Hands-On With Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Hands-On With Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

* PS Nation was invited to a preview event in New York City with light food and drinks served. Travel was paid for by the reviewer. The game was played using a PC with an Xbox One Controller.

I had a chance to sit down last week to play two sections from the upcoming MachineGames title Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. You can check out some direct feed video from the playthrough of the first section here. The second section is available here.

Fair warning: I played on PC using an Xbox One controller and things felt very loose. I had no option to change the sensitivity so I worked with it as best I could. During the second section the controller kept disconnecting and we’ve tried to edit the video as best we can to make up for any stuttering or outright stopping during the action.

Picking up directly after the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order, you continue on as B.J. Blazkowicz but you’re pretty hobbled right out of the gate. B.J. is in a wheelchair and he’s still pretty severely wounded so you’ll need to constantly gather health pickups before you bleed out.

It makes for an interesting twist on the old run and gun combat since you really need to be on a constant hunt for medical supplies. Being in a wheelchair isn’t too much of a hinderance itself but you’ll need to find a creative way around the stairs in the level.

The controls, loose as they were, still felt good and man does this game look pretty. Built on the id Tech 6 Engine, first seen in the 2006 version of Doom, the detail, the anti-aliasing, the realtime lighting and shadows, it all looks pretty amazing even in this early state.

It’s a fun level designed to get players reacquainted with the action and up to speed with some of the story elements. There’s a prologue before the level which we weren’t shown and you’ll be given a choice to play in the Wyatt timeline of the Fergus timeline. I’m not going to spoil what that means so if you don’t know what I’m talking about either play through the first level of The New Order or look it up.

The second level we had access to takes place a little deeper in the game and it’s all set in Roswell, New Mexico and Area 52. This is essentially the Nazi Pentagon in the US and it’s where most of the top military brass is situated.

B.J. is headed there to nuke the complex to show that the Nazis are vulnerable and that an uprising is possible. On your way into town you can take some time to wander around, check out the storefronts, and listen in on conversations. The two KKK bumpkins sucking up to the Nazis is particularly worthwhile.

Speaking with Creative Director Jens Matthies, he said that they conceptually love the idea of 50’s Americana with Nazi appropriation of the zeitgeist. The team brainstormed about what would be the coolest places to set levels and they wanted some US icons but didn’t want to do stuff that’s already been too exploited. Matthies said he purposely avoids any media dealing with that type of situation, think Man in the High Castle, so he can’t even be subconsciously influenced when working on the game.

Before I started playing, I was told that stealth would be much more important in the second section and that quietly taking out command personnel should be my priority. Things didn’t go quite as planned.

I approached the game from an Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted 4 standpoint. I knew I probably couldn’t tag enemies, and I couldn’t, but I figured I could at least quietly scout the area, pick off some isolated bad guys and reach the commander – easier said than done.

I tried a couple different approaches but kept getting tripped up with controller disconnections and my own failure to see some of the enemies before they spotted me. I eventually got caught with a bad checkpoint and everything went downhill fast.

Had I been playing at home, I’d have simply reset to the beginning of the level and started from scratch. In the interest of time and a morbid curiosity of seeing if I could get myself out of this horrible mess I’d created, I continued on and died many, many horrible deaths for your amusement instead.

I love what I played and I’m thrilled that there’s not just an opportunity for serious stealth in this game, but really, a necessity. We’ve seen a few takes on the invasion of America in video games but I think this one will stand above the others.

The developers always wanted to do a trilogy and they knew they wanted to go to the US in the sequel to The New Order, not just because it would be cool to see but because it’s BJ’s homeland and they wanted to show what that experience would be for him. How will B.J. handle seeing the place he grew up in taken over by his mortal enemies?

MachineGames likes to build each of its games around a concept. For the first it was Dogma. Everything was built around that and what that concept means, not just for the Nazis but for everyone. It tied into the story arc for every character.

For this game it’s Catharsis. It can mean different things to different characters but this is the main focus for each of them in the game and you’ll see it play out across the story.

What I really like about MachineGames in general is that they like to allow the player to work at their own pace. Matthies said that “The goal is to create the richest and most emotionally believable space so you can get invested in the characters”. They want the world to respond to you no matter what type of player you are.

On the one hand the game is over the top and crazy while on the other it’s intimate, dark, and dramatic. They looked towards other things that did that successfully like the original Robocop, District 9, or even Guardians of the Galaxy and tried to emulate that tone knowing that it’s incredibly hard to maintain.

I asked about the inclusion of any major historical characters since we’re now in the US but there’s a lot of baggage there along with potential rights issues. If they want to do something with a particular character that goes against who they were in real life, how would people respond? Are people going to be pissed off? That being said, I get the feeling we’ll be seeing characters like J from The New Order, depending on the timeline you picked.

As for the Terror Billy action figure included in the Collector’s Edition of the game, it speaks to the twisted take on branding and merchandising seen in The New Colossus.

B.J. has become a bit of a celebrity as the face of the enemy and it shows up in a lot of small ways throughout the game if you have a sharp eye. For the figure in particular, the marketing department wanted to do it for the Collector’s Edition and the developers got excited about the idea and then added it to the game.

Fans of the series are going to love this game. There’s a ton of narrative here and it looks to be a really cool storyline. They rebuilt this version from the ground up using a complete body model instead of just floating guns. While it’s still just a game, they wanted it to feel very real and make it as immersive as possible. I think they’re on the right track.

Published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by MachineGames, Wolfenstein II: Shadow of the Colossus will be released on October 27, 2017 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

* All screens used in this preview were provided by the publisher.


Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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