“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra. –Jimmy Johnson
After Blazkowicz finishes off beating up Nazis and sends General Engel to Davy Jones’ Locker, there are three other Resistance fighters, each on their own adventure to undermine and destabilise the Nazi regime with their own unique talents. The expansion content to The New Colossus introduces former quarterback Joseph Stallion, the OSS Agent Jessica Valiant and Captain Gerald Wilkins as playable characters. In Episode Zero, players briefly play as each character – Stallion breaks out of a Chicago Nazi facility and steals a Panzerhund, Valiant infiltrates Nazi bunkers in California to find information on Operation San Andreas, and Captain Wilkins moves through an Alaskan base on the first steps of stopping Operation Black Sun. It’s a taste of what’s to come in each of the upcoming DLC packages: as a result of having picked up The New Colossus on launch day after curiosity took me, I received Episode Zero free of charge, as well. Each of the newly introduced characters have one of Blazkowicz’s contraption abilities, allowing them to be played in a certain manner, and their stories each serve to extend the depth of what’s happening in the world of Wolfenstein following General Engel’s death, furthering the world-building that Wolfenstein has excelled in since The New Order released.
The biggest draw about The New Colossus DLC are the play-style choices that are imposed on players. Because each character has a slightly more limited version of the contraption upgrades Blazkowicz has, each new character force players to adopt a particular playstyle that they might have not otherwise made extensive use of in The New Colossus‘ main campaign. Stallion’s extensive football background allows him to tackle opponents, withstand explosions and throw things further, but he’s not capable of stealth to the same extent as Blazkowicz or Valiant. Valiant can sneak through ventilation shafts as Blazkowicz could with the constrictor harness and excels at reaching spots that others cannot access, but she’s also vulnerable whenever situations devolve into a direct firefight. Captain Wilkins’ Kampfwanderer gives him the ability to access high ground, similarly to the battle walker upgrade. Each of the characters do not have any of the perks that Blazkowicz has, and weapon upgrades are gone, forcing players to play more carefully in each of the segments. It’s a fun approach to The New Colossus that showcases a different adventure to Blazkowicz’s, and Episode Zero does a succinct job of setting the stage for what players stand to experience should they choose to buy the DLC.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The full DLC, titled The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, for Joseph Stallione’s story was released back in December 14 of 2017. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I actually had Episode Zero available in my account: this DLC is only available for players who pre-ordered the game or bought the season pass (both of which are risky manoeuvres), but it seems that buying the game on launch date seems to have been sufficient to make me eligible for Episode Zero.
- Episode Zero released on November 7, a week after I began playing through The New Colossus, and I did not beat The New Colossus until eighteen days later. After clearing through the Übercommander missions, I finally set my sights on Episode Zero, which begins with Stallion. It felt a bit strange to have lost all of the perks that I unlocked through the main campaign, and my weapons were sent back to their starting incarnations. Fortunately, exploring the mission will find weapon upgrade kits for Stallion’s weapons.
- Unlike The New Colossus‘ campaign, however, the upgrade system in the DLCs seem more similar to those of The New Order, where upgrades players find will be specific attachments for a weapon. I acquired a drum magazine and the nailgun upgrade for the submachine gun, which was my preferred weapon for this mission on account of ammunition availability: rifle-calibre rounds were more uncommon. The close quarters hallways seen in the first section of Episode Zero means that dual-wielded weapons on full-automatic are the most effective.
- Stallion’s football experience confers him abilities equivalent to Blazkowicz’s ram shackles prior to upgrading them, and are on the whole, slightly less powerful: I don’t think it’s possible to tackle a commander and have them explode into chunks of meat and a shower of blood as Blazkowicz can do, but for the most part, Stallion can sprint through metal grates and take out soldiers without too much difficulty.
