Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Hands-On Preview – America Under Nazi Rule
I can’t think of a bigger graphical leap in such a small amount of time than the one between Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (2017). The series went from looking like a standard last generation game to a playable cutscene. Everything from the lighting, to the details of the character models has been vastly improved, and to top it off the motion blur gives the game an impressive cinematic feel. There are undoubtedly a number of improvements in the newest Wolfenstein installment, however, this one is easily the most noticeable. MachineGames established a reputation for themselves with the rebooted Wolfenstein games, can they live up to their own high standards?
Following on from the recently released ‘Strawberry Milkshake’ trailer, last week I had the chance to play both the E3 demo and forty minutes of gameplay following the ‘Strawberry Milkshake’ scene. It’s worth mentioning that this preview will contain spoilers for both The New Order and The New Colossus, if you are worried about ruining the story for yourself then you should proceed with caution.
Fans of The New Order will remember the final scene of the game where William ‘B.J’ Blazkowicz takes down General Wilhelm ‘Deathshead’ Strasse. B.J soon learns that Deathshead is holding a live grenade, killing himself and critically injuring B.J. For three years we were left wondering whether B.J survived. The New Colossus begins with the all American superhero waking up somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on a captured Nazi U-Boat. His injuries from the first game have left him confined to a wheelchair, this isn’t something that is simply for show as you will actually have to play the game like this. MachineGames start the game completely fresh by introducing the wheelchair combat and highly dangerous electrical traps. Playing as B.J while he is in a wheelchair changes the level design as you feel far more restricted than you would in almost any other first person shooter. Stairs and ladders are no longer an option for B.J, forcing him to search for alternate routes like hitching a ride on heavy machinery and using conveyor belts. The electrical traps can kill you, but clever players will be able to use them as an advantage to ensure enemies cannot sneak up on you. You also have the option to shoot them out, but that isn’t nearly as fun.
While on the Nazi U-Boat, B.J is reunited with a number of familiar faces, including his girlfriend from the first game, Anya Oliwa. Anya informs him that they are expecting twins but this is soon followed by bad news: Obergruppenführer Frau Irene Engel has captured Caroline Becker and Fergus Reid forcing B.J to turn himself in in order to rescue them. The scene concludes with Engel’s daughter, Sigrun, being told to decapitate the unconscious Becker with an axe. Unfortunately, the scene ends abruptly as we are left to speculate what happened next.
The next chapter takes place roughly sixty percent of the way through the game. You are dropped into a meeting with The Resistance where they are planning an attack on the Nazis. The Resistance have access to nuclear bombs and they intend to do some serious damage with them, starting with the Oberkommando in Roswell, New Mexico. Area 52 is home to the Nazis’ experimental facility and is rumored to contain alien technology including anti-gravity devices and plasma guns. B.J is ordered to infiltrate Area 52 alongside a portable nuclear bomb and detonate it, wiping the military compound off the map.
This section of the game has B.J back to his normal self, with some slight adjustments… B.J is now equipped with a similar suit to Becker’s Da'at Yichud Power Suit that enables him to walk again. As a result of his injuries from the first game, B.J is now limited to only 50 health points, however, this is now compensated by B.J being able to hold twice the amount of armour. He also has the ability to dual wield weapons like in The New Order, except this time players can choose any combination of weapons. Want to fight using a pistol and a machine gun? Go right ahead. No longer are you forced to use two of the same weapon.
MachineGames have made a number of minor adjustments that returning players will be happy to see. The UI has been reworked slightly, giving it a cleaner look. Performing a specific type of kill now displays your progress towards upcoming perks. This will save players a lot of time as they won’t need to keep opening their journal to see how close they are to a future perk. Players that like to rush through the game will be happy to know the crate system has been improved to suit your playstyle. Smashing open a crate in The New Order would slow down the game as it was difficult to loot them and continue on your way. Looting crates is now a much faster process as the entire crate breaks open, allowing you to run over the contents with ease.
After previewing Prey a few months ago, I’ve been concerned with judging PC versions of games as I know a lot can change before the game launches. The New Colossus runs on the new id Tech 6 engine, which proved to be excellent with Doom back in 2016, so I am hopeful that this game will maintain that standard. The preview build was of course early code, though I cannot say I had any issues with the game’s performance whatsoever. The New Colossus ran at 1080p while maintaining a smooth 60FPS throughout both missions.
Check out the gameplay we’ve uploaded and I’m sure you’ll agree that The New Colossus is looking very good right now. The trailer released back at Bethesda’s E3 conference piqued my interest in the rebooted series, and after playing it I can safely say I want to see more of it. If you are in the mood for a fast paced first person shooter, make sure to keep an eye on this one. There are exactly three months from now until the game launches on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.