By Ian Babbitt
Wolfenstein: The New Order was the biggest gaming surprise of 2014. Although graphically out-shone by its contemporaries, developer Machine Games proved that old dogs can still learn new tricks. Naturally, when the sequel was announced at this year’s E3 event, hopes were extremely high. But how did this follow up to one of the best first-person shooters in decades turn out?
Wolfenstein II starts off where the original left off. It is 1961 and the Nazis have an iron grip on the world after winning WWII with the aid of stolen Jewish technology. Recovering from an injury sustained at the end of the last game, series protagonist William Joseph “BJ” Blazkowicz must make his way back to America and free it from Nazi control.
The premise, much like the last game, is downright absurd. The game’s locale design, however, takes the idea and rolls with it. Seeing the streets of New Mexico draped in swastikas and red and black banners while Nazis march down the street is a surreal experience. The game’s artists twisted the familiar into something obscene and revolting, if not hilarious.
Wolfenstein II is technically stunning, with high quality materials, detailed textures, and excellent cinematic effects, all presented in dynamic HD resolution. However, certain design choices were less impressive. The nuked-out New York City level contains miles of grey and brown textures in an uninteresting landscape that makes it hard to differentiate enemies from the background.
Sound design, however, is another story. Gunfire and explosion are impactful, ambient sounds match exactly where players are, and the voice acting is literally perfect. The soundtrack was once again composed by the legendary Mick Gordon (known for Killer Instinct, Prey, DOOM, and Wolfenstein: The New Order.) That said, while the music is all-around top-notch, the game lacks any truly standout tracks like Herr Faust from Wolfenstien.
Gameplay is where Wolfenstien II shines. Guns slam into both characters and enemies with indescribable force and sparks fly with each pull of the trigger. In addition, players can dual wield weapons for double firepower. Movement speed has also seen a boost since the last game. While it’s nowhere near as fast as DOOM, it’s brisk in comparison to modern shooters.
The biggest problem with Wolfenstein II lies in its insanely high difficulty. Players often find themselves dying in 3-4 sustained shots from low-level grunts. Collecting armor pieces does little to remedy this. Amplifying the frustration factor is the fact that the game does a poor job of telling the player when they’re taking damage. This makes for an extremely difficult game.
Another disappointment is that Wolfenstein II sports some of the most uninteresting level design in recent years, filled with bland grey corridors and a lack of alternate paths to go down. It truly feels like a step down from Wolfenstein: The New Order, which had some of the best level design in a first-person shooter since Half Life 2.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus had huge shoes to fill as a sequel to one of the finest single player shooters in recent memory. While the core gameplay was fun enough and kept me engaged, the flaws of the game wasted its potential. We can only hope that Machine Games learns its lesson for Wolfenstein III: Operation Führer-Drop.
Other game info
Publisher: ZeniMax/Bethesda Software
Gameplay modes: Single Player only
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (reviewed), Nintendo Switch (future release)
PS4 Pro/Xbox One X Enhanced: Yes