PAX West 2017: The Many Sides of Wolfenstein II’s Catharsis

For some reason, playing Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus resulted in action that felt even more cathartic than it did in the previous game. Can’t imagine why, though. There was just something about blowing away an entire squadron of Nazis that felt satisfying even more now than ever. It was only the first level of the game that was on display for the demo, but even this little portion hinted at the fact that this is a sequel that may indeed be able to match the heights set by the surprise success of the first game’s insanity. So what seems to make all of it so enjoyable, even in such a small dosage? Well, let’s take a look…

Taking place less than a year after the events of Wolfenstein: The New Order, The New Colossus shows our hero┬áB.J. Blazkowicz awakening from a coma aboard a ship, having survived the blast from the nuclear cannon at the end of the previous game (as you would expect a ’90s FPS character to do). Frau Engel, now the primary antagonist here, has been hunting for him, though, and has found him just as B.J. is still confined to a wheelchair. This sets up a unique opening where you have to sneak around while having to maneuver in the wheelchair, getting used to it and having to find different ways of getting through the area as you gleefully take down the assholes who, as they show later, try and laugh at Blazkowicz for being inferior due to a supposed weakness.

Of course, Blazkowicz isn’t limited to just his guns. Fellow resistance member Set Roth has cooked up some microwave booby traps as well, immediately nuking the supposed master race that gets easily fooled and splattered all over the walls as a result. So you can lurk around the map with its several routes and activate these traps (or deactivate them for shortcuts), suggesting at the type of unique additions to the already-excellent level design that this new installment will have. It allows you to consider several different options when it comes to tackling enemies and making your way to the level’s exit, even when confined to a chair.

And naturally, you have what always made the Wolfenstein games great: Old-school shooter action, where success means moving fast and scrounging around for every last bit of armor and health, with The New Colossus delivering in that area and putting up quite the challenge as well. And like The New Order, the old-school action is complemented by new-school storytelling as well, delivering bits of a surprisingly deep narrative with drama and bits of black comedy sprinkled all throughout it, with little details such as Nazi soldiers discussing the wrath of “Terror-Billy” as you crouch by and trembling over the thought of encountering him, right before you get the drop on them.

So yes, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks like it will indeed easily fill your natural desire for the kind of catharsis that only the killing and humiliation of virtual Nazis can deliver, and if what the demo had is any indication, this looks like it may indeed be a sequel that can actually top the original in more than a few areas, leading to what will hopefully be one of the year’s best shooters. And we’ll see if that is indeed the result when The New Colossus comes out for PC, XB1, and PS4 on October 27.