BOSTON — Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus provided some much-needed catharsis in a difficult time for the American public. In an era when mainstream American society began to tolerate — even embrace — neo-Nazis, Wolfenstein II put its foot down and said, “No.” The game is 12 hours of unapologetically brutalizing Nazis in order to save an alternate-history United States, and now folks will be able to play it wherever they go.
I played a level from Wolfenstein II on the Switch at PAX East 2018, and the port seems completely faithful to the existing versions of the game. Despite the fact that it suffers from a few problems common to third-party switch games — the interface is not really optimized for a six-inch touchscreen — it’s a perfectly serviceable way to take one of 2017’s most acclaimed games with you.
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In the demo I played, I took control of gun-toting protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz as he infiltrated a Nazi-controlled ship. The level outlined a few simple tricks I needed to survive — using tools, sneaking up on enemies, making melee attacks with a fearsome hatchet, dual-wielding weapons, stomping on panels to open them up, and so forth — but otherwise, it was up to me to approach the level how I thought best.
If you’ve played Wolfenstein II before, you’ll know that the game’s large, open-ended levels encourage players to take them at their own pace. My primary task was to dispatch two Nazi commanders, one of whom was located on a catwalk, with his back turned conveniently toward me. I sneaked up behind him and let my hatchet take care of the rest.
The second commander demonstrated how the game can still be fun, even if you make mistakes. A botched attempt at stealth meant that the commander fled away, while sending dozens of Nazi underlings to take me out. I had to run and gun my way through the crowd before finally cornering the commander on a staircase and taking him down with a bloody melee attack. The game doesn’t judge you for making an all-out attack; any firefight you can walk away from is a successful one.
The only big issue with Wolfenstein II on Switch, as far as I could tell, is that MachineGames definitely had a full-size screen in mind when it developed the game. It’s sometimes difficult to discern what the various symbols in the game mean — how to pick up ammo, which objects you can interact with, and so forth. The dialogue is also teeny-tiny, which is a problem if you’re playing without headphones. A portable Wolfenstein II that’s sometimes hard to parse is better than no portable Wolfenstein II at all, but it’s easy to see how a larger HUD could have alleviated some of these problems.
Still, if you haven’t played the game yet, the Switch will arguably be the most accessible way to experience it for the first time. The game will come out later this year and doesn’t have a hard price attached to it, although $60 seems like a good bet.