'Wolfenstein 2' review - rage against the machine

Thursday, 02 November 2017 09:00 AM Written by 

 

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Bethesda has been a hit machine when it comes to releasing games that are, for the most part, fanservice. Over the last two years they’ve published critical darlings that nobody saw coming when they were first announced, like “Doom,” “Dishonored 2,” “Prey,” “The Evil Within 2,” and now the sequel “Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus.” The latter from Machine Games has already created waves thanks to its somehow still-relevant subject matter of killing Nazis.

 

When observing YouTube comments under the game’s trailer, or in replies to any of the game’s marketing Tweets, you’ll likely find something to the tune of “I don’t know why this has to be so political.” “Wolfenstein 2,” which picks up directly after the first game, is set in a fictional post-WWII era in which Germany won and now occupies what used to be known as the United States. The series follows resistance fighters who are attempting to disrupt and dismantle the Nazi regime. That narrative has undertones that shockingly still speak to today’s polarizing political climate. With white supremacist rallies being near-monthly news, a game about killing soldiers of the main Axis Power during World War II is somehow controversial, or in the language used by the aforementioned internet commenters “political.” The action and imagery of “Wolfenstein 2” is no more political than Quentin Tarentino’s “Inglorious Basterds.”

 

“Wolfenstein 2” contains some catharsis for those frustrated by the modern world that seems to normalize speech that was once reserved for our nation's enemies. B.J. Blazkowicz reprises his role as the main character and Nazi enemy number one. Thanks to his heroics and Nazi body count from the first game, his legend is growing through the german ranks. As you walk through the streets of what was once middle Americana or slink through the halls of a German U-boat, you’ll hear soldiers tell tales of “Terror Billy.” He’s killed commanders, generals and countless grunts on the front lines, and he’s far from stopping.

 

In “Wolfenstein 2,” the Resistance is getting stronger. They have gained control of the largest German U-boat, which is now their base of operations, and are free to travel the former U.S. It may seem like this group is well equipped to take on an entire empire, but the German military still has the numbers, resources and public opinion. In a first for the series, we get a glimpse into how the Nazis have infiltrated the minds of the American people. You can hear casual conversation of townspeople making plans around their mandatory german language lessons, or street vendors selling tiny German and Nazi paraphernalia during a town parade. Newspaper clippings from the propaganda machine are littered all throughout the levels.

 

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“Wolfenstein 2” doesn’t just say “Nazis are bad, and you should kill them.” It explores the many layers of how the victory of a fascist regime affects their enemy’s country. The now-uninhabitable New York is decimated from an atom bomb, but from there you jump to the sunny streets of Roswell New Mexico where the population is downright thrilled to celebrate their new German overlords.

 

The game’s story is emotionally relentless. If you’re not feeling the pain of Blazkowicz childhood caused by his Nazi-sympathiser father, you’re experiencing his rage as he cuts through his german enemies in revenge for everything they’ve done to former resistance members. There as so many awe inspiring scenes throughout this game, that I found myself needing to see just one more mission. Some games have “that moment” that everyone talks about. “Wolfenstein 2” has about five of them.

 

The gameplay comes close to matching the stellar storylines. “Wolfenstein 2” is a throwback first-person shooter much like “Doom.” This isn’t a cover shooter where you want to hide behind a barricade while your health recharges. The game rewards fast and constant movement and encourages you to get in the action. If you’re running out of health or armor, you better run out into the army of Nazis and take it from them.

 

There are a couple ways to approach the gameplay: stealth or run-and-gun. It would probably be impossible to play though the game with an entirely stealth approach, but it’s smart to at least start most battles by staying out of sight. Once spotted, it’s time to dual wield your strongest guns and starting running through the enemies. The perk system is ingeniously organized to strengthen a specific playstyle. If you dual wield your weapons, kills will increase the effectiveness of dual wielding by allowing you to carry more ammo. Scoring headshots will increase damage dealt when aiming down a single gun’s sight. Stealth kills will let you move faster while crouching. Every style of kill makes you a more effective killing machine no matter what kind of killing machine you are.

 

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The story of “Wolfenstein 2” is practically perfect, but there are some shortcomings when it comes to the game’s endgame content. The roughly 8-to-10 hour game has hundreds of collectables, and none of which are really worth finding. There’s no reason for this game to have that many collectables, and if there are going to be that many there should be an incentive to find them all. There’s also no way to go back and replay story missions once the game is complete. There isn’t even an option for New Game +. After the story concludes, you can go to different parts of the U.S. and take out remaining commanders, but these basically play out like mini missions in different versions of places you’ve already been. These are very minor gripes. They don’t change the fact that “Wolfenstein 2” is firmly in the running for game of the year honors.

 

There are plenty of first-person shooters out there, but there’s nothing else quite like “Wolfenstein 2.” This is a game that pushes what a narrative can be in video games. If you know someone who loves historical fiction, but isn’t really into games, sit them down and watch you play through the game on an easy difficulty. “Wolfenstein 2” deserves all of its praise, but none of it does it justice. This is a rare game has to be experienced first hand.

 

9 out of 10

 

 

Pros:

Watershed moment for video game narratives

Fast-paced, brutal action

Top-notch world building

 

Cons:

Poor endgame content

 

 

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