Wolfenstein II Has a Nazi Problem, And The Only Prescription is More Blazkowicz [Preview]
For a franchise built on the back of Mecha-Hitler, what Machine Games did with the Wolfenstein franchise in 2014 was exceptional — and that was before modern-day America had a Nazi problem. Three years doesn't seem like a long enough time for the cultural climate to have shifted as much as it has between 2014 and 2017, but Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is releasing in a very strange time. There's more than a bit of catharsis in continuing BJ Blazkowicz's quest to rid the world of Nazis, but it would be meaningless without Machine Games' excellent gameplay and witty, frightening story holding it all together.
Picking up within the year following the events of The New Order, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus leaves the European front of the Resistance's struggle and heads back home to America to confront the Reich on BJ's "home" turf. Based on the announce trailer though, there's little left of the United States BJ left in the 1940s. In the two decades since the Third Reich won the second World War, America has fallen under the same fascist grip as the rest of the world. It will take a group of extraordinary people to liberate the country, or at least the parts of it we'll visit in The New Colossus.
You actually get more of a glimpse about what to expect from The New Colossus from the reveal trailer than we did in our time with Wolfenstein II at E3. We got to play through part of the opening chapter, which saw a wheelchair-bound BJ traversing through a U-Boat, taking Nazis out at every turn. Though the Resistance had operated in secret, Frau Engel was able to track them down in the water, and laid siege to the submarine. The presentation was outstanding, and working through a submarine in a wheelchair provided some new challenge, but otherwise there wasn't much new to uncover from those 20 minutes of gameplay.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, as Machine Games' gunplay was virtually airtight in the previous installment. There was just the right balances of challenge and variety in the world, and we saw more of that through the cramped halls of the U-Boat. We used the gaps in massive gears to change vertical levels, and made the best of several random conveyor belts scattered about. When the going got tough, we couldn't get to cover quickly, as it took some time to wheel around. It was a solid demonstration, but one that didn't give us a glimpse at BJ's potential new abilities in the Da'at Yichud armor. We sure did get to eliminate a lot of Nazis in a number of ways though. So that was definitely a plus.
We completely understand Machine Games wanting to hold its cards as close to its chest as possible, especially given the same way they were able to flip the script on us with The New Order. Before that launched, the demo was also the opening segment of the game, which took place during a storming of castle during World War II. It felt rather like something we'd seen before, just with a very pretty coat of paint slathered on top. How little we knew about what Machine Games had in store kept us skeptical at the time, but after playing through The New Order, the developer's closed-off approach paid off with tremendous dividends. That's bought this team and sequel more than enough leeway to trust in the process.
It would have been nice to see some of the later sections in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, particularly those set in America where seeing those red, white and black flags really riles us up. Having some sense of what makes this entry different from The New Order would have been great, too. Even though our demo was brief, it was good to be back in BJ's shoes, putting Nazi's back where they belong. There will be some who say that glorifying the gratuitous violence of Wolfenstein is perhaps a bit much. We say if it's wrong to shoot Nazis, we don't want to be Reich.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus will be out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on October 27.