For MachineGames, the politics behind “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” is unintentional.
When they started writing on the game in 2014, they had no idea that Donald Trump would be president. They couldn’t foresee the rise of the alt-right and white nationalists in America.
“It’s not a reflection of the political climate,” creative director Jens Matthies said. “It’s what we wanted to do creatively.”
Despite his seemingly obvious demise, the team had always intended to bring back William Joseph “B.J.” Blazkowicz. The hero of “Wolfenstein: The New Order” never really died. Instead, he was severely injured and spirited away to the Eva’s Hammer, the Nazi flagship submarine that Blazkowicz helped steal. He’s been in a coma for five months, and when players take control of the “Terror Billy,” they discover the consequences of the last battle of “The New Order.”
“We honor the ramifications of what happened,” Matthies said, “hence the wheelchair combat.”
That’s right. B.J. Blazkowicz is so dedicated to his craft that he doesn’t let a simple thing as being a paraplegic stop him from killing Nazis. That’s what players first discover as frau Irene Engel discovers the Resistance and captures the U-boat. Players have to fend off the Nazi invasion. The wheelchair combat takes a while to get used to. Blazkowicz has to constantly put his weapon down and roll his wheelchair forward. Because he’s seated, aiming for the head is difficult, but on the bright side, it puts him in perfect alignment for shooting Hitler’s storm troopers in the nether regions.
“There’s something special about shooting a Nazi in the crotch,” Matthies said, laughing.
It’s that humor and darkness that makes MachineGames’ take on “Wolfenstein” so unique. The game deals with serious subjects and adopts a straight tone. In this case, “New Colossus” focuses on Blazkowicz and a ragtag team of patriots trying to start another revolution after the Nazis have subjugated the U.S. and turned it into a new German territory. The KKK are mingling with Nazis in New Mexico in one level. A mother is testing her son on her German because she wants a bright future for him.
Amid this bleak alternate timeline, there’s a lightness curling in at the edges of the game’s dark heart. Colorful characters, treat absurd situations as if they were normal. Set Roth talks to Blazkowicz about the dire situation on Eva’s Hammer while in the background Germans explode from intense microwaves fields he sets up. In the Roswell scenario, players run into hippie conspiracy theorist who may have two or three screws loose.
Matthies says the humor comes from the original “Wolfenstein 3-D.” It’s a tone that straddles a line between the absurd and the macabre. He said if you look at the first game, players had to fight their way out of prison in a tense action title, but at the same time, they also ran across ridiculous enemies like Mecha Hitler. “It’s a juvenile idea,” he said. The game boiled down to being “totally about killing Nazis.”
MachineGames emulates that tone perfectly and brings it to the 1960s in “The New Colossus.” The team wanted to see what would happen if the counterculture of the 60s collided with the Nazi subversion of America. It turns into a surreal mix of what ifs and what nows.
As for new gameplay elements, the fact that “The New Colossus” is built on the idtech engine 6 introduces several new ideas to the game. The first is that Blazkowicz actually has legs now. In the previous game, the developers didn’t do much with avatar. It was just guns and hands that happened to show up on screen.
Now that Blazkowicz is a fully modeled character, MachineGames puts him through more danger. In a wheelchair, the Nazis will reverse a conveyer belt he’s on and he’ll tumble down a chute, so that players can see his legs. Elsewhere, in that same opening level, he’ll fall off the wheelchair again and drag himself to it.
Another tweak to the gameplay is that Blazkowicz can now dual wield different types of weapons. He can hold a shotgun in one hand and a silenced pistol in another. It creates an interesting dynamic in combat where one gun can make up for the shortcomings of another. So how does Blazkowicz have these new ability? That’s because he has a power suit that I’m assuming helps him walk. After nearly dying, his body is on the verge of breaking down. The suit itself was shown in “The New Order” but it was just decoration.
On top of that, players can expect a progression system that includes upgradeable abilities and weapons. The game’s structure will also be modified as well with a new hub where Blazkowicz takes on missions around the United States.
Lastly, “Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” has a preorder bonus called The Freedom Chronicles: Episode 0 and introduces three characters Joseph Stallion, Jessica Valiant and Gerald Wilkins. They’ll star in the season pass DLC for the game.
“Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus” is scheduled for release Oct. 27.
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