Gaming

Wolfenstein II is a Nazi-killing spectacle

The latest entry in the Wolfenstein franchise, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, is set in an alternative 1960s timeline - the Nazis have won World War II and taken control of the United States.
The latest entry in the Wolfenstein franchise, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, is set in an alternative 1960s timeline - the Nazis have won World War II and taken control of the United States.PHOTO: BETHESDA SOFTWORKS

Things were simpler when I was a kid growing up in the 90s. One of my earliest video games was Wolfenstein 3D, where protagonist William B.J. Blazkowicz slaughtered his way out of a German World War II prison. There was no moral ambiguity - after all, they were virtual Nazis made up of blocky pixels.

The latest entry in the Wolfenstein franchise, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, has a more complex plot with better-developed characters. Set in an alternative 1960s timeline - the Nazis have won World War II and taken control of the United States - The New Colossus sees Blazkowicz, the fictional protagonist of the game series, trying to spark a revolution against the Nazi overlords.

Blazkowicz's past is also explored in some detail, with harrowing scenes involving his violent and racist father. Game cutscenes are well-acted and impressively rendered. The story even made me feel a momentary twinge of pity for ordinary Germans - Blazkowicz is their Osama bin Laden, a murdering terrorist with nuclear bombs at his disposal.

The game also tries to namecheck the current political climate in the US, with the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan apparently in cahoots in Nazi America.

Meanwhile, the resistance fighters feature a multicultural cast, which makes The New Colossus seem like an entry in the culture war raging in the US.

But there are some ludicrous plot developments that made me laugh out loud because they are so absurd. The New Colossus is best during these over-the-top moments that make you keenly aware that it is ultimately a silly video game about killing Nazis.

Like the previous game, The New Colossus offers players a stealthy option that involves creeping around and taking down enemies from behind with a hatchet. But the stealth mechanics are undercooked. For instance, there is no way for players to mark enemies from afar or an indicator to show how well-concealed a player is from enemies. More often than not, my attempts at stealth fail within minutes, resulting in an intense gun battle.

The difficulty level can be tweaked at any time, which is good. Upgrading weapons makes things go smoother, too.

And these battles can get really intense, especially when the heavy metal soundtrack kicks in and you dual-wield weapons for maximum carnage.

The difficulty level can be tweaked at any time, which is good. Upgrading weapons makes things go smoother, too. Blazkowicz also improves based on how you play. For instance, racking up more headshots increases the damage dealt when aiming down the gun sights.

  • 8/10

    RATING

    PRICE: From $74.90 (PC, version tested; PS4; Xbox One)

    GENRE: First-person shooter

Because it is a single-player linear game with no multiplayer modes, The New Colossus offers limited replayability outside of picking up collectibles and completing optional missions.

These missions to kill top Nazi commanders are unlocked late in the game and are set in previously-completed levels, but with the type and location of enemies changed.

•Verdict: Killing Nazis in video games never gets old and Wolfenstein II continues to make hay from its cartoon villains.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Wolfenstein II is a Nazi-killing spectacle'. Print Edition | Subscribe