If you played Wolfenstein: The New Order you'll probably remember that it ended with a cliffhanger of sorts. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus picks up the action pretty much immediately after that. BJ Blazkowicz is back in full force... well, kind of. The demo we got to play on the show floor at E3 features BJ, certainly, but following the events of the first game, he's now sitting in a wheelchair. Even if it sounds a little strange, there's no reason to be alarmed, BJ is still very capable when it comes to killing Nazis. He won't be in the wheelchair for the whole game, either, even if during the mission that we played we had to stick with it. It felt strange, yet it was also still entertaining.
While we don't know exactly what is going on just yet in terms of the wider narrative, it's clear that the game takes place somewhere in the USA in the 1960s, where the Nazis are now in control following their technological and military expansion, and the action picks up right after the events that concluded the last game. The title "The New Colossus" might hint at something, but we have to say that we really liked the working title of the game while it was in development: 1000 Ways to Kill Nazis. You will fight the armies of the Third Reich once again, and probably some metal dogs and other abominations as well. When they revealed the game, Bethesda and Machine Games said: "Equip an arsenal of badass guns, and unleash new abilities to blast your way through legions of advanced Nazi soldiers, cyborgs, and über soldiers in this definitive first-person shooter." Sounds good, right?
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is the sequel to The New Order, and that means the same brand of humour, the same feel in terms of the mechanics, and all the gun-toting craziness that you're no doubt expecting if you played the first. Since BJ is rolling around in his wheelchair during the demo, the pacing is quite different, at least at the start. There is still the option to be stealthy and you can still assassinate enemies from behind like you could in the previous game. You can also just head straight into the breach, guns blazing. That's the approach we took, at any rate.
While there's no option to dual wield when sitting in the wheelchair (you'll need one hand free to actually move the thing around) we got hold of a submachine gun right at the start and, as we were rolling towards our enemies and holding down the trigger, it instantly started to feel like Wolfenstein, and that's definitely a good thing. As the demo progresses and we navigated some kind of Nazi base, BJ's hospital gown and hands get increasingly bloodied. The environments are detailed and the lighting is superb. We were able to play it on PC using an Xbox One controller, and as you would expect, it boasts a really high framerate and the action feels silky smooth.
Apart from the wheelchair, in terms of mechanics, there isn't really anything particularly new going on in the demo. It's fairly linear with tight corridors and a lot of stairs (which are quite scary to descend on wheels). There are some hazards to be aware of, like an energy field that will decimate you if you happen to roll into it without shutting it down first. For the most part, though, it's all about shooting, and in this respect, it feels really great, old school. That's not much of a surprise either. The game keeps track of how you kill your enemies via a progression system that pops up if you take out a Nazi in a specific way, such as setting them on fire. We didn't get to look at different skills at all, but if it works like it did in the first game your playstyle will determine what kind of upgrades and skills you get to use.
You will, of course, be able to dual wield weapons again, but this time you'll have a bit more freedom and choice. You can have an auto rifle in your right hand and a pistol in your left, or why not try one rocket launcher and one grenade launcher? This opens up for more diversity when it comes to gameplay, and the idea of having a silenced, precision weapon in one hand and a bigger, more explosive gun in the other should make for some fun encounters. There is also a new melee weapon included this time around, the hatchet. This makes for more close encounter kills, or as the developers put it: "There are a lot of things you can do with a hatchet and a Nazi".
It seems like there is a heavy focus on the storytelling and what it's like to walk in the shoes of BJ Blazkowicz. We got to see a cutscene at the end of the demo and it shows plenty of drama, as well as the return of certain characters that we don't want to spoil here. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus feels and looks great, then, and if you've been yearning for an old-school shooter this will likely scratch that itch. It will be released on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on October 27 this year, and if they've improved on the formula that defined the original, we can't wait to see more.