Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has some new tricks in the gameplay department, but I personally don’t care. At least, I didn’t before I sat down to play. MachineGames has included a number of skills that, on paper, look like they might better fit into a Metroidvania style game. I enjoyed the mechanics introduced in Wolfenstein: The New Order, but if I were to reflect on that game here, the first thing I’d mention is nazis on the moon. It has been moments like those which gets me excited about the series going forward. All the campy charm in the world wouldn’t have made for a good game, however, and the series digs deep into its genre roots to deliver in the gameplay department.
Wolfenstein: The New Order pulled off the modern FPS steeped in old school flavor two years before Doom 2016. While Doom notably included a story for the sake of pushing it aside, Wolfenstein leaned into theirs. The original games have some weird quirks that created a pretty unique tone. The original Wolfenstein 3D and Spear of Destiny crammed in wacky stuff like dog food as health pickups, cyborg Hitler, and zombie nazis. How did MachineGames’ addition fit into this legacy? By giving us a story which was both high concept, and pure camp.
My demo began with a member of MachineGames explaining to me the new mechanics, and handing me a cheat sheet so I could remember the inputs and try them out. They included an option to squeeze through vents, stilts to reach higher areas, and a charge that would let me bust through walls. I was then given an option of selecting which timeline I would be continuing from at the conclusion of The New Order: did I save Wyatt or Fergus? The choice will play out in an intro cutscene this time around, and the result will determine which of two special weapons you will have when you tackle the campaign. One nets you a grenade launcher, while the other a laser, and neither one felt like a poor choice.<
The first area starts with a drop into broken and flooded streets skirted by collapsed and dilapidated buildings. Where there is solid ground, a panzerhund (a large mechanized dog which breathes fire) and nazi infantry are patrolling. The houses on both sides have fallen into the flooded sections and afford you a choice of whether or not you will approach the heavy artillery head on, or take a sneakier path through them. I started with the later choice and found the broken Louisiana architecture to be tight enough to give you cover, but also complicated enough to make that option challenging. It wasn’t long before this plan fell apart.
Confronted by a lot of action very quickly, I tried my hand with the laserkraftwerk (the timeline specific weapon I had chosen). I expected it to make short work of the panzerhund, but was immediately reminded of how armored they are. I retreated into the building and tried to find a loadout which would be better suited to the challenge.
In the first installment, I heavily favored taking a single weapon. I prefer to aim down the sights and take headshots, which you can’t do while dual wielding. In this version, you can mix and match weapons, giving you the chance to take advantage of multiple weapon’s strengths as you press forward. Even with this choice, I had a hard time handling the panzerhund at first. Instead, I opted to circumvent it and push into the buildings ahead.
While I wouldn’t call these levels “open” they were certainly wide and had a lot of pathing options. Yet, despite there being many routes to take, the layout of the street funneled me in the direction of the objective. As I made my way through a train depot, Blazkowicz’s internal monologue directed me to the next objective to tackle. It was in this building that I realized the new powers given to the player were all about opening up different paths. It seems like they are rarely required, and are really there to give the player more options. The charge even doubles as a combat maneuver, and allows you to barrel directly into enemies.
Leaving the building I was confronted again by another heavily armored panzerhund and a squad of nazis. This time I was resolved to get a taste of what it would take to actually take it down. I was pleased with how much more manageable the encounter was now that I had a little trigger time under my belt. As I circled the trainyard, I swapped focus between targets, trying to keep cover between me and the beast. As I applied myself to the challenge, each enemy seemed to fill a role in making the encounter challenging. The base soldier types could easily navigate the environment, while the more armored soldiers acted as roadblocks that needed to be addressed before I could have the room to flank the panzerhund.
After leaving the trainyard, it was a small series of fights before I linked up with the resistance. Led by Father Horton, the focus of this demo was recruiting him to the cause. The cinematic here gave me exactly what I was looking forward to. The Father was not what I was expecting. An anarchist, he and B.J. don’t exactly see eye to eye. You and Horton sit down to talk about the revolution as his anarchist rebels take shots at nazis in the street. One of the rebels starts playing some jazz on the clarinet and the Father pulls out a bottle of hootch. What follows is a drinking contest and spirited debate between an anarchist and a soldier over their beliefs. All played over a cacophony of gunfire and jazz.
Father Horton comes around as you drink yourself under the table. As you come to, you’re presented with a panzerhund that’s been “tamed” by his team. The demo concludes with a power trip as you ride it out of their base to draw the nazi fire while the escape to join you cause. I was given a taste of this section, gleefully turning the tables on the nazis that confronted me.
Wolfenstein II: the New Colossus will be released on Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One on October 27th of this year. You can learn more by visiting its Steam page, or the official website.