If there’s one thing that 2017 has taught us, it’s that Nazi punching is back in style. Given that’s the case, Wolfenstein II has arrived with most fashionable timing. If you’re like me, and you love a good Nazi maiming, then this is the game for you. Last week, The Iris was given the opportunity to play through two key missions in Wolfenstein II’s main story, which follows American secret agent B.J. Blazkowicz as he attempts to overthrow the Nazi regime that has taken root in America.
The first mission we undertook, ‘The Reunion’ saw B.J. waking, after being asleep for 5 months, to a Nazi attack upon a U-boat. B.J. is in a bad way, needing the aid of a wheelchair, and with gun in hand, he sets off across the ship. The action comes thick and fast as you traverse the hostile territory. Seeming hoards of Nazis descend upon B.J. at every turn, and with his limited mobility, the battles became equally frantic and heart stopping, but ultimately satisfying upon completion.
The movements of the wheelchair were understandably jerky and lent the mission an extra layer of frustration and panic, particularly as B.J.’s far more mobile enemies had a distinct knack for popping out of the least likely corners and shooting you in the back of the head. As is the case, wheelchairs don’t have the best turning circles, and finding the enemies became a case of desperate button mashing. The gunplay itself was smooth and satisfying with a range of weapons and plentiful health and ammo to be found on the ship. That said, I was playing on the delightfully condescending ‘Can I Play, Daddy?’ difficulty mode, so I was rarely in much danger.
There was also great fun to be had in obliterating the Nazis one by one, especially when I found that a shot to the crotch generally sent them down in one hit. Take that, Nazis. After scrambling his way up conveyor belts and through corridors filled with enemies, B.J. was soon ambushed by Irene Engel, the disfigured uber-Nazi and commandant of the Nazi ambush. Engel is a character that is easy to hate, with her shrill, piercing voice and her abuse of Sigrun, her shy, overweight daughter.
Sigrun is a very interesting character, one who has been forced into the Nazi regime by her unforgiving mother, and actively rejects it later in the game. In ‘The Reunion’, she is forced into taking an axe from her mother and ordered to kill Caroline, a member of B.J.’s resistance. The first mission ended with Sigrun bringing the axe above her head, and faded out before the final blow was struck. With that, my curiosity was piqued, and I dove right into the next mission.
‘Roswell’, which takes place later in the game, began by introducing the key players in the resistance against the Nazis. These players, which included many returning characters from The New Order like Max and Wyatt, alongside new characters like Grace, an African American woman who leads the resistance with an iron fist. Curiously, Sigrun is revealed to be part of the resistance in this introductory scene, presumably defecting after the torture and abuse her mother put her through. Despite this, she isn’t trusted, and this leads to a genuinely emotional scene between her and Grace, where she is rejected because of her Nazi background.
As the resistance meets, a plan is soon laid out, where B.J. will travel to the Oberkommando, the Nazi base, and plant a nuke to wipe it out. Roswell soon yields an absolutely chilling sequence that sees B.J. travelling through the streets of American – an America that is decorated in the colours and symbols of Nazi Germany, and whose streets are patrolled by well-armed Nazis. B.J. is tasked with locating resistance ally Super Spesh as quickly as possible, and avoiding exposing himself on the street. It was incredibly hard to resist the temptation of opening fire, but we kept our head down, and headed on our way. It was genuinely horrifying to see the streets of the town draped in swastikas and celebrating defeat, and the journey felt genuinely shocking, made all the worse when you finally find your destination, Papa Joe’s All-American diner.
Here, you come across a lady with her young son. She insists that her son order in German, and forces him to practice so that he’ll fit in, despite his reluctance. Soon, a Nazi commander enters the diner, and the woman ushers her son out with profuse apologies. The encounter ends with a look of surprise, a moment of panic, and one dead Nazi, and soon, B.J. is on his way to the Oberkommando, but not before being besieged by the conspiracy theories of Super Spesh, and his warnings of alien technology. This cutscene was another standout moment, with Super Spesh giving a detailed account of what he dubbed ‘Area 52’, a stronghold that maybe, definitely, held ancient alien secrets.
From here, B.J. finds himself fighting through a train of Nazis in a brilliant sequence that we enjoyed immensely. The benefits of fighting Nazis on a train is that the longer corridors allowed for a single barrage of gunfire that brought down the majority of enemies. Delightfully, the majority of them don’t have crotch armour, so you can shoot Nazi balls to your heart’s content. It’s on the train to the Oberkommando that I first encountered the robotic Nazis, with powerful exoskeletons and more powerful weaponry. These proved to be much harder enemies, and required more careful gunfire, particularly when the bullets began to run thin.
Fighting my way through the Oberkommando itself became a much harder proposition when I was left scouring the corners for ammunition, although there was plenty to be found across the base, and looted from fallen enemies. It was here that I encountered a platoon of heavy gunners. These enemies were much larger than any other enemy, carried high-powered laser rifles, and most horrifyingly, were fast.
The moment I encountered these enemies, I assumed them to be much like their fellow game counterparts – slow and lumbering, and easy to chip away with patience and a loaded gun. Much to my surprise, the first gunner I encountered leapt right at me, tossed me on the floor and annihilated me. As I died, I took a moment to blink dumbly at the screen, half convinced I was in a state of shock. It had all happened so fast that I hadn’t had time to think. My next assault was planned with a bit more care.
The Oberkommando was a brilliantly designed level, with plenty of options for stealth when my bullets ran low, or for a head on battle when I was fully armed and fired up. Infiltrating the base proved to be a great challenge, even on ‘Can I Play, Daddy?’ mode, but plentiful combat and stealth options are available. This proved to be highly advantageous when, upon planting the bomb, the Oberkommando released a giant Nazi robot that I had no hope in hell of defeating. Thankfully, I was given the option of booking it to the door, and running between the machines legs, I was able to make my grand, if a little cowardly, escape.
Having planted the bomb, the mission was then ended, and B.J. drove across the desert sands back to the safety of the resistance base. This was my first Wolfenstein experience, having somehow neglected the series since its inception, but I can say with confidence that what I played has made me a massive fan, and I can’t wait to dive into the continuing franchise.