Wolfenstein 2 : The New Colossus - Critique
It's really amazing how well this story works, considering the absurdity of this fictional 1961 version, and how dramatically the mood changes from scene to scene. At one point, it's dramatic, and it gives a feeling of disgust at the prevailing racism, abuse and gratuitous cruelty. Not that we need another reason for wanting to overthrow the Third Reich depicted in this alternate reality - where the Nazis won World War II, and conquered the world, but it's still extremely effective in giving us the motivation to 'get there. That said, the next moment the game is going to bring us some hilarious scenes before returning to BJ Blazkowicz, and his own mortality, as his injuries from the events of The New Order recede.
Wolfenstein 2 takes us in its wake thanks to its impressive characters, remarkably well written and played. Exciting scenes highlight the monologues of BJ, the rebel leader Grace with her determined but sad gaze, or the crazy, conspiratorial and humorous rants of Super Spesh, are delivered to us in a convincing and successful manner. In no time, each of them has a deep backstory - they are an imperfect group of people who have gone through hellish war and ten-year occupation - and yet they have survived, being rebels, and in having lived their life. That said, with so many new and interesting faces, the characters in the first episode don't have much to do - including Max Hess and Bombate who don't have enough screen time apart from a few gags.
But it's the evil General Engel who steals the show from all the characters with her cheerful sadism, every time she makes an appearance. She's unpredictable, often one step ahead of you, and is completely ruthless, often playing with her prey to make them suffer. She is by far the most terrifying villain in video game since Vaas Montenegro in Far Cry 3. On top of that, flashbacks to BJ's childhood and his relationship with his racist and monstrous father (but not that much) are also extremely disturbing. In any case, these are all things that make you want to cut up a Nazi with an ax. A justifiable homicide in itself.
All of this shows that as long as you have complex, human characters, you can offer anything in terms of story. Wolfenstein 2's fifteen-hour campaign takes full advantage of this to stage twists and turns that will leave you speechless.
Killing a Nazi is already an exciting activity, but it is even more so thanks to the efforts put into the first person shooter phases, which are fluid and nervous, as well as the acting performances of your enemies when they come to die. Whether they react based on which body part you ripped off, or have their body sliced up in one of the various melee combat animations, or they explode and vaporize in front of your eyes when you are using a laser weapon, they absolutely want to show you how they die.
There are plenty of Nazis to kill, so you are encouraged to sneak up on every encounter to thin out the enemy herd by silently slaughtering the soldiers, and, more importantly, their officers, who tend to call in for reinforcements if you. leave them too long alive. Like The New Order, it's not exactly true stealth, in that enemies don't alert everyone when they discover a corpse (and you can't hide them), and you'll be discovered when. you expected not to be. And while one would expect better, this stealthy gameplay is a good way to prevent fights from starting the same way. It is also completely optional. If you prefer to go there with guns, it works great, although it's more difficult.
Wolfenstein 2 makes the most of its collection of fairly classic weapons (pistols, SMGs, submachine gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, etc.) by allowing you to combine them with each other, and customize them as you wish. Carrying two submachine guns on each arm, which has been an option for many episodes, is still as enjoyable as ever before, and allows you to sacrifice accuracy for double the firepower, which is very effective in close quarters combat or at average distance. Dual wielding is also handy if you want to be able to shoot a shotgun quickly, while you were previously silenced pistol, in order to get out of hiding. It is a way to benefit from an alternative fire mode. Unless, of course, you're using one of the excellent high powered cannons salvaged from the Nazis, which require both hands, but also include its own alternate fire mode.
My biggest disappointment with this system is that - without a late-rolled improvement - you can't pause the action to switch weapons. Instead, it's a clunky process, as there's only one weapon wheel for both hands, and you need to change the first to change the second. Good luck doing this under enemy fire.
Speaking of upgrades, each weapon potentially has three, including snaps, larger ammo capacity, and other things that change their behavior in more interesting ways than just increasing damage. Upgrade kits are scarce, making the choices you make all the more important - I only had half of them when I finished the game (although I missed several along the way).
Another interesting element of The New Order is the perk system, which gives improvements based on scoring, like when you shoot in the head or when you do fire damage. This encourages you to mix up your playstyle, and allows you to be rewarded regularly for your actions.
BJ may be a killing machine with armor, but he is not a tank. You must move forward while remaining cautious in order to stay alive, grabbing medikits, armor, and ammo usually found on the corpses of Nazis. This is something that has rightly earned The New Order a shower of criticism, pushing us to collect absolutely every item we could have, including unnecessary armor dropping from enemies. The New Colossus finds a much more interesting and classic way to do this: you can grab items by stepping on them - there's enough range so you don't have to stick to the enemy's body and spend too many time. You're still going to have to collect items, but it won't be as boring as the first episode.
Due to BJ's fragility (and the fact that I played on Hard, which is a cut above Normal), I was often killed, not knowing what had killed me. Whenever this happened, I wish I had access to a killcam focusing on the glee of the enemy responsible for my dismay in order to prepare for the second round.
But the only real problem is that in combat, BJ is always very picky about what he can jump. I have been killed more often than I would like because I got stuck by invisible obstacles while trying to skip over elements of the scenery - especially in the later levels.
The series of linear levels that Wolfenstein 2 is made of turns out to be what you would expect from a Nazi-occupied America. The irradiated remains of New York, the military installations, and a New Orleans turned into a walled-up ghetto, are particularly dark places, with some retina-catching footage, dotted with details and slices of life from an alternate fascist reality, making exploration interesting. It somehow humanizes the Germans you fight, but don't get me wrong, it's not about any moral about how a group deserves what happens to them, but hearing the prospects for the future. of a German family newly settled in America after the war has something interesting. And every now and then we hear of someone who died at the hands of the infamous William J. Blazkowicz, renamed Terro-Billy by the Nazi propagandists.
It is the zones without combat, between each mission, which stand out from the rest. Walking alongside a Nazi parade in Roswell or New Mexico, and listening to SS troops chatting with members of the Ku Klux Klan who find common ground is both strange and chilling. And the interior details of the houses visible from the main streets are excellent. The same goes for the submarine that serves as a basis for the rebellion, and which reforges characters and fortuitous dialogues. However, some of these protagonists are not at the level of the main strip led by BJ.
As this is a single player game, it's important to note that there is content waiting for you in droves after completing the storyline. Wolfenstein 2 recycles some of its cards for difficult assassination missions (and which must be unlocked by collecting items held by dead Nazi officers), allowing you to gain upgrades so far exclusive to choices made during the campaign. And there is also a reason to restart the game, including one of the first choices you make, where you have to choose to keep one of the two characters you meet at the start of the game, and which determines their presence by the after. This gives you access to a different weapon and this character plays a crucial role in the story. When I think back to the role Wyatt had in my part, I'm curious how Fergus, who is older, more jaded too, could have handled certain things.
Technically, after the first two hours of play, Wolfenstein 2 looks amazingly good on PC, while still remaining stable in performance. I have to admit, however, that during those first two hours, the game regularly crashed when I was trying to choose between Wyatt and Fergus - about 20 seconds after I started my game. It wasn't until I quit everything and stopped whatever was running in the background that it worked. Bethesda explained that this is an issue with the Nvidia drivers (on PC I use a GTX 1080), so there are beta drivers that should fix the issue if you encounter it. On a second PC using a GTX 980, nothing came to shake my game. As for the console versions, these worked without incident.