Things didn’t go terribly smoothly as the resistance tried to make its way over to the good old US of A at the start of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, but as I saw when I first played this game a couple of months ago, BJ “Terror Billy” Blazkowicz is back and he means business. We’ve had the opportunity to dive deeper into the game, with a new mission to New Orleans as they try to spark a second American Revolution and throw out the occupying forces.
Now making use of a Da’at Yichud power suit to get him up, running and gunning, BJ has a route to gaining new abilities to use in combat and to get around the world. Of course, it’s a power suit, and while BJ probably didn’t ask for this, the Ram Shackles ability does allow him to smash through certain broken walls and into new areas – though not always advisable if you think there’s enemies on the other side. More curious is being able to raise up on extendable Battle Walker legs, so that BJ is suddenly up on stilts. That’s potentially useful in combat, letting you pop up from a hole in the floor, shoot some bad guys before dropping back down a second later, or lets you reach a higher ledge, perhaps then escaping with the Constrictor Harness that lets BJ slip into smaller pipes than are humanly possible.
This kind of hit and run tactic is deeply embedded in how many will decide play Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. You want to try and pick your fights, and simply barrelling through a wall and into a gun fight is not usually a good way to go about things even if you can dual wield and now mix and match weapons. I’ve seen some deadly players who can blaze a trail through the enemy soldiers, but I find myself much better off sneaking around a bit, finding the officers that can call in reinforcements to try and dispatch them before or as soon after the action kicks off in earnest.
Dual wielding is a lot of fun with some of these weapons, especially as you can now mix and match guns. Of course, you lose the ability to aim down the sights with a Sturmgewehr, but then again, you can have two contrasting weapons, one good for short range and one for long range enemies, and with quick reflexes you can chew through a mass of enemies very quickly.
By far my favourite weapon is the Laserkraftwerk that lets you turn enemies into a shower of sparks, while adding a built in silencer and slower but more penetrating nail bullets from the Maschinenpistole is wonderfully gruesome in its own particular way.. There’s not a huge number of options as you upgrade each gun, and not a terribly huge number of guns either, but there’s some good combinations and, as I said, dual wielding is a lot of fun.
If I had one complaint of this particular mission, it would be that New Orleans simply feels a bit bland. It fits thematically, with this now being a walled off slum or ghetto that the Nazis are looking to wipe off the face of the earth. The squalor and oppression of this particular situation are clear to see, and buildings are burning all around, but that really masks so much of the city’s trademark vibrancy and culture and prevents it from really seeping through. After battling through warehouses and tram depots, you do briefly get to see the distinctive Creole townhouses, but it’s really the characters that you eventually meet that give off a certain New Orleans vibe and attitude, however stereotyped, with a touch of jazz brought in at one point during a cutscene
In fact, I think it’s going to be the characters that really make this game, as MachineGames really embrace the kind of excess and over the top characterisation. They’re all at least a little bit quirky with BJ swept up in this whirlwind of craziness. You really get to see this in the game’s cutscenes, which I’m led to believe will be long and plentiful between missions. They look fantastic, they’re full of bizarre humorous moments, both big and small, such as finding that the small submarine the resistance were going to use to infiltrate New Orleans was… otherwise occupied, or the grisly uses of a detachable robotic hand.
Of course, there’s still going to be a good few points when you get to kick back and just have fun in the combat as well, where the game turns to show stopping spectacle instead of worrying about where the next health kit is or if you need to hunt an officer down. Encountering a Panzerhund in an area is a frightful prospect, as the upgraded models in this game now feature a flamethrower in their mouths, and you have to deal an awful lot of damage to take them down. So there’s a freedom to getting to hop onto the back of a hacked Panzerhund, letting you rampage through the streets, setting fire to any and every enemy soldier you come across.
The more time I spend with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, the more I like it. New Orleans, for me, isn’t the most exciting of locations for the game to head to, but the combat blends stealth and tension with great gunplay and the action is still fantastic. It’s intertwined with a story and cast of unusual characters that looks to go even further than the first game, and makes for a real showcase of what the cinematics team at MachineGames can do. If the E3 announcement and our first hands on didn’t already tell you, this is one to watch when it releases at the end of October.