Warning: I’m about to spoil the start of the game and some of Wolfenstein II’s other story elements. Turn away if you prefer to be surprised!
Alternate history like Amazon’s “Man in the High Castle” is a big trend right now in entertainment and Bethesda is smack in the middle of it. It began with 2009’s Wolfenstein, then with 2014’s Wolfenstein: The New Order, and now with Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The Nazis have won WWII. American life has been twisted into a decidedly grotesque portrait, occupied and influenced by the Third Reich’s grasp.
But there’s always a hero looking to blow away some Nazis in a Wolfenstein game, and returning protagonist Billy Blazkowicz (known to the enemy as “Terror Billy”) is ready to load up his guns and leap into action once again…
Well, sort of. He’s actually in pretty bad shape when the game starts, so you’ll be murdering Nazis while rolling around in a wheelchair. And it’s totally badass.
The preview I got was about an hour of playtime, with two areas to choose from. The opening sequence features Terror Billy lurching around in a wheelchair, using conveyor belts and other mechanisms to travel from floor to floor in a huge submarine. You’re bleeding out a bit, so pushing your health to max isn’t possible here; you’ll have to survive with no more than 40 HP as you battle your way through the sub. There’s a bit of choice when it comes to how you want to dispatch the Nazis trying to hunt you. Will you gun them down yourself, or lure them into being vaporized by massive traps designed by an ally? The choice is yours, but both options are equally satisfying. At the end of your reign of wheelchair terror, you’re reintroduced to Wolfenstein: The New Order antagonist Frau Engel, a formidable Nazi officer who’s as cunning as she is cruel.
In the second area, Roswell (or “Rosswell” in the alternate universe of New Colossus) supposedly hides Area 52 under its surface. It’s not only the headquarters for the high-ranking Nazi Oberkommando — which makes it a fantastic target for the resistance — but there are also rumors of supernatural or alien experiments happening down below… Like the rest of the franchise, I’m sure this installment of Wolfenstein will include all kinds of weird, supernatural encounters. As of this morning, Bethesda is also announcing its plans for the game’s DLC: The Freedom Chronicles. Instead of continuing Billy’s story, each chapter of the season pass will focus on different freedom fighters and their stories in Chicago, Alaska and California. They all take place alongside New Colossus’ timeline, so you’ll get to see what other parts of the country are doing to fight the Nazi occupation.
As far as first-person shooters go, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus plays the way you’d expect it to: Bethesda adds a few nice touches when it comes to combat. That wheelchair sequence feels purposefully awkward because pushing yourself in a wheelchair and firing a pistol should feel unnatural for most people. But there’s a beating heart at the center of New Colossus that separates it from Bethesda’s other FPS titles, and it makes all the difference when sitting through some of the game’s longer cutscenes. Billy and his lady love Anya have a pair of babies on the way, and the resistance feels like a genuine, interesting collection of human beings desperately working to restore the America they knew. Will the third time be the charm for B.J. Blazkowicz and his coalition of resistance fighters? I can’t wait to find out.
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus drops for Xbox One, PS4 and PC on October 27.
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