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Discussion The Patient Gamer - Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus - More is More

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
3,288
1,836
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"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." - George Orwell.

Imagine that quote as a game. That game is the new Wolfenstein series by Machinegames, from 2014 's The New Order onwards. If you like linear story driven first person shooters, please do yourself a favor and play The New Order and its prequel The Old Blood. Pre-Doom 2016 I would have said those were the most visceral, action packed shooters I have ever played.

The New Colossus, a name Wolfenstein 2 shares with the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty, completely eschews the adage "less is more" in favor of the tongue in cheek "but more is also more". Its a sequel in the truest sense of the word: it takes the foundation laid down by The New Order and refined by The Old Blood, and just dials things up, keeps dialing them up, hits the point where it should probably stop dialing things up, then cranks the dial straight past 11 and keeps going. In some ways, this is a good thing. We don't get a lot of solid linear story driven first person shooters nowadays, and its great to see Machinegames... uh... stick to their guns and just deliver more of what the first game offered.

But where The New Order sort of toyed with the line between style and substance, the macabre and the comedic, while keeping its separate elements in a near perfect harmonious balance The New Colossus suffers from its excesses. Don't misunderstand, the game is actually riotously funny and equal parts dark and gut-wrenching, but rather than delicately holding the line between these two disparate tones the game is almost bi-polar in how poorly it handles switching between the two. This comes to a head near the climax of the game where the schzophrenic tone begins to resonate with the narrative, where even the main character begins to question whether what he in the context of the game is experiencing is real or some sort of twisted dream. As the player, you progress ever forward, more and more with this gut wrenching sensation that the second act of the game does not feel... right. Like a fever dream where there is something just wrong and you cannot quite put your finger on it.

Its possible that Machinegames will pull off a narrative coup de grace in the third act (not Youngbloods, which is more of a side adventure similar to The Old Blood, but a true Wolf 3) by building this tonal dissonance into the story or plot (and part of me suspects they will) but only time will tell.

There was a lot of hooplah and controversy regarding the "SJW" elements of Wolfenstein 2, but like many of these twitter controversies it is overblown and can really only be played up by ignoring any of the subtlety (yes there actually is some of that) between character interactions and sometimes outright ignoring major plot points. Yes, Nazi's are like... super bad. I think we can all get on board with that. Wolfenstein 2 goes through really great pains to make sure you the player see the Nazi's are just people through any number of collectible readables scattered through the maps (postcards to family, friends, loved ones) or through little interactions between NPCs to even having one of your gang of outcasts provide perspective that these are not monsters, just people that do monstrous things.

Nazi's are also predominantly white, protestant, upholding the "Aryan ideal". Naturally, when recruiting a resistance movement against the Nazi's you're going to pick up all the people Nazi's find subhuman, which if it were a ven diagram would likely overlap with what people would consider a "diverse" cast of characters (multi-racial, differently abled, multi-religious, etc) but it makes perfect sense given the actual context of the game. I feel this game does in fact benefit from some distance from the zeitgeist, in 2018, that the game launched into. Bethesda's marketing leaned into it which naturally resulted in a backlash against it, and gamers were obligated to divide into the "pandering to the SJW" camp and the "OMG they're FREAKING NAZIS" camp which seems to taint the conversation surrounding this title to this day.

As for the game itself, it is a damn masterpiece of production. The visuals are stunning, but the game easily pumped out 100+ FPS thanks to its Vulkan renderer. Mick Gordon and company have assembled an absolute gem of a soundtrack. The character voice acting and animation is absolutely superb, some of the best I have ever seen. There is plenty of environment and enemy variation, the locations are rich and varied and although the basic types of enemies don't fundamentally change, their appearance matches the environment. Its just little things that draw you deeper and deeper into the world.

Levels generally follow the same flow of The New Order. You are inserted into a level from a hub world, and have the ability to sneak and silently dispatch enemies. Inevitably, at some point, you will be spotted, an alarm will sound and you drop the charade of sneaking and mow down waves of Nazi's as you beeline for the nearest Nazi Commander to dispatch and end the alarm. Glory kills are present, but unlike Doom 2016, you get no invulnerability during the takedown animation, limiting their utility.

The game does have some other flaws, small but annoying. The game does a poor job telegraphing where you're receiving damage from (or that you're even taking damage) so in a hectic firefight you can think you're doing ok only to suddenly see the screen go red and a few seconds later drop dead from a hail of Nazi gunfire. This combined with some bizarre dificulty spikes (The Courthouse) can result in some staggeringly difficult sections of gameplay. The level design in the first half the game is definitely weaker than the second, and weapon balance (especially after upgrades) can leave something to be desired.

None of the flaws are enough to actually stop me from wholeheartedly recommending this game to literally anyone that will listen. If you've been looking for a solid linear, story driven FPS hit, play all the new Wolfenstein games (excepting Youngblood, which I haven't played but heard handles things quite differently). The New Colossus definitely benefits from playing prior games in the series, although it can certainly hold up on its own. Just be warned that you're getting onto a weirdly melancholic ride for what outwardly presents itself as a meathead shooter. There are more brains on display than one might think at first, its just that the brain is all ****ed up.
 

MetalMat

Diamond Member
Jun 14, 2004
9,683
35
91
I couldn't stand this game. I think the Wolfenstein series hit a high water mark with the New Order and it just went quickly downhill. There are so many gut wrenching dumb parts of the New Colossus that it made my eyes hurt. However as much as I don't like this game it's still far better than Youngblood. Youngblood is basically a crime against humanity of how bad it is lol.
 

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
3,288
1,836
136
I couldn't stand this game. I think the Wolfenstein series hit a high water mark with the New Order and it just went quickly downhill. There are so many gut wrenching dumb parts of the New Colossus that it made my eyes hurt. However as much as I don't like this game it's still far better than Youngblood. Youngblood is basically a crime against humanity of how bad it is lol.
- Could you expand on this a bit? Do you mean dumb as in plotholes/story issues or do you mean dumb in terms of gameplay mechanics? I am asking honestly and not in a douchey kind of way.

I can certainly see how folks could feel that the story repeatedly jumped the shark with the whole literally getting his head cut off and resurrected thing, but I also feel like that is feeding into and will potentially be reinforced by a big reveal of overlapping alternate realities in a potential Wolfenstein 3. Set's issues with the "god key" combines with BJ literally calling attention to the fact that both Super Spesh and Anya said the same thing about "having tricks up their sleves" really leads me to believe that Machinegames is not putting all their cards on the table here.

The fact that the Courthouse battle ends up all being a day-dream reinforces the idea that we're dealing with unreliable narration and that things are not as they seem.

As far as gameplay, Wolfenstein 2 is almost exactly Wolfenstein TNO in basically every way. The fundamental gameplay elements are all virtually the same with some expanded elements on top of that.

I did feel that the level design of TNC was a bit weaker than TNC and TOB, especially in the first half of the game which was just corridor after corridor, and I really missed the Panzerhund segments of the first games where they were speedy nigh unkillable ass kicking machines than... whatever the hell happened to them in Wolf2.
 
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