The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus At The Halfway Point

“You take freedom away from the American people, you’re playing with fire. And I intend to pour some gasoline!” ―William J. Blazkowicz

After reaching the remains of Manhattan, Blazkowicz makes his way to the Empire State Building to link up with the American resistance elements. The trek through the crumbling ruins of New York is an arduous one; Blazkowicz fights off hordes of patrolling Nazis and even a massive robot. After meeting up with Grace Walker and Norman “Super Spesh” Caldwell, Blazkowicz clears off the area of Nazi reinforcements before flying back with Grace’s resistance team to Eva’s Hammer. Blazkowicz informs Anya of his condition after she confronts him about avoiding her as of late, but their conversation is broken by Grace, who announces a plan to cripple Nazi leadership (the Oberkommando) at their base in Roswell, New Mexico. After recovering a nuclear warhead from the bowels of Eva’s Hammer, Blazkowicz travels to Roswell and meets up with Super Spesh, who provides support for him as he infiltrates the Nazi base, plants the bomb and annihilates it. However, when he makes a detour to his old home in Mesquite, Texas, to retrieve a family heirloom, Blazkowicz confronts his father and is captured by General Engle. An attempt to free him from captivity fails, and Blazkowicz is sentenced to death, briefly imagining himself escaping and meeting with his mother one last time during the trial. During his execution, General Engle personally beheads him, but the Kreisau Circle recovers his head and manage to keep him alive, grafting his head onto a new body. Swinging from the morose and maudlin to whacky comedy at the drop of a hat, The New Colossus has been one hell of a journey so far, and this is from just completing the first half of the game, which I’ve heard to be the weaker half (in turn suggesting that things will continue to get better as I progress further).

When The New Colossus first released, it was bug-ridden: I’ve been fortunate in that the game has been very stable for the most part. With this in mind, my first evening with The New Colossus was characterised by not being able to take screenshots and my mouse sensitivity settings reverting to their default values whenever I re-entered the game. I’m also able to alt-tab out of the game now without suffering crashes. The game has since seen some patches and at the time of writing, both of my issues have been rectified, allowing me to focus on the gameplay and story. Shooting and movement is of a high quality, thanks to both the Id Tech 6 Engine and a capable GPU, presenting an experience as smooth as that of The New Colossus‘ predecessors. However, where The New Colossus really shines is in its characterisations: more so than the previous Wolfenstein games, The New Colossus presents Blazkowicz as a mortal man struggling to deal with his impending death and resolute determination to have a proper family, having known only abuse with his father and seeking solace in his mother’s company. The Kreisau Circle and crew on board Eva’s Hammer become his new family, and in exploring Eva’s Hammer, players see through Blazkowicz some more interesting and meaningful interactions amongst the people on board. Similarly, the extent of General Engle and the Third Reich’s fanaticism is superbly presented – by The New Colossus, the enmity between Blazkowicz and Engle reach new heights; Engle addresses Blazkowicz with a mixture of revulsion and perversion. While The New Colossus might be a shooter whose marketing campaign was centred around wholesale slaughter, a colourful, well-written cast of characters forms the centrepiece of The New Colossus, and moments spent on board Eva’s Hammer exploring are just as enjoyable as the moments where I am taking on Nazi robots with the Lasergewehr.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • In the past 24 hours, Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka: Dear My Sister premièred in Japanese theatres, although unlike Girls und Panzer: Der Film, things have been quieter – I’ve not seen quite as much excitement around the ‘net. There will be a time to write about Dear My Sister later, so for the time being, I will focus on The New Colossus. After seeing the trailer footage of a Fat Man-like device being used on New York for The New Order, players will have a chance to see what New York looks like in the aftermath. In the trailer, the bomb appeared to have been detonated in Lower Manhattan: if we assume a similar yield of 20 kilotons, the blast would level everything within a 1.1 kilometer radius and severely damage buildings out to a distance of 1.24 kilometers.

  • Looking at the maps, then, it is plausible that the Empire State Building would have survived, structurally intact. Blazkowicz is dropped into an area outside of the detonation, since most of the buildings are still standing, albeit severely damaged and exposed to the elements. Of the crew on board Eva’s Hammer, Blazkowicz is capable of surviving the radiation in New York owing to the suit of Da’at Yichud powered armour, and so, he is sent to go into the ruins of Manhattan to locate the New York resistance.

  • The hazmat gear Nazi soldiers have are reminiscent of the cleaners from The Division, and I’ve made a decision about The Division: the game’s gone on some sales now for prices well below what I’d seen previously, and I’ve heard rumours that Steam will have a Black Friday sale this year starting on November 22. If this is the case, I will likely pick up The Division; this time of year seems to be well-suited for playing through The Division, and I would like to get a bit of a start on it.

