This review is for the Xbox One version of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and may contain minor spoilers.

Killer Nazis, robotic heavy soldiers, robotic soldiers that shoots lasers, and even robotic dogs that breathe fire: These are just some of the enemies that B.J. Blazkowicz has to face within the brutal setting of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This game comes from Swedish developer MachineGames and is the second game in the Wolfenstein series, published by Bethesda. Following the success of Wolfenstein: The New Order, the developers have created a sequel that succeeds on many different fronts.

A liberating story of freedom and distress

Image from TrueAchievements

The story in The New Colossus follows from where The New Order left off, taking place about 5-6 months after our main character William “B.J.” Blazkowicz was successful in destroying General Deathshead’s fortress and recovering from his injuries that he sustains when he reunites with his resistance group called the Kreisau Circle. Instead of restoring order in Europe like in the first game, B.J.’s goal this time is to inspire his fellow American citizens to ignite a revolution in America so they can take back their country away from the Nazis who have the United states in totalitarian control and to get revenge on Frau Engel over the loss of a certain ally, who is now the primary antagonist of this game.

B.J. Blazkowicz reunites with many different characters from the first game, as well as meeting brand new characters along the way. Some of these returning characters include Set Roth, a scientist who is well-versed in the type of ancient technology that the Nazis are using to power their forces. Other returning characters like Fergus and Wyatt also are back for the sequel, but you have to choose one over the other as it is a major story choice at the beginning of the game to choose who you want to see by your side. This adds replayability to the game, because this choice leads to different character interactions with unique dialogue, and allows you to earn a new unique weapon that you can use throughout the single-player campaign.

One new character that you meet is Grace Walker, an African-American leader of the Black Revolutionary Front who is stationed in a radiated war-torn New York City and joins your main character’s resistance. Another compelling new character is Sigrun Engel, Frau’s daughter who decides to defect from the Nazis and provides assistance for B.J.’s team.

The story, while having light comedic moments at different points in time, is mostly dark and grim with themes of cruelty, racism, abuse, freedom and grief. This creates tension where Blazkowicz is feeling sadness after the loss of a close friend as he is pushing on to help liberate America from the Nazis control. These moments also provide more background information on B.J’s childhood as we learn about his tragic past and through some of the other characters backstories that is present in the conflict.

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But it’s never Wolfenstein without some gore and bloody violence, and this sequel presents those elements in a fashion that makes any die-hard first-person shooter fan squeal in excitement like a kid in a candy store. These exciting elements also give a surprising amount of emotional weight to B.J.’s character. In some moments of backstory, you learn about a shocking moment about B.J.’s childhood that defines who he is as a person, when he meets someone that he has a deep hatred for who tells him that he is “broken beyond repair”.

An explosive arsenal of weaponry

Gameplay in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is very much similar to its predecessor with the gun combat and the use of a cover system. You can gather many different types of weapons like an SMG, an assault rifle, a shotgun, etc. Depending on the story choice from the beginning of the game, you will unlock a different weapon like a cannon that shoots lasers from Fergus or a cannon that shoots mines from Wyatt. You will be able to unlock and enhance perks that you get from killing enemies which alters your preferred playstyle. These give you upgrades for things like gaining headshots or flame damage which gives you plenty of rewards when you are playing.

The duel-wielding system from the previous game also returns, now allowing the player to mix and match weapons to their heart’s content. Dual-wielding is also handy if you want to be able to quickly fire a shotgun blast if you accidentally blow your cover, and having the silenced pistol won’t always keep you from getting killed so easily.

My only annoyance with the duel-wielding is that you can’t pause the action to choose your next weapon from the weapon wheel until you get an upgrade later on, which I didn’t even know about until I had beaten the game. This can be a somewhat clumsy process because there’s just a single weapon wheel for both hands, and you have to select the switch hands option before you can access the left one.

And speaking of upgrades, each weapon has three potential enhancements like scopes, extra ammo capacity, and better firing rates that change their behavior in unique and interesting ways. Upgrade kits are found throughout many of the game’s levels but are pretty few and far between, so the choices you make will depend on what you want to improve.

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When you reach the halfway point in the story, you can choose between three different contraptions which are special abilities that alter the way you move throughout the game world and give you distinct advantages in combat. These include mechanical stilts that help to reach higher platforms, a harness that allows you to crawl through narrow spaces while crouching, and shackles that allow to ram through any door, wall, or box in a level. When you pick one, you can gather these other upgrades when you are playing through the side missions.

After a major story milestone in the game, you can access different side missions that present you with taking out the uber-commander or the higher ranking Nazi officer in maps that you have previously been in. These missions can be unlocked after gathering enigma codes from dead Nazi officers. These allow you to collect the previously mentioned contraptions, while also finding other collectibles like concept art and gold that unlocks in-game character models.

Beautiful and foreboding environments

There’s not much to say about the graphics for Wolfenstein II, other than that character models look amazing and some of the environments displayed in the game like Roswell, New Mexico and New Orleans look absolutely stunning. My only gripe is that certain NPC models don’t have much detail to them compared to the main in-game characters. But that is expected in a big budget triple-A game. In at least the Xbox One version, certain graphical glitches here and there like pop-in textures when the game is loading up a level and code popping up in certain parts of the in-game environment, but nothing that ruins the in-game progress.

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