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Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review

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Story:

Weak; this is the word I will use to describe the story of The New Colossus. I never felt invested in the game world or in the fight because of the weak story, but I will grant the named enemies are actually fairly well represented.

The main antagonist is Frau Engel and almost immediately the disgusting, evil, and depraved aspects of her character are on proud display. There is not a time I encountered her that I failed to feel more engaged in the goal of removing her from the game world. Her presence is somewhat limited, and she has no lieutenants to deal with either, which is the role she effectively filled in the previous game. Of course it makes sense that you cannot constantly be going against the main antagonist, which is why having lieutenants is so valuable in a game, because they can fill the role of big-baddy temporarily, give the satisfaction of victory, and still leave the bigger threat to contend with. It helps progress the story and gives you reason to continue progressing with these victories, and is absent here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another named enemy that appears, though you never confront him, is an aging Adolf Hitler. Engel I would say is the more depraved of the two, also the more disgusting, but Hitler still makes a good show of it. Actually, and this may sound very, very weird, Hitler is almost a sympathetic character, despite completely being a sociopath and thus unconcerned about human life. Seriously, this is always a bad and evil guy, but when I saw his failing health on display, I felt a little bad for him. Then he cold-bloodedly murdered three people as one would wave goodbye, and that feeling vanished. I am still curious why the time was taken to show his failing health, because it really was focused on in the scene, but there was no payoff for the information. There really is potential there, and none of it was tapped from what I could see. To put it another way, if the game led me to Hitler's bed chamber, where it would seem fairly clear he is on his death bed, and I had the choice of killing him or walking away to let his illness reach the same goal, I would have walked away. Short of him actually posing a threat to me in that state, which he likely would not have been able to, I would not have had the anger to kill him because of the earlier scene. Now, if this hypothetical scenario, or what actually happens in the game were to show or suggest that at Hitler's death his head or brain would be transplanted into a Mecha-Hitler suit, referencing the classic Wolfenstein 3D game, my view would be different, but there is no payoff like that here.

The third named enemy is actually Rip Blazkowicz, BJ's father who is shown at the beginning of the game via a flashback to be a horrible and abusive father and depraved, racist, and all around bigoted person. (Spoiler) You do eventually meet him and when you do, well, I am not sure if calling him a Nazi sympathizer is accurate, because aside from it covering his white skin, this appalling individual could have had the Nazi flag tattooed on his chest and it would not have felt overdone. (Contriving a way to show his chest would have been more overdone than such a tattoo.)

There was definitely an attempt to establish BJ having issues with his father throughout the flashbacks prior to encountering him, but one issue is such feelings of his were limited to the flashbacks, or meant to silently be impressed upon the character. Sure, I really came to dislike the guy, but give us a little more, like BJ sharing with Anya, who is very pregnant with their twins, some of these stories or somehow convey the pain of his childhood. All we really got for emoting from BJ is his acceptance that his body will not last long, due to the damage he suffered at the end of the previous game, and how tired he is of it all.

That is kind of it for standout characters; just these three antagonists. There are supporting characters around BJ that are interesting, but there is a lack of presence for them and/or what makes them interesting. For example, Sigrun Engel, Frau Engel's daughter actually joins you at the beginning of the game (so it really is not much of a spoiler) but is just another person you may run into on the submarine that serves as your base. The cinematics give you some more about her, but it is so limited and you really do not get to learn about her character or why she was willing to turn on her mother the way she had. Okay, Frau Engel appears to be an even worse parent than your father, but she genuinely appears to want to help your cause, and not just be free of her mother. This gives us more of her to really feel why we should trust her.

Another character you might not encounter that was almost interesting, but ultimately failed, was Wyatt. He and Fergus are the two characters from the previous game that you had to choose which would die, so you get to make the selection again when this game begins. (Beyond impacting which character is in the game, this also determines which of two weapons you get, and the other is not accessible otherwise. I will cover this more in the Gameplay section.) Like I did previously, I chose for the older Fergus to die, preserving the youth because what is the point of saving the world if not for the young? What makes Wyatt (and possibly Fergus, but I have not played far enough in a second playthrough to know) is that he is apparently in tune with what directed the Da'at Yichud to develop the advanced technologies they did hundreds or thousands of years ago. This results in him having insights that amaze Set Roth, a member of the ancient Jewish society, but there is no payoff for this. This plotline ends with him mentioning something that is apparently a significant revelation to Set, and there is no resolution to it at all. Maybe that is for DLC, which in concept I am okay with, but not when as much attention is given this artifact as was the case. (It is one thing to put hooks in place for DLC and another to fully bait the hook.) This is not the only time Da'at Yichud technology is suggested or introduced without any pay off.

 

 

No one else really seemed all too significant, even Anya. I guess she does have one thing going for her, which is how she will go on various dangerous missions, despite looking ready to give birth at any moment. This actually kind of lends itself to one of the larger issues I have with the story, and that is how very limited it is in terms of supporting roles.

You have a submarine housing a number of resistance fighters, all of them with names when you look at them, and none but those you talk to in cinematic ever get off the ship. Their existence seems to be set dressing as much as a doily is, except for the few that give you side missions, but honestly, any of the more prominent characters could have served that role.

Going outside the ship and more to the heart of why I call the story weak is how little investment, or return on investment there is for what you are doing in the game. I get the whole, 'freeing America from the Nazis' idea, but you basically never encounter the populous so you also never see what you are freeing them from. New Orleans could have presented this opportunity, as the city contained many resistance cells at some point, so the Nazis built a wall around it and dump undesirables in there. There is a reference to concentration camps as well, but we do not visit these places, or see the people suffering, or, to put it another way, we never see the people we are freeing. The enemy is better represented than the victims you are trying to protect, which hurts my investment into the game, and is why I consider this a weak story. Except for the name of the locations and the accents, we could still be in Europe and fighting for America's freedom for all the connection you have to the people and the location.

 

 

I briefly mentioned Da'at Yichud earlier and want to come back to it because, I felt it was a strength in the previous game. It is an ancient Jewish group that developed very advanced and amazing pieces of technologies, and it was these technologies the Nazis stole and used to win WWII. Its presence is rather lacking, even though you do come to visit one of its vaults. I cannot recall even one new piece of technology being introduced in the game that originated from this group. The group has so much mystery around it, and a great amount of power thanks to these technologies, and yet none of that was present here, or at least none that I can remember now. The power suit remains, but nothing else, though other technologies are referenced. It could have been leveraged to open up new weapons and whatever else, but instead whatever new technologies you gain are apparently just based on Nazi designs. We went from futuristic laser weapons, to diesel powered weapons.

One last point I want to make is that there are one or two twists in the game, but honestly I knew both were coming. One because of the collectible notes you find, and the other from a cinematic you are directed to, combined with the comments of BJ. They failed as twists for me, since both were telegraphed.

I started this section calling the story weak, and I can only hope I satisfactorily explained why I feel this way. Compared to the previous title, I am left disappointed. There are just too many important aspects of the story skipped (experiencing/witnessing the state of America you are trying to rescue people from, and learning if they even want to be rescued) and too much potential established yet not tapped (Da'at Yichud, ailing Hitler, Wyatt's visions, and the American concentration camps/New Orleans concentration city). Weak and disappointing.

 




  1. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Introduction
  2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Graphics
  3. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Story
  4. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Gameplay
  5. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Additional Gameplay Screenshots
  6. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus Review - Conclusion
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