Recently there has been a lot of talk surrounding single player games and where they stand in the current market compared to the ever growing ‘Games As a Service’ which is becoming more and more popular within the games industry. With all of this going on though, single player, narrative driven games have continued to flow through and Bethesda have just released Machine Games’ Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, the sequel to the much loved reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order from 2014. It continues straight on from the end of the previous game and once again players take control of William J Blaskowicz, also known as B.J for short as he continues to lead the resistance against the conquering Nazi’s in an alternative historical post war story. The opening of the game is explosive and the action is non-stop throughout, setting up the story nicely for what is about to unfold in the rest of the game.
The main villain this time is the returning Irene Engel, an evil Nazi commander hell-bent on getting revenge on B.J for not only causing horrific injuries to her face in the previous game but also for the murder of her beloved Bubi too and she is most definitely prepared to do anything and everything in her power to capture B.J, no matter the cost or how brutal her actions may be. In fact Wolfenstein 2 has some fairly shocking scenes, both in its dialogue and its set pieces, capturing both hard to watch and heartfelt moments with its gritty but superb storytelling and it really succeeds in portraying strength and togetherness despite the horrific situation that the resistance face in their situation. There are some sensitive issues that are portrayed throughout the story, particularly at the beginning and it can be pretty hard hitting at times but it handles these situations really well. It’s a fast paced story that never lets up and it is a rollercoaster ride from start to finish. It’s over the top and completely far fetched in some areas but it is undeniably enjoyable and I loved every minute of it.
Accompanying the fantastic narrative is the brilliant performances from the characters. Every member of the main cast gives a convincing portrayal of their characters and each and every one of them kept me engaged in the story throughout. Even some of the characters that don’t feature as much as others are still likeable and it’s refreshing to see that there isn’t a weak character in this game at all, with the two lead characters obviously being the main driving force of the story. With Wolfenstein 2 being such a story driven game, it’s obvious that Machine Games have gone that extra mile to make sure that the characters faithfully play their part in the story they are trying to tell by playing those parts convincingly along the way and I am pleased to say that they have absolutely nailed it.
B.J is even more likeable than before and much more of a bad ass than he was in the previous game and he would be a worthy main character in any other action game out there at the moment. Throughout the campaign we get more of an insight into B.J’s past, mainly his upbringing and it’s these scenes that really hit the hardest. Seeing what he had to go through and the moral battles he had to face as a child, while emotionally battling through the issues with his father, really contributed to his character development. It made me truly understand why the rebellion against the Nazi’s meant so much to him and why he cared so much for everyone that stood with him.
Another stand out character as mentioned earlier is the brilliantly evil Irene Engel and she has to be the most impactful main villain in a game since the brilliant Vaas from Far Cry 3. What Engel brings to the table is a nasty, sadistic side that justifies why B.J and his team are so focused on bringing her down. I got a real feel for the type of villain Engel was going to be from the very first moment I saw her at the beginning of the game and she is the type of character that doesn’t negotiate, she just follows through on her threats no questions asked. She’s brutal, she’s evil and I don’t think that the game would be quite the same without her in it. The story as a whole pulls no punches with what it’s trying to portray here and the two main characters in B.J and Engel don’t let up either and are the main focal point of the overall narrative. Alongside the main story campaign though are a number of side missions that can be done along the way and you get to carry on doing some of these after the main campaign has finished if you have some left to do. While these aren’t anywhere near as engaging or enjoyable as the story missions, they act as a good opportunity to have a little break from the intense, action packed story, but I never wanted to keep away from it for too long as i was just enjoying it too much.
The main campaign has a couple of decisions that you need to make along the way that impact the story very slightly so you may want to play through the campaign again to make different decisions from before to see how it pans out. Also with the addition of there being plenty of collectibles that you can hunt down too, it gives a good enough reason to continue playing even after the main story has finished, picking up those missed collectibles you may not have found on your initial play through. Amongst some of these collectible items are starcards, concepts, diaries and crafting parts for weapon upgrades to name but a few. I did find that the weapon selection on offer here though was a little underwhelming. The weapons in the game look great, feel great and sound even better with fantastic, meaty gunfire sounds. The selection on offer is fairly limited though and the upgrades are minimal, but it didn’t matter too much because there wasn’t a need for countless amounts of weapons because the ones assigned to the weapon wheel are more than suitable for the job at hand but if you like to have a good selection of weapons to choose, then you may be a little disappointed.
Wolfenstein 2 has been drastically improved where its visuals are concerned and this is mainly down to the use of a modified version of the ID Tech 6 engine which was used recently in the Doom reboot. The previous game suffered a little with its visual quality but it has been addressed this time round with much better lighting, textures and character models. It doesn’t look quite as good as games like the Battlefield series or Call Of Duty but it holds its own and is still a decent looking game. Detail is definitely more prominent than before and the use of the new engine provides bigger and better areas to explore too. The lighting looks fantastic at times and level surroundings really contribute to the mood of the overall experience. Character faces and animations have also been improved too, looking and moving more naturally than they did before. Character faces in particular look great and the motion capture and lip sync, especially in cutscenes, portray the many different emotions and experiences that the characters go through for the duration of the story.
The level design is clever throughout and there are many areas to explore outside of the main missions and include close, confined spaces that contribute to the stealth approach that can be taken and large areas for epic firefight battles. The only area that I saw some inconsistencies was in the frame rate performance. Wolfenstein 2 unfortunately suffers with some noticeable dips in the frame rate, mainly when there was a lot going on screen, particularly in action heavy scenes where there were lots of enemies surrounding me all firing their weapons at once or multiple explosions in a small area of the map. It didn’t impact anything too much but it’s a shame that an otherwise polished game would suffer like this, especially being a first person shooter and while it is only on a few occasions that it happens it’s disappointing to see none the less. I’m sure there will be future updates to rectify this but as it stands, despite the slight occasional dips in frame rate, it runs pretty well overall.
The Wolfenstein series has always been know for its brilliant and precise gameplay and this latest instalment is no different. Gameplay is responsive and incredibly smooth with the godfather of first person shooters maintaining the quality of gameplay and shooting mechanics that made the original games so renowned. Melee kills are satisfyingly brutal and I never once got tired of taking out enemies with my trusty axe. There are different ways that each section can be approached with going in guns blazing being the obvious one, but there is also a bigger emphasis on the stealth approach this time. Each level can be played through in a stealthy way and as mentioned earlier there are many vents and passages that can be utilised to take down enemies quickly and quietly.
There is a good variation of enemies ranging from standard soldiers all the way up to giant mechs, where large weapons will be essential in eliminating them. An option of duel wielding any combination of two weapons at a time is also available and while accuracy was lost by doing this, raw destructive firepower more than made up for it. I didn’t duel wield all the time but there were certainly times when I needed to. Either way the gameplay on offer here is simply fantastic and with a pumping soundtrack to accompany the action packed gameplay, it definitely gets the adrenaline going. I enjoyed every minute of Wolfenstein 2, it’s violent, it’s gritty and it’s arguably one of the best single player story driven games this year, or even the last two years.