There are games in which I just sit down, buckle up, and accept just about every crazy thing they throw at me, because they are just ridiculously fun and entertaining. A series which earned that place in my book is Wolfenstein. Ever since I was a kid, it’s been part of my gaming curriculum, starting with the very “first” Wolfenstein on a 486 computer my family used to own. True, the franchise’s real inception took place much earlier than that, with Castle Wolfenstein in the early 1980s, but it was Wolfenstein 3D that really put the series’ name on everyone’s mind. Fast-forward a couple of decades and a few entries later, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, the sequel to the brilliant Wolfenstein: The New Order further proves that Machine Games knows what they’re doing — there has never been a more balls to the wall Wolfenstein game than this up ‘til now, and that’s saying something.
The New Colossus picks up right after the events of The New Order, with a battle-scarred B.J Blazkowicz recovering from his assault that took out the rebooted fiction’s main baddie, General “Deathshead” Strauss up in his fortress, in an one-on-one fight that concluded the previous game is such high fashion. Unfortunately for him, the Nazis are hot on the resistance’s heels, launching an attack at their new base of operations, which serves as the dramatic and chaotic opening to the game, with B.J sneaking through the captured U-Boat while riding a wheelchair, which is just the tip of all the insanity that takes place in The New Colossus. From there, it’s a nonstop ride across a world where the Nazi war machine has taken over and completely molded as their own.
Wolfenstein 2’s fiction is as pulpy as they come, but it manages to carry some deep undertones that work extremely well in making the game feel like something you could potentially play through without much thought, as a pure shooter, or if you’re willing to invest, find plenty of development among its growing cast of colorful characters, be it the struggle between resistance hero Blazkowicz and Nazi Obergruppenführer Engel, which’s been brewing ever since their clash in The New Order, or just the interactions between B.J’s crew at their base.
There’s a ton of writing crammed into The New Colossus that can go completely unnoticed, but that is incredibly worth combing through levels and read/listen to, be it newspapers chronicling Germany’s attack on the U.S and the latter’s surrender, or just how normal folk eventually became complacent with the invading forces — it’s all surprisingly well done, and at times, campy for the sake of keeping things not 100% grim.
One of these takes place during a section of the game that’s been extensively covered in Bethesda’s marketing, in which Blazko’s making his way through a town overrun by Nazi paraphernalia, as they parade around. If you happen to take your time and walk around, you eventually run into an American woman candidly talking to a Nazi officer. What starts out as an innocent flirt quickly turns around, all thanks to an ignorant mistake, where she nonchalantly badmouths Austrians without knowing that Hitler’s one himself. The way this conversation is carried in such a way that made it worth going out of my way to find it.
World building is one thing, but it wouldn’t be enough to keep a game interesting if the gameplay didn’t follow through, and in that regard Wolfenstein 2 is also fantastic. The hectic run and gun that’s a signature to the franchise makes a return in The New Colossus, where you’re once again — just like in The New Order — able to dual hand just about any gun in your possession and lay chaos to the enemy. Or, if you’re patient, you just might squeeze through all stealth like, taking out alarm-sounding commanders on the way. Either path you choose, the game’s fast-paced and unrelenting, especially on the higher difficulty settings. Initially, B.J’s health is capped at 50 points, forcing you to keep on the move in search of health packs and armor, but even when it’s bumped up to 100, you’re incentivized to keep going thanks to the aggressiveness with which the opposition tries to constantly outflank and kill you.
If your health was rechargeable like most first-person shooters nowadays, taking it slow and sticking to cover would work for Wolfenstein, but that’s not the optimal way to play when your health and armor can go down to 0 at the drop of a hat. The bad part is that The New Colossus does a really bad job at letting you know you’re being hit, with no HUD indication or flashes, outside of the numbers at the bottom of the screen counting down. It’s a fact that you’re likely repeatedly die at higher difficulties, but the counter to this is that you can save the game at any point, unless you’re playing on the hardest mode, which only gives you one life and no saves — good luck with that if you decide to go for it.
Similarly to its predecessors, Wolfenstein 2 features an in-between hub that serves as breathing room between missions, as well as a way to let you interact with friendly characters, some of who — unlike The New Order — can give you side missions to partake. In a way a nod to Raven Software’s final Wolfenstein game that came out for the previous gen of consoles, you’re able to explore previously beaten levels as you complete optional objectives that also give you an extra shot at finding collectibles. You can even keep doing these missions after the main story ends by putting to use Enigma machine codes you pick up along the way, which help you locate Nazi commanders that you can assassinate. It’s a fun way that Machine Games has found to bump up The New Colossus’ already lengthy play time even more. I played it at the second highest difficulty, Do It Or Die, and finished the campaign at sixteen hours, but that could easily turn into twenty or more once I start doing these extra post-story activities.
The real kicker is that I want to keep playing Wolfenstein 2. Whether it’ll be to see the other side it has to offer that’s tied to a choice from the original game — saving Wyatt or Fergus — or to complete all the extra content, one thing’s for sure: I’m not tired of playing. I want to see an eventual conclusion to the world that Bethesda, Machine Games and all the other studios tied to this series have built. It’s rare that an action game such as this manages to grab me this badly, even more so considering its bullet-biting origins way before DOOM or Quake ever became household names and the birth of the FPS. Regardless of the way you decide to play it, be it on the easiest difficulty or the most hardcore setting, playing it conservatively or guns blazing, stopping to smell the roses or speedrunning it, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is most definitely worthy of your time.