01 August 2017

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus review and demo

Set in Roswell, New Mexico, USA, the demo shows off the game’s capabilities

ONE of the surprise announcements at E3 this year was a sequel to 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, Bethesda’s game in which the Nazis won WWII and you — as agent BJ Blazkowicz — got to take out a lot of those Nazis as a result.

The game’s ending made it very clear BJ was about to be on the wrong side of a nuclear artillery barrage, but as the E3 gameplay demo for the upcoming Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus showed, clearly he survived (perhaps by hiding in a Nazi fridge but we haven’t seen what transpired yet).

As Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus — developed by MachineGames and published by Bethesda — begins, BJ wakes up in the sickbay at a captured U-boat in 1961 which is, you guessed it, being attacked by the Nazis.

Most of that level was spent in a wheelchair, showing that BJ is still a badass even when disabled, but it was clear there was more to the game so a recent playable demo from Bethesda was welcome news indeed.

Set in Roswell, New Mexico, USA, the demo shows off far more of the game’s capabilities, including the wide-open sunlit Main St Occupied USA, c 1961 (featuring a special guest appearance by the Ku Klux Klan), a diner, and a secret Nazi underground base at Area 52, complete with underground rocket-train.

BJ begins the level disguised as a fireman in downtown Roswell and is carrying a nuclear bomb concealed in a fire extinguisher to his contact Super Spesh, proprietor of the diner and conspiracy theorist on a scale that would have even Fox Mulder politely trying to change the subject.

Super Spesh — who quite literally describes whatever is happening at Area 52 as “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but it’s definitely aliens” — sends BJ off to hijack a train to smuggle the nuke into the base’s reactor.

Right away you know this is not a game of subtlety, and that’s a good thing.

A range of enemies feature, ranging from your standard soldiers through to literal Nazi Terminator Robots with laser guns in their arms.

America, 1961. Your assassination of Nazi General Deathshead was a short-lived victory. Despite the setback, the Nazis maintain their stranglehold on the world. You are BJ Blazkowicz, aka “Terror-Billy,” member of the Resistance, scourge of the Nazi empire, and humanity’s last hope for liberty. Only you have the guts, guns, and gumption to return stateside, kill every Nazi in sight, and spark the second American Revolution.

The demo was hard — even on the lowest difficulty level I died multiple times after being overwhelmed by enemies and unable to find the commander whose death would deactivate the alarm and cease reinforcements.

The level looked impressive but wasn’t always intuitive to navigate — in one section, I had managed to connect a rocket engine to a train but could not find the switch to activate it, until eventually discovering it was accessed by climbing to a higher level, jumping on top of the engine, then finding an access hatch that led down into the train and a control booth with the “On” button in it.

The next sequence, shooting through railway carriages full of enemies, confirmed the designers have decided to take the over-the-top aesthetic and just run with it; firing dual-wielded Gatling shotguns down a railway carriage corridor and turning waves of Nazi Stormtroopers into red mist is clearly not going to be part of a sober and reflective discussion on the wider impacts of National Socialism. It is, however, extremely fun.

The sense the game wants you to have fun with its premise shone throughout the demo, and fans of the previous game will be delighted to know the viscera and extreme violence are back.

The glimpses we’ve seen into the world of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus have been extremely promising, taking everything that was good about the excellent previous title and transporting it to a new setting.

The areas revealed so far appear very plausible and believable — no mean feat considering we’re mixing alternative history with science fiction.

While the game itself isn’t out until late October — and will be releasing on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One — it’s looking extremely promising, retaining the gameplay of its predecessor with new plot elements and developments.

Seeing how the whole thing comes together will be interesting, but so far it’s looking pretty good and much like the previous title in the series, should make for some wholesome shooting fun when it’s released — and hopefully the difficulty will have been tweaked by then too.

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