Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Switch) Review
Wolfenstein, like many id Software franchises, has a reputation for pushing forward new software ideas in ways not many people expected or even dreamt of. From being the grandfather of the FPS genre to now being a big blockbuster FPS title on the go, Wolfenstein very much keeps that tradition alive, even if Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus isn’t quite up to scratch with other platforms.
This release is a really unique one, and to really appreciate it, there’s a lot of context that makes the Switch port of Wolfenstein II significant. The game itself is a thought experiment that asks “what if Nazi Germany won World War 2, and invaded the United States?” with an approach that balances confronting self-awareness of the horrors of that war with over the top humour at the entire premise. The story focuses on the infamous William J. Blazkowicz and the Kreisau Circle, a resistance group focused on spurring a revolution to overthrow the Nazis. That’s the broader brush stroke of the setting, with a more personal tone between Blazkowicz and the main antagonist Frau Engel also being a main narrative thread.
A lot of the game is set within various locations within the United States, including versions of New York and New Orleans that were bombed by the Nazis, as you try to recruit various local resistance groups together. And if you remember visiting the moon in The New Order and were wondering how they were going to top that one… While the original Wolfenstein: The New Order had its moments of ridiculousness, The New Colossus takes it to all new heights, both as moments of characterisation and within the main narrative and themes itself. I wish I could gush about all of these over-the-top twists, they’re very much better experienced within your own playthrough.
These ludicrous moments really ground and humanise the Kreisau Circle and its members, to contrast the Nazi enemies, who are rarely seen without a helmet covering their faces. The main cast are basically a ragtag of resourceful but desperate people, while the Nazis are made up of seemingly infinite resources. It’s also a really dark mirror when the Nazi forces act in similar ways to how our governments operate while casting it all as antagonistic. Though that was a personal observation; Nazis also just make great video game bad guys.
Gameplay resembles the last Wolfenstein releases quite a bit, with most of the changes being more to do with smaller details. Dual wielding now lets you pick a different weapon for each hand, and later in the game you unlock a movement related perk, either letting you smash through walls, activate stilts or squeeze into tight spaces, depending on which perk you pick. The main campaign follows a fairly straightforward narrative, with most missions bringing you back to a captured Nazi U-boat that acts as a hub. There’s also a few side missions and activities on the U-boat, including a nearly-faithful rendition of the original Wolfenstein 3D with the roles reversed. Even after you finish the main campaign, there are a few side missions that get you hunting down more Nazi leaders.
So the main game itself is fun, but the biggest part of this release is having a big action release come to the Switch — and the sacrifices made to get it running on a portable platform are very hard to ignore. Textures are incredibly low-detail and fuzzy, resolution drops to maintain FPS, which of course is 30 FPS. It’s all forgivable, and I did stop noticing a lot of these caveats when the action and gameplay picked up. But while Doom worked because the speedy gameplay hid a lot of the cut corners, Wolfenstein II has a lot of deliberate moments that felt slightly harder because the low resolution made it hard to spot enemies or line up distant headshots. While gyro aiming does help a little bit, especially while dual wielding, it’s not always enough to mitigate the frustration.
Playing in handheld is quite amazing though, where the dips in graphical quality are harder to notice. I personally had a harder time in handheld though, with the Joy-Con control sticks being shorter than the Pro Controller sticks. It’s all about preference, and if you mainly play games in handheld on Switch you’ll probably have no issues playing this one too.
Wolfenstein II on the Switch is as much a technical feat as it is a fun and solid experience. If you’re after the ultimate version of the game, this is probably not for you. But if you want a new way to play the latest instalment in the series, this is definitely worth checking out.
+ Over the top premise
+ Controls well, especially with gyro aiming
- Pretty big visual downgrade
- Lower resolution adds frustration