It’s weird for a game to become topical after the fact. That feels like the case though for Wolfenstein: The New Colossus.
The title picks up almost immediately after Wolfenstein: The New Order ends, after B.J. killed General Deathshead, and mortally injured called down a nuclear weapon strike on his own position. However, he’s rescued, and patched up, and in the wake of that injury, still not in great shape, ends up going against General Engle (who was introduced in the previous game as the commandant of a concentration camp) as they seek to retake the US from Nazi occupation.
I wish we didn’t have to live in a world where “fight to take the US back from literal Nazis” wasn’t actively topical, but here we are.
The New Colossus tries to strike something of a balance between stealth and run-and-gun gameplay, and it never quite pulls it off. Even on Easy, BJ goes down really quickly, and enemies are alerted just as quickly. Turning down the difficulty doesn’t reduce the chance of detection – instead it seems to just tweak the damage values in terms of what you end up taking to mean that if an encounter goes loud, you can potentially leave the encounter with a sliver of health instead of just dying – and only if you successfully pick some people off first.
This is not helped by the fact that even on some of the easiest difficulty settings, once the alarm meter starts filling when officers are present, the meter will not stop filling unless you kill all the officers in the area. This defeats the point of having the meter, since killing the officers eliminates the meters. This makes the combat in the game swing radically between very stealthy and very loud, with no real points in between.
There are similar issues with whiplash in the game’s humor. I don’t object to the game having comedy- as if it wasn’t there, the game would be incredibly dour – and certainly, The New Order had some good comedic moments (“Nazis on the moon. Fuck you moon.”) However, the humor in The New Colossus, with a few exceptions, tends to fall back on bathroom humor. Worse than that, it falls back on the exact same joke – someone takes a stinky shit in one of the submarine’s lavatories, the next person who has to use that bathroom reacts when they have to use it. It gets incredibly monotonous.
Emotionally, otherwise, the story works, with BJ helping to put together a group of free-thinkers, minorities, and radicals to fight fascism, while BJ faces his own demons, both in terms of potentially his impending death from his injuries (though he gets better at the game’s halfway point), along with some trauma from BJ’s past, and the emotional toll all this fighting has been taking on BJ as well.
The level of escalation in all of this seems a bit much though. The second to last level, in particular, sending BJ to Venus in disguise as an actor, where he ends up face-to-face with a delusion-ally ego-maniacal, syphilitic, and possibly senile Adolf Hitler. The scene works very well, by undercutting Hitler as a person, without diminishing the monstrosity of his actions. That said, the Nazi moon-base in the last game (which I alluded to earlier) was played as a big deal. The base on Venus, on the other hand, is played as blasé – which is particularly disappointing, because Venus is not only harder to get to, it’s harder to get to than Mars. It’s a very rushed escalation.
I liked this game, but I’ll admit that I’m in no hurry to get to Youngblood.
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