, lightly-rocking corridors of B.J. and his ragtag team’s U-Boat, Eva’s Hammer.
After an opening sequence establishing that our hero was mortally wounded and not killed in the explosion at the end of the previous game, B.J. dons a power suit and joins his team to travel around the United States, killing Naizs and recruiting comrades. Eva’s Hammer is a wonderful hub that’s a safe place to do sidequests, get to know the well-realized crew, and play “Wolfstone 3-D” (basically a reverse version of the series’ inaugural FPS where B.J.’s furious mug adorns the tapestries that line the walls, and not the fuhrer’s).
Frequent returns to this hub provide The New Colossus with an immensely satisfying structure. Go on a mission, kill a bunch of Nazis, experience rich character moments, and then return to the ship for some downtime. With the option to take the game at my own pace, what would otherwise be a linear, mission-based shooter became something more engaging for long-term play sessions.
When the player is off the sub and in the heat of battle, The New Colossus’ systems also reward that kind of engagement.
The perk system unfolds organically. Players don’t spend points to unlock upgrades. Instead, they work like achievements that reward the way someone plays. Take down ten Nazis from the shadows? An ability to make stealth easier will unlock. Leaning heavily on headshots? Aiming down sights becomes more precise. It’s a smart way to handle progression –I chose the kind of player I was in the heat of the moment, not from the cold remove of an upgrade menu.
In MachineGames’ previous Wolfenstein, players could dual wield most of the available weapons, but it was limited to having the same weapon in each hand. Here, that system has been tweaked to allow further customization of playstyle. For example, it’s possible to equip a pistol-sized grenade launcher in the left hand and a shotgun in the right, firing off explosive rounds at bigger enemies while using the shotgun to quickly dispatch the standard, pesky Nazis.
Even on the default setting, this kind of combat is great, and I look forward to replaying Colossus on a harder difficulty with a Pro Controller. For players more interested in narrative than challenge, look no further. With powerful storytelling, strong performances from the central cast and disturbingly relevant themes, The New Colossus is a high water mark for AAA stories. As it fires on all cylinders to deliver bombast and blood with its right hand, be warned — the most devastating hits come from its subtle left hook.
Disclosures: Wolfenstein II was developed by Machine Games (with the port to Switch handled by Panic Button) and published by Bethesda Softworks. It is available on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Roughly 15 hours were devoted to the game and it was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: Wolfenstein II scored an M from the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language and Use of Drugs. This game is mature, and thankfully, not only in the kids-need-to-cover-their-eyes way.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue comes is subtitled. There is no option to resize the font – check the screenshot below for an example.
Some of Andrew King's best memories are tied up in games and game culture. Writing for GameCritics is his sure fire way to ensure that his future memories are, too.
When Andrew isn't writing about games, he's working as a News and Sports Reporter for the Hillsdale Daily News. His work has been featured in The Detroit News and The Washington Times.