Following the conclusion of the season pass, we've been back for another serving of Wolfenstein.
We rather liked The New Colossus, and so when the season pass for Machine Games' viciously satirical shooter came to a conclusion we were more than happy to return to Wolfenstein II for an encore of violence and tongue-in-cheek storytelling. This season pass of content includes nine story missions, arranged into three mini-campaigns that culminate in a battle to take down a powerful new weapon capable of unfathomable destruction.
The three mini-campaigns are each headlined by an individual character. Each one embodies the three abilities that players have the choice between in the main campaign, so Joseph "Gunslinger Joe" Stallion can bash through walls and topple over guards with the Ram Shackles, Agent Silent Death (AKA Jessica Valiant) can sneak through tiny vents on the floor (as BJ could using the Constrictor Harness), and Captain Gerald Wilkins can access new areas using mechanical stilts called Battle Walkers. The playstyles these abilities are designed to facilitate are further cemented by variable health and armour settings, so Wilkins can, for example, wear more armour than Agent Silent Death.
You could also say that the three characters also represent three ways of playing the game, with the untamed aggression of Joe juxtaposed nicely by the sneaky murdering of Jessica Valiant, with Captain Wilkins arguably sitting somewhere in-between. Indeed, players are encouraged to explore three sets of levels that accommodate the various abilities of the trio, and if you can't work out where to go, look up for Wilkins, down for Valiant, and straight ahead for Gunslinger Joe. Beyond being built around the mechanics of each character, we see some familiar-looking environments that were built using assets from the main game. We were sent all over the place, visiting various locations around North America as well as taking to the stars for little trips off-planet. The who, what, where, when and why we'll leave for you to discover yourself.
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The setup is largely the same, with small areas to be conquered one at a time, each one filled with patrolling guards, supported by heavies, and controlled by commanders who you'd be wise to take out first because they're the ones who call in reinforcements. Once again there's plenty of challenge, especially if you can resist the urge to bank your progress and instead decide to tackle each area while relying on the auto-save to provide you with a spawn point each time you die. And die you will, because Wolfenstein II was a challenging shooter and these DLC missions are no different. Indeed, if anything they've made things more challenging by bringing in even more guards to slow your progress.
The story is delivered via cartoon imagery, and that being the case we missed the slickness of the cutscenes that we enjoyed in the main campaign, and there's no central hub area holding it all together either. The voice acting is decent enough, but overall it's clear that these post-launch missions have not been presented with the same level of care and polish as the full game. The writing's not quite as on point either, although we felt this was probably more to do with the fact that they're trying to give us more character in less time. The result was that Agent Silent Death didn't stop referencing her alcoholism and Captain Wilkins continually chattered on about killing Nazis (this is Machine Games though, so they were self-aware enough to take the piss out the characters' one-dimensional nature before the end).
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In terms of content, you're looking at an evening or two of solid entertainment here, more if you tackle all of the challenges included along with the story missions. The second act starring Jessica Valiant was probably the shortest, but we really enjoy the stealth sections in Wolfenstein and we quite enjoyed these levels in spite of their brevity. Perhaps purchased alone this chapter would feel too short and therefore unsatisfying, but when played as part of the trilogy in a short space of time, it felt right at home sitting between the longer, more traditional three-part stories either side of it.
The missions starring Gunslinger Joe were, overall, decent enough, and the shoulder barge ability certainly inspired an aggressive playstyle. On the other hand, the last missions - The Deeds of Captain Wilkins - were a little on the generic side. That said, we did chortle throughout the last couple of levels, which somewhat made up for the lack of risk-taking in terms of their structure.
When taken individually each one might feel a little underwhelming, but considered together the Freedom Chronicles feel surprisingly cohesive. At full price, you'd have to call this season pass overly expensive, but if you can find it cheaper then these missions offer a welcome return to Wolfenstein's razor-sharp brand of stealth-infused gunplay. It's not as polished nor as entertaining as The New Colossus and there's a lot of recycling going on, but it's a solid postscript, and since it lets you reacquaint yourself with last year's best story-driven shooter, we can just about let the drop in production values slide.
6 / 10
More Wolfenstein is always good, three different mini-campaigns built around different play styles, some fun moments.
Lots of recycled content, not enough room for character development, lack of polish when compared to the base game.