The triumphant return of DOOM last year blindsided a lot of people, myself included. Expectations were low, and this only made it all the more satisfying when it turned out to be one of the best FPS games in a long time. The downside to this for Bethesda of course is the weight of that success is now planted firmly on the shoulders of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Will it bear the weight, or come crushing down below it?
Whilst the roots of the games are the same, it’s worth remembering that there is no developer link between the two titles aside from sharing an engine. Whilst comparisons are inevitable, I’m going to make a promise not to do so outside of that opening paragraph above. Quite frankly, Wolfenstein II really doesn’t need to be compared to other games, it stands pretty tall on its own merits anyway.
I didn’t complete the previous game so I watched the “last time on Wolfenstein” bit at the beginning as well as the opening sequence. Between the two of them, I’d racked up 19 minutes on Steam before I’d even pressed W for the first time. This is a recurring theme, with long cut scenes throughout telling the story. It’s very Kojima-esque in that regard. Clearly a lot of work went into these, and they’re very well acted and animated, but I’d have liked to get more of the story through the game itself.
I’m well aware that there’s been some backlash aimed at Machine Games for the story being particularly left-wing, and as a lefty journalist I’m very much in favour of what they were trying to say. I’ve seen a lot of comments sections degenerate into slanging matches for suggesting that perhaps they’ve tried to be a little more socially responsible than is entirely necessary for a videogame. In my opinion, given the state of the world at the moment, we probably need more people standing up for the right thing and ignoring any criticism levelled at them for it. Besides, if anybody’s genuinely offended by the suggestion that Nazis, misogyny, and racism are bad things, then they probably have far deeper issues than can be resolved with electronic entertainment.
The level design could probably have been better. There’s a lot of generic industrial looking areas throughout and a bit more variety would have been great, but it’s not repetitive enough to detract from the gameplay, which is front and centre here. You can play the game how you want, with stealth encouraged just as much as running in all guns blazing. At harder difficulty levels, it’s pretty much essential too. The covert method is super unforgiving though; you get spotted and every Nazi in the area is going to come after you with no way of hiding. There’s an achievement for completing an area without getting spotted and after the best part of 24 hours playtime, I’ve never managed to get it.
There is no multiplayer, so if you were hoping for deathmatches in the game’s universe, then you’re out of luck. This is very much intentional, with Machine Games being very clear that they wanted to make an engrossing single-player experience. Personally, I don’t usually bother playing online and I’m very happy that they put more focus on good old-fashioned solo gameplay, but I appreciate that a few of our readers will be less antisocial than I am.
With the same Id Tech 6 engine in use as the DOOM reboot, this is a real visual treat. Textures are crisp and clear, with plenty of little visual tricks used to make everything look vibrant and realistic. Facial animations are pretty good and convey the emotions they ought to, characters move in a realistic way, and pigs look just like they do in real life.
Despite this being the second use of the engine though, there were quite a few bugs initially. Screenshots and the Steam overlay would crash the game (which is a shame considering I was taking screenshots for this very review). I didn’t dare alt-tab out at any point, that was a surefire death sentence for my session. Thankfully, these issues have been patched at the time of writing, but you will want to make sure that you have a well-specced system if you want to play on PC as there’s not much optimisation. At this point, there’s not even any SLI support, which is quite disappointing. Also, whatever you do, don’t leave a controller plugged in if you’re playing with a mouse as all hell breaks loose and the cursor bounces all over the place.
As you expect for a game of this style, a raucous soundtrack emphasises the on-screen action. It’s generally subtle and fits the scene, but there’s a few tracks that stand out and are probably worth listening to on their own. Especially the song that plays over the end credits. Music is a very personal thing though, and if you don’t like the dulcet tones of a long haired gentleman guttural screaming into a microphone, you might enjoy it less than I did.
It might not have had the same impact that its more well-known cousin did last year, but Wolfenstein’s return is almost as enjoyable. There are a few rough edges that keep it from being in that illustrious ten out of ten club, but it’s certainly not far off. A great game, that deserves a place in the collection of any FPS fan.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
TL:DR Version - Wolfenstein II does a brilliant job of mixing social commentary with unnecessary violence and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. There’s a few optimisation issues and the level design could be a touch better, but this is an overall outstanding game that deserves a look.