If you seek pedigree from your first-person shooters, you can't beat Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Its bloodline can be traced back to the first ever proper FPS: 1992's Wolfenstein 3D. And in the process, it offers a mightily impressive illustration of how far videogames have come in the intervening decades.
Amazingly, in certain aspects, Wolfenstein 2 manages to remain true to the original: for example, you still have an armour system which absorbs incoming fire before your health starts depleting, and you can still ransack shards of armour from dead Nazis.
But a more relevant point of reference would be 2014's Wolfenstein: The New Order, which introduced a The Man In The High Castle-style scenario, in which Hitler's cohorts won WW2, subjugating the rest of the world (and particularly the US). Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus picks up exactly where The New Order left off, but does it elevate the single-player series to an all-time high?
What's the story?
You play the series' perennial hero, BJ Blazkowicz (dubbed Terror-Billy by the Nazis), who - as players of the first game will know - takes a blast from a grenade, which killed his nemesis General Wilhelm "Deathshead" Strasse.
Luckily, Blazkowicz is as indestructible as a cockroach – in The New Colossus, you discover just how indestructible he is – so the beginning of the game sees him waking up after a five-month coma, in Eva's Hammer, the stolen U-boat which has become the headquarters for his colleagues in the resistance.
But Eva's Hammer is under attack from another of Blazkowicz's nemeses: General Irene Engel, whose flying Ausmerzer – a giant armoured platform with grappling hooks – has tracked it down. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Blazkowicz takes out a load of Nazis before being captured by Engel (not for the last time in the game).
With the help of Engel's obese, relentlessly bullied daughter Sigrun, Blazkowicz escapes, acquires resistance leader Caroline's power-armour (allowing him to walk) and regroups with his band of chancer mates on Eva's Hammer, plotting how to kick off the anti-Nazi revolution in earnest.
The ultimate first-person shooter
Gameplay-wise, The New Colossus provides exactly what you would expect: meaty, hardcore first-person shooter action, involving outrageous weaponry and killing vast amounts of Nazis.
It's full-on from the start. Perhaps too much so, as some early sequences, even in the lower difficulties, just seem impossible. Until you work out key things, such as how taking out commanders first stops reinforcements from being summoned. Curiously, it settles down after a while into a more conventional difficulty curve and luckily, you can change the difficulty whenever you want.
Getting to know the weaponry helps, too, especially when you discover the new weapon-upgrade system, which is ultra-simple and lets you add sights, for example, to many of your favourite guns.
And what weaponry you get to wield. Developer MachineGames has gone to town with imagining what the Nazis might have created had they made it to the 1960s, so you get some incredibly satisfying killing-machines, such as single-blast laser-guns that can actually vaporise Nazis, automatic shotguns that can be upgraded to shoot three cartridges at once and cause ricochet damage, and what is essentially a grenade-launcher that handles like a flamethrower. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus possesses the finest weapons ever seen in a game.
But Wolfenstein 2 is by no means just about reducing hordes of Nazis to quivering masses of flesh, in the run-and-gun, corridor-shooting style invented by its distant predecessor. There are plenty of sections which have more of an open-world feel, bits of puzzling, boss-battles, sequences which involve no shooting whatsoever and segments where you get to sample exotic enemy weaponry, such as one in which you ride a giant flame-throwing robotic dog. There are even contemplative scenes in which the much put-upon Blazkowicz achieves some catharsis.
The world as we know it
Plus The New Colossus has a brilliant – if, at times, preposterous – storyline and accompanying atmosphere. MachineGames has gleefully thrown itself into imagining what the USA would be like if it had been run by the Nazis for over a decade, and you can even find some sly references to the rise of Donald Trump via the vast amount of background-setting material within the game.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is genuinely funny – the Fuhrer himself makes a hilarious cameo appearance at one point – but it doesn't just raise laughs from the venality of triumphant Nazis (although it does explore the Nazi psyche in brilliantly satirical fashion). For example, it contains what might just be the only good party sequence we've ever encountered in a game. Its 60s vibe is spot-on, too: naturally, the Ku Klux Klan has thrown in its lot with the Nazis, and Black Panther-type activists and anti-establishment crackpots are more or less the only ones prepared to offer any resistance.
It's not the longest of games, though. You could probably rush through it in about 15 hours as long as you don't die too frequently – but it does contain a decent amount of replay value. Every Nazi commander you kill (and you will find yourself doing things like routinely meleeing them to death, just for extra satisfaction) yields an Enigma Code which can be converted into an assassination mission, and there are about five different types of collectables to keep the completists occupied.
At the start, too, you must to choose to save one of two colleagues, and that choice drastically influences how the game pans out. Plus half-way through, there's a big change-up which gives you the choice of one of three useful battle-contraptions; again, your approach thereafter is influenced by that choice.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus isn't one of those first-person shooters which sets out to take the genre somewhere new, but it is absolutely state of the art.
It looks fabulous, has a gloriously over-the-top romp of a storyline, is incredibly satisfying, pretty challenging and generally provides all the Nazi-killing fun you could ever hope for.
The New Colossus is one of those games that will instantly soak up your frustration if you've had a particularly bad day. And do so in intelligent style.
Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
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