Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a first-person shooter game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Wolfenstein is most classically associated with Wolfenstein 3D, but the origins of the Wolfenstein series actually date back to 1981 when Silas Warner at Muse Software created Castle Wolfenstein which combined stealth, action and adventure set in the time of World War II from a 2D side scrolling perspective; initially releasing on Apple II before later being ported to Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and MS-DOS, while a sequel followed in 1984 titled Beyond Castle Wolfenstein that released on the same platforms. ID Software’s Commander Keen which released in 1990 is connected to Wolfenstein in the sense that the lead character is named William Joseph “Billy Blaze” Blazkowicz II; the grandson of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz. Wolfenstein 3D and its prequel expansion titled Spear of Destiny debuted on MS-DOS on May 5th 1992 which was followed by ports on a variety of computers and consoles including Atari Jaguar, Mac OS and SNES in 1994, while a particularly excellent 3DO port released in September 1995; winning GamePro’s 3DO Game of the Year Award in 1995, alongside ports to even more modern consoles including Gameboy Advance, Xbox and PS3.
Wolfenstein made a comeback in 2001 with the release of the much refined and graphically enhanced first-person shooter Return to Castle Wolfenstein on PC before a PS2 and Xbox port was released in 2003 followed by a multiplayer expansion in the form of Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. It would be eight years from the original release of Return to Castle Wolfenstein until another story-driven first-person shooter set within the Wolfenstein series would emerge in 2009; simply titled Wolfenstein which launched on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360. Machine Games took charge of development for the Wolfenstein franchise including the May 2014 release of Wolfenstein: The New Order which was followed by a standalone expansion titled Wolfenstein: The Old Blood in May 2015. Wolfenstein: The New Order was highly acclaimed by critics, winning Best Nordic Game at the Nordic Game Awards 2015, while being nominated for numerous awards in which the game was mostly the direct runner-up in a variety of categories. Machine Games is a Swedish development team that was founded in 2009, but were previously a major part of Starbreeze Studios with the entirety of the Machine Games development team having worked on The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Darkness. Can Machine Games somehow improve upon their incredible Wolfenstein: The New Order with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus?
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus begins with a recap of the major events that occurred in its prequel that you may want to skip if you have never got around to playing it. After the recap, the story picks up immediately after the very end of the prequel before B.J. Blazkowicz has recurring flashbacks to his nightmarish childhood that is so undeserved for a future war hero and his pleasant mother. Wolfenstein: The New Order took place in an alternative timeline were the Nazis won the war, while Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus tells the story of the Nazi occupation’s ever intensifying grip on countries that it rules since winning the war with Nazi symbols and propaganda everywhere a civilian looks. However, pockets of resistance fighters still exist who plan to prevent as many Nazi operations as possible.
There are a variety of side missions that are unlocked as you progress through the story; mostly by talking to characters who ask B.J. to complete a mission as a favour such as finding certain items or unblocking a passage. Special side missions otherwise known as Uberkommandant missions tasks B.J. with hunting down and killing high ranking Nazi officials, although they need to be unlocked through collecting enigma codes from the bodies of commanders that B.J. has defeated. However, the side missions can only be unlocked later into the story after the enigma machine becomes available to start decoding the enigma codes on the U-Boat.
The character design is just as amazing as Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood as players will find themselves drawn to supporting the cause of characters within the group of resistance fighters. Resistance fighters have a great respect for one another, while B.J. and Anya have a very loving relationship that provides B.J. with additional responsibilities to protect the love of his life and the imminent arrival of their child as he attempts to lead the frontline of the resistance in their fight against the Nazis.
Enemy design paints an unnerving picture of brutality imposed by Nazis such as Frau Irene Engel towards the top of the Nazi regime all the way down to every soldier she commands which makes for believable Nazi soldiers, commanders, generals and towering mechanical enemies that have all received orders to destroy the resistance.
B.J. Blazkowicz is given a sub-machine gun by one of his fellow resistance fighters very early on, while further weaponry found along the way includes a high calibre automatic rifle which is effective even in medium to long range combat, alongside pistols which are the side-arm of choice for Nazi commanders when up against a lightly armoured enemy at close range; a variation of a shotgun albeit with three barrels rapidly firing shells; hand grenades are capable of destroying certain flammable surfaces which can create an escape route for B.J. under given circumstances; and more besides. Dual-wielding weapons such as pistols, sub-machine guns and automatic rifles or a combination of weapons including different types of sub-machine guns, automatic rifles or a pistol and a sub-machine gun for instance. Larger enemies carry a heavy laser weapon named Lasergewehr that fires a concentrated high energy laser beam that B.J. can pick-up after defeating a larger enemy which he can then utilise to kill the majority of enemies within seconds and melt through metal to gain access to ammunition, health and armour crates or open vents. An axe is capable of prying open vents and can come in use during close quarters combat such as sneaking up behind an enemy for a silent takedown.
