Now, back in June 2014 I reviewed Wolfenstein: The New Order, and while I enjoyed the game, I felt that, overall, its flaws held it back significantly. I rated it a 6/10, which, now that I think about it, was fairly harsh. The New Order did indeed fail with certain gameplay elements and mechanics, but its positives outshine anything that could be considered ill about the game.
The story and its explorative nature, great level design, and tense action made it a brilliant experience, and playing it again after three years made me realize how good it was. Now the long-awaited sequel to the smash hit is finally upon us, and we can’t wait any longer! From what we’ve seen, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks freaking awesome, with wheel chair shootouts, atom bombs, and duel-wielded shotgun battles that Serious Sam and Duke Nukem could never have dreamed of.
But sequels don’t always go according to plan, as the past has taught us. Could Wolfenstein II bring us the same level of awesomeness as before, or will it just be an overwhelming mess?
Lovable Rogues and Vile Villains
What Wolfenstein: The New Order did so well compared to the rest of the series was introduce a great cast of characters you could easily like, relate to, and care about. With people like Fergus, the foul-mouthed RAF pilot, the super-suit wearing Caroline, or the vile antagonist himself, Deathshead, it was easy to immerse yourself in the world and narrative through an emotional connection.
You felt a connection between these characters and thus were able to empathize with their circumstances. The New Order’s writing was very strong, making most characters important in your journey. I did feel there were some moments that the supporting cast felt a little underused; I mean you have Jimi Hendrix in the game, and he’s hardly around to make an impression. The only amazing moment he had was when he played Star-Spangled Banner in front of a firing squad. Sadly, Jimi could’ve been used in the new story to a better advantage, so I hope that The New Colossus utilizes the entire supporting cast appropriately.
However, from what we’ve seen, I like the new cast of characters and how each represents an aspect of American values. I absolutely love Super Spesh as a crazed, conspiracy nut who’s completely mad, and with lines like, “Show me your lizard face, mother f**ker,” you can’t not love him. But I’m also glad they brought back the despicable Frau Engel, as this means a personal connection between protagonist and antagonist is created, much like what the previous entry did extremely well.
Location, Location, Location!
While I did enjoy the gothic/oppression-inspired architecture of Nazi occupied Europe; it was something we had seen many times before. The feeling of a new world order was strongly felt, but otherwise, there was little understanding of the carnage that came before it, presented to the player. I would’ve loved to venture through the bombed-out London: we only got a glimpse of it in about two levels.
The new game, which brings us to a world where the US is under Nazi control, may be a step in the right direction for the series, as we’ll see the tightening grip of the Third Reich on somewhere other than Europe for the first time in the series. There’s a disturbing twist of satire at play, where everything seems very familiar yet completely corrupted by Nazi influence. In one brilliant segment, we also get a taste of how much they belittle groups such as the KKK. Plus, there’s also a chance we’ll see how much damage the Nazi’s have done, and maybe we’ll even get to venture into the aftermath of Manhattan after the atom bomb.
Going full Quentin Tarantino
We all remember some of the classic moments of intensity in The New Order, such as the first encounter with Frau Engel. We all love these intense moments that made our skin crawl and the hairs stand up on our arms. Then there were more of these moments in the Old Blood, which were okay but didn’t feel entirely necessary.
We’ve seen hints of the developers retreading the formula with the introduction of Frau Engel demanding her daughter to decapitate one of BJ’s friends, which is purely electrifying. Then we get the infamous “milkshake man” moment: while it did set the tone for how William is regarded by Nazis in the US, it felt a little forced. This is something we’ve already seen before and adds nothing to the overall tension that builds throughout your journey. It could’ve been executed a little better, drawing more tension and just doing something better than putting William in the same tight spot we’ve seen several times already.
It’s as though the developers are mimicking those moments from Inglorious Bastards but don’t match the same caliber all the time. Quentin Tarantino knew these scenes would work due to their length, and it shows that we can’t have the same effect with a scene lasting 60 seconds. What made The New Order brilliantly intense and memorable with these scenes was the aftermath, such as the choice you have to make at the start of the game with DeathShead. These scenes just need to follow through with an interesting payoff that’s either positive or negative to make it worthwhile.
Duality and Brutality
What made The New Order and ID Software’s latest DOOM title vastly entertaining was the blood-curdling amount of guts, gore, and the things that blast Nazis into tiny little pieces. Weapons play a big role in the Wolfenstein franchise (duh), and ID and Machinegames have kept the tradition of big weapons, sheer brutality, and force. There’s also stealth, which was an interesting gameplay concept and worked well to an extent.
But The Old Blood has shown us that stealth can be improved between titles, and the new trailers showcase the feature of mixing and matching weapons that are dual wielded, which is freaking awesome!
This new addition to the mechanics reminds me of when Bioshock 2 allowed players to use plasmids and a weapon at the same time. This will hopefully encourage the same sort of thing by mixing up combat styles and tactics you can carry out. The Diesel cannon already looks to be one of the best weapons in the game, with its ability to burn, explode, and cremate Nazi scum into fine bits.
After playing The New Order again after all these years, I realized that Machinegames perfected the pacing and added some great elements to their set pieces. There were quite a few memorable segments, from outrunning a Panzerhund underneath a Berlin super prison, to battling the mighty Baltisches Auge after crash landing from a mission to the moon, to the teeth grating moments before encountering DeathShed for the first time.
We can clearly see that Machinegames has recaptured that insane magic again and crafted some enthralling and intense set pieces that combine lateral elements and total brutality. Having to use a wheelchair to access the level is a neat idea, but doing so while killing Nazis is even better. I like the setup of BJ in a small American town, working undercover and making contact with dozens of Nazis looking for him. I’m sure there’s going to be more: in a particular segment, it appears that players will take control of a previously mentioned Panzerhund.
Overall, I can’t wait to play Wolfenstein: The New Colossus later next month. After playing The New Order again, I feel that my judgments before were a little harsh as it’s hugely enjoyable while only having a couple of flaws to mention. The New Colossus is shaping up to be a mighty fine sequel and one that may place Machinegames amongst other highly ranked AAA developers.