Wolfenstein 2: The Old Colossus doesn’t take long to remind us about the kind of game it is – It’s ultra violent & fast paced, while still managing to create heartfelt moments among personable characters in an oppressive world. Building up on the prequel in almost every way, Wolfenstein 2 delivers a fantastic shooter wrapped around a compelling narrative.
You once again play as BJ Blazkowicz, and early moments of the game give some insight into his childhood. You get to see the kind of upbringing Blazkowicz was given, and the brief time that’s shown between him and his father make for some shocking moments. Soon after, you pick up exactly where the last game left off, and find yourself in a hospital barely recovered from his wounds. And then ensues a spree of Nazi killing, the likes of which you’ve never seen in a video game.
The story is exceptionally good, bolstered by great environmental design and a great cast of characters. All of the characters are given significant screen-time, and you grow to care for them and think of them as family. You wife Anya also follows you along in some your exploits in a world that has already been taken over by Nazis. She is pregnant, with twins, and you are even more motivated to bring down the Reich, no matter the cost.
Wolfenstein 2 manages to balance the violence and story in an amazing way, and revels in both aspects of the game. Downtime between fights are punctuated by sharing drinks and some silly jokes, while planning ahead for fights that are yet to come. And of course, BJ gets his. Sex scenes are presented without holding back, and it feels apt that lovers will be passionate when any moment could be their last.
Blazkowicz’s crew is a rag tag band of folks who all fight for their own reasons. Wolfenstein 2 does a great job of bringing them together, and the game is filled with shared moments of camaraderie among them, and there’s a sense of inclusiveness and humanity that is rarely represented in video games. Speaking of humanity, Wolfenstein 2 also makes humans of the enemies, instead of portraying them as just monsters, and giving them the excuse of being evil just by their nature. There’s are definite moments where the game’s pushes things a bit far into absurdity, but it’s often reigned in by the responses of other characters.
Gameplay is given equal weight, and is the best part of Wolfenstein 2. There’s a greater variety to weapons, and you can now mix and match between dual wielding them. Lighting your enemies on fire, or seeing them explode in a fantastic display of particle effects never gets old. Gameplay is also enhanced by the game’s excellent pacing, and there was never a dull moment where I wanted to take a break. You can upgrade weapons, and ammo is generously given. You are encouraged to fight, and encounters are carefully designed to offer a fair challenge.
There are some sections where stealth is an option, but running and gunning is where the game is at its best. By the end of the game, you will be carrying a massive arsenal, and Blazkowicz is literally a killing a machine by that point. I only wish that the game has more open sections, with more verticality and breadth. As much as I liked the linear, action focused sections, a few areas that opened up more would’ve been welcome. Something similar to how Uncharted: The Lost Legacy did with having a big open region that lets you loose for a while, before driving through the rest of the story.
Another issue I had was the lack of feedback during combat. There’s no hit indication when bullets hit the enemy. It’s not an issue with hit detection or hit boxes, but there’s no visual overlay feedback when the bullets hit the enemies. Also, there’s a very small gap between your health getting low and you dying. While you can always glance at the health and armor numbers to keep track of your status, this could’ve been conveyed better by the screen going red or pulsing, etc, specially since combat can get frantic, and you’ll often not realize you’re low on health and die. There are just minor quality of life issues, and whenever things got rough, I would simply bump down the difficulty. I’m just here to feel like a Nazi killing badass, and the story. However, for those looking for a challenge, the issues I mentioned could stand out more.
The base of operations in this game is a submarine hub, and has a lot of nooks and crannies for you to explore. Most of the character development happens here, and you get a peek at the lives of those fighting with you. The design of the base itself is fantastic, and it almost looks like a level from an immersive sim. However, it’s still mostly narrow walkways and smaller open sections like most of the game.
I also need to give a shoutout to the clean menus. With most games these days trying to demand the player’s attention at all times, it’s refreshing to see how clean and minimalist the menus in Wolfenstein 2 were. I may not even have noticed this had it not been for the cluttered menus in other big games I played lately. Be it showing what items you can purchase from the in-game marketplace, or which of your friends are online, or links to buy the DLC, menus in games have become an annoying mess. The first time I hit the pause menu in Wolfenstein 2, for a second I was like – “Is that it? Where did everything go?” I was happy to see a cleanly presented menu, and I also do understand that not every game can do this because of everything they need to put in front of the player. I’m just glad Wolfenstein 2 went this way with the menus.
The music is outstanding, and is performed by Mick Gordon, the same guy who worked on Doom’s soundtrack. Some of the stuff here is as iconic as Rip and Tear, and the music definitely gets you in the mood to rip and tear.
While the console versions of the game seem to be working just fine – locked at 30 FPS mostly – the PC port has had some issues. I played mostly on the PC, and had the game freeze on me a few times. I updated the NVIDIA drivers that were available, and tried tweaking settings. Apart from a few freezes though, I was able to run everything at max settings at 60 FPS on a i7/GTX 980 system, and the game looks absolutely fantastic. Lighting and particle effects look beautiful, and some of the facial animations are stellar, especially the eyes.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is an absolutely fantastic single player experience, and, given the current game industry trends, might be among the last few of these we see. Devoid of microtransactions, and driven by strong narrative and gameplay, this is a single player AAA experience that is hard to come by in 2017. If you like shooters, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is among the best you will ever play. There are a few issues, the most egregious of which are the performance issues on PCs, so be sure to wait for a few patches before jumping in.