‘Wolfenstein II’: What’s old is new again


An armored soldier charges at the player. Image from bethesda.net

“Wolfenstein” is one of the oldest series in gaming history with games that date back to the early 80s. “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” does a great job of blending old-school shooter gameplay with modern mechanics and presentation.

“Wolfenstein II” is a direct sequel to 2014’s “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” In an alternate version of 1961, William “BJ” Blazkowicz and a group of resistance fighters go to America to liberate it from Nazi control. The story is easily one of the best aspects of this game, a rarity among shooters.

The themes of oppression, racism and change are present throughout the story and they’re all done extremely well. William used to be a generic shooter protagonist, a silent soldier who killed hundreds of enemies without having an individual thought or even a true identity of his own. Now he’s a weathered veteran who dreams of having a family, who wants stop fighting but can’t and is constantly dealing with his own mortality.

The setting is also compelling and very surreal. The game takes place over a decade after the Nazis dropped nuclear bombs on America and won World War II. Instead of there being constant fighting on the streets it seems as though most of the American population has just gotten used to Nazi control.

Even though there are plenty of serious and uncomfortable moments in the story there is also quite a bit of humor and absurdity. The balance is struck well, moments of levity are often followed by the reminder that the world these characters live in is full of injustice and danger. Seeing the characters battle for small bits of happiness made everyone seem very realistic, a testament to the game’s writing.

At its best, the gameplay in “Wolfenstein II” is fast, challenging and exciting. At its worst, it can be annoying and tiresome. Running through an area while barely clinging to life and gunning down enemies and desperately searching for health and ammo pickups is a thrill. Playing on harder difficulty settings is tough but I found it made the overall experience more fun and rewarding. Stealth is also an option but it’s not developed well enough to be viable in every encounter.

Some segments start to seem unfair when loads of armored enemies keep showing up. The biggest problem is that none of the weapons are powerful enough to get you out a bad situation with ease. A game like “Doom,” for example, had the BFG which served as an emergency weapon that could turn the tide of a gunfight. As a result, if the player finds themselves overwhelmed with enemies it’s near impossible to survive the encounter. Thinning the numbers as soon as possible is key.

In a time where most shooters focus on multiplayer, it’s nice to play one that only focuses on story, but it does better than a lot of its contemporaries. While the shooting is fun, it’s simplistic and makes me wish that the attention that went into the story could have also gone into fleshing out the mechanics of the game more, specifically the stealth. That and the lack of good weapon variety earns this game four stars.

[Final Score 4/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.