- Going purely from Episode Zero‘s preview of all the DLCs, I feel that Stallion’s is probably the most unremarkable of the three: it’s set in a bunker that appears largely recycled from assets seen in The New Colossus‘s main campaign. While I’ve heard that Stallione gets to fight on Venus, the setting had already been explored in The New Colossus: I’ve seen some footage of The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, and the fact that it looks fun notwithstanding, I think that I will wait for the other DLCs to be released before I make a concrete decision as to whether or not I’m grabbing the season pass come the next Steam Sale.
- Stealing the Panzerhund results in some gameplay reminiscent of when Blazkowicz was rampaging through the ruined streets of New Orleans: the flamethrower is absolutely vicious in the narrow hallways here, and will make short work of any opponent. Its armour can be replenished from pieces dropped by enemies.
- Panzerhunds were the bane of my existence when I was forced to fight against them during The New Order: when one broke into the Kreisau Circle’s headquarters, I expended more than half of my ammunition stores trying to stop it. By The New Colossus, however, heavy weapons and contraptions make the fights a bit more straightforward, even if the Panzerhunds seen in The New Colossus are supposed to be more powerful than their counterparts in The New Order.
- After seizing the Panzerhund and escaping, the story shifts over to that of Agent Valiant in The Diaries of Agent Silent Death. Her stealth-driven gameplay is rather more exciting, forcing players to choose their battles carefully; Valiant seems less durable than Stallion and Captain Wilkins, making it imperative to make use of the shadows to get around without being caught. She starts Episode Zero with a knife and a suppressed pistol: in spite of its weak damage compared to other weapons, it can be used to silently dispatch foes with a single, well-placed shot to the head.
- There’s an entire roast suckling pig with potatoes and vegetables that can boost Valiant’s health up by a hundred points, overcharging it. However, with the ability to keep overcharged health as with The New Colossus‘ campaign with the right perk, Valiant’s health will slowly deplete back to 100 points over time. While I lamented the lack of burgers in Super Spesh’s All American Diner during the Roswell Übercommander mission, food items are scattered through the game, and one of my preferred techniques for situations where I had been low on health was to collect health items after I’d reached a particular increment.
- Since health recharges up to a maximum of twenty points to the nearest multiple of twenty, finding three donuts could allow players to go from 20 points of health back to 80. This system is a fine balance between the recharging health of Halo and the non-regenerating health of games like Half-Life 2, allowing players improved survivability while maintaining their attention on keeping their health in a good state.
- The Diaries of Agent Silent Death is set to release later this month, and I’m actually curious to see what it will entail. If Episode Zero is a reliable indicator, Valiant’s maps are a bit more exciting than those of Stallion’s, being styled in an ostentatious manner with golden monuments, Nazi artwork and the like. Here, players will find themselves in large rooms that seem to be made of nothing but locked doors, but fortunately, there are small openings that Valiant can make use of to sneak through and access new areas.
- Valiant does not last very long in straight up firefights with only a mere pistol, but once more powerful weapons and some armour is found, the tables are turned. This recording studio feels quite similar to the courtroom seen in the mid-game of The New Colossus, but there are differences enough to make the mission feel unique. Being a spy of sorts, her missions look quite exciting, and I’m a bit curious to see what Operation San Andreas will entail.
- During my playthrough, I managed to remain stealthy right up until near the end, where I ran into a Supersoldaten and set an alarm off. Fortunately, I managed to sneak into one of the ventilation ducts and continued on deeper into the facility, out of range of the alarm. I did not manage to find any of the upgrades for Valiant’s weapons save the suppressor for the pistol, and admittedly, it does make me feel a bit under-prepared to enter new areas without the marksman optic mounted to the assault rifle.
- Valiant’s mission ends when she reaches the documents archive where the file she’s seeking is held. The file’s sitting out in the open and once she finds it, her part in Episode Zero comes to an end. In the end, I barely made it to the final part of the mission, with only twenty health remaining, and stopped to look around the details in this area before wrapping the mission up.