  • After I found my first weapon upgrade kit, I added the suppressor to my pistol so I could headshot commanders from a distance outside of the throwing range for hatchets. The pistol is surprisingly useful and while I avoid sidearms in most games, Wolfenstein‘s pistols are immensely useful for stealth approaches, being able to eliminate most standard enemies with one well-placed round to the skull. The second weapon upgrade I would apply was adding a marksman optic to the assault rifle. The lack of dedicated long-range weapons in Wolfenstein is a first: The New Order had the Marksman rifle, and The Old Blood gave players the Bombenschuss. The marksman optic turns the assault rifle into an accurate weapon for longer-range combat, making it an indispensable upgrade.

  • The lighting effects in The New Colossus are impressive, and here, I stop to admire the volumetric lighting in New York before descending into the subways. I’m playing the game on standard difficulty: I went through the previous two Wolfenstein games on “Bring ’em on!”, occasionally switching to “Don’t Hurt Me!” when things got too tricky to play through in The New Order. Because I became much more familiar with the mechanics by The Old Blood, I’ve not had to do that, and in The New Colossus, while some parts of the game kicked my ass, I’ve managed to overcome those segments without lowering the difficulty.

  • I imagine that when I begin my journey in The Division, I will be seeing a lot more of the New York Subway; The New Colossus has a few sections set in the subway systems of New York, and in the close quarters of the tunnels, having a good close quarters weapon becomes indispensable. Since I’ve yet to get the shotgun here, I stuck with the Dieselgewehr, a flamethrower-like weapon that launches fireballs that are devastating against even heavily armoured opponents.

  • The derelict tunnels of New York are reminiscent of those seen in the Metro series of games. My introduction to Metro was through Last Light four years ago, when my GPU came with a complimentary copy of the game. A mere curiosity at first, I came to greatly enjoy Metro: Last Light, went back and beat Metro 2033: Redux, and presently, I’m looking forwards to seeing how Metro: Exodus will handle. I’ve heard the game will be more open than its predecessors, and I’m hoping this to be true, as Metro: Last Light and Metro 2033 were both highly linear in nature.

  • Against the Supersoldaten, who dual-wield heavy weapons, even a single Dieselgewehr proves to be absolutely lethal, making short work of them on standard difficulty. By means of a pilot light, the weapon can be kept ready for firing on short notice at the expense of mobility, similar to the Lasergewehr. One thing I was not expecting here was suddenly being knocked down by dogs, which causes Blazkowicz to drop any heavy weapons he’s wielding and lowers mobility. Jumping up after being knocked down is the fastest way of getting back into the fight.

  • Here, I fight against a massive robot in Manhattan: it is armed with a missile launcher similar to the Cyberdemon’s aerial bombardment ability, plus a flamethrower for close range combat. When I encountered this monstrosity, I was running low on Dieselkraftwerk ammunition – I ended up emptying my magazine into it, and then switched over to dual assault rifles, hammering the missile launcher to destroy it. It subsequently became a matter of staying out of range of the flamethrower and shooting it until it ded.

  • After linking up with Grace Walker and Super Spesh, Blazkowicz stays behind to hold off the Nazi reinforcements while the other resistance members are evacuated. The penthouse fight is high intensity and offers only a few places to hide from enemy fire. I ended up using dual assault rifles throughout the fight, counting on the heavier hitting rounds to deal damage. Enemies will appear from all directions, and it took me several attempts to overcome this part of the game. There is a weapon upgrade kit up here, and some cans of fuel for the Dieselkraftwerk, which is useful for taking out the Supersoldaten that arrive.

  • Back on board Eva’s Hammer, Grace’s crew settle in and open up a hacker’s corner. Exploring Eva’s hammer is surprisingly fun, and there’s even a club with a working Wolfenstein 3D mini-game in an arcade console. I ended up grabbing some potatoes for Rosa, a pig that Max Hass is fond of. I cracked a smile when I saw how Rosa’s room is set up; there’s a disco ball in here that certainly livens things up. Walking through Eva’s Hammer and exploring all of the rooms was fun, and there’s even a shooting range here where Blazkowicz can go to resupply and practise shooting. Some weapon upgrade kits are also hidden in here.

  • Deep in the bowels of Eva’s Hammer is a nuclear weapons armoury that is protected by Supersoldaten: the heavy weapons will make short work of them. There are numerous recharging and refuelling stations here. I note that all heavy weapons can be warmed up, allowing them to fire more quickly, but this comes at the cost of movement speed.

