In my two hours with Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, I shot Nazis while riding a wheelchair, blew up a bunch of tyrannical cyborgs, and set off a portable nuke at a German base.
If you thought 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order was wonderfully over-the-top, know that developer Machine Games was just getting started.
The New Colossus (which hits PS4, Xbox One and PC on Oct. 27) picks up right where The New Order left off, thrusting you back into an alternate reality where the Nazis won World War II. Protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz just barely survived his brush with the nefarious General Deathshead, and is headed back to the United States to liberate his home from Nazi forces.
Machine Games uses B.J.’s gruesome injuries as an excuse to let you mow down Nazis from a wheelchair while escaping a German boat. It’s a delightful opening act that immediately lets you know just how ridiculous Wolfenstein 2 is willing to get.
The game’s wheelchair combat is surprisingly fluid, giving you just enough limitations while still letting you get around without much hassle. You can still peek out of cover and perform stealth kills while seated, as I learned every time I gleefully bashed a Nazi skull against my chair’s tire.
After surviving a few electric traps and light platforming puzzles, I was rescued by B.J.’s incredibly badass wife Anya, who’s now pregnant with twins. But things quickly fell apart, as B.J. and some of his closest allies were eventually captured by Frau Engel, a terrifying Nazi leader who’s out for blood after the events of The New Order. Without getting too spoilery, Engel dangled the lives of some of my favorite characters from the first game right in front of me, and the entire cutscene had me holding my breath.
I then jumped to a later mission, which had me deliver a portable nuclear bomb to New Mexico to destroy a dangerous Nazi superweapon. While being held captive by Frau Engel was tense, walking through the colorful streets of Roswell on a sunny day was somehow even scarier.
Everything seemed cheery and peaceful on the surface, save for the fact that Nazi soldiers patrolled the streets while Ku Klux Klan members hung out in broad daylight. I was immediately sucked into this frightening new world, as I tried to stay undercover amidst a sea of wanted signs that promoted Nazi propaganda and painted B.J. as a lethal terrorist.
After entering a hidden resistance base and having a hilarious exchange with a paranoid friend who thought I was a lizard person, it was time to blow up some Nazi robots.
It was here that I noticed lots of nice improvements to The New Order’s combat — the game’s various pistols, assault rifles and laser guns felt more satisfying than ever, while its auto-cover system felt noticeably tighter. I was especially fond of the new auto shotgun, which allowed me to clear full rooms of Nazis within seconds.
The game builds on the perks system that rewards you for things like stealth kills and explosions, and goes a step further by letting you upgrade your weapons this time around. I was delighted to discover that you can now pick up ammo and armor pieces by simply walking over them, as using a button to do felt incredibly clunky in the first game. You still need to press a button to pick up health packs, probably so that you can control when to overcharge your life bar past 100 percent.
Despite these improvements, Wolfenstein 2 is not an easy game. Explosions now knock you down, leaving you vulnerable to enemy gunfire if you’re not careful. I fought Nazi cyborgs who could phase through thin air and mow me down in seconds, which made ripping their mechanical hearts out feel like an accomplishment. Even after lowering the difficulty a few times (go ahead, judge me), I still found myself constantly scavenging for ammo and health while barely surviving big firefights.
As much fun as I had blasting Nazis with all kinds of cool guns, I had an even better time watching the game’s story unfold. Many of B.J.’s colorful resistance allies are still around, and clash nicely with new personalities like the no-nonsense Grace and the ultra-neurotic Superspesh. The New Order was made special by its humor, heart and unforgettable cast of characters, and it that same magic formula seems to be present in the sequel.
Speaking of characters, Machine Games plans to extend the story of The New Colossus with three downloadable content packs that will let you take control of various freedom fighters from all over the United States.
There will also be a prologue chapter dubbed The Freedom Chronicles: Episode Zero, which introduces the three characters: former quarterback Joseph Stallion, assassin Jessica Valiant and war hero Gerard Wilkins. You can get the DLC chapters via a $24.99 season pass, while pre-ordering the game will get you Episode Zero for free.
Wolfenstein 2 seems to be doubling down on both the frenetic Nazi slaughter and compelling character drama that made the first game such a standout, and I look forward to experiencing more of both come Oct. 27.
Image Credit: Bethesda