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‘Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus’ Review & Gameplay, Explained: What Makes ‘Wolfenstein 2’ Worth Playing?

We talked about “DOOM Eternal” recently, and while that game is in a whole different league of its own and is considered to be one of the best first-person shooters of all time, we can’t forget about the one that started it all. Before there was “DOOM,” there was “Wolfenstein,”, a first-person shooter where you run from corridor to corridor killing Nazis. Originally released on the MS-DOS just a year before “DOOM” in 1992, Technically the first first-person shooter ever made, “Wolfenstein” pushed the envelope further and gave iD Software its name and the fame that followed. Simple in its design, the first “Wolfenstein” was a joyous and cathartic experience that built upon its foundation by spawning multiple sequels, and even “DOOM” was a byproduct of this masterpiece. While I remember playing this game when I was a kid, I have more experience with “DOOM” and its sequel compared to “Castle Wolfenstein” and other games in this franchise. The games were popular, and the name of your protagonist, BJ Blazkowicz, became one to join other popular video game protagonists. The franchise shifted hands as well and wasn’t as successful after a while, so they took a break from it, but all of that changed back in 2013.

A newly acquired studio of Zenimax Media called MachineGames showed the world what they were working on, and low and behold, it was a modern-day reboot of “Wolfenstein” titled “Wolfenstein: The New Order.” The reveal got people hyped, and we learned later that the game is set in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War 2 and most of the world is now being ruled by them with an iron fist. William Joseph “BJ” Blazkowicz also made a return, being voiced by Brian Bloom, and the game was aiming to be a kickass first-person shooter while also delivering a mature and well-written story. Excitement was in the air, but people were cautiously optimistic as MachineGames was a new studio and the last few “Wolfenstein” games were nothing special and were best left forgotten. Plus, delivering a narrative is one thing, but making this game around a narrative that was heartfelt in a game about killing Nazis was a tough pill to swallow. To the people’s surprise, the game came out to smashing success in 2014, with critics praising its narrative and gameplay while fans enjoyed the constant barrage of crazy action, all packed with a story and characters they could give a damn about. “Wolfenstein” was back on the map, and the franchise was able to pull in both its original fanbase and a new one. That game’s success spawned a standalone expansion called “Wolfenstein: The Old Blood,” which took place right before the events of the first game and was a short and extremely fun ride. Even better than “The New Order” for some. The franchise went quiet for a couple of years after that and got a full reveal for their next game, “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.” Bethesda and Zenimax went all out with this game’s advertising, making live-action ads and even whole mini-TV shows that showcased America under Nazi rule. The marketing campaign was a smash hit, and from the gameplay they showed us, the game seemed to have received major upgrades in its visuals, performance, and level design. All that was left was a release date, as people were eager to get their hands on the game. The game came out in 2017 and received a ton of praise, with everyone talking about how it was even better than the first game. The story of the game got the most praise above everything for being very well written and respectful to the characters and the world they have created. So, let’s take a deeper look into “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” and see what makes this game worth playing.

The opening act of the game will be spoiled here, which in turn will spoil the ending of the first game. Everything else that follows will be spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The Premise

The game begins right where the first one left off, with Blazko detonating the nuke and his friends and wife looking for him before the bomb goes off. Heavily injured from his fight against the Nazi commander Deathshead, we see BJ get carried away by his friends into a helicopter as they take him to the submarine they acquired while he slowly fades in and out of consciousness. We hear Set Roth, Bombate, and the others as they frantically try their best to keep him alive as his wife Anya begs them to do so. The bomb goes off in the background as Blazkowicz loses complete consciousness, and we get a flashback of him in his childhood, where we learn how caring his mother was and how abusive his father was to both of them. His mother came from a wealthy Jewish family and wanted whatever was best for her son, while his dad only married her for the money and couldn’t care less about his son or wife. His dad beats them constantly for no reason and forces Blazkowicz to shoot the family dog, and when he refuses, ties the dog in front of him and shoots the poor creature. He forces Balzkowicz to fight for himself by calling him weak and asking him to stand up and hit his father if he really is a man. The whole ordeal is messed up and is a very dark tale that we learn from the very dark past of our hero.

Five months pass and Blazkowicz wakes up from his coma, he tries to stand up but falls down and tries getting on a wheelchair when someone helps him up. It is none other than his wife Anya, happy to see her husband get up from such a long coma as he slowly rests his head on her belly and remarks that “she’s gotten fat,” to which she informs him that she’s pregnant with his children, and Set Roth informs him they’ll be twins. Blazkowicz makes his way across the submarine to meet Set Roth, who lets him know that he won’t be able to walk as he had to pull most of his intestines out to keep him alive and that he doesn’t have very long to live. Set hints at something he’s been working on since he went into a coma that can come in handy to keep him alive when the time comes. The reunion is cut short as a Nazi airship was able to track them and pull them out of the water.

