by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Editor’s Note: Before I get into the meat and potatoes of this, how is this a “controversial” game? Do those alt-right wackjobs not realize that Wolfenstein has been about killing Nazis since 1980? This franchise is a year older than me. And every single game has Nazis that get blown to bits by awesome guns. I cannot be certain that this is not the alternate reality. I will endeavor to make this as spoiler-free as possible, so there are things I won’t discuss. Surprise!
Oh man, where to start. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is one of the first sequels in this entire franchise that I can remember. Most of the other Wolfenstein games are simply different missions with a similar goal: Destroy the Nazis and whichever asshole’s in charge of them. Generally guys like Deathshead. But the current line of Wolfenstein games create an actual timeline, with three games that are linked, in The New Order, The Old Blood, and The New Colossus. It’s a coherent story with a very compelling, if not terrifying idea: The Nazis ended World War II with an Atom Bomb on New York City. America surrendered, and became apart of Nazi Germany. The year is 1961, and BJ Blazkowicz is back, on his way to America to free his homeland from the tyrannical grip of the Nazis. The actual game starts with BJ’s youth (I placed it roughly in the ~1920s) and it’s very hard to watch. I appreciate that, but I won’t spoil it. Suffice it to say that I empathize with the rough upbringing of Blazko. You also have to make an impossibly hard decision at the start and someone must die. But whichever one you pick will change how the story moves, what your first major gun is, how people treat you, etc. I won’t spoil more than that, but it does matter. Both choices are awful, but you can research it if you’d like. I didn’t.
This series has never wavered on the evil of Nazis. Not once. Some people have asked in the past, “Why use Nazis?” and whether it’s a legit question or an attempt to normalize that kind of evil rhetoric, here’s a simple answer: Fantasy monsters are evil, but they aren’t real. Nazis are a very real, very palpable evil. It’s easy to their effect on the world at large. The Nazis and their Swastika are a symbol of evil. It’s a modern, easy-to-recognize evil and there aren’t many people that have no idea who they are and what they did. But this game takes place right after The Old Blood, and to say the least, BJ Blazkowicz is not in such great shape. I mean, the tutorial stage takes place in a wheelchair! No matter what condition BJ “Blazko” Blazkowicz is in, he does his best to get some guns together, and obliterate any Nazi in his path, or to sneak up on them with a hatchet. That’s probably my favorite kill in the game: Sweeping a Nazi’s feet from under him with a hatchet and chopping the back of his disgusting neck. So you wheelchair your way to freedom, and learn the importance of stealth and leaning around corners. Sure, you can run-n-gun your way around, but it’s going to burn all of your ammo and you’ll probably die a lot.
That happened to me a bunch, by the way. I have a hard time not just leaping into a corridor, dual-wielding machinekraftwerks, unloading shells into the testicles of Nazis. Yeah, I placed way more cockshots than headshots. But they’re both heads, so both should count. They make it a point to tell you that leaning around corners to shoot is very important, and I recommend you heed it. As a point of fact, the Nazis control this world. There are always more Nazis lurking if one of the officers relays an alarm (if you’re seen, if you attack them, etc). The stealth-kill from the Hatchet isn’t fast enough though. If you hatchet them, they can still cry out and the button in the top middle of your screen turns red and Nazis pour out of every inanimate orifice.
A very important bit of advice that I learned far too late, is this: When you get your first upgrade for your weapons, put it in your pistol. I don’t care how rarely you use it. Put a silencer on it, and shoot every Nazi officer in the back of the head. It will make your life so much easier. Most rooms in the game seem to have at least one of these officers, who can turn it into a bullet hell, as you dodge and kill every single Nazi fast enough. I cannot stress enough the need for stealth kills on those guys. There are tons of perks you can unlock, depending on how you play (getting x stealth kills, headshots, etc) and they are definitely worth seeking out. More power = more Nazi stopping capability. So strap on your power-armor (Yes, Blazko gets power armor. He can’t magically walk right now.), grab your guns and grenades. It’s Nazi-killing time. America needs some freedom.
One of my favorite things about this game is that you can dual-wield any gun in the game. If you equip it and take it with you, you can dual-wield it. I ran around with a laserkraftwerk and a machinekraftwerk and alternated between bullets and lasers. This game does have some kind of 1960s “future tech” like the last games had. You can recharge the lasers, thankfully. I wasn’t too wild about it at first, then I hit a Nazi with a laser and he bloody melted. That made it all worthwhile. This game is incredibly challenging, and the dual-wielding can make the game a little harder, as it’s harder to stealth with a pair of giant guns. As you work with the Kriesau Circle, a group dedicated to freedom in America, freedom from the Nazis you learn more about the cast of characters. I didn’t love all the characters, but I did think they were well-written and I couldn’t find a single redeeming factor in a single Nazi I came across. They’re right monsters. There’s tons of Nazi propaganda in the story, hidden in leaflets, journals, etc, where the enemy justify their actions, and sympathizers discuss how important it was for the Nazis to overtake America, to make it “great again”. The more of it I read, the more unsettled I was at how familiar the rhetoric sounded.
Holiday Charity: Bullets for Nazis: 4/5:
There are some minor issues with the game, but they are in the optimization/menu end. Hitting J pulls up your various options/perks/tutorials/map. I desperately wish it defaulted to your map. This was a very hard game to stream though. When I played full-screen, the game would not show up on the screen. Same for Borderless-Windowed. I had to play Wolfenstein 2, in 2017, in Windowed Mode just to stream it for the Bottom Tier audience. I also had a very hard time taking screenshots of the game. Minor bugs and issues like that aside, it was incredibly fun to play. The difficulty feels forced or artificial, with the hordes of Nazis that show up whenever an alarm is called (and they will. They will happen, I promise), but you can turn up/down the difficulty as you need. The boss encounters are incredibly challenging, but always defeatable. The enemies all feel like they should. In this world, Nazis are normalized, and some even try to act like regular people, like their actions aren’t a big deal. It was jarring, but I understand it from a story perspective. The story cut-scenes are beautiful, but also horrific at the same time. This tale is a tragedy, and it’s a story of a man who has virtually nothing left, doing everything he can to stop terror. I do feel like the Nazis are almost comically evil and feel kind of inept compared to the Kriesau Circle. But I also feel that with that long in power, the Nazis probably are complacent and secure in their position. Do you need to play the last two Wolfenstein titles first? No. Should you play them? Absolutely. This is a story worth experiencing. Nazis are evil, and Blazko’s here to stop them. With bullets. Lots of bullets.