I recently got a chance to play through two chapters from the upcoming Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The first chapter was the opening segment of the new game, and the second comes from later on in the story, but showcases a free-roam environment of a 1961 small town that has been the focus of a lot of the marketing thus far, including a facade of the town’s diner that was recreated at this year’s E3.
The game opens up with the protagonist of Wolfenstein: The New Order, William “Kill-Billy” Blazkowicz, again waking up from a coma and finding his party’s base under siege by lousy, stinkin’ Nazis. He is confined to a wheelchair for this opening chapter, making for a unique first-person shooter perspective, both in terms of point of view and in limitations. Ever play an FPS where you can’t go up stairs? Yeah, me neither.
The first chapter sets the tone, so even if you didn’t play the last iteration of Wolfenstein, you know the story: there are Nazis, they still have control of America, you gotta kill them and blow them up real good (sometimes with powerful microwaves that vaporize them on sight), and there’s a lot of very cool mech, most of which is piloted and worn by the Nazis.
It’s a fun little jaunt — or as fun as it can be as you’re wheeling around trying to avoid Nazis in cramped quarters, and a cutscene afterward brings you back to the horror of the new reality. It hammers home that these Nazis are really bad people, although there is a conflicted Nazi character who later becomes even more humanized. It’s all fairly straightforward, but the gameplay is pretty effortless and the added twist of the wheelchair adds a nice second layer to what would otherwise be a fairly straightforward exposition-heavy intro level.
(As an aside, I was hoping the protagonist would be wheelchair-bound for the duration of the game, BUT SPOILERS that turns out to not be the case.)
The meat and potatoes of the game comes when you get into the larger world of Wolfenstein, which is where a lot of the “fun” of the first game came from, like alternate-reality German 1950s and 1960s pop music. Being plopped into the middle of a free-roam, quintessentially “All-American” main street, but with the wholesome Americana replaced by “wholesome” German and KKK denizens and propaganda, is off-putting, and takes a while for your brain to really make sense of the spectacle.
Wolfenstein II clearly wants you to be unsettled by this alternate reality, with its conflicting nostalgia impulses of Americana and hatred, and it works. It’s surreal and icky, and helps in wanting you to get back to killing Nazis. Which you’ll be doing a lot of, and soon.
This game seems to be screaming for a thinkpiece, as it’s a strange mish-mash of killing Nazis, marveling at the strange and impressive Nazi steampunk/futuristic weaponry, and weaving comedy in with the black-as-night subject matter. But that’s a task for another writer. For now, I’ll just tell you that the game handles like a dream, is probably exactly what you’re looking for from a Wolfenstein game, and has me intrigued to play more.
In addition, Bethesda announced on Thursday that there will be three DLC packs for Wolfenstein. That information is as follows:
Wolfenstein II – The Freedom Chronicles Season Pass & Pre-order
The time has come to once again refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Nazis have overrun the world, and while BJ Blazkowicz is busy igniting a new revolution in America, other freedom fighters are waging war on their own fronts. Soon you can step into the brave soles of a former football player, an assassin and an Army captain, and battle to restore the soul of America in Wolfenstein II: The Freedom Chronicles. Starring a trio of larger-than-life heroes, The Freedom Chronicles includes three DLC packs:
· The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe – As former professional quarterback Joseph Stallion, smash through Nazi hordes from the ruins of Chicago to the vastness of space!
· The Diaries of Agent Silent Death – As ex-OSS agent and assassin Jessica Valiant, infiltrate Nazi bunkers in California and discover the secrets of Operation San Andreas!
· The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins – As the US Army’s renowned hero Captain Gerald Wilkins, embark on a mission to Nazi-controlled Alaska to dismantle Operation Black Sun!
All three DLC packs are available in The Freedom Chronicles Season Pass, which you can purchase now for $24.99 (US) / £17.99 (UK) / $34.95 (AUS). We’ll have more info soon, including release dates and additional gameplay details.