Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus review

After several hours spent killing Nazis we can say it: Wolfenstein II is the prototype of the perfect sequel.

Sequels are one of the (many) reasons why cinema and video games remain two quite different worlds. Because in the case of films it is very difficult that, in the presence of the number two in the title, the result is better than the original, while in video games on the contrary it is very simple. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus he reiterated it to us once more: to make a good chapter two videogame just push on all the aspects that worked at the first release and file all the defects that critics and public have highlighted.

Version tested: PlayStation 4

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus - PlayStation 4
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Her name is Mother of the Exiles
Wolfenstein II plays to the upside: does not mimic the first chapter and manages to have its say in a big way

Wolfenstein II takes us back to the alternate 1960s that Machine Games had drawn three years ago: Germany won World War II and has extended his Reich to the rest of the world, conquering the Old and the New Continent. And although Captain BJ Blazkowicz at the end of the last chapter eliminated Wilhem "Deathshead" Strasse - the architect of German war superiority, taking his revenge fourteen years late, the balance has not changed: the Nazis are still the masters of the world and the road to freedom is still uphill. Wolfenstein starts right from here, going - as we anticipated - to resume all the characterizing traits of the first release and re-proposing them in a bigger and bad version. But this does not mean that it lacks identity, indeed: it is true that "Terror Billy" (the name by which the Captain is now known among the enemy lines) still has a lot of minutes to fill with damn inspired dialogues and monologues, but if the first chapter focused on the description of the enemy, his deviant ideals and his twisted ideologies, this time the focus is all on the rebels and on rebellion. And the tone of the production also changes, managing to take itself - at times - less seriously: there is some "American", there is some cliché in which it slams violently but there are also moments that walk on the edge of surrealism. Because Blazkowicz manages - for example - to give a moment in pure Braveheart style while he is talking about politics half drunk, when the jazz notes of a clarinet play in the background and outside the Nazis are advancing. Mel Gibson, but better than Mel Gibson. Or because at a certain point in the game (we do not want to anticipate anything) an unexpected character appears, managed in an equally unexpected way. Given the serious attitude of the Captain and the tone of the first chapter, we never expected it, but according to the writer it is nice to see that Machine Games did not remain a prisoner of Machine Games on the contrary, he took up his own challenge and tried to do better. Succeeding, all in all:

Because if Wolfenstein took us to the moon three years ago, Wolfenstein II points to Venus.

And we're not saying this just because a mission actually takes us to the second planet in the solar system, but because it takes all the aspects that worked great three years ago and gives it more space. Narration in the head, as we have seen, reinventing the right to remove the sense of deja-vu (maneuver that in reality does not succeed completely, but the fault depends more on the level design - we will get there) and expertly alternating game pieces to sections told through cutscene. About ten hours, to which to add a post-campaign dedicated to secondary missions and the hunt for some Nazi generals on the battlefields already visited (and to the collection of the inevitable collectibles) with a well-distributed rhythm, which does not look bad at all from the point of view emotional compared to those experienced with the first chapter.

Kung Fuhrer
The gameplay is that of the first chapter, with some refinement (not always right)

The tendency to do things big without betraying the origins is also found on the more directly playful level. The basis of the gameplay is that of the first chapter, bringing to the screen a first person shooter that does not skimp from the point of view of the weapons available (you are in the weapon wheel, plus another four heavy ones to be collected from time to time on the spot) going to enrich it with the possibility of impgunare two different guns in each hand, where the first Wolfenstein made the mechanics of akimbo with the same weapon. Everything works, but the pad in hand turns out excessively cumbersome: you have to choose the weapon from the relative wheel, move the cursor to the arrow icon to change weapon and then re-select the second firearm, if you do not want to use two identical weapons. A shame, since overall the game interface is much improved - now just hover over the ammo to pick it up, instead of having to press a button to do so. For the rest, however, it is particularly appreciable to be able to choose the firing mode with which to fire on each arm, since all weapons have their own variant: the shotgun can fire its three bullets at the same time instead of releasing them one at a time, the machine gun it can slow the rate of fire but launch superheated ammunition (very effective against mechanical enemies) and the pistol has a "Magnum" mode, louder but more lethal. Yes, because directly from the first chapter the stealth mechanics of the title return, which remain basically unchanged - the knives are replaced with axes, but apart from this Machine Games has relied on the saying "if it's not broken don't fix it". And the same goes for Blazkowicz's upgrade system: thanks to Talents to progress, action must be taken on the ground, do not gain experience and then unlock the related upgrade from an activity tree.

