Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus for Switch review: Achtung baby-sized
Panic Button has managed to build a fun-sized version of 2017's most blastacular and best-written shooters.
I've already finished Wolfenstein II a bunch of times on PS4 but I still got hooked in all over again by this competent Nintendo Switch version. Mostly because William “B.J.” Blazkowicz hits the ground running so quickly... uh, in a wheelchair. Being half man, half car in the opening moments of a video game might sound drab on paper, but that’s because I haven’t also mentioned high ROF Maschinenpistole, microwave deathtraps for Nazis and slapstick humour that’s darker than the Führer’s soul.
The simple fact is this: the fascist-smashing antics in this alternate-reality FPS are timelessly addictive. MachineGames revel in gory, cathartic ultra-violence here – you're given absurdly chunky shotguns (plus other dual-wieldable boomsticks) and are asked to go turn American-occupying Nazis into chunky kibbles. If that doesn't do it for you, you can always make use of nefarious traps laid by your fellow resistance members. The environmental kills against Krauts are well over-the-top. This game has a lack of what I’m going to call “OH&S” standards.
Stealth approaches are in B.J.'s best interests as well. The flow of combat typically involves moving from linear, over-the-top action set-piece moments to wider arenas that filter in greater verticality and tactical opportunities. Why go in guns blazing when you can skulk about, isolate and eliminate Captains who like to radio in more enemies when the schiesser hits the fan?
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The best way to do this is to get on board with this game's love affair with axes. Obviously, they let you do gruesome melee kills in which you'll turn faceless fascists into firewood. But what's surprising is how addictive axes can be over guns when you hurl them. I have fond memories of nailing the parabolic arc of a throw on PS4 and the old muscle memory came back to me with the competent controls of the Switch.
That said, concessions had to be made in other areas. The simple fact of the matter is that the Switch hardware is under powered when compared to its current-gen competition. You're going to need to go in expecting a visual trade-off here, though it's not as much as you might imagine. Panic Button has already proven to be quite adept at shoehorning Bethesda's games down into this popular Nintendo console. Doom on Switch was a phenomenal piece of porting and Wolfenstein II is very much in the same category.
Basically, this is another handheld miracle. Yes, the lack of sharpness is immediately obvious, but the lower textures are within acceptable boundaries and allow what was a graphically ambitious game to barrel along at a very solid 30 fps. How is this witchcraft achieved? Clever use of adaptive resolution that dynamically scales pixel count based on load. In more layman's terms: during moments of exceptional intensity or architectural complexity Wolfenstein II will sneakily drop itself from maximum resolution down to 360p. In the vast majority of times it does this, you're not taken out of the sweet-spot of SS slaughtering at all.
With the graphics problem more or less solved, Switch owners can enjoy one of the best-written shooters in recent memory. MachineGames has a talent for infusing nutso, balls-to-the-wall action with long cutscenes filled with top-tier acting and incredibly grounded drama. Honestly, it's voodoo on par with the adaptive resolution switching.
Against all odds B.J. – a voiceless, lantern-jawed hero from yesteryear – has been fleshed into a nuanced character replete with a tragic past, a cadre of loveable allies and a penchant for darkly poetic inner-monologues. This is anything but a mindless slaughter-fest.
Thread in a world gone to “Man in the High Castle” levels of insanity and Wolfenstein II is impossible to put down. B.J.'s ongoing grudge match with the nefarious Frau Engel is a riveting game of katze-und-maus that puts you on a pan-American rollercoaster ride through a hideously deformed US of A. In fact, one of the greatest pleasures of this game is to take a moment during the slower moments to drink in the incidental details and mini-stories baked into the levels. Some are hilarious (read: developmentally-challenged Klan members getting schooled on German phrases) and others might make you shiver (housewives totally ok with selling slaves to one another, and receiving their very own "wedding licences").
Also, and I really don't want to spoil this semi-interactive moment, Wolfenstein II includes one of the best cameo scenes in the history of this franchise. It alone is worth the price of admission.
There's just no goose-stepping around this one simple fact: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was one of the best games of 2017 and it polishes up remarkably well on Nintendo Switch. Obviously MachineGames' modern masterpiece can be better consumed on Xbox One, PS4 or on your HAL-9000 gaming PC, but this is the apex of on-the-go first person shooting. It's another miracle port that has the Reich stuff where it counts.
We reviewed Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
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