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PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’

Nazis are bad.

This is not only a fact of our actual world, but a fact within the world of the Wolfenstein games as well. For the decades that the game franchise has existed, players have slaughtered countless computerized Nazis in a myriad of brutal and bloody ways.

Now, Wolfenstein is back with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, a title which builds off the reborn Wolfenstein: The New Order from 2014. In this title, as before, the player is William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, or “Terror-Billy” as the Nazis call him, and they have good reason to call him that – he kills members of the Third Reich with aplomb.

Any attempt on this reviewer’s part to go into detail about the storyline for this new game would be met with incredulous stares. Suffice to say, it follows on the heels of The New Order and with the Nazis having won the war and a slight time-jump into the future. The Nazis are still around here, they are still up to no good, and Billy (and friends) is out to stop them.

What it is easier to say is that killing Nazis in a videogame may never have been more fun. The New Colossus is a tremendous first-person shooter. It doesn’t matter how insane the scenario or what bit of ridiculousness is taking place (and there are loads of insane scenarios and bits of ridiculousness), playing as Billy is a wholly engaging experience. The graphics are impressive, whether it’s simply running through an area or watching the effects of Billy’s axe.

In fact, it can be a little too engaging. Even in a crouch, Billy has a tendency to sway somewhat as he moves, which can make for something of a queasy feeling for those playing (the feeling diminished for this reviewer after about 10 hours of gameplay, but I wouldn’t suggest that’s remotely universal).

Rather than choosing to advance various Billy’s traits/abilities based on the earning of any sort of experience points, The New Colossus‘ Billy is upgraded by performing various types of kills (eliminate a commander before an alarm is set off, use a grenade, eliminate an enemy via headshot, cause an enemy to die with an explosion, etc.). Hitting target levels in these areas upgrades Billy’s skills (or changes Nazi skills) seamlessly. That is, it is often difficult to tell whether the player is simply improving as they go through the game or if the upgrades are making things progress more smoothly.

While the player doesn’t get the opportunity to choose these changes (except in determining how to kill the enemy), there are weapon upgrade kits scattered throughout the game, and the player can choose how to apply them. Billy’s weapons (and he has several) are alterable in several different, weapon-specific, ways and upgrade kits are generic so that any upgrade kit can upgrade any one weapon with any of that weapon’s upgrades (muzzles, magazine size, etc.). In other words, there is not a specific grenade upgrade kit and a specific pistol upgrade kit – there are simply upgrade kits which can be used on pistols or grenades (or any other weapon).

Yes, it isn’t realistic, but it isn’t really attempting to be realistic. The New Colossus, again, takes place in an alternate history where Nazis have won the Second World War and a brave band of resistance fighters is trying to free the United States from Hitler and the Third Reich. The number of enemies Billy dispatches over the course of the title would be impressive even for an ’80s action star.

First-person shooters in general aren’t for everyone, and this particular game is rated “M,” but those who do enjoy them and the heightened nature of Wolfenstein (or Doom or similar titles), this is an excellent example. It is an immersive experience, one which allows the player to choose their approach, whether it’s progressing as much as possible via stealth or with guns a-blazing (generally though a mix of the two is a good call). The battles one has to fight are enjoyable, requiring a little bit of thought as well as some skill. The story is utterly insane, but there’s something wondrous in the game’s commitment to it. And, for those who don’t care for the tale and just want to go out and wipe away hordes of virtual Nazis, it provides ample opportunity.

This week, Bethesda and MachineGames also announced DLC for the title, starting with Episode Zero which is currently available. The months of December, January, and March will each also offer another DLC pack. Whether these live up to the main title has yet to be seen, but The New Colossus itself definitely makes them worth considering.

 

Wolfenstein II:  The New Colossus is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs. This game can also be found on: Xbox One and PC

About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by ‘deftly’ he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.

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