Set Roth develops particular contraptions that are designed to assist B.J. in his fight against the Nazis. Microwave emitters are booby traps that produce powerful high frequency microwaves which are capable of defeating fully armoured soldiers with ease. Laserkraftwerk is essentially a more compact, easy to carry modified version of the Lasergewehr which produces exactly the same results, albeit with far less weight.
Weapon upgrades are available via upgrade kits which completely reinvent a weapon with useful attachments in multiple configurations that can be switched between to suit B.J.’s current enemies. For instance, a pistol has a higher damage output, albeit making the pistol louder with increased recoil via a magnum upgrade, while an extended magazine doubles the ammunition capacity, alongside a suppressor to silence the pistol when firing which makes it an asset when attempting to stealthily navigate beyond a large group of enemies to not raise the alarm for enemy reinforcements. Every weapon has a unique set of weapon upgrade; in comparison to the pistol the Laserkraftwerk has a scope for enhanced zooming during aiming, a battery upgrade for doubling the battery power capacity and a supercharge allowing B.J. to hold the trigger in order to charge up and fire an even more powerful laser beam.
B.J. Blazkowicz’s skills are gradually upgraded through three sets worth of perks with six perks available within each set in which a certain objective is required to be met in order to gain an improvement before reaching a further tier to achieve that respective objective for each round of improvements corresponding to every perk. Stealth perks include performing 10 stealth takedowns on enemies for an initial 10% increased movement speed when crouching for stealth takedowns; killing 10 enemies by throwing hatchets to receive a gradual increase in hatchet capacity; killing 5 commanders before they activate a nearby alarm to be rewarded with an increase in damage from suppressed weaponry; and more besides. Mayhem perks include killing 20 enemies with heavy weapons to receive a 20% increase in magazine size for detached heavy weapons; killing 50 enemies with dual-wielding weapons to increase total capacity for carried ammunition with more clips; killing 20 enemies during a period when health is overcharged to reduce the speed of health overcharge deflation; and more besides. Tactical perks include killing 2 mechanical enemies by stunning them to receive a 10% reduction in damage inflicted upon B.J. from laser weapons; killing 2 enemies by using their grenades against them by shooting at the grenades before they are thrown for a 0.25 seconds longer period of time before enemy grenades explode; killing 25 enemies through headshots to receive a 5% increase in damage when aiming down sights; and more besides.
B.J. Blazkowicz initially manoeuvres around a gigantic U-Boat captured by the resistance fighters in a wheelchair as he attempts to make a full recovery from his combat inflicted wounds; even as Nazi soldiers attempt to re-take what was formerly their largest U-Boat. B.J. ventures throughout various Nazi occupied American states to continue his quest in alliance with the resistance fighters to overthrow the Nazi occupation one important location at a time and in a tradition continuing on from Wolfenstein: The New Order; there are also some surprise locations along the journey.
Where as Wolfenstein 3D was featured within Wolfenstein: The New Order as a series of nightmare levels whenever B.J. would sleep; Wolfenstein 3D returns in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus as a functioning arcade cabinet titled Wolfstone 3D situated onboard the U-Boat the resistance fighters have captured. Wolfstone 3D plays and feels just like Wolfenstein 3D, but the twist is that you play as the bad guys fighting against the resistance fighters with most wanted posters of the Reich’s number one enemy target B.J. Blazkowicz on the walls throughout the six levels.
The extras feature contains a full overview of collectibles and statistics. As always in Wolfenstein, there are numerous collectibles including 50 gold bars, 75 star cards, 50 artwork concepts, 15 toys belonging to Max, 10 records and more besides. There are a total of 150 readables including a variety of newspaper articles that can be found and inspected within environments throughout the story which provides a clever back story through showcasing the quantity of Nazi propaganda being drummed into civilians via every form of media possible. Readables also contain notes, journals, diaries, letters, postcards and more besides that are mostly written by Nazi soldiers to their families or received from their families. There are numerous statistics including overall game completion when factoring in whether or not you have found all of the collectibles, weaponry upgrade kits, contraptions and contraption upgrades as well as side missions completed and progression on perk levels in addition to how many enemies you have killed for each enemy type and the weaponry that has been utilised against the Nazi soldiers.
