Even after all these years, Bethesda isn’t resting on its laurels when it comes to the Wolfenstein series. The opening minutes of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus are clever, original, and well put-together, but whether they portend a fun game remains to be seen.
Here’s something you might not have seen before. Protagonist B.J. Blazcowicz is unable to walk during the first mission, having just awakened from five months in a coma. Players will have to navigate the resistance submarine in a wheelchair, machine pistol nestled in their lap. The wheelchair mechanic works brilliantly, lurching forward as B.J.’s arms give it a shove, slowing down when he aims, and bucking and heaving as he rolls over barriers between rooms.
Though we only got a chance to try out the machine pistol, it was a satisfying choice, with good hip fire and quick snap to aim down the sights. The main goal of any weapon in Wolfenstein is about killing Nazis, and there are plenty of them to gun down as you bomb down ramps, turn over giant gears, and drop over ledges on your wheelchair. The only downside to the tight quarters of the starting mission is that there aren’t many options for approaching each conflict. In larger areas, you might be able to sneak around, but at least in this part of the game, it’s mostly run and gun.
There was only one type of enemy, and they went down with a few shots each, which felt a little light. We only died a few times, and it was due to not correctly interpreting environmental puzzles. It’s hard to believe that will be the case in the final game, and with difficult properly balanced, where enemies will pack a bit more of a punch. Your health doesn’t recharge, and without a lot of visual cues, it can be hard to remember you’re actually low on health when it does happen.
Bethesda spends a lot of time making the Nazis feel as evil as possible. Every time one of them acts in any way besides shooting you, they’re doing something completely dastardly. It’s just one part of what makes the story feel disconnected from the gameplay. Cutscenes are beautiful, with high detail levels, fancy depth of field effects, and well-planned-out color schemes. There’s even dark background humor and throwaway jokes to distract from your grim situation.
Back in the game, faces aren’t expressive at all, details don’t stand out anymore, and the filters fade away, revealing a more realistic aesthetic. It becomes gritty and focused, although there are plenty of ways to get distracted, even in the small intro level. There’s an appeal to both sides of what Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is trying to achieve, but it would be nice if Bethesda stuck with one.
For gamers holding out for a new Fallout or Elder Scrolls title, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus may feel like a bit of a disappointment. We suggest they try their hand at killing some Nazis. Even newcomers to the series will find a shooter that’s already well thought out and polished months before its release. There’s clearly some work to be done finding its true voice, but the trailer’s inclusion of an acid trip and a fire-breathing robot you can ride are probably steps in the right direction. We’ll find out if Bethesda can follow through when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus drops on October 27.