- Evergreen trees can be seen out the windows of Captain Wilkin’s mission in Episode Zero; his mission deals with the experiences he has in Alaska while trying to stop Operation Black Sun. I don’t think I’ve seen any shooters set in Alaska, and the last time I was in Alaska was many years ago, on a cruise to the Inside Passage. It’s absolutely beautiful here, being a place where snow-capped mountains merge with the ocean to create a unique landscape.
- The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins is supposed to deal with the “Sun Gun”, a planned Nazi weapon that would have been placed 8200 kilometers above the surface of Earth and have a surface area of nine square kilometers. The weapon would have worked by focusing the sun’s rays onto a narrow point on the surface that would have hypothetically burned through cities and even boil away bodies of water. The Sun Gun was well ahead of its time, and Nazi scientists predicted that it would take at least fifty years before such a weapon could be built.
- Captain Wilkins is equipped with the Kampfwanderer, which performs similarly to the Battle Walker, allowing him to take the high ground over his opponents, and here, I deal with Nazi soldiers standing between him and the objective: Episode Zero has him fighting through a facility set along the western coasts of America (as evidenced by the evergreen trees), with the aim of softening up a Nazi facility and destroying a heavy weapon at the facility: here, I finish off the remaining Nazi soldiers firing at me, leaving naught but a pile of bodies in my wake.
- In English, the phrase “bury the hatchet” stems from American tradition, where hatchets or tomahawks were buried in a peace ceremony to signify disarmament. Its origins tie in with the idea of making peace with a past conflict, but in Wolfenstein, “burying the hatchet” takes on a whole new meaning. English idioms are rather interesting, and despite my background in English, there are many phrases that I remain unfamiliar with. The Chinese similarly have what are called chengyu (成語, jyutping “sing4 jyu5”); some of them are pretty intuitive and make perfect sense, while others are quite obscure.
- Of all the DLCs, I’m most looking forwards to seeing The Amazing Deeds of Captain Wilkins, especially if flying to the Sun Gun space station and engaging in space combat is a part of the missions. Here, I reach the control room and clear it of remaining hostiles so I can make use of the control panel. Level designs notwithstanding, one thing that I found consistently enjoyable through each of the characters was their extensive exposition and the fact that they give monologues similar to Blazkowicz’s, offering further insight on their personalities.
- By the brilliant morning light of the West coast, I prepare one of the defensive cannons and aim it towards the much larger weapon to destroy it, bringing an end to Episode Zero, this discussion and the end of my Wolfenstein II writings for the present. I still find myself impressed that buying The New Colossus on launch date gave me access to Episode Zero; in the end, while it was a bit costlier to do so, I ended up saving quite a bit of time, so I find that I did get good value for my decision. Looking ahead into January, I’ve got my Yuru Camp△ post inbound in not more than a few days, and I’ll be wrapping up Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter! soon.
For the present, while I’m convinced that each of the three DLC packages, one each for Stallion, Valiant and Captain Wilkins, are likely to be quite fun in their own right and add newfound well-written stories into the Wolfenstein universe, the sample of the gameplay through Episode Zero suggests that there’s no new weapons, enemies or abilities. Furthermore, The Adventures of Gunslinger Joe, already released, seems to be quite short – if this instalment’s length is an indicator, then the DLCs together will likely add around five to seven hours of additional content in total (compared to the nine advertised). When one looks at the price tag of 30 CAD for the season pass, it’s probably not worthwhile to pick the DLC up in the absence of a good sale. For the present, then, I have no plans in continuing my adventures with Stallion, Valiant or Captain Wilkins – for one, I still need to go back through and beat The New Colossus on the Fergus timeline, which gives me access to the Laserkraftwerk. Of course, once I gain a bit more insight as to what the DLC offers once all of the instalments are released, and if a good sale should appear, I could change my mind and pick things up to continue what folks have concisely described as more Nazi Slaughtering Goodness.