The gang finds out that it’s none other than Frau Engel from the last game, who somehow survived and now wants revenge on Blazkowicz for disfiguring her face. This begins the coolest set piece in any video game I have ever seen, as you, the player, take control of Blazkowicz as he slowly makes his way across the submarine, killing Nazis as he goes while in his wheelchair. Once he makes it to the bridge he finds everyone fighting the Nazis as best as they could but unfortunately get outnumbered and captured one by one. Frau Engel captures you, and your friends Caroline and Fergus try to stop her but are also captured. She mocks you and commands her daughter to kill one of his friends, and when her daughter can’t do it, she berates her in front of everyone and slaps her. Caroline is killed here, and the exosuit she was using to fight is left unmanned, and Balzkowicz quickly enters it and turns the tides on the Nazis. That’s where the game begins, and everything else that follows is for you to discover.

There’s lots more than happens in the opening hours, but I had to spare you some details as this plot is a rollercoaster ride of emotions, rage-inducing moments, and moments that will make you jump off your seat and scream “Holy crap!” A solid plot that is definitely worth checking out.

The Gameplay

The story of the game is great without a doubt and is one of the most memorable aspects of the game as a whole, but the gameplay is where the game truly shines. Improved in every aspect when compared to “Wolfenstein: The New Order,” “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” is a fast-paced first-person shooter that’s bigger and bolder than its predecessors.

The game throws massive hordes of Nazis at you across various locations, and it’s left up to you to dispose of them in brutal fashion. Use guns to shoot their faces off, or maybe throw a grenade to eviscerate them, or how about a hatchet if you wish to get up close and personal? There are plenty of options available to you, and each one of them is as brutal as it is satisfying. You have a variety of guns available to you, from pistols to shotguns to assault rifles, as well as electric or diesel-powered weapons. Every gun has a very mechanical look to it, and the sound is very meaty, and all of them can be dual-wielded in almost any combination. There are even special weapons, like a minigun or a gun that shoots a laser beam, that you can pick up and use till their ammo runs out. The gunplay here is fast, smooth, and incredibly fun.

The upgrade system also deserves special praise, as all the things that can be upgraded require you to use them in some capacity. Wish to carry more grenades? Get kills with them. Want your assault rifle to have more ammo? Kill multiple enemies in a single magazine, and so on. This system challenges your playstyle instead of having you put your brain on autopilot and asks you to pull off certain feats if you wish to reap the rewards. During the later stages of the game, you also get one of three “abilities” that can be used in combat; there are story reasons behind them, so I won’t get too much into them, but you can get one that lets you squeeze into tight places, one that lets you reach higher places by extending you up into the air, and one that allows you to smash through breakable objects or run full speed into a Nazi that will turn him into a pile of mush.

The enemies you face are also varied and well-designed. You have your normal foot soldiers, but then things get weird as this is an alternate future. You get heavily armored enemies inside exosuits, robots, and giant robot dogs called Panzerhund that spit fire from their mouths. The enemy variety is fun and engaging enough to keep you on your toes during encounters. There is plenty of health, armor, and ammo spread across the levels, so you won’t have to worry too much about that. Your health and armor can also get overcharged here by picking up more when you are already full, and you can take advantage of that as well. 

Mick Gordon is once again responsible for the score of this game, and though it’s not “DOOM,”  it’s brilliant here as well. Seriously, this man is extremely talented at his craft. Killing Nazis is cathartic and fun, and all the systems in this game help make that experience even better. The difficulties are one more thing that needs mention, as the game can get pretty challenging on higher difficulties. Lower difficulties are fine, and you can breeze past them rather quickly, but as you increase the difficulty, the game demands you to think tactically and not just run in like an ape. There are balancing issues here for sure, and some areas and encounters can get on your nerves, but then again, if I was able to beat it on “I am death incarnate!” then so can you. If you really want to see how far you can push yourself, then give “Mein Leben” difficulty a shot, as if you die here once, it’s game over.

There’s a lot to the gameplay of “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus,” but most of it is best left to be experienced. Besides, I covered “DOOM Eternal” recently and that game and “Wolfenstein” here are practically identical, they share the same roots and are made using the same technology after all. You’ll have a blast playing this game; I can tell you that for sure.

The Technical Stuff

Not a lot to say here either; it’s made using iDTech and is solid across the board. Stunning visuals and details, incredible sound, and fantastic voice acting. The game runs at a locked 60 fps on consoles with varying resolutions across platforms and unfortunately doesn’t have a current-gen patch like “DOOM Eternal” does. It doesn’t matter that much though, as the game is still gorgeous, plays wonderfully no matter where you play it, and is a technically solid package across the board.

The Verdict

MachineGames nailed it in reviving and reinventing this beloved IP from the past with their first game, and they addressed almost all the negative points from that game and improved them here in “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.” It’s a brilliant sequel to an already brilliant first game and comes packed with nonstop action while telling a really well-written and well-acted story. The characters are memorable and loveable, and the alternate-history world of a Nazi-occupied America is as believable as it is haunting. You’ll either love it or not like it that much; there won’t be much of a middle ground as there’s no nuance here. It’s just killing Nazis, and that’s what makes it fun. Come on, you can’t tell me that killing Nazis is not fun and cathartic. The technology, the story, the gunplay, and the worldbuilding, all make “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus” a solid all-around first-person shooter that should be played. MachineGames, it’s been 5 years; please give us the finale to the trilogy, the alleged “Wolfenstein 3: The New Revolution,” and let us kill Mecha Hitler, please!

Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.