In 2014, Wolfenstein: The New Order surprised almost everyone. It was a fantastic shooter that did not have multiplayer shoehorned in like many releases around that year. MachineGames also managed to create a game that ran great on PS4 but also one of the best video game soundtracks in recent times thanks to Mick Gordon. Today, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has released and it is an improvement in every way. There are some minor issues but this is an excellent game and one that deserves to be played as soon as possible because it has probably the best writing in an FPS ever.
The New Colossus takes place in a world where the Nazis won the second world war. You play as BJ Blazkowicz and wake up without the ability to walk freely. This section is one you’re probably familiar with through promo videos. As the story progresses, I was surprised at how many great characters were introduced. While many would just be getting into this for the fantastic gameplay, there’s a brilliant story and one that has a lot of memorable scenes. While it would help if you’ve played The New Order, you can safely get into this without prior knowledge of the franchise as a whole. There are also quite a few scenes here that will remind you of the game’s PEGI 18 rating. The best part is while there is some humour throughout, the pacing for the story and its delivery are amazing.
Gunplay is the focus here and it is some of the most satisfying gameplay you will have in a long time. The weapons all feel varied and the likes of the laser gun that vapourizes enemies or the well implemented melee action through the hatchet are all a joy in game. There’s also some really great level design for the most part that constantly keeps you on your feet for your strategy. Everything is flexible and you can play stealthily or go all out like I usually do. As the campaign progresses and as you explore more, you find upgrade kits and eventually unlock a special ability. Wolfenstein II isn’t afraid of pushing things to the limit or straight up going insane when it needs to. You will spend a little over 15 hours here for the main campaign depending on your play style and there’s barely any filler. It just is that damn good.
This release has seen MachineGames move to id Software’s new engine and the one that we got to experience in DOOM last year. The move has been beneficial because it looks brilliant and runs like a dream. Environments and lighting in them are superb. There’s a lot of attention to detail as well like some of the propaganda in the city backgrounds. While this year’s visual crown for an FPS will no doubt go to Destiny 2, the fact that Wolfenstein II manages to look this fantastic and also run at 60fps on console is commendable. I like the attention to detail in character faces quite a bit. This is easily the new benchmark of how an FPS on console should be. Enemy variety is also really good and the visuals when combat is getting hectic and you basically dart across the area destroying Nazis through explosions and more are stunning.
One thing Bethesda deserves to be commended for is how their published games have fantastic music. The New Order is one of my favourite soundtracks and DOOM took it to a whole other level. These games don’t just have great soundtracks but the way the tracks play and react to you in game make everything better. The New Colossus sees Mick Gordon return but he now has Martin Stig Andersen to work with who did the soundtrack for LIMBO and INSIDE. The result here has some heavy moments and some more mellow atmospheric ones. While I was initially a bit disappointed that they didn’t just straight up get Meshuggah to work with Gordon, the score here fits the narrative perfectly. Voice acting is another area that Wolfenstein II excels in. Even the minor NPCs feel real and the combination of great voice direction with the detailed character faces will keep you even more immersed here.
There are a few flaws though. The opening gameplay feels a bit weak compared to what opens up quite a bit later on. I get the limitations from a narrative standpoint but some sections feel a bit too tedious in the opening. Performance has been mostly perfect with a handful of moments where there was a bit of a problem with texture streaming and a few moments where the frame rate noticeably dropped briefly. These can be fixed in a patch but are worth noting right now.
Overall Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is one of the best games this year and easily one of the best FPS campaigns in a long time. 2017 feels like the best year ever for gaming and I’m glad MachineGames delivered on this sequel.