Following on from my demonstration at Gamescom 2017, I've been lucky enough to play through the first full two hours of Wolfenstein II's campaign, and I can't wait to blast, slice, and stab my way through the rest of the story – but not until I've told you about it.
If Wolfenstein II maintains this level of quality throughout its entirety, it could prove itself to be shooter of the year.
Wolfenstein 2: A story that's brutal from the first minute
Wolfenstein II is the sequel to 2014's sleeper hit, Wolfenstein: The New Order. Machine Games and Bethesda rebooted the classic franchise to near-universal praise, bringing deep story telling into Wolfenstein's signature brand of ultra-violence. It seems as though The New Colossus continues that wonderful tradition, blending thoughtful story telling and teeth-clenching action that makes the franchise such a legendary staple of the genre.
During the game's opening, it quickly recaps the events of the first game for those who haven't played (but seriously, go play it. Following the events of the first game, William "B.J." Blazkowicz is seen being hauled on a stretcher, violently mauled by an explosion towards the end of The New Order. Right from the get go, Wolfenstein II pulls no punches whatsoever.
B.J. drifts in and out of consciousness, expecting to die. During these scenes, we get a glimpse of Blazkowicz' childhood and back story, which is immediately some of the most shocking scenes I've endured in a game. I don't want to spoil the impact of some of these sequences, but it's not often you will encounter video game characters as hateable as the ones depicted early on in Wolfenstein II.
Wolfenstein II forces you to relive the decision from the beginning of The New Order, too, as the timeline you choose will continue to affect the story. B.J., of course, was forced by the previous game's central evil to choose which of his companions would die. The survivor continues the fight in Wolfenstein II, changing the tone of conversations, and even events, throughout the game.
B.J. spends five months writhing in a hospital bed, with wounds and injuries that should have killed him. Frau Engel, now General Engel, launches an attack upon the resistance U-boat stolen from the first game. And you're thrown into the first level with nothing but a machine pistol, and a wheelchair.
Non-stop Nazi slaughter bloodbath
The New Colossus salivates at every opportunity to remind you what makes Wolfenstein so viciously satisfying. Machine Games presents its violence like a grand all-you-can-eat buffet of spectacular environmental traps, insane retro-futuristic weaponry and all-new contextual melee kills.
The first levels are littered with microwave fields which can be toggled on and off at will. Just be careful you don't step in them, you will be turned inside out and vaporized in a shower of sparks and blood. Some of Wolfenstein II's particle and lighting effects are stunning, sending molten metal and armor bouncing across the floor, and some of the game's new weaponry makes exceptional use of this tech.
The Lasergewehr and Laserkraftwerk join a menagerie of deadly devices B.J. can use to melt and murder Nazis. The Lasergewehr emits a screeching beam of red plasma that scorches cover, armor, and flesh, turning Nazis into fleshy piles of detritus. The Laserkraftwerk almost feels like an homage to Unreal Tournament's Instagib rifle, which is a portmanteau for Instant Giblets in reference to instant-kill weapons from the likes of UT99 and Quake. The Laserkraftwerk emits a jet of searing light that vaporizes Nazis in a cloud of gore, and it's simply sublime.
Of course, B.J.'s regular ensemble of deadly instruments returns for the party too, from shotguns, assault rifles, and more, but as exemplified by the Laserkraftwerk, they're joined by some new toys.
In what appears to be an evolution of the melee combat from The New Order and Wolfenstein's standalone DLC, The Old Blood (which you should also play, B.J. can now loot axes from around the game's facilities and locations. He always keeps one with him, to smash open crates and chop Nazi limbs off in close-quarters take down moves, but additional ones can be used as throwing weapons for silent take downs.
Wolfenstein II allows you to approach combat very similarly to the first game. Exploring locations not only reveals hidden caches of health packs, armor, and ammo, but also collectible items and world-building paraphernalia, including diaries and letters.
So far, it's been nothing short of non-stop blood-drenched fun.
You can gain insight into the warped philosophies of the Reich, as they reconcile their fervid nationalism with foreign American culture. You can also use stealth and exploration to gain the upper hand in combat, sneaking behind enemy patrols, taking out commanders, and setting up traps. Regardless of the approach I've taken, so far, it's been nothing short of non-stop blood-drenched fun.
Early signs are overwhelmingly positive
The early signs for Wolfenstein II are incredibly positive. The combat is tight, the visuals are stunning and well-optimized for smooth 60 FPS on Xbox One, and if the opening sequences are any indication, the story seems as though it could be an even wilder emotional rollercoaster than the first.
Is it possible they've front-loaded the game with all of its best moments? I highly doubt it given Machine Games' track record, but stay tuned for our full review later this week.
Wolfenstein II launches on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 27, 2017. It will also enjoy visual enhancements on the Xbox One X.
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