Developer: MachineGames/Panic Button
Platform(s): Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Review copy provided
It’s never a bad time to shoot the shit out of some Nazis. As a follow-up to 2014’s The New Order, The New Colossus has some large ass-kicking boots to fill—and the 2018 port to the Switch, even more so. When the game was revealed to be coming out for Nintendo’s most recent console, I was a little surprised and, like many other, questioned whether it was possible. I was ready though—once I purchased an SD card for some additional space at least—because I wanted to see how gloriously the blood could truly flow.
As the game has been out for a while on other consoles, many are more interested in finding out how this meaty display of carnage plays on the Switch. It won’t come as much of a surprise to say that if visual fidelity, texture quality and sharp images are the most important thing for anyone reading this, they’ll want to get this excellent FPS title on a different machine, but the clear cut advantages here are the portability and the motion controls for those who want them.
I sincerely applaud Panic Button for such a good port, making elements work that seemed almost impossible. There were times when I thought my Switch would freak out trying to run the game, but it didn’t buckle and made for some smooth encounters, with the lost framerate only dropping in the more hectic battles, while so many moving parts were in play. Things will look fuzzy, while some of the lighting and textures are noticeable in motion, but everything is still nice at an initial glance. The only thing that really bothered me was the shadows, as some items didn’t have them at all and moving a step forward would give deep full shades out of nowhere, making them unstable and pulling me away from the environment, killing my immersion.
There is also no option to turn off motion blur, which is unfortunate, and made my wife nauseous in handheld mode. This means that the game has less noticeable issues when it’s on the smaller screen, but may cause other problems for certain players. Playing the game docked made some combat parts easier, as well as helping me spot additional items, but the cracks in the presentation were bigger as well. The best play mode might actually be on the small screen and utilizing the kickstand. Placing it on my dining room table and picking a good distance was the most preferable setup.
I haven’t played this on any other device yet, but I hear there are a lot of little tricks that were put in to help with the visual performance so that the hardware didn’t have to work extra hard to show off, while not taking anything away from the game. This includes things like adding extra walls, closing or darkening windows, and blocking off some viewpoints to keep the Switch from having to render these extra bits. Lastly, as nice as some of the cutscenes are, even they stutter a little from time to time. None of this is the meat of the game though.
“Well at least my face isn’t a dead ringer for a massive prolapsed rectum” –Some good dialogue
The story is possibly the strongest part of the whole thing, and I find that kind of odd when the entire series can be summed up so casually as, “you just kill Nazis.” A direct sequel to 2014’s The New Order, you once again control BJ Blazkowicz in his never ending quest to kill Nazis. The New Colossus retains the exact same depressing and hopeless tone that made me want to fight so much harder last time. I honestly felt even more invested here, mostly because of the lore and world-building. There are main missions, some side interactions, and a lot of readable material that fleshes out this alternate history, with that strong touch of science fiction.
We won’t talk much about the plot, because I feel like it’d be a disservice to ruin some of the insane stuff that happens, especially at the beginning. Besides, the official Nintendo Switch trailer did a good job of spoiling half the game anyway. It touches on ideas of parenting, disability, racism, and feeling less than human after so much has happened, without lingering too long outside of the main story. There are some incredible characters that have so many quirks and motivations, adding a lot to the environment, backed up by a lot of decent voice acting. Throw in a memorable nemesis with a taunting presence to the mix, and it’s a solid structure that would have kept me going even if the gameplay wasn’t so fun.
This is still the same fun from last time, where the game’s mechanics lend themselves to fast-paced shooting with strong music—though arguably not as good as DOOM’s—and satisfying victories over tormentors, while slowing down in sections to show that there is a point to the violence. The game does get a bit annoyingly tough in some parts, with overwhelming odds and enemies that take massive damage slowing down the fun a bit when I just want the adventure to continue. Fortunately, there’s a ton of health and ammo available for the player—though you just have to look carefully—and a wealth of checkpoints to boot.
With that said though, playing on the Switch makes me long for an Xbox controller. I’m using the basic Joy-Cons and I am having some trouble. It took me about halfway through the game to really get comfortable with them, and this may be what finally persuades me to buy a pro controller. However, the vibrations that the small controllers add in each hand as the guns fire is something neat, making me feel like I’m in the action, adding that extra layer of immersion.
There are also motion controls that can be turned on as well, that combined with a touch of aim assist can make for some interesting shots, but in the end they weren’t for me. I played through over half the game with them, but it was just lacking a small bit of precision and threw my orientation off from where I wanted to look a couple of times.
Wolfenstein II allows for a few various play styles, whether it’s spray and pray, more concentrated shots, stealth, or trying to clear rooms with heavy weapons and explosives, the game rewards some variety. The upgrades aren’t bought, but rather earned after performing certain kills, with some limited selection required. This combined with the portability of the game is going to give it a lot of replay value for many. It looks good in handheld mode, as long as the motion doesn’t make the player sick. It’s so nice to see a good first person shooter on a handheld system. We need more of that, and the Switch’s library is certainly being made better by some of these third party ports.
The game is so heavy, drowning in blood and unhappiness, tense and daunting at points, unpredictable while being fitting, but most importantly, I had some much fun with it. I want to play again and make some other decisions, probably on my PC this time, to see how different it is and secrets I missed. There are some Easter eggs, a ton of little things easily overlooked, like getting to pet the pig—it’s the little things. For Switch owners though, especially those who get into its strengths, Wolfenstein II is going to make an impression.