  • By this point in The New Colossus, I’ve also opted to grab the armour-piercing rounds for the assault rifle, as well as the nailgun upgrade for the submachine guns, bolstering their damage potential. I’ve chosen to focus on improving the weapons’ versatility first, before maximising their damage – weapons each have three upgrade slots, and some upgrades are more useful than others, so it’s not too big of a deal that I miss some of the upgrades.

  • While I miss the Marksman Rifle from The New Order, the assault rifles of The New Colossus appears to have fulfilled that void when upgraded with the optics and AP rounds: their advantage over the original Marksman Rifle is that they have a larger magazine capacity and ammunition is more plentiful. In the confines of Eva’s Hammer, a pair of assault rifles with AP rounds will make short work of the Supersoldaten when heavy weaponry and Dieselkraftwerk ammunition are in short supply.

  • A couple of rounds from the Dieselkraftwerk will eliminate the Supersoldaten, and here, I narrowly dodge laser fire from one. Looking at the date stamps on these screenshots and the calendar show that we’re almost halfway through November. Work’s been quite busy, and I daresay I’ve finally found my groove again – October and September was a little slow, but it feels like I’ve been a bit more productive again. Thus, it feels great going into the Remembrance Day long weekend: I’m not convocating this year, so I spent today relaxing at the local bookstore, which was much busier than it had been during the summer.

  • Afterwards, I visited the Café 100 and had their sizzling plate chicken steak with black pepper sauce for dinner. There’s nothing quite like a Hong Kong style chicken steak; the meat is tender and tasty, perfect for nights that are lengthening now that Daylight Savings has rolled back. A ways back, our province was discussing whether or not Daylight Savings should be kept permanent, and while it would be amusing to do so, I can also see it as being a hassle for transportation schedules, as well as NHL games. Back in The New Colossus, I finally find the room with the warheads and retrieve one.

  • After acquiring the bomb, Blazkowicz returns to the bridge and is briefed on his next assignment, to smuggle the nuclear warhead into the Oberkommando headquarters in Roswell and blow the place sky-high. The first segment is to rendezvous with Super Spesh at his All American Diner, and this starts with a walk through the streets of Roswell, New Mexico. The atmospherics here are surprisingly detailed, and it’s worth taking the time to look around and see what’s changed, versus what’s stayed the same, in an America run by Nazis.

  • My favourite cutscene in The New Order is set at Papa Joe’s All American Diner, when a Nazi officer enters and asks for a strawberry milkshake, comments on how it’s his favourite American thing, jokes about how the rest of the menu should be more German and begins asking Blazkowicz for his papers. The fellow seemed friendly enough until he recognises Blazkowicz on the wanted posters, prompting Super Spesh to shoot him. They enter his command post and Super Spesh briefs Blazkowicz on how to infiltrate the Oberkommando headquarters. As an aside, there’s an app on the App Store called “The Spesh”; rather than any space alien conspiracy or anything of that nature, it’s an app designed to find specials for entertainment and dining. While a great idea on paper, the app itself has a terrible design.

  • I managed to complete this entire section without triggering the alarm, attesting to the usefulness of the suppressed pistol. There’s another weapon upgrade kit located here, and I ended up saving it so as to upgrade the shotguns as soon as they are found. The sheer scale of Nazi facilities in Wolfenstein makes exploring an incredibly fun experience, and the aim in this section is to take control of a rocket-powered train to reach the Oberkommando headquarters.

  • What’s impressive about this section is that train tunnels will be continuously generated until players reach the front of the train to helm the controls. This is where players will first find the Schockhammer X, an upgrade from the Schockhammer seen in The New Order, and features a high rate of fire thanks to its three rotating barrels. The best upgrade for this gun are ricochetting shells, which bounce of walls and can damage enemies multiple times if fired in close quarters; this is why saving that upgrade kit found earlier is useful, as the upgrade allows Blazkowicz to tear through the close quarters inside the train with relative ease.

  • The raw firepower offered by dual-wielding both the Dieselkraft and automatic shotgun is unmatched, wrecking havoc with anything that is downrange of the weapons. The automatic shotguns are incredibly powerful and can blow limbs off enemies: one feature in The New Order I found amusing was that some weapons were powerful enough to gouge holes into victims or blast appendages off. I’ve noticed that headshots can blast heads clean off enemies in The New Colossus, as well.

  • Here, I watched the animation where Blazkowicz cuts off the commander’s arm before burying the hatchet…into the commander’s skull. The melee kill animations are incredibly satisfying, and against some enemies, Blazkowicz will slice their legs off. It’s absolutely brutal and absolutely hilarious, but one thing about The New Colossus I had to reacclimatise to was that melee kills on enemies do not restore health as Glory Kills did in DOOM.

