When Wolfenstein: The New Order released in 2014, not a whole lot was expected of it. However, the game quickly became a mega-hit, garnering several Game of the Year awards and reviving a series that had been dormant for some time. Now, the sequel, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, is preparing to launch later this month, and we were lucky enough to get a chance to check out the most recent demo of the game a week ago.
For those who don’t know, the game continues the story of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, a war veteran who, along with most of the militant American resistance, is trying to start up another American Revolution, this time against a Nazi occupied America. While the previous demo of the game had B.J. fighting through a Nazi controlled Roswell, New Mexico, this one took place in New Orleans, and focused on B.J. having to find and partner up with a man named Horton Boone, a crucial member in the resistance.
It’s clear from the start that this new Wolfenstein emphasizes customization in a way that the original didn’t. For the purposes of the demo, players had access to various weapon upgrades that would enhance the various guns throughout the game. These ranged from extra magazine sizes to bullets that had a higher impact in order to deal more damage.
Prior to playing, we were told to jump right in and upgrade weapons before we started. According to Bethesda, the focus on this Wolfenstein was to give more power to the players and allow them to complete missions however they see fit. That certainly came across well, as it was evident from the start that the guns performed wildly different depending on the upgrades put on them.
The Wolfenstein demo also allowed us to experiment with brand new abilities in the game that added a surprisingly large amount of variation into the game. We were given all three to start, although players will have to pick and choose which to use when they get the game themselves. One of them was a charge that allowed players to ram into walls or enemies by simply sprinting at them. For weaker enemies, it was almost always a one hit kill and for gameplay purposes ,it allowed us to bypass certain areas and set up ambushes of Nazis.
The other was a double jump of sorts, and by double tapping the jump button, stilts would shoot the B.J. up into the air. This ability was useful for not only climbing around hard to reach areas, but also for being able to quickly pop in and out of cover while trapped in a firefight. The last skill was a passive one, allowing B.J. to slip into any vent or tight corridor that we could find. While that one didn’t get much use, it was a creative addition and will no doubt be useful when the game fully launches.
As far as gameplay goes, fans of The New Order shouldn’t be in for too much of a shock. The gunplay and action of the first game is still present in the sequel, though stealth is certainly an option for players. During my time with the demo, I found myself dying at an incredible rate, which speaks to how difficult some of the larger mobs of Nazis – and their fire breathing robot dogs – can be. Dual wielding the guns feels (and looks) great, and when you’ve settled on a fun combo that you enjoy, it becomes much easier to mow your way through enemies. The emphasis on this game is clearly to play your own way and it showed in nearly every aspect of what I got to experience.
After making your way through the streets of New Orleans and finally meeting Horton Boone and his band of rebels, the game’s true star – its story – shines. The encounter between B.J. and Horton is nothing short of great, and as the tension in the streets grow, the egos of B.J. and Horton begin to clash. Accompanied by an incredible jazzy soundtrack a la Birdman, the moment manages to shine a light on both the game’s great sense of storytelling as well as its great sense of humor. Throughout the demo, Bethesda showed that there is a bizarre humor to be found in the game, and it was certainly most present in that moment.
The demo ends, as many of you might have seen, with the opportunity to ride a Panzerhund – a robot dog that breathes fire – and blow fire everywhere. The moment itself was a breathe of fresh air as you’re no longer running from Nazis, but running right at them atop a fire breathing dog. As amazing as that is, it would have been nice to see the Panzerhund offer some other artillery instead of just fire, but when that’s your only complaint, it’s easy to overlook.
In a genre that can oftentimes feel incredibly stale and unoriginal, The New Colossus manages to buck that trend. Offering players various unique and zany abilities while also presenting them with a legitimately good shooter is a tough thing to accomplish, but Bethesda might have done it here. The game seems to offer players enough ways to go about defeating Nazis that they shouldn’t get tired of it for some time, and the story itself seems to be gearing up to channel the feel of classic B-movies, which is never a bad thing. Fans of the original – and of the genre – should be ready to welcome this one later this month.
Wolfenstein II preview conducted at a Bethesda event.