Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus may feature more blood, amputation and beheadings than most timeless works of art, but in its own way, that’s what Sweden-based developer MachineGames set out to do with its take on the Wolfenstein franchise.
In New Colossus, players – through the role of William “B.J.” Blazkowicz – are first transported to and then fighting against a tyrannical America – a place in which Nazis haven’t just taken root, but are its guiding light.
The game takes place in a 1961 Nazi-occupied America. But the occupation is, at least at first blush, mostly hospitable. Americans have taken to the fascist party like fish to water.
It can’t help but elicit the question: Is The New Colossus meant to be, in any way, a parable of modern times, a warning of what could be to come under a far-right American leadership. When asked, Matthies called the game “timeless,” and said it was certainly not meant to be commentary. According to him, he and the team drew more inspiration from films like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained than they did reality.
The two levels that press were granted unfettered access to included one in which BJ awakens in a sub, lying on a hospital bed. Nazis have discovered them, so he must pull himself from the bed and into a wheelchair.
The rest of the level is played from within the confines of that chair: BJ expertly maneuvering the chair around corners to pop off shots at encroaching Nazis, hurdling over bumps and down passageways in what can only be described as the world’s most handicap-accessible submarine in existence.
Once the wheelchair level wrapped up, we were pushed forward through the game, to a save point much later on. It opens with BJ, now walking, visiting a small town in Southwest America, deeply ensconced within, happily embracing the new order of Nazi rule.
BJ is here to blow shit up. But first, he has to wander this cozy little town to find his contact, a man who runs the local soda shop.
Matthies tells us that he and the team deliberately avoided watching the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle – which also takes place in an America ruled by Nazis.
The Big Bomb
My final mission in my time with the game was to sneak into a command center and nuke the whole place.
Where the earlier missions were bookended with clever dialog and tight writing, this was more classic Wolfenstein: a steady, bloody churn through endless Nazi enemies using an increasingly diverse – but always lethal ¬– mix of weapons to part Nazi life and limb from Nazi body.
The melee death-dealing of a stealthy BJ is only less satisfying than BJ methodically mowing down Nazis with a weapon in each hand.
The developers spent a lot of time building out the gore system, which enables BJ to do things like grab a Nazi by the shoulder and then lop off his leg before killing him.