STAFF REVIEW of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Xbox One)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus  Box art What do you do when your previous game delivers a tremendous impact equal to bombing runs over London during WWII? Well, in the case of MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks, you bring the noise, but this time more of it, and release Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This is no small task considering the ramifications and themes that permeate throughout the game and the current unrest and division we see here in the United States. While creating a game is challenging enough, Wolfenstein II aims to create yet another entire experience that is unique. Recently, the discussion on single player gaming has been called into question and Wolfenstein II just shows why single player gaming, if done right, is an experience that just can't be beat.

Should you play the first game? To answer your question, yes, you should play it as it is a game where the timeline of history is changed in WWII and the Nazis end up winning the war and taking over the United States of America. If, for some reason, you haven't played the first one, Wolfenstein II does a decent job showcasing a recap via one of those "last time on Wolfenstein" moments. During this sequence you're shown brief, and I do mean brief, images and clips that try and help you piece things together of what events led to your current situation. This is done because Wolfenstein II picks up almost the very moment after the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor. What this means for our hero Blazkowicz, is that General Engel is back and she has never stopped hunting you.

That's all I'm going to say about the story because it's one of pure mastery. This is thanks to many different factors. For one, the execution of the script by the talent is incredible. From the street savvy crews of the United States of America to the sadist actions and rantings of a pure psychopath, every main part of the story will leave you captivated.

However, the real meat is to experience the interactions that the NPC characters have with each other. Case in point, there is a level where you are in the Southern United States and you are trying to meet up with your contact. There is a small problem though, and that is that it takes place during a Nazi parade where some of the bystanders are members of the Ku Klux Klan. It is here and you overhear their uncensored discussion with each other and then with German officers. The dialogue is what people would classify as completely raw; however, it adds to the reality of what things would be like had things been different in WWII. I enjoyed going throughout the game's levels and witnessing the bizarre, and always entertaining, communication between the residents as they tell some fascinating stories.

This is the type of creation you need when developing an immersive storyline for a single player game. The dark rhetoric passages of the game's dialogue contribute to authenticity, but be forewarned, some of the topics may be disturbing to those who play. Topics such as child abuse, homophobia, incredibly intense scenes of extreme violence, racism and much more, are found in every moment of the main storyline progression. I'm actually quite thankful that Bethesda and MachineGames decided to make the game as authentic as it is.

Instead of cowering to the PC police, they throw a ton of hate material at you and say this is who is responsible for the situation in the game (Nazi's ruling of America), and in doing so they create a tremendous feeling of pride in your country. These are the same patriotic feelings we feel during certain occasions and instances such as 9/11. What this means to you dear gamer, is that in Wolfenstein II you can expect one of the most powerful stories you'll ever experience.

Of course in order to accomplish this you'll need to fight, and to do so requires a streamlined combat system that is typical in most first person shooters. What makes Wolfenstein II's system so great is that there literally isn't much there to work with. This is a blessing when you find yourself up to your neck in Nazi guards who are called in when an Officer trips and alarm and requests backup. Dual wielding your weapons can be extremely effective for the run and gun strategy instead of stealth, and can be activated or cancelled with one simple button press.

You can dual wield any weapon that isn't regarded as "heavy", but these non-heavy weapons have another benefit, as they all can be upgraded with upgrade kits that you can find hidden throughout the game's levels. There is a slight flaw here though in that the Right Bumper, if held down, will bring up a weapon selection HUD and using the Right Analog Stick will let you select what weapon you want. The problem here is that while you're saying 'time out' while you select your weapon, the enemy still is firing at you. This will lead to many untimely deaths and many restarts.

While upgrading your weapons gives you huge advantages, Wolfenstein II has internal challenges for your character to accomplish that will unlock perks and improve abilities that directly affect your character. Challenges such as kill X number of enemies by throwing a hatchet, or X amount of combat takedowns, or even X number of environmental kills. Completing these challenges will grant your character bonuses to his abilities and skills, and as you progress and keep increasing what mastery level these skills are, the bigger the bonus your character will receive. So sometimes it IS a good thing to have officers trip the alarm as you can boost your challenges quickly while you look around for all the collectibles.

And speaking of collectibles, there are A LOT of hidden items to find scattered amongst the game's levels. Each level is fairly linear in design, but the size of the levels is quite impressive, which also means you'll have to spend a lot of time searching if you want to find every single collectible. This is where one of my gripes of the game's design are. Wolfenstein II seems to take assets straight from games like Fallout and rehashes the design. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it does feel a little cheap, sort of like the developers were cutting corners so they can focus on their character development.

I have to give MachineGames credit though, the character development and visual presentation of Wolfenstein II in 4K is incredible. I was playing this game on the Xbox One X with a 4K Samsung TV, and to say it's pretty is an understatement for the ages. The slightest nuances are highlighted in ways that other companies could only dream about producing. If you only care about graphics, then Wolfenstein II should already be on your must have list.

Sadly though, the same can't be said for the soundtrack and audio of the game. While the voice acting stands out as incredible, the overall ambience of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout your adventure you keep hearing Blazkowicz giving an internal monologue of sorrow and depression, and this got on my nerves somewhat. There were slight bugs as well, such as sending a guard flying hundreds of feet into the air with a grenade while the destructible box beside him was untouched.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus brings gamers around the world and single player, first person shooter that delivers a fantastic storyline, beautiful graphics, and an experience that is hard to surpass on any platform. Bethesda and MachineGames have done a tremendous job in showcasing evil exists in the world, the fight that good people have to go through to prevent this evil from taking hold, and what happens when good people do absolutely nothing. This game is easily a contender for game of the year, with only a few shortcomings, and I expect to see Wolfenstein II make a serious case for why they deserve the crown.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.6 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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