To learn more:
Wolfenstein: The New Order

What changes then? Again, Machine Games has opted for a "change of forehead": for most of the experience the protagonist will have a maximum health "locked" at 50 units (instead of the 100 of the first chapter), compensating however with a more resistant armor. The playful aspect is that you have to be more careful, because the two indicators obviously have different logics (and it must be recognized, the game AI will not be fantastic. but she is smarter than three years ago): the armor filters, but does not completely block every shot, and therefore every Nazi bullet still threatens the health indicator - which, as in the first chapter, regenerates "in bands", continuing to dance between tradition (indicator of life to be filled "manually") and modernity (the self-regenerating health typical of post-Halo shooters). The last third of the game reverts to a more traditional solution, restoring the health bar to maximum. At this point though the Gadgets come into play, three upgrades (one given by choice during the campaign, the other two to be recovered with special secondaries) that introduce some new mechanics, which on paper should be exploited to range on the level design front.

Nothing better than Wolfenstein 3D to squeeze the resources of a seventh generation console

Nazi architecture
The level design? One of the few out of tune notes

On paper, because in reality the final result it is certainly not excellent: the Constrictor should allow the player to slip into cracks for which otherwise it would be too big, the Bipod to reach raised places and the Aries to break through, using the click, some otherwise closed doors. In fact, in the end, the developers have included the three alternatives all in the same places, instead of taking the opportunity to further diversify the maps: one is as good as the other, and you find yourself choosing the gadget mostly based on bonuses it gives available (the Constrictor, for example, makes the Stealth approach more effective, slowing enemies for a few moments when discovered). The idea could have made the difference, since as we mentioned the deja-vu moments that Wolfenstein II offers on the screen depend above all on its level design, which more than sometimes recalls the one seen in the first chapter. In the end, that's not the case, and - staying in Bethesda's house - we find ourselves regretting instead the excellent work done by Arkane Studios with Prey, who managed to beautifully differentiate the game maps based on the skills of the protagonist. It's clear, the same versatility was not expected in a title that basically wants do more and manages the progression in a different way (and much more original, it is the case to re-emphasize it), but during the game experience it is impossible not to notice how often and willingly the cracks in which to crawl thanks to the Constrictor are right next to the doors to be knocked down with Aries, and that the Bipod would have allowed to overcome the obstacle in the same way. Little imagination in an aspect that could at least have reduced the linearity of the approach, in short.

Nazis at 60 fps
Excellent performance, especially on PS4 Pro

From a technical point of view Machine Games was commendable: three years ago we talked about a title in full cross-gen, capable of running at 1080p and 60 frames per second but with different compromises from the visual point of view, due to the need to make everything "affordable" also for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Wolfenstein 2 had a credit with history, and curiously he also manages to collect it by going out on a shelf that has already greeted PlayStation 4 Pro and is preparing to do the same with Xbox One X: without the ballast of the old hardware in any case the performance is solid, and in our case - we played the experience on PlayStation 4 Pro - it succeeded too to give us a couple of treble, all while remaining fairly anchored to sixty frames per second and to a resolution beyond FullHD (Digital Foundry spoke of a “little” dynamic 1440p, we trust and the feeling is roughly that). You can see the gap between the cutscene and the game, but it is physiological, given the more directorial cut that permeates the moments in which you lean the controller on one side and watch as spectators what is happening. Acoustically, again, you can't complain, considering that dubbing stands up to the script and it manages to underline the most exciting moments of the whole - we're again thinking about the Braveheart moment we talked about earlier - and the musical accompaniment does its duty.

Verdict 8.5 / 10 The Nazi who played Yahtzee Comment Wolfenstein II is a true chapter 2, capable of taking all the good things from the first release, shaking off the flaws and bringing to the screen an overall more square product. Above all because he does not just do that, but he manages to put a lot of his own, between successful ideas, real "American" and some gimmicks - as we have seen - that instead did not work 100%. But on the other hand, gambles do not always pay off, and it is physiological that some flaws had to come out: the important thing is that Machine Games believed in it and showed the right attitude, waiting to go back to killing Nazis with the next ones. DLC and with the inevitable third chapter signed by the studio. Pros and cons A perfect sequel
Technically solid
Wonderful script ... x ... But with some clichés
x Cumbersome interface
x Undertone level design

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