Wolfenstein II The New Colossus Hands-On Preview
With a month and a half until they release Wolfenstein II The New Colossus on Xbox One, Xbox One Collector’s Edition, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Collector’s Edition, and PC on October 27th — with a version for Nintendo Switch due next year — the good people at MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks held an event at The Holding Company in Los Angeles where they gave journalists an opportunity to play a previously unseen section of the game.
Suffice it to say, spoilers follow.
For those unfamiliar with the game, or the series, Wolfenstein II The New Colossus is a sci-fi first-person shooter, and the sequel to 2009’s series reboot Wolfenstein, 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, and the latter’s 2015 stand-alone expansion Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. Set in 1961, and in an alternate history in which the Germans won World War II and now control the world, you play as series star William “B.J.” Blazkowicz, an American soldier and spy determined to stop the Nazis.
In other words, Wolfenstein II The New Colossus is like if Amazon’s version of Philip K. Dick’s Man In The High Castle was made by Planet Terror director Robert Rodriguez.
As for this new demo of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus, it was a level about mid-way or so into the game, and has you making your way into New Orleans — er, Neu Orleans — to rendezvous with the leader of the local resistance. But since The Big Easy is now more like The Big Mess, what with most of the buildings destroyed and the only people on the street wearing Nazi uniforms, this won’t be easy.
Thankfully, Wolfenstein II The New Colossus gives you some handy new tools that will aid you in both getting around and taking out any Nazis who get in your way. First, you have a device called a Constrictor Harness which, like a girdle, can make you small enough that you can get through air ducts and other small openings. You also have something called Ram Shackles, which give you the option of breaking through damaged walls when you run them full speed. And they work pretty well against bad guys, too. Lastly, the Battle Walkers are essentially stilts that activate when you hit the jump button twice. This not only allows you to shoot at people from on high, but it also lets you get on top of structures when there’s no ladder or stairs.
Wolfenstein II The New Colossus also has a new weapon called the Dieselkraftwerk, a cousin to the Laserkraftwerk from Wolfenstein: The New Order, except it shoots diesel powered grenades which work like incendiary grenades.
Even more interesting is how you get the Dieselkraftwerk in Wolfenstein II The New Colossus. Or the Laserkraftwerk, if you prefer. As you may recall, Wolfenstein: The New Order had a moment in which you were forced to choose which of your friends would live, Fergus or Wyatt. Depending on your choice, you then played the rest of the game with 10 more points of health, the ability to hot wire certain things, and, occasionally, Fergus at your side, or you’d get 10% more armor with every pick-up, the ability to pick locks, and Wyatt at your side. But in Wolfenstein II The New Colossus, choosing between Wyatt and Fergus gives you the Dieselkraftwerk or the Laserkraftwerk, respectfully.
The only bummer being that Wolfenstein II The New Colossus doesn’t access your save file from Wolfenstein: The New Order to see who you let live. Instead, you have to make the choice again (though they didn’t say how this would happen).
As for what happened when I put all of this to the test in the New Orleans section of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus, well, it all started with a fun cutscene, followed by footage of Blazkowicz being shot from a small sub onto the shores of the city in an empty torpedo (think Escape From L.A.). Not surprisingly, I immediately found myself in a courtyard full of Nazis and one of those giant robot dogs they love so much. Deciding to play it smart, I ran into a building and took pot shots at my enemies through the blown-out windows, picking up their ammo and armor as I went.
Continuing on, I made my way to another area where I noticed something cool. One of the enemies you’ll face a lot in Blazkowicz Wolfenstein II The New Colossus are Nazis in power armor that look like they’re only a couple steps up from what Tony Stark made in the beginning of the first Iron Man, though they’re rather primitive compared to what he built later on. What’s cool is that if you melee one of these guys from the back, which would stealth kill any other Nazi, it instead cuts the gas line to his Dieselkraftwerk. You can then shoot the guy, igniting the gas, which will eventually lead to his gas tank blowing up. Which, yeah, is like what happens in every other game where an enemy has a flame thrower, but it’s still a neat trick how you can cut the line all sneaky-like.
This section of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus was also where I got to test out the Battle Walkers (or could’ve used the Constrictor Harness). I needed to make my way into a building, but the doors were all locked. Now, had I noticed it, I could’ve used the Constrictor Harness to slide in through a small opening in the wall. But I didn’t. Instead, I noticed that the window above the doorway was blown out, so I used the Battle Walkers so I could get on top of the overhang over the door and made my way inside.
Once there, Wolfenstein II The New Colossus returned to its usual motif of shooting Nazis from the first-person perspective with a variety of semi-familiar, semi-fantastical weapons. After solving a problem I won’t spoil, I made my way through another Nazi-infested part of the building and on to an outside area with a bunch of shipping crates, oil drums…and, of course, more Nazis. Not surprisingly, another gun battle ensued, and when the dust settled, there were no more Nazis.
Well, sort of. The second time there were no more Nazis; the first time I ended up dead on the ground. Never let it be said that Wolfenstein II The New Colossus takes it easy on you.
Following that encounter, I made my way through another building, one where the Ram Shackles came in rather handy. Eventually, after looking around and replenishing my ammo, health, and armor, I made my way outside, where a voice from on high called down from me, motioning me to climb up a ladder so I could meet my contact. This resulted in a cutscene, but since I don’t want to spoil anything — for you or me — I paused the video and ended my time with the demo.
Needless to say, my time with Wolfenstein II The New Colossus was fun, and makes me even more excited for the real game to come out. But having said that, I must confess that I did notice something worrisome about the game (though not that worrisome), as well as something that was worrisome in earlier demos and in previous Wolfenstein games that seems to have been fixed.
When I first started this demo of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus, I had to fiddle with the control sensitivity because the default settings were far too loose. So much so that I had to dial both the horizontal and vertical down from 50 (on a scale of 1 to 100) down to 10 just so they’d feel good.
I’m also worried that by having the Battle Walkers activate when you hit the jump button twice, you might turn them on by accident sometimes. Though that didn’t happen when I was playing.
On the plus side, I also noticed that Wolfenstein II The New Colossus now lets you turn the music down, or off. Which is good because, at times, the music in the game was rather bad. Like someone badly aping what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have done for such movies as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or the documentary The Vietnam War.
What I didn’t notice — because, to be honest, I just forgot — was whether or not they fixed the issue in the previous demo whereby Blazkowicz failed to automatically switch weapons when he ran out of ammo in the one he was using. Something that was especially problematic when you’re using the Laserkraftwerk or Dieselkraftwerk, since it takes an extra second to drop it, a second that could mean the difference between life and death. Well, okay, life and having to start over from the previous checkpoint; but you get the idea.
In the end, as I said, this latest demo of Wolfenstein II The New Colossus has me excited for the real game to come up. Whether that excitement will sustain itself when I actually get to play the game, however, will have to wait until it comes out October 27th for Xbox One, Xbox One Collector’s Edition, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Collector’s Edition, and PC.