by Preston Dozsa
previewed on PC
Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game that I regret not playing when it originally launched in 2014. What I thought would be a bog-standard first-person shooter with a rote story instead became one of the most engaging games in both gameplay and narrative over the past decade. If I could go back, I would absolutely change my Game of the Year vote for 2014 to The New Order.
Which is why I was excited to get my hands on the Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus demo at PAX West 2017.
Showcasing the first 20 or so minutes of the The New Colossus, the demo begins with famed Nazi killer BJ Blazkowicz, now known to the Nazi’s as “Terror Billy”, waking up from a five month coma following the events The New Order. He discovers that the Nazi’s have begun to invade the Eve’s Hammer, the stolen submarine the resistance uses as a base. Crashing to the floor after losing his balance, BJ clambers onto a wheelchair for mobility as a dying Kreisau fighter hands him a machine pistol to start fighting back.
In a welcome surprise, the wheelchair is not just for show. BJ can’t roll up stairs or steep slopes in a wheelchair, and his turns feel slower compared to when he was walking. What’s more, BJ’s health caps at 50 instead of the 100 that was present when he was able to walk in The New Order. This makes many of the fights feel much more difficult, matching BJ’s current status as broken, battered man.
For those who played the first game, The New Colossus plays similarly despite BJ not being able to walk in the demo. You kill Nazi’s by the dozens, and killing enemies in certain ways will enable you to unlock perks, which function identically to the ones in The New Order, though they are divided into three categories instead of four. Armor and health pickups litter the level, though much of it is sanctioned off in optional areas that may not be able to be accessed depending on your choices in the demo.
Navigating through the levels
After a short time, BJ runs into resistance scientist Seth Roth, who has rigged up a series of traps that cause people to violently explode into literal showers of blood should they run through them. Rot informs BJ that alongside being bedridden for five months, his kidneys are failing and the prognosis does not look good.
The trap system that Roth designed can be activated or deactivated throughout a series of switches scattered throughout the submarine. While they have to be turned off at some points for navigation purposes, leaving them on will kill more than a fair share of Nazi’s as they try to assault you. Leave them off, and the aforementioned health and armor pickups will be more readily accessible, though you will likely find yourself facing more damage should you do so.
Part of the fun I had in The New Order was the often creative and fun ways you navigated through the game’s levels. That doesn’t change in The New Colossus, as BJ will ride on conveyer belts and gears to reach progressively higher levels of the Eve’s Hammer. In my favorite moment of the demo, BJ rode a giant gear to sneak up on a lone Nazi before I violently riddled him with holes before he could process my sudden appearance.
Eventually, BJ encounters the love of his life Anya, who saves his life from a Nazi strangling him before tearfully embracing him. As weak as BJ is, there is delight in both their faces as Anya announces that she is expecting twins. The moment is cut short, however, as the duo reach the surface of the submarine and encounter an old friend: Frau Engel, the surviving Nazi general whom BJ gave a horrific scar to in the first game.
Accompanied by her daughter Sigrun, whom Engel berates for her fat appearance and timid mannerisms throughout the demo, Engel demands the surrender of “Terror Billy” or else she will kill the resistance’s leader, Caroline Becker, and Fergus Reid. While Reid was the surviving character in the demo, Probst Wyatt III will replace him should you choose his timeline instead.
Dutifully, BJ surrenders himself to her, at which point the game transitions to a tense interrogation scene where Engel prepares to murder Becker while BJ cannot do anything. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Sigrun interrupts Engel’s attempted execution, reminding her mother that she promised to spare their lives if BJ surrendered. Disgusted, Engel mocks her daughter once more before handing a fire axe to Sigrun and ordering her to kill Becker instead. With tears rolling down her cheeks, Sigrun raises the axe as the demo came to a close.
Great first impression
While my time with The New Colossus was brief, it showed that MachineGames are set to make just as memorable of an impression with this game as they did with The New Order in 2014. It showcased loads of returning characters, promised interesting and inventive levels, and delivered on the action that made the first game so engaging to play. It is a great first impression, and it left me wanting to see what the full game has in store when it releases in October.