Downloadable content is presented in a unique fashion as a vault item on the menu counts down to when surprises are revealed including combat simulations and online leaderboards. A season pass titled The Freedom Chronicles is available for purchase digitally for £17.99 or $24.99 including three expansions. Episode Zero introduces players to all three heroes from throughout The Freedom Chronicles. The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe is set amongst the ruins of Chicago and outer space with players taking on the role of former professional quarterback Joseph Stallion. The Diaries of Agent Silent Death sees a former Office of Strategic Services (OSS) agent and assassin named Jessica Valiant attempting to infiltrate Nazi bunkers in California and discover the secrets of Operation San Andreas. The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins places players in the shoes of American army hero Captain Wilkins as he embarks on a mission to destroy Operation Black Sun in Nazi occupied Alaska.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus follows in the footsteps of its prequel by having a Collector’s Edition which this time around includes a 1/6 scale action figure of B.J. Blazkowicz which comes with four weapons, a hatchet and an alternative jacket contained within a box that is reminiscent of childhood retro toys; complete with a steelbook case and a double-sided poster, although beware that the Collector’s Edition does not include the season pass, despite its £89.99 or $99.99 price tag.
It would have been incredible to experience some form of Wolfenstein game on Vita; even if it was the classic retro first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D, although it is safe to assume that it will never happen, but there is at least remote play as a consolation. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus’ remote play performance is mostly pretty good as it usually produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. Remote play control optimisations include firing the right weapon or a single weapon being re-mapped to R and aiming down sights or firing the left weapon when dual-wielding has been mapped to L, while displaying the weapon wheel is mapped to holding the top left of the touch screen and throwing a grenade is mapped to briefly tapping the top left of the touch screen, alongside sprinting being re-mapped to the bottom right of the touch screen and performing a silent takedown or throwing a hatchet has moved to the bottom left of the touch screen. However, there is the rather odd omission of the control scheme being blanked out and not customisable during remote play instead of producing the remote play controls which make it unnecessarily hard to figure out how to throw a grenade particularly when starting the game during remote play. If you can overcome little flaws akin to that within remote play, then Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a rather playable remote play experience, especially after giving it some time for you to become accustomed to the remote play control scheme. Wolfenstein: The New Order was one of the rare games to actually make use of the second screen feature on the Vita through displaying the map and HUD; yet Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus does not make any use of the second screen feature.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the default right handed control scheme consisting of pressing R2 to fire right weapon; holding L2 to aim down iron sights or pressing L2 to fire left weapon when dual-wielding; pressing R1 to throw a grenade or holding R1 to display the weapon wheel; pressing L1 to lean around cover; pressing square to reload ammunition or interact with an object; pressing triangle to cycle through to the previous weapon; pressing X to jump; pressing O to crouch; pressing up on the d-pad to toggle dual-wield; pressing left or right on the d-pad to toggle left or right weapon upgrade respectively; pressing down on the d-pad to receive an objective waypoint marker; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to aim; pressing L3 to sprint; pressing R3 to perform a silent takedown or throw a hatchet; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Alternative right handed switches cycling weapons and toggling dual-wielding from triangle to d-pad and vice versa, while left handed Guzman alternates sprinting and performing a silent takedown or throwing a hatchet from L3 to R3 and vice versa. Tapping the touch pad to enter B.J.’s journal, while vibration occurs to reflect the quantity of recoil from each weapon that B.J. fires and when surrounding environments are shifting such as early on in the story as the U-Boat is under attack. There is no light bar implementation which could have provided an alternative HUD by displaying tones of colours related to B.J.’s health or ammunition.
Graphically, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has had an engine upgrade in comparison to its prequel as Wolfenstein: The New Order was running on the id Tech 5 engine, while Wolfenstein II is powered by id Tech 6 resulting in the introduction of significant graphical enhancements including dynamic lighting effects and advanced particle effects. Even some graphical effects that were specifically implemented for id Software’s Doom reboot in 2016 have made the leap across such as temporal anti-aliasing making for a smoother image quality during movement, bokeh depth of field, motion blur on the camera style and objects and more besides which collectively take Wolfenstein II to an entirely new level of graphical fidelity when compared directly to Wolfenstein: The New Order. PS4 Pro support improves the resolution from PS4’s 1080p to 2560×1440 with enhanced texture filtering, alongside a frame-rate that is mostly capable of running at 60 frames-per-second, although there is no HDR support at launch.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, extras menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds are minimalist with a film grain effect while occasionally losing focus as though it was being projected onto a surface. Despite the minimalist menu backgrounds; Wolfenstein II’s presentation excels due to the personality which is traditionally showcased in Wolfenstein games such as B.J.’s picture changing within the difficulty selection menu to represent the chosen difficulty level.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has an amazing talented cast of voice-over artists that all provide sensational performances which in harmony with excellent writing; makes the story genuinely believable. Brian Bloom returns to voice the heroic lead character William ‘B.J.’ Blazkowicz having previously voiced B.J. in Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood, while having previously voiced Captain Nick Reyes in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Roman Sionis and Black Mask in Batman: Arkham Knight, Batman: Arkham Origins – Blackgate and Batman: Arkham Origins, and Jackie Estacado and The Darkness in The Darkness II. Alicja Bachleda returns as Anya Oliwa having previously voiced Anya in Wolfenstein: The New Order, while having also starred opposite Colin Farrell in drama film Ondine as well as further interesting films such as The Girl Is in Trouble, The American Side and Polaris in addition to a music career spanning an album and multiple singles. Gideon Emery returns to voice Fergus Reid having previously voiced Fergus in Wolfenstein: The New Order and The Old Blood having previously voiced Bruz and Suladan in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, multiple characters in the Destiny series, Vehicle A.I. in Agents of Mayhem, Mac and SAS 4 in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered and Gideon in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Nina Franoszek returns to voice Frau Irene Engel having previously voiced Irene in Wolfenstein: The New Order and acted in a live action short film titled Wolfenstein: Liberation of London in performances that always makes for a believable ruthless villain having also starred in stage productions, TV series and films.
