Wolfenstein II The New Colossus hands-on preview: Trial by fire
Nailing Nazis is tough.
I would in no way consider myself an adept FPS player. Competent? Maybe. I've had my fair share of time atop Team Deathmatch leaderboards in CoD, I ripped through 2015's Doom without breaking so much as a sweat, I've even experienced the glory of a landslide legendary vote in Overwatch. Even so, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (coming 27 October for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC) took an axe to my ego by sending me six-feet-under again and again and again. While I'll openly admit that was partly due to some sloppy shooting on my behalf, there was also a long list of incredibly frustrating bugs that didn't help my cause.
We started our demo with Wolfenstein II's opening "Reunion" level in which a wheelchair-bound BJ Blaskowicz cleanses his seafaring base of Nazi intruders with the help of some DIY arc electricity traps.
This was the same demo as what was shown at E3. So there's nothing new there. This section played mostly fine. Controlling the wheelchair is appropriately awkward at times as you need two hands to 'sprint' and your movement glides to a stop. This makes aiming a bit of a pain in the toosh. Your first weapon (an SMG) also has some pretty nasty recoil. This is all intentional, of course. BJ's ambiguous fate at the end of New Order didn't put him in an early grave, but it did take quite the toll on him and the untimely arrival of his Nazi pursuers means he doesn't have time for a full recovery. Other than that and one frustrating game-breaking bug that crashed the demo the moment the level's closing cinematic activated, this part of the demo played as expected with some top-shelf shooting and plentiful Nazi gibs.
The real problems started to surface in the second demo. A recently revealed level named Roswell that has BJ (back on his feet again) infiltrating a Nazi base with a mini nuke in tow. You traipse about the Nazi-fied streets of Roswell, America where racists, bigots and Klan members walk free. Sucking up to patrolling Nazi scum by gloating about their German lessons.
After wandering around a while in full fireman garb, you enter an unassuming diner where you rouse some suspicion from a milkshake-loving Comandante.
After this saunter through Wolfenstein's horrifically peppy America, you descend through a cavern and into an underground Nazi bunker. A hell hole. The difficulty ramped up in this section significantly. The moment I entered this place, I was pinned down by enemies with much greater range than me and killed within a minute. So I on my second turn, I hatched a plan to take down my aggressors with my trusty axe. Which worked a treat, at first. Throwing an axe from a distance brought down a foot soldier in one hit and getting up close and personal left the surrounding guards none the wiser, despite the screams. Everything was just peachy.
Until an unfortunate autosave ruined it all. There's a moment where you press a button in the underground bunker and two robot Nazis break through the window in front of you. Stealth is no longer an option. The issue is, my autosave left me between a rock and a hard place. I was sitting with Nazis to the left of me, robots to the right. There I was, stuck in the middle. I tried again, and again, and again to escape my predicament. Grenade out front to deal with the robots, then spin around to spray bullets with the foot soldiers creeping behind me. And I nearly had it. But then, of course, a towering Nazi juggernaut comes waltzing through the door to help out his pals and I'm out for the count again. I must have died upwards of 10 times in that exact same spot. I could've restarted, sure. But by this point, the game had already crashed twice and I the clock was ticking on my 90-minute demo.
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Eventually, friends, I got through. And I'm not ashamed to say it's thanks to cutting my losses and sprinting as fast as I could for the exit. Then, as fate would have it, I clipped through the floor and into oblivion. Right back to the Nazi robot room of death.
So, yes. I'll cop half the blame for being off my game that day. But the other was thanks to the early (emphasis on early) code being ridiculously rough around the edges. It wasn't just the game-breaking glitches. There was also a stack of smaller details, like the super tinny audio (which you can hear in the video above) and a few moments where a stealth kill pushed me into the enemy, completely obscuring the otherwise fantastically gratuitous violence.
I'm still keenly awaiting 27 October when Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, I just hope it's in better shape when it finally arrives.
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