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Video Game Review: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Developed by: MachineGames
Published by: Bethesda
October 27, 2017

Following off the surprise success of Wolfenstein: The New Order and the renewed anti-fascist fervor in recent U.S. politics, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus surprisingly misfires its story campaign and regrettably disappoints in its execution.  

The New Colossus is the sequel to the alt-history first-person shooter, Wolfenstein: The New Order, wherein the Nazis had discovered advanced Jewish technology and developed high-tech weapons to win World War II. By the year 1961, Nazi Germany rules the world with an iron grip, and the defeated United States has long since been occupied and assimilated by the Nazi invaders. Emboldened by the recent actions of the legendary Captain “Terror-Billy” Blazkowicz in Europe, the revolutionary spirit is rising across the nation. With the help of the revived Kreisau Circle and American resistance leaders, Blazkowicz fights against the yoke of Nazi oppression to liberate the United States of America.

The gameplay is still intensely satisfying, now allowing you to combine and dual-wield different weapons at once, meaning you can hold a laser gun in one hand and a shotgun in the other to ensure maximum carnage. Like The New Order, instead of waiting for your health to recharge like in most other shooters, you can overcharge your health and armour by picking up items which encourages aggressive play and badassery. However, the difficulty is noticeably more unforgiving than in the last game, and Nazis can kill you much faster in Wolfenstein II.

Wolfenstein: The New Order had an unusually fantastic and powerful single-player campaign, and The New Colossus is no exception. Within the 10-minute span of the introduction, the game elevates Blazkowicz from a square-jawed all-American jarhead to a traumatized soldier fighting against the sins of his father, making his war against the Nazis less sensational and more emotional. And at first, it seems to set up a fantastic and well-written story like its predecessor.

However, the rest of the campaign breaks this promise by its plot structure and narrative pacing. The best way I can describe it is “don’t start what you can’t finish.” The childhood flashback scenes are only accessed in one level and never brought up again, half-baked character arcs are started and never resolved, and we are still being introduced to new characters close to the end of the game. Worst of all, the game never delivers on its promise of liberating America from the Nazi regime. The plot mainly consists of backtracking and meandering, going on missions to get the thing so we can get the guys and do the things and finally fight in the revolution and, whoops, the game’s over, thanks for playing. The campaign is surprisingly short, relying on optional assassination missions to fill in the missing hours of content for 100% completion, which is a far worse offense for a single-player-only game.

I really wanted to love The New Colossus ever since loving the first game, but there are way too many deficiencies and de-evolutions to be considered an improvement. I think that the recent controversies in gaming culture about the encroaching trend of “games as (multiplayer) service” and the perceived non-viability of future single-player games made everyone desperate to cling to this game as one of the last bastions of single-player gaming, regardless of its actual quality. In conclusion, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has its few moments of occasional fun and brilliance, but its lazy and uninspired story hold the game back from its greatness and ends up being one of my most disappointing games of the year.

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