Sound effects include walking, running and crouching on different surfaces, jumping, climbing ladders, swimming, interacting with objects such as opening doors and crates and collecting items, firing weaponry at enemy soldiers, performing stealthy melee attacks on enemies, explosions and ambience such as machinery, creaking and the inner workings and maintenance of the U-Boat or weather conditions such as swirling winds when outdoors. The soundtrack comprises of appropriate tones and genres of music in relation to the scenario within the story and the period were the story is set. Music is composed by Mick Gordon who returns from Wolfenstein: The New Order and Wolfenstein: The Old Blood having also composed for Doom and Prey, alongside award winning Martin Stig Anderson who won the Best Audio category at Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences USA and Best Audio for an Indie Game category at Game Audio Network Guild Awards for Inside in 2017 in addition to composing music for Limbo. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced specific weaponry sound effects such as when B.J. or a nearby enemy fires a laser beam or ambience.
The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 38 bronze trophies, 10 silver trophies, 2 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Tinkerer bronze trophy for upgrading a weapon; the Plus Package bronze trophy for the upgrading a contraption; and the Hard Headed silver trophy for collecting 1,000 helmets. Harder trophies include the I Am Death Incarnate and the Mein Leben bronze trophies for completing the game on the two hardest difficulty levels; and the Ghost silver trophy for finishing a district without triggering an alarm. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 30 to 40 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are 7 difficulty levels that in true Wolfenstein tradition; mock players for playing on easier difficulty levels and reflecting harder difficulty levels within their respective titles and menu imagery including Can I Play Daddy, Don’t Hurt Me, Bring ‘Em On, Do or Die, Call Me Terror-Billy and I Am Death Incarnate, while the seventh difficulty level is Mein Leben which is unlocked after beating the game once. Every difficulty level reduces the amount of health, armour and bullets that are available in the nearby surroundings, while increasing the amount of damage inflicted by enemy attacks and reducing the amount of damage inflicted on enemies by B.J.’s attacks. Mein Leben is unquestionably the hardest difficulty level in any Wolfenstein game as it is essentially the I Am Death Incarnate difficulty with a permadeath element introduced in which the player only has one life and no opportunity to save progress, therefore requiring the player to complete the story in one sitting in order to stand a chance of truly 100% completing the game.
Wolfenstein II continues in Machine Games’ single player story focused approach without any form of multiplayer which is not a problem when the campaign is as well refined as it is in their Wolfenstein games. However, it would be amazing to see Machine Games producing a unique take on split-screen multiplayer in which the second player takes on the role of the Nazi villains attempting to kill B.J. and destroy the group of resistance fighters in the same gameplay direction as the Wolfstone 3D arcade cabinet situated within the U-Boat. Meanwhile, online multiplayer could see a team of resistance fighters taking on a group of Nazis in story focused missions within tight 6 vs. 6 battles or much larger scale battles such as 32 vs. 32 battles in broader environments.
Replayability originates from a variety of areas including side missions, a choice of stealth or an all guns blazing approach, upgrade kits for weaponry, multi-tier perks, tons of collectibles, 7 difficulty levels, a retro variation of Wolfenstein 3D titled Wolfstone 3D which is a game in itself at six levels in length and much more besides which will collectively have players returning for a substantial amount of time even after completing the story campaign for the first time.
• Title: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
• Developer: Machine Games
• Publisher: Bethesda
• System: PS4
• Format: Retail/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1
• Hard Drive Space Required: 53.81GB (Version 1.01)