  • Like The Old Blood, listening in on the conversations the Nazi soldiers have with one another offers a great deal of insight into their own backgrounds, as is finding journal entries, letters and postcards. There are moments where the nameless, faceless Nazis that Blazkowicz wastes are presented as ordinary humans, but all empathy goes out the window when they spot Blazkowicz and open fire on him. While the game’s proven to handle quite well, the mechanism for switching weapons in dual-wielding is a little cumbersome, and it’s best to make the switch before entering a firefight.

  • On the other hand, dual-wielding two weapons of the same kind at once is easy, and it’s possible to engage the alternative fire mode on one weapon only. Here, I square off against an UberSoldat, a mechanical, Terminator-like enemy armed with energy weapons and graced with incredible speed. The best countermeasure against them are dual shotguns: a single blast from each (or two consecutive shots from a single shotgun) on standard difficulty will make quick work of them.

  • Super Spesh has very quickly become one of my favourite characters in The New Colossus: between his paranoia about “space aliens” and excitement at the prospect of making Nazis experience a bad day, his character’s offered much comedy in the game. He suggests to Blazkowicz that the nuclear warhead be placed inside the nuclear reactor so the radioactive signature is hidden. I managed to blast my way to the end and set the bomb, but alarms suddenly go off: Blazkowicz’s presence has not gone unnoticed, and the Oberkommando begin evacuating, leaving Blazkowicz to fight another robot.

  • Complicating the fight are the numerous soldiers that show up, coupled with the fact that there are gaps in the platform that lead to deep chasms. It took me a few attempts to get this part right, but I managed to succeed in the end, destroying the robot. Being knocked down here is quite costly, so I prioritised engaging the robot’s missile launcher first.

  • As Blazkowicz moves through the facility to escape, Nazi rockets are seen taking off: this whole scene brings to mind the sort of facilities seen in DOOM: I haven’t played through DOOM since I beat it last year, and while the multiplayer was mildly entertaining, the campaign is worth going through again. One of the things that both DOOM and Wolfenstein nail is the simple HUD, which gives enough information to be useful and places the elements in familiar spots so I can immediately ascertain Blazkowicz’s state at a glance.

  • After vacating the Oberkommando Headquarters and detonating the warhead, Blazkowicz heads to Mesquite in Texas, where is family home was. He finds the ring that belonged to his mother, but finds himself face-to-face with his father, Rip Blazkowicz. A racist and self-serving, Rip frequently abused William and Sofia; he is defiant to the last and attempts to sell out Blazkowicz to General Engle before being killed. Engle soon arrives and pulls the Blazkowicz home from the ground, and Blazkowicz is captured here.

  • Super Spesh dies trying to free Blazkowicz with a ruse, and Blazkowicz is sentenced to death. At his trial, he imagines himself breaking free and meeting with his mother, who reassures him. During this segment of the game, Blazkowicz is able to make use of the Hammergewehr, a quad-barrel automatic shotgun that is absolutely vicious in close quarters; I used it to reduce a group of soldiers into a pile of meat and blood à la Mayu Suzumoto of Corpse Party (and most certainly not Mayu Shimada of Wake Up, Girls!).

  • While Blazkowicz’s execution was a sobering scene that outlines just how sadistic General Engle is, the mood changes abruptly when the Kreisau Circle rescues him. The grim mood gives way to a sense of lightheartedness as Set Roth works to bring Blazkowicz back from the dead. I was all smiles here – how Blazkowicz is rescued is well beyond the realm of any known science and quite over-the-top, comparable to Futurama in execution; Blazkowicz is preserved as a head-in-a-jar until Roth manages to link his head to a new body.

I think I’m at The New Colossus‘ halfway point now: with Blazkowicz restored to full physical fitness, it seems my days of being stuck with fifty percent health and ability to pick up two hundred points of armour are long over. I’ve had the change to test out the battle walker stilts, as well: taking the place of DOOM‘s double jump, the battle walker contraption acts as a mobile set of steps, and allow Blazkowicz to reach high places, perfect for picking off enemies with headshots. It’s apparent that the gameplay is about to change, and this shift keeps The New Colossus refreshing and novel; MachineGames has evidently found new ways to continue to keep Wolfenstein exciting. Moving ahead, Blazkowicz is heading to New Orleans; the deep south has long been a place I’ve associated with long summer days and as we’re approaching winter, it’ll be quite fun to play through a warmer locale with a Blazkowicz who handles more similarly to his old self from The New Order, albiet with some fancy upgrades. My experience at the halfway point suggests that the price of admissions was worth it, and I’m looking forwards to seeing just how The New Colossus will prove this point to be correct in the game’s second half.

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