When the Wolfenstein series was rebooted a couple of years back, I’ll be honest, I didn’t care. I didn’t grow up playing the OG game and pretty much ignored every single iteration up until the reboot. Even when I picked up New Order in 2014, the horrendous intro almost made me give up on it. Thankfully I stuck with it because I fell in love and Wolfenstein quickly became my favorite video game franchise. I’m not joking, this current run of Wolfenstein games hold my highest regards and every single-player, narrative-driven, game is compared to it.
Machine Games focus on creating a narratively rich, hardcore, first-person shooter made Wolfenstein stand out amongst the sea of repetitive, unimaginative shooters on the market. They took BJ Blazkowitz, who was nothing more than a meaty meathead, and created a multi-dimensional character who not only represented courage against the evilest of evil but was also the most badass Nazi slayer around. Brian Bloom gives an absolutely stellar performance as BJ and, no joke, he deserves an Oscar for his work here. The emotional range and gravitas of his performance made me sympathize with BJ instantly.
It wasn’t only BJ who fleshed out this world. Wolfenstein New Order is chock full colorful characters, heroes and villains alike. It made the game feel like a Quentin Tarintino movie. The story was graphic, mature, funny and never pulled any punches. The game never shied away from the truly horrific nature of the Nazi regime. Deathshead and Irene Engel were horrific villains, they were the true embodiment of evil. Their tyrannical insanity motivated every action I made while playing. A constant reminder of why I had to continue my journey and destroy every last Nazi monster.
The games old school approach to FPS action ensured that the moment to moment combat stayed consistently fresh and shooting enemies stayed crunchy and brutal. No regenerating health, no weapon slot limitations, all chaos.
When the sequel, New Colossus, was announced I was through the roof. I, of course, picked up the Old Blood expansion but I wanted something more substantial. Wolfenstein New Colossus was easily my most anticipated game of 2017, especially after the first games ending. I was frothing at the mouth to continue BJ’s journey. I had to have it on day one – and those that know me will tell you that I rarely buy games day one.
Wolfenstein New Colossus was everything I could have wanted from a sequel. It gave me a bigger, more emotional story, crazier firefights, and an even more brutal difficulty. This game felt like I was chewing lead and spittin’ bullets. It was raw, it was visceral and I loved every second of it. New guns, new perks, and new special abilities made this a more robust experience. The polished mechanics allowed more experimentation and variety to the moment to moment gameplay. It offered a level of freedom that was impressive but also comprehensible.
Not only was everyone back, including Anya, Set, Wyatt, and Caroline, but we were also introduced to some amazing new characters. Grace Walker and Norton Boone steal the show whenever they are on screen. Brian Bloom is back and his performance is even more exceptional.
In the sequel, BJ gets way more back story. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking. Learning about the cruelty and prejudice of his father counteracted by the love of his beautiful, angelic mother only strengthened my love for the character. The first game built BJ up into this beacon of hope only for the sequel to drag him across the concrete face first. This approach his story only made his eventual rise more powerful.
By the end, BJ’s victory was sweet. It felt earned. Wolfenstein New Colossus put me through the wringer. It chewed me up, spit me out but I made it through and when my ax drove down through that Nazi Witch’s skull, I felt what BJ felt. Satisfied.
I won’t lie, Wolfenstein Youngblood’s new direction and its co-op-focus scares me a little but ultimately I don’t believe this will be the future of Wolfenstein. New Order and New Colossus built their foundation on a single-player, story-driven base. To completely shift would conflict with what made the series special and relevant. Wolfenstein the New Order and New Colossus were not just successful because they were great games but because they dared to give us an experience that contradicted the trends.
The Wolfenstein series gave me everything I could have asked for in video games. In a time where the validity of single-player experiences is in constant question, I look at Machine Games’ Wolfenstein as the ultimate counter. The impactful stories and truly stellar gameplay reminds me of why I fell in love with the FPS genre in the first place.