Wolfenstein II is a sequel to one of the more entertaining single player shooters of recent years and goes all out to top the absurdity and difficulty of what came before it. Published by Bethesda and developed by MachineGames, it is an alternative reality game where you try, once again, to liberate the world from the clutches of the all pervasive Nazi menace.
The year is 1961 and the Nazis have been running the show since we failed to defeat them in the second World War. You reprise the role of gung-ho, square jawed, American hero B.J. Blazkowitz who, after the events of the previous game, starts out critically injured in Deathshead’s fortress, before being rescued by his fellow resistance fighters, the Kreisau Circle. The rag tag bunch manage to spirit B.J. onto their stolen U-Boat, Evas Hammer, and kablammo the shit out of the fortress with a Nuclear Cannon. As the Circle makes their escape, B.J. lies in a coma having flashbacks to his childhood and to his partner, Anya, who we learn is pregnant with twins. During what must be the most needed rest in video game history, Evas Hammer is attacked by the previous game’s antagonist, Frau Engel, who is still upset with B.J. for waffle stomping her face into the dirt with a giant robot and for biting out the throat of her lover, Bubi, in the first game. Blazkowitz, deeply disorientated from his five month nap and unable to walk, puts himself in a wheelchair and sets about trying to get to Anya. He is eventually captured and in one frantic scene members of his team are killed; he manages to grab a set of bulletproof armour that, helpfully, make his legs work again; and gains a new ally in the form of Engel’s comically overweight and shockingly abused daughter, Sigrun, who finally flips out on her monstrous matriarch and helps the remains of the Circle escape.
After this the Circle decides to press ahead with the next part of their plan, namely liberate America and use it as a base of operations to help them yank the yoke of oppression from the necks of the downtrodden world. They decide that they should make contact with a group of resistance fighters that are hiding in the Empire State building in the ruins of a Manhattan that was hit by a German atomic bomb during the last years of the war. Luckily, B.J.’s bulletproof armour is also radiation proof, so he heads off through a crumbling New York haunted by giant robots, about a billion Nazis and their flying robotic scout machines. You eventually make it to relative safety and meet up with the leader of the resistance in New York, Grace Walker and her baby Little Abby, and Super Spesh, a former lawyer and conspiracy nut. Grace has a plan to kill the Nazi bigwigs, the Oberkommando, who just happen to be hanging out in Roswell, New Mexico. So the happy bunch hop back in their U-Boat and head off.
En route to their next round of Nazi slaughter, B.J. reveals to Anya that he only has a week to live because the savage beating he received prior to this game and that he’s trying to keep a distance from her. B.J. then heads to Roswell with an atomic bomb disguised as a fire extinguisher and offs the Oberkommando. On his way back from casual nuclear detonations, he stops into his childhood home to pick up his mother’s ring to give to Arya. Unfortunately his sadistic and abusive father turns up and tells him off for not bowing down and slurping on Nazi dick like him. Then, really shooting for Father of the Year, he tells B.J. that he gave his mother to the Nazis because she was Jewish and that he’s also ratted out B.J. to Engels, who is on her way to capture B.J. Obviously incensed by this, B.J. commits the single most deserved case of fratricide in the history of killing dads. Unfortunately, B.J. is once again captured by the horrific Engels and, alas, there is to be no escape this time as they behead him, live on TV, at the Lincoln Memorial in a show I hope was called The B.J. Blazkowitz Beheading Bonanza.
Once again though, B.J.’s work is not done because the Circle steal his head, pop it in a glass jar and then reattach it onto the body of a bioengineered Nazi Super-Soldier, making him able bodied once again and looking as swole as Han and Leia’s kid. Our plucky heroes then find out about an Automatic Defense System named ODIN that looks to stop them from finally smashing the Nazis and instituting their own new world order. They find out that the codes for this gigantic fly in the ointment are being kept on Venus, which is also a Nazi stronghold now, and need a way to get there. Luckily for them, an ancient Adolf Hitler is on Venus making a movie and he needs an actor to play B.J. himself. Not one to look an insanely useful gift horse in the mouth, B.J. pops himself on a rocket, heads to Venus, has a bit of fun with Hitler, retrieves the codes, returns to Earth where the Circle hack and destroy ODIN and B.J. finally gets to enact brutal revenge on Engels live on The Jimmy Carver Show.
As you can see, the game is about as schlocky and over the top as you are likely to find anywhere in any game, and it’s that craziness that keeps you playing and playing with a smile on your face. It’s big, daft nonsense, played at a frenetic pace with gallons of blood thrown at you, but it’s surprisingly well written big, daft nonsense. There are moments of real pathos beneath the bloodshed, some really fantastic comedy and the game makes you make some really weighty moral choices that will affect the storyline.
Those moral choices are the moments that stick with you once the cacophony of battle stops ringing in your ears. The first one you make is an absolutely horrific scene that, no matter how you choose, leads to resolutions that are stomach-churning awful and is a moment I have spent all night discussing with a friend who has also played the game. It affected me in a way that a choice in a game hasn’t affected me since Spec Ops: The Line and it, and the characters themselves, show that the writing is the jewel in this blood spattered crown.
The characters are all instantly memorable thanks to some lovely design, acting and a script that makes you love the good guys and hate the bad guys. From the despicable Engles to the hilarious mess that is Super Spesh, every person in the game is well drawn and cartoonishly believable. Even B.J.’s inner monologue is well written, considered and funny on occasion.
The game plays well too, with your standard FPS controls the most part. Weapon selection is via a quick wheel you bring up by holding down R1. R2 is your trigger and L2 is ADS with L1 being your grenade this time. Pushing in R3 makes you sprint, Square to reload, Circle to slide and X to jump. The game allows you to dual wield guns and you can pull that up by pressing up on the D-Pad.
As I said earlier, this game is frenetic, you sprint at enemies with the the speed and intensity of a man rushing to make bad life choices at three in the morning. The combat itself is incredibly satisfying, even if the actual weapons felt like they could use more oomph, to me. Having said that, the weapons are plentiful and the ability to dual wield makes for some fun combos. This is a game that allows you to go on a one man wrecking spree throughout the Nazi ranks and even into space. Most of the game will whiz by in a torrent of viscera and lead, with the occasional massive explosion, melting or ravaging by robo-hounds to keep you busy. I honestly can’t stress enough just how twisted parts of this game are, too. There are so may WTF? Moments that I started to lose count, and some of it will simply be too horrible for gamers of a sensitive disposition.
It has some problems that, while not game breaking, are annoying as hell to deal with, though. Chief amongst these is a radar system that appears on screen whenever you reach an alarmed area. It highlights how far away the commander of that area is and the idea is that you can get to him stealthily and kill him before the alarm goes off, but in actuality, the bloody thing is so vague that I never know if they are above or below me, whether or not there’s an actual way to him or if he’s surrounded by wall or water. Its terribly executed and meant that I just took on every fight with the alarm blaring in the background as wave after wave of Nazi goon rushed up to me to be killed in amusing ways.
There are also some unforgivably bad holes in the map that you can’t get out of, one of which was one step forward from a spawn point. One. Step. FORWARD!! Which machiavellian, wannabe Satan designed that?
Overall though, the game is an excellent romp. A real grindhouse treat for those of you that like their gunplay fast and messy and